When you have a new baby or a rambunctious toddler, sometimes even the thought of getting out of the house is daunting. And hauling them half-way around the world for a “vacation”? Unfathomable! But I am here to tell you it can be done. And enjoyably, too! Here are some tips to help make your vacation a dream come true.
1. Rent baby gear. Someone filled me in on this not-so-secret secret: you don’t need to haul your car seats, feeding chairs, pack-n-plays, strollers or even toys wherever you go! You can rent them! Agencies in many destinations throughout the world will deliver sanitized products that meet current safety regulations.
Practical Tip: Not all agencies are equal. Before renting, make sure the agency you’re considering does indeed sanitize the equipment, tracks and complies with product recalls, ensures its products meet current safety standards and regulations, and will deliver to your hotel or rental.
2. Ship breast milk. Let’s face it. Most mommas want to have a drink or two on vacation without worrying. However, alcohol and breast milk do not safely mix. While a breastfeeding momma can still have a drink, she has to be sensitive to timing and quantity. The Center for Disease Control states that up to one standard drink per day is not known to be harmful to little ones provided the mother waits at least two hours after consuming the beverage to breastfeed. If you want a little more freedom, consider shipping your pre-pumped breast milk. Companies like FedEx and Milk Stork offer cold and/or frozen shipping. I am not going to lie. It is pricey. But it does make breastfeeding while vacationing easier.
3. Travel smart. For tips on traveling with little ones, read “Tips for Traveling with Tots” on our Baby Blog.
4. Buy local or ship. When we pack for little ones, we tend to pack everything we will and might need – diapers, wipes, shampoo, body wash, and lotion, sunscreen, Children’s Tylenol, band-aids…. However, packing all those things can take up too much space and make traveling more cumbersome. Imagine packing and hauling 80 diapers for your infant - 8 diapers a day for a ten-day trip abroad. Now add your toddler’s diapers to the mix. If you want to pack a bit lighter, you might consider buying the larger quantity of diapers and wipes once you arrive at your destination. Also, forego the things you might need, buying them locally instead if they actually become needed. Another option is to buy some items (like diapers!) via Amazon Prime and have them shipped to your destination, rather than your home. To do this, go to the upper left-hand corner of the search bar where it says “Deliver to”. Click on it and a “Choose your location” box will pop up. At the bottom, you will see an option to “Ship outside the United States.” Push on it and scroll down to select the country to which you would like your purchases shipped, then identify the shipping address. Note that shipping to some countries may incur additional charges.
5. Be (kind of) fearless. I would never encourage anyone to take their little ones somewhere that isn’t safe, but don’t be afraid of a little adventure. Do you want to go to Thailand? Europe? Machu Pichu? The world is your oyster! Just be thoughtful about your destination selection. Many international countries present risk of food, water, and mosquito-borne illnesses. Talk with your pediatrician about the available prophylactic medications and immunizations recommended for your little one prior to travel. You can find recommendations for your particular country of travel on the Center for Disease Control website. If you have an infant, ask if your pediatrician recommends you complete the basic vaccines of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTaP), varicella (chickenpox) and polio before traveling.
Practical Tips: Take a copy of your child’s vaccination records in the event you need medical care while abroad. Consider getting travel insurance. Also, use water that is safe for consumption to wash and disinfect your infant's bottles, pacifiers, toys, and other items that go in his or her mouth. Even a small amount of contaminated water exposes your baby to the risk of illness from bacteria in the water.
6. Make your sleep schedule work. It is hard, frustrating, long work to establish and maintain sleep schedules. You don't want to toss your progress aside only to have to start over once you return from vacation. Changing time zones can complicate things, but that doesn’t mean you must throw sleep schedules out the window. In fact, you shouldn't! Your child needs sufficient sleep!
Practical Tips: If the time change alters only by a few hours, you might consider not switching your clock at all. For example, you travel to the East Coast from the West Coast, a three hour time change. At home, your baby generally goes to bed at 7 pm PST. Rather than trying to get baby to sleep at 7 pm EST (4 pm PST), why not keep him or her up until 10 pm EST (7 pm PST)? If you travel farther afield and adjustment to the destination time zone must be made, continue with your sleep schedule, following baby’s lead, as you gently transition baby to the new time zone.
7. Account for jet lag. Be prepared to let your child adjust as gently and naturally as possible. Rather than hit the ground running your first day there, consider building in a slow, easy day or two following travel days. Also, be mentally prepared for a tough transition. On the day we arrived in Bali, per the general wisdom, we tried to keep our four-year-old up until it was night there. The next day, we took it easy, playing at the hotel pool. The day after, he vomited all morning. He did the same thing the second day after we returned home. Jet lag is no joke. Better to have some room to take it easy and a relaxed attitude.
8. Make realistic choices amazing. When you have limited vacation time and you’ve paid a substantial sum to travel, it is hard to resist the urge to do it all. Whether it is going to museums, sightseeing, zip lining through the jungle, or lounging by the pool or on the beach, we often want to experience everything that interests us - and we try to pack it all in. But that kind of approach when vacationing with an infant or toddler just doesn’t work. Your 8-month-old does not stop needing to nap twice a day and sleep most the night simply because you have traveled half-way around the world. Also, kiddos tend to have more limited attention spans and interests than adults. Expecting a toddler to enjoy four hours at the Louvre may not be realistic, but you might hit a home run with a picnic on the Champ de Mars. While you enjoy the beauty of the Eiffel Tower and the romance of sipping wine and eating cheese on a picnic in Paris, your little one can run around, play on the playground and carousel, and eat crème glacée (ice cream). If you acknowledge realistic limitations and let the destination and your creativity shine, I promise you can make amazing memories on a vacation you love.
Practical Tips: Search for hotels that offer well-reviewed Kids Clubs or vetted nannies/babysitters so you can have a few hours alone if you desire. Also, ask about other accommodations your hotel may offer. Some hotels, for example, offer complimentary cabanas or will deliver hotel-owned pack-n-plays pool or beachside so you can have your fun in the sun during baby’s naptime. (Don’t forget the sunscreen and shade for baby!)
So, happy travelers, take that trip you’d love to take and make those beautiful memories with your family. Remind yourself that you can still do the things you love, still can have adventure and excitement, and that your life did not end with the birth of your children. See for yourself that the logistics might have changed, but the fun has not. Be safe and bon voyage!