We took our first family vacation recently and it was heavenly. I have to admit that the day to day has certainly become a lot more stressful since we added a little one to our family and I wasn't so sure a vacation would even be fun with a ten month old but I'm proud to report that it was amazing and far exceeded my expectations. It was relaxing and fun and really bonding for the three of us. There were a lot of things that we did to plan and prepare that I feel added to our fun and stress free time. I wanted to share what our family found the most helpful in navigating air and car travel with a little one in tow.
* Use backpacks for the plane. We have a diaper bag backpack that we switched to for the trip and it was perfect. At the last minute I switched out my carry on tote to another backpack and I'm so glad I did. Having your arms free is ideal when you have a little one and I love all the pockets to stay organized.
* Keep an empty Ziploc bag in your diaper bag in case you need a place to store dirty/soiled clothes. L spit up a couple of times and squirted a food packet all over herself and Mike on the plane so it was really nice to store the dirty clothes somewhere. It also makes sense to keep a couple of changes of clothes for the baby (and you if possible).
* Get one of these for airport travel. It is probably one of the best baby items I have purchased yet. We opted to forgo a stroller and just bring the car seat since we were going to be renting a car and doing quite a bit of car travel. This was amazing for toting L around the airport.
* Bring a baby carrier to avoid having to lug your stroller around. This might not work depending on your destination and your ability to carry your very heavy toddler around for hours at a time but for us, on this trip, it was perfect. We never missed having the stroller.
* Pack an oversized, heavy duty trash bag for putting over your gate checked stroller and/or car seat so it doesn't get destroyed in the cargo hold.
* Pack enough diapers and formula/food to get you through day one but buy everything else once you arrive at your destination. Pre-baby, Mike and I were carry on freaks. We could pack for two weeks to Europe in two carry on bags. Obviously little ones require so much more stuff. I originally planned on bringing a pack of diapers and formula but at the last minute just couldn't make it fit so we opted to bring enough for the first couple of days and purchased supplies as soon as we could get to a store. This might not always work for you if your child has sensitivities and relies on certain products. We use an organic formula that couldn't be found anywhere but luckily L had no issues switching to an alternative so just be aware that you might have to make exceptions. Another alternative is to ship these items to your destination so they are waiting when you arrive.
* Rent a house. Seriously, there isn't a better option when you are traveling with little ones. It enabled us to have all the amenities you would have at home like a full kitchen and laundry. It also allowed Mike and I to have time once the baby was asleep to watch movies, hot tub, play games, and relax on the porch instead of being forced to quietly move around a hotel room hoping not to wake a sleeping baby. Another alternative, although more expensive, is to reserve adjoining rooms in a hotel. Homeaway and Airbnb are some of my favorite sites for vacation home rentals
* Pack a small, soft cooler in your luggage for day trips. The house we rented had a cooler and ice packs available and I used them every day to pack food and supplies for L. When you are on vacation you tend to spend long amounts of time out and about so a cooler was perfect for keeping fresh food and juice chilled and we left the formula in it as well when we were away from the car for long periods of time so it wouldn't be exposed to extreme heat.
* Bring favorite items from home to help your little one adjust to a new space. We use an ipod with white noise for nighttime sleep and naps so we brought it along, as well as L's favorite lovey and even the sheet from her crib so it would smell like home. She adjusted quickly to her new sleeping arrangements because she had these comfort items.
* Try to arrange car travel around feedings and naps. We have an antsy car rider. She does well as long as she is occupied so we always tried to coordinate around naps and feedings. A bottle will keep L occupied for half an hour in the car!
* Be flexible. It's going to be different than it was pre-baby so knowing that going in will make it easier for you to adjust to changes on the go. I'm a control freak and try to keep L on a schedule at home, we obviously did things differently when on vacation and it worked out. I was also more relaxed because I was on vacation which helped me to go with the flow.
* Bring your baby monitor. I made an effort to fit this into our suitcase. Once we put the baby down I could be at ease if we were outside on the porch because I had the monitor handy. This obviously only pertains to situations where you are renting a house or staying with family or friends. There are also apps that will turn two iphones into a video monitor. I haven't tried any of them out but have heard good things about this one.
These ladies also share some great tips and tricks for traveling with little ones: A Cup of Jo, Writing Chapter Three, Oh Joy!, and Love Taza - Naomi is my travel hero, two kids (both under the age of two!) to Italy with only 2 carry ons.
Our favorite travel items have been this travel crib (it folds up into carry on size and is super easy to get in and out of its packaging), this backpack diaper bag, and as mentioned before, this car seat add-on.