Traveling with a Baby

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Before I had a baby and "settled down" I lived with the perpetual itch to see new sights, inhale the scent of a new city, and wander like a gypsy soul. After Amelia came into the picture I wanted to know if I could maintain my love of travel while still juggling my new responsibilities as a mama. I'll admit that the prospects were slightly intimidating, more so because I was going solo on my first trip. Luckily babies are highly adaptable and with a little advanced planning we managed to enjoy four days in one of my favorite cities. Here are a few things I learned about traveling with a baby.

Plan and pack accordingly.  Pre-baby I made it my mission to never checked a bag when flying. However, babies come with A LOT of gear. Which meant one giant checked bag for the two of us. For the plane I packed a backpack with all the minimum essentials we'd need for about six hours—including food for Amelia and snacks for me. (In addition to what's pictured I packed my standard extra baby outfit and a ziplock bag for surprise mishaps). I took both a lightweight stroller AND a baby wrap (I use this one). For her two plane toys I tied a string to them with a bulldog clip at the other end and attached them to her bib to avoid picking them up off the dirty floor. Finally, I made arrangements beforehand to borrow a pack-n-play and car seat that would be waiting at our destination.
Schedule meals beforehand.  Since I make Amelia's food it was easiest to pick up a few items at Trader Joe's once I arrived and make her food for the time we would be there. Traveling with this attachable table chair gave Amelia a sense of familiarity and easily affixed to my friend's kitchen island. Whenever we went out to eat I tried to eat at restaurants I knew would have a highchair. When we were on the go I packed a bottle and a few snack since my seven-month-old can happily gum cereal puffs and a variety of solid foods.

Make room for down time.  The first day we got to town I made the mistake of rushing into the city after several hours of travel. Sure the weather was incredible, but I think if I had taken a few hours to unwind I could have avoided feeling frazzled the first night. After that I adjusted my expectations and made certain to only schedule one or two activities between Amelia's nap schedule. Fortunately, Katie, who we were staying with, was flexible which made scheduling down time extra easy. One day another friend drove down from Philadelphia with her daughter, which gave Amelia time to interact with someone her own size. Luckily down time isn't just for the baby. The second night I hired a babysitter so that I could relax in the city at one of my favorite local venues and not have to worry about mama duties. Ever noticed how recharging throughout the day actually makes outings more enjoyable than a go-go-go schedule?

Go beyond the tourist sites.  One of the things I love most about traveling is venturing to places locals are likely to visit. Since visiting D.C. was more like coming home I didn't need to see all the traditional tourist sites and was thrilled to be visiting places that held fond memories for me. One of my favorite days was when we drove to Sky Meadows State Park. Which gave Amelia a change to nap, while we enjoyed the landscape and tranquility of the Virginia countryside. The bonus part was bumping into a Civil War reenactment while we were there.
Ask for help.  It takes a village, right? Before I left on my trip I sent a little note to my friend admitting how nervous I was about traveling with a baby. Alone. She responded with kindness which made me feel like everything would be okay. And it was. In truth I was a little surprised by how helpful strangers at the airport were. Apparently having a baby gets you automatic go-to-the-front-of-the-security-line treatment. Nice! Whenever I started to feel overwhelmed or frustrated I reminded myself to simply ask for assistance. Sure some people might say no, but I think most people, especially friends, want to help.

Just go for it.  Like anything, the more you do something the easier it becomes. I'm so glad I didn't let fear stop me from traveling and sharing a city I love with my little miss. It was so fun to watch as she experienced new things like public transportation and airports; taking it all in with wide-eyed wonder. It made the entire trip worth it. Well that and all the good food we ate.


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