I’ve always loved to travel, and when I had my son, I feared that that would change. Luckily, through some strong will and trial-and-error, my family has learned how to make trips — even big trips — feel not just feasible, but fun and fulfilling. Here are 5 of our favorites:
Bring, borrow, buy
Before you start stuffing your bags with every item you treasure at home, consider separating your packing list into three sections: bring, borrow, buy.
Bring is obvious; that’s often the default plan for families. But also consider what you might borrow. Hotels typically have cribs and often high chairs available. Airbnb will include child supplies in the list of amenities for any home, and many hosts are willing to reach out to friends for key items if you ask nicely. There are also many services that enable you to rent items: car rental companies have car seats, and many baby-specific options have started popping up and are easy to find on Google.
The other option you can consider is simply buying. For cheap items, it may be worth it to simply buy and then gift to someone before you leave (we’ve done that with baby tubs, for example). For pricier items, you can also consider selling back to a baby shop or online via a tool like Craigslist.
Strategize for dining out
One of the realities of travel is that you’re likely going to dine out more than you do at home. This can be a lot of fun as long as you have a strategy in place. Two key components to consider: first, many restaurants, especially abroad, won’t have high chairs. Do you have a stroller option that can work well enough pushed up to a table? If you child is ready for a chair or nearly there, our favorite “bonus” support was putting his arms through the straps of a backpack that was hanging on the back of the seat.
Component 2: recognize that there will be nights where a peaceful family dinner simply isn’t happening. It’s ok to call it quits for a meal, or if there are multiple adults, send one outside for a quick stroll while the kiddo calms down. To improve our chances of a quiet meal out, we’d request bread at the table or put in an order of some quick snack immediately upon sitting down. Food is a great motivator.
Snacks for every situation
Related to that last point, be purposeful about your snack options! The simplest guidance is to have lots of snacks. But, you can also consider pairing the right snacks with the right activities. For example, cereal isn’t great for a museum or anywhere with tiled or marble floors; if pieces get thrown, it’s loud and a slip risk for someone else. We also learned that puree pouches were terrible for car rides or long stroller walks. Our little guy would get bored and squeeze them all over himself.
Those examples are both unideal foods, but really the ideal snacks are “activity snacks,” or items that can be entertaining to eat. Our favorite when our son was teething was ears of corn. Once his dexterity was higher, he loved string cheese. On hot days, filling a cup with frozen peas was fun to pick through and a cooling snack.
Bulkheads vs. standard seats
There’s a lot of debate on the internet about this, but figured I’d share my thoughts. For our son, a bulkhead seat was ideal once he started to move. Of note: my kiddo isn’t one to sit calmly for a long stretch, and we aren’t big on screentime. He loves to explore, and from about 8 months onward, our biggest challenge on flights was staying in our seats.
Then we tried a bulkhead (the seat in the very front of the cabin), where we were able to create a mini “play pen” on the floor and allow our little guy to play, snack, and generally make a mess. While we didn’t have full pockets to hold personal items, the little mesh pockets were perfect for hooking on his snack cups and storing a couple toys. We did a 13-hour flight with a 13-month-old in a bulkhead, and by the end of it, we were sold.
You’ll notice our guidance here isn’t “pack lots of changes of clothes.” Instead, we’re proud that First Peak clothes are designed with an odor- and bacteria-resistant fabric that enables more wear with less washing. That’s not to say your little one can wear one bodysuit for a week straight, but making it through a full day or even two days in a single outfit is very realistic. Pack light and breath easy; you’ve got this.
What are some of your favorite travel tips? What did we miss?