Tips On Traveling With A Baby/Toddler || Series 3 – Arrival At Your Destination
We did a total of 28 flights and 5 continents in Noah’s first 12 months! Some may think we are absolutely crazy, and maybe we are, but I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Needless to say, I feel that I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way which I’m excited to share with you. Remember, however, that although these tips may be relevant for older kids, Noah is 15 months so all of my traveling has been done with a 15 month old or younger. There is a lot of information that I want to share so I’ve broken it up into four sections: 1. Before Boarding, 2. On The Flight, 3. Arrival at Your Destination and 4. Packing Your Bags. This 3rd entry is all about tackling jetlag, sorting out the right accommodation and being mindful of little things, which should make your trip a little easier with your littlie.
Jetlag and Time Zones
If you are dealing with a small time zone change (3-4 hours’ difference), it may be smart to only push your night time routine forwards/backwards by an hour instead of adjusting completely to the 3-4 hours’ time difference. This is relevant if you’re traveling over a long weekend or a bit longer. We always did this with Noah to make it easier on him. If you’re traveling further abroad, then its obviously a different story. I always try to book a nighttime flight (lets take the current US – Europe trip as an example) and get Noah to sleep on the plane as much as possible. He generally does because its his night. When we get to Europe, its day time and I simply stick to his 1.5-2 hour nap schedule during the day. By the time its evening again, he’s super tired and after giving him a bath and doing the normal bedtime routine, he’s already on Europe time. The same on the way back. Works a treat but make sure you are strict with a shorter nap time that first day, if one at all.
A few things that can shift: The evening of your arrival, its normal that baby's bedtime is pushed back to a later hour (Noah's normal bed time is 7pm and he crashed at 10pm that first evening after we arrived in Europe on a night flight from the US - arrival time in London was about 3pm). Also be patient and know that it can take 2-3 days for babe to adjust and sleep through without waking up (if baby normally sleeps through). This most recent trip, Noah went to bed a 10pm the first night and 8pm the second night and both nights he woke up a few hours later and decided to be awake for a couple of hours. I let him come into bed with us but never put on the lights and 'let him be awake', if that makes sense. I keep the lights off, I don't say anything and I let him roll around the bed but always tuck him back in between my arms to let him know that it is sleepy time. Eventually he falls back asleep (takes 2 hours usually - urgh) and sleeps for the rest of the night. This can be really tough the first couple of night because you're suffering from jet lag too and may not be able to fall asleep that well after you've also been awake for two hours (!!) but it usually passes after two nights, I promise. Also, its ok for baby not to get the full 12 hours of sleep the first few nights after arriving. Baby will want to nap more during the day but make sure you don't let baby nap more than 2-3 hours because otherwise your nights will be doomed with more 'awake time'. If you keep naps shorter during the day, by staying active, baby will adjust quicker and after day 3, you should be getting the 12 hours at night again and normal nap times during the day.
I know there are many more jetlag options than the US-Europe route and I’ve done my fair share, so even if the above doesn’t apply (i.e. you don’t get a night time flight, etc.), my golden rule is I immediately adjust to the time zone that I’ve entered. If its day time where we landed, I treat it like day time and only let Noah have short naps instead of long sleeps. We once arrived in Vancouver (after traveling 30 hours from Cape Town) and we arrived in the morning Vancouver time. I have never seen Noah so tired but I only let him have short naps during the day (I woke him up from naps and kept busy by being out and about), even if he would have wanted to sleep the entire day away. This will seem extremely cruel at the time but it saves you (believe me!) because your baby will sleep at night and that is what you want.
If your destination has a cot available (hotel rooms generally always do), then you wont have to travel with a cot which will be one less thing to carry – hurray! Just make sure to bring your cot bumpers along (if baby is +5 months) because most hotel cots don’t have these and simply supply wooden or iron cots, which is a bit silly isn’t it? Our trips generally span across many different locations and include everything from hotel rooms and apartments to our friends’ and families’ homes. We, therefor, always travel with a cot and our absolute favourite, which I highly recommend, is the Guava Lotus Crib. It is small and light enough to carry on to the plane, it acts as a playpen as well, and most importantly, it is super easy to set up and break down. We've used the Baby Bjoern travel crib before as well but I prefer the Guava by far! It has a zipper on the side, its lighter, more compact and is designed by an awesome, up and coming brand. See it packed up in the image below, placed on top of the stroller.
Unless baby is really young (under 3 months – in which case I only took our baby carrier), we always travel with a stroller. From what you read in most reviews, people will recommend to get a travel stroller (in addition to your normal stroller) that is light, compact and easy to fold up. We took this advice and got a Maclaren Globetrotter umbrella stroller for one of our big trips to Europe when Noah was 4-5 months old. We left our Bugaboo Cameleon at home and I’ve never been so sorry. Although the Maclaren reclines, it doesn’t recline very far and so Noah would not sleep in it. We did a lot of evenings out (those late European summer evenings are my favourite!) and unfortunately it was impossible for me to put Noah into the Maclaren for any naps or bedtime. The carrier was obviously used instead but in hindsight I would have simply traveled with our Bugaboo Cameleon. We did so for our next big trip to the US when Noah was 7-8 months old and it was so much more convenient. Of course we didn’t always use it but it was golden for those times that we did. Any airline takes it along free of charge and although its heavier and less compact than umbrella strollers, it still fits into cars quite easily when folded up. We now own the Bugaboo Donkey (love it by the way!) and are easily traveling with it. So do not be afraid to bring your normal stroller on your trip.
If you want to get a separate travel stroller that is not an umbrella stroller, consider getting the City Mini Baby Jogger stroller. We borrowed it for a trip to Australia and it is a fantastic stroller to travel with! The recline is far enough for baby to snooze away very comfortably and it folds up so compact and so easy. I know there are other fantastic ones out there but I just haven’t used them so this is all I can give you.
Rent a car
We try to always rent a car at our travel destinations (with car seat) because it is just so much easier to have your own car to keep all your belongings in one place (stroller, travel cot, suitcases, etc.), instead having to lug it from train to subway to train to house. In dense cities that have good public transport (say NYC for example) we would obviously NOT rent a car but most other places we would.
Apartments instead of hotel rooms
Book apartments instead of hotel rooms if you can. Having a little kitchenette with sink and fridge is invaluable when it comes to storing milk, warming up food, washing bottles, etc. Its also so helpful if you can have a separate room for baby to sleep in so that you can stick to a decent bed time and not have to tip toe around and whisper for the rest of the evening. We use Airbnb.com as our go to website but I know there are other options as well. Make sure the place you book (hotel room or apartment) is located either on ground floor level (or first floor), or has an elevator in the building. We've done the rookie mistake of booking an apartment on the 3rd floor without checking for an elevator and believe me, it is not fun hiking up those stairs when you are all exhausted and cursing the fact that you packed too many suitcases!
Use the bathroom if in a hotel room
If you stay in a hotel room, you can use the bathroom as a ‘separate’ room for baby to sleep in his/her travel cot at night. Hopefully the bathroom is big enough! Just remember to grab your toothbrush before baby goes to sleep.
Music or Sound Machine
Be it white noise for babies or music for older bubs, we always carry this along. It helps especially when you are somewhere noisy and have to put your baby down for bedtime. The music/white noise will drown out the rest. It is one of my favourite little tricks.
One of our requirements when we choosing a place to stay is a bathtub. Although babies are fine under the shower from an early age, the bath ritual is generally such an important part of the day, that its something we don’t want to pass on if we have the choice. Remember that sometimes the sink may also be big enough but a bathtub is always preferred because what is better than a joint bath with your baby!?
Bed time routine when traveling
Yes, things get moved around and interrupted when traveling but everything can fall into place very quickly again. We keep a few bedtime routines the exact same no matter where we are, which can make a big difference I think – milk, a bath, pj’s, reading a book, sleeping bag, music (only when its noisy now but previously we always put this on at bedtime), the pacifier and his teddy.
Next and last blog post in this 'Traveling with Baby/Toddler' Series is all about tips on packing your bags for that next big (or small) trip!