Is My Baby Cramping My Travel Style?
Well, we did it! Jave and I recently returned from our first trip abroad traveling with a baby, and I’m happy to announce it was a great success!
During our recent family vacay to St. Martin-St. Maarten, our baby proved that traveling is in her blood. What can I say? Our little nomad did us proud as she only had a few, less than 10 minute meltdowns on two of our four flights, she adjusted to the time difference like a seasoned pro, and she was generally down for whatever as long as we first attended to her needs.
Our trip with Celeste was such a relief because it proved – despite my parents’ overly dramatic warnings that Celeste is way too young to travel – that wherever Jave and I are, she is home. My parents seem to have forgotten that they toted me and my brother around the world at a very young age as well!
Although our weeklong vacation was way too short, this trip to the Caribbean along with our earlier summertime getaway to Palm Springs with our little darling provided ample opportunity to highlight how our travel style has changed, the ways it’s stayed the same, as well as how it’s improved. Read on…
So Long, Travel Plans!
I’ve always worn my self-professed, type AAA travel style like a badge of honor. Anyone who’s ever traveled with me knows that when we meet up at the airport for our departure, I’m eager to hand them my well researched, well thought out itinerary. My itineraries are thorough. Every hour of every day is accounted for. (After years of running Jave into the ground on our trips, I’ve gotten better at making sure to include down time in our itineraries as well.)
And during our trips, we seldom veer from the itinerary; it’s my way of testing what works and what doesn’t. Furthermore, Jave and I are always pushed for time, so I always try to maximize our time in a destination by leaving zero stones unturned.
Well, as you can imagine, there’s no room for such rigidity when traveling with a baby. Flexibility is the name of the game. Before leaving for this trip, I only did quick research and planning. Instead of a play-by-play itinerary, we embarked on our Caribbean adventure with only a laundry list of where to eat and what to do.
And guess what?
We only scratched the surface of that list!
The list of beaches we wanted to try, the food tour I wanted to take, the plans we had to ferry over to St. Barth for a day…yeah, we kissed all of those plans goodbye because we didn’t want to overextend and overwhelm baby girl.
Slow & Steady
As workers in America (although I’m currently on a hiatus from work), we’ve always been limited to 2 to 3 weeks of vacation per year. Sad, I know.
As a result, previously, we were always in a rush to squeeze as much into our trips in as little time as possible. Six countries in three weeks? Let’s do it! A five day jaunt to the Middle East? We’re in! A weekend in Central America? Piece of cake!
But when traveling with a baby, slow and steady is the name of the game regardless of our work schedules. During our Caribbean vacation, our goal was to keep Celeste on her usual schedule as closely as possible and to make our hotel room feel as much like home as possible. These goals are nearly impossible to achieve when you’re breezing through destinations.
We’ve already decided that whenever we return to regions like Europe or South America, we’ll only include a max of two countries in our itinerary over a 3 week period with limited long day trips and activities that are likely to exhaust baby girl.
EVERYTHING Revolves around Her Schedule
In case you still haven’t picked up on this principle thus far in this post, everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – revolves around her schedule.
While feedings on the go are seldom an issue, when planning activities, we have to consider whether Celeste will be able to take her mandatory mid-morning and afternoon naps. Because if she doesn’t get her rest…game over!
I have to say that factoring in Celeste’s schedule actually works in our favor as it gives us time to enjoy midday naps as well when previously we would’ve scoffed at the idea of napping while on vacation. Crazy, I know.
No Risky Business
When Jave and I travel with others or as a couple, we tend to do some rather risky things. Hitchhiking in Tahiti, giving hitchhikers a ride in Jamaica, late night ventures out in non-touristy areas of the Dominican Republic, and volunteering in a Brazilian favela immediately come to mind.
During this trip to St. Martin-St. Maarten, one night, we decided to try a local restaurant in Grand Case. When we stopped to ask a local for directions, he glanced at Celeste in the backseat and told us to be careful and be sure to keep our car locked once there.
And just like that, we scratched our dinner plans in Grand Case.
Of course, if it were just Jave and I, we would’ve proceeded per usual. But now that we’re parents, Celeste’s safety trumps our foodie ambitions.
Buh-Bye Boutique Hotels!
I’ve always, always been a fan of boutique hotels, and I always will be. However, when traveling with a baby, I now have to make sure we stay somewhere that offers full amenities.
When it’s the middle of the night and baby girl is knocked out, we’d rather not wake her to go out to dinner like we previously would’ve. It would be better to order room service and enjoy a quiet meal while Celeste gets her rest. This is exactly what we had to do one night while in St. Martin, so it was great to stay at a resort that had an onsite restaurant and offered room service.
Also, as new parents we often think about worse case scenarios. For example, what if Celeste got sick in the middle of the night and we needed to take her to a hospital? In a foreign country, it can be hard to function in emergency situations, so while she’s so young, it’s important for us to stay in accommodations that provide 24-7 front desk staffers who are available for our around-the-clock needs.
Another reason we’ll likely forego boutique stays for the time being is because they’re usually intimate, quiet properties ideal for solo travelers and couples, but not necessarily ideal for a baby who currently enjoys waking up at 3am to coo and practice screaming at the top of her lungs while in her crib.
It’s Still All about the Bathrooms
I’d always been a stickler for clean, modern hotel bathrooms. It was kind of an obsession. And it still is! Now even more so. Except now, I’d prefer to book a room that offers a shower and bathtub in the bathroom which makes it easier to regularly bathe Celeste in her huge, inflatable rubber ducky bathtub.
Are We Still Team Carry-On?
You better believe it! This will never change. Buying Celeste her own airplane ticket (as opposed to traveling with her on our laps) was the best decision we could’ve made. Sure, buying a separate ticket for Celeste added to our budget, but it was worth it for a few reasons: 1) We didn’t have to worry about whether she’d fly out of our arms in the event of sudden, extreme turbulence; 2) We had the whole row to ourselves so we didn’t have to inconvenience anyone wanting to enjoy a baby-free flight; and 3) Like us, Celeste was able to bring her own carry on and her own personal item (her diaper bag) which made packing so much easier.
But don’t get it twisted. Just because we’re still team carry-on doesn’t mean we didn’t have to travel with a lot of stuff to ensure Celeste could enjoy the conveniences of home while on the road. In her carry-on and diaper bag, we somehow managed to pack her clothes, toiletries, diapers, formula, several packs of ready-to-drink milk for our time on the plane and at the airport, 4 bottles, a brush to wash her bottles with and a case to dry them out on, a bottle warmer, her inflatable rubber ducky bathtub and her inflatable pool floatie, and a beach tent which we ended up not using but wanted to have on hand just in case. Not to mention, her car seat as well as her stroller which we gate checked.
It was a lot.
Props to Jave for being our official bag carrier and equipment guy.
There Are Some Perks
As it turns out, families traveling with small children really do need a lot of extra time to board the plane. So being able to pre-board and get settled without other passengers breathing down our necks was a lifesaver. Being able to skip the X-ray machines at the airport was great. The encounters that traveling with a baby incites – encounters that may have otherwise not happened – were mostly welcome. And the encouragement from other passengers traveling with kids and from those who’ve traveled with kids in the past was surprising and super sweet.