From quick weekend trips to Sonoma to longer cross-country flights, it seems like Lillian has jet-setted more in her first nineteen months than I did my first nineteen years! We have been so fortunate to travel to Sonoma, Bodega Bay, Lake Tahoe, Hawaii, New York, West Virginia, and more recently, Santa Barbara.
We feel so fortunate to have these opportunities and are grateful for the ways they allow us to learn, grow closer, and make special memories. Recently I have gotten a lot of emails and messages about how we travel so much, so I thought I would share some of our tips and tricks that we have learned along the way. And I was just in the shower thinking about this topic and I wanted to make sure I included details about what we do at home to make traveling even easier.
The challenges in traveling with a toddler range from worrying about what to pack, meal times, sleep routines, time changes, staying on schedule and balancing adventures and relaxation. Here are some of our tips.
Before I really dig into this post I want to share that we didn't travel too, too much when Lillian was under three months. Which is honestly the most ideal time to travel because babies are great at sleeping anywhere and are not quite on a routine, they're sleeping in your room, and if they're not yet eating solids meal planning is a cinch. Looking back I wish that we had taken a trip just the three of us for two to three nights. But ce la vie!
Challenge: What to Pack?
Our solution: Weekend trips have become second nature to us. You'd be hard-pressed to find a weekend in a month where we aren't leaving the city. So packing takes me two seconds. When packing you need to consider the duration, weather during the day and at night, and activities. If traveling by plane make sure you pack an extra outfit for yourself and the little one as altitude makes babies have blow-outs. I'd also suggest wearing dark clothes to avoid stains everywhere.
Pro-tip: Get your little one their own bag or suitcase. Of course I like a monogrammed bag :) but any bag will do. Having their own designated bag that fits their clothes, sheet (we never leave home without one of Lillian's sheets), diapers and toiletries makes things easier.
Challenge: Staying on baby's sleep schedule.
Our solution. This is one that I get asked a lot. We are fortunate that Lillian is used to a schedule, mostly because of her time at daycare where she has a pretty structured day. When we travel we do our best to stay stick to the same schedule. Even to the point where we plan our day around her schedule. When we drove to Hearst Castle (more on our amazing visit tomorrow), we woke up at 4:00am to get on the road so that Lillian could sleep in the car, we could visit the Castle, and then get back in the car for her nap time as we continued down to Santa Barbara.
When we traveled to Hawaii and New York we were more flexible with her nap schedule because of the time change. We just tried to always make sure that she didn't have too many consecutive hours of wakefulness so that she wasn't overtired. We also let her stay up later than normal, especially when we were sharing a hotel room.
Pro-tip: If possible, get a suite or a bigger room that allows your little one to have their own space. When we were in New York and staying at West House it was simply AMAZING because we had a two room suite, which meant that Lillian could go to bed earlier in a dark room while we stayed up a little later in our own room. Then we would open the door right before we went to bed so we could hear her.
As for naps when we are at our location we usually wake up, go do an activity and then one of us will put Lillian down for a nap while the other goes to the gym, goes for a walk, or does some work. We find that it allows everyone to have their needs met. Usually I will stay with Lillian and take a nap or read or work while Jesse works, makes phone calls and exercises. Or he will stay with her and I will go sit by the pool or go the spa.
It's all about finding the perfect balance of being flexible and sticking to a schedule. We don't use the clock as much when we are traveling but rather look at how Lillian is doing and decide if she needs to nap.
Pro-tip: Always call the hotel in advance to reserve a crib. At Bacara they had a crib and a toddler bed so we reserved both. Lillian slept in the crib at night and the toddler bed was like a couch for her. It was so fun seeing her play on there and have her own space. I didn't know hotels had toddler beds but it is definitely something I will request in the future!
Challenge: Managing expectations.
Our solution: This is probably the biggest challenge for new parents when taking a vacation with a baby. Some parents think that it's going to be a normal vacation where you get to do whatever you want. I've heard about some parents who feel like they didn't really get a vacation or get to do what they wanted to do or even sleep so terribly that they end up coming back feeling more exhausted and kind of bitter.
Let me tell you that our vacations are an absolute blast because we look at them as being time that we get to spend together as a family. It's not so much about the pool or adventures or the dining. Managing your expectations or your partner's expectation is one of the biggest things to ensure a great trip. We see vacations as a time to enjoy our family life in a different place. Does that make sense?
Pro-tip: Before we had Lillian, Jesse and I would have our entire trip planned out. Now when we travel with Lillian, instead of making a day by day itinerary, we usually come up with a few things that we want to do on the trip. We have found that it makes for a better trip because we are realistic about our time and activities.
Challenge: Mealtime with babies, toddlers, children.
Our solution: This is probably our biggest obstacle when we travel. Lillian is a great eater at home but when we travel it can be hard for her to get the same quality and quantity of food. She is very well-behaved at restaurants but really can only seat for twenty minutes-- just long enough to get seated, place our orders and get our drinks. There is a little bit of craziness as we wait for our food. When it finally arrives she eats quickly and then we divide and conquer: one of us distracts her while the other eats quickly and then we swap. Most of the time we look at the menu online and decide what to eat and order right away or we try and find restaurants that are quick serve or we get a picnic and eat outside. Finding WholeFoods is our super power-- yes, when we were in New York we ate at WholeFoods for two meals (the Columbus Circle WholeFoods is soooo big and has everything.
Pro-tip: We always bring Lillian's Inglesina high chair that attaches to the table. We find that the consistency helps her a lot.
A few other tid-bits:
- Get an early morning start- either an early flight or early departure time. That way your little one will be tired and can take their morning nap easily.
- Bring music. Every single night since Lillian was a few months old we play a playlist for her with soothing music that also serves as a cue for bedtime. We have literally played it every time we put her to bed and it helps so much when traveling. We press play and she knows it's time for bedtime.
- Clean your house before you leave for your trip. It is the absolute WORST to come home to a messy house!
Had to share some of our favorite adventures over the past 19 months: