Traveling with an infant can be daunting and leaves many parents wondering if it is even possible. Ker & Downey’s Bekah McNeel proves that traveling with a baby is not only possible, but enjoyable as well.
Yes you can… travel with an infant.
Seventeen days. Five regions. Twelve flights. With a six-month old. That either sounds like a nightmare or an impossible dream. But for our family, it was neither. We just returned from a top-to-bottom tour of Argentina and came back smiling, ready for our next adventure.
As we traveled, I took notes on the recipe for successful travel with an infant. There’s definitely an art to creating a moveable sense of security for little ones. Many times I thought, “If only I had packed…” or “I’m so glad we decided to…” By the end of the trip, my list had taken shape.
Pick Your Place
Children live everywhere in the world, so it’s pretty easy to find a place that welcomes tiny visitors. However, certain places are more user-friendly than others. Argentina is an example of a great destination for a few reasons.
- Argentineans love babies. I mean LOVE babies. We went to the front of every line, breezed through security, were given seats everywhere. Our daughter, Moira, was constantly entertained by servers, chefs, and hotel staff while we ate, checked-in, and took care of other two-handed tasks of travel.
- Argentina has very clean, efficient facilities for diaper changing in pretty much every bathroom.
- Argentineans don’t mind if you nurse your child in public. In fact, my Bebe Au Lait nursing cover elicited giggles from onlookers, puzzled by my modesty.
- No one minded if we were running a little late.
- Afternoon siesta corresponded perfectly with nap time.
- Argentina is only two hours ahead of my home time zone.
The best countries for babies are laid back about schedules, noises, and messes, but equipped for safety and sanitation. I personally recommend Ecuador and Colombia as well.
Set Your Pace
This is not the trip to try to see 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in ten days. Or any such goal. You want to spend as long as possible in each hotel. The more familiar a place becomes, the happier the baby will be. Moira would shriek with glee upon return to our hotel rooms by the third day, because it was a familiar place.
Each day should be similarly paced for success. We tried to give Moira at least one nap on a bed. The other could be spent in the carseat, or strapped to us on a hike, but we tried to give her either a late morning or an afternoon to unwind as much as possible. Some days we all took some down time, enjoying the luxurious spa facilities, porches with views, and much needed naps. Other days one of us stayed behind while the other indulged their unique interests and adventure taste.
We did encounter some discomfort with the dinner schedule. Argentinean dinner is past Moira’s bedtime. Over the course of the trip we utilized gourmet room service, early evening “snack” menus, and babysitters, all of which are easily accessible with the right concierge at your disposal. We also successfully navigated two or three “Argentinean bedtimes” in which Moira fell asleep at the dinner table.
These are definitely not the trips for major bucket list itineraries. It’s the time to truly go with a mind to explore, relax, and see the world from a new perspective. Traveling with a baby lets you experience a place in a whole new way.
Pack Your Bag
I laughed once when a young friend told me the harrowing tale of being stranded on an overnight layover with only her carry-on containing “essential stuffed animals.” I laughed about that… until I understood what an essential stuffed animal is and why it takes precedence over fresh underwear and allergy medication in one’s carry-on.
On our recent trip, I packed a full carry-on of essentials for my daughter. And yes, it included stuffed animals.
I am a historical under-packer. I pride myself on being able to live two weeks out of a carry-on. If I needed something else, I’d buy it on site. Well, not anymore. The rule of traveling with kids: if you’ve ever needed it, pack it. A baby cannot understand “We’ll buy you a new pacifier as soon as we get through immigration, clear customs, and meet up with our driver. And I know it won’t be like your pacifier at home but… that’s the fun of travel! You are experiencing what local babies use to comfort themselves!”
No, I crammed my daughter’s carry-on with tons of extra diversions. We carried medicines, changes of clothes, baby amenities (pro-tip: Park Hyatt Buenos Aires includes baby amenities in rooms for infants!). And 4 pacifiers.
My list of baby-travel essentials:
- A diaper bag with plenty of carrying capacity, and a foldout changing mat attached. Best if it has a cross body carry option as well as a shoulder strap option. Wipeable exteriors are also a plus. Our Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy Backpack performed very well.
- Baby carrier. We opted to wear our daughter, instead of hauling our stroller. It depends on where you go. We were taking on a lot of terrain excursions, where a stroller was not practical, so rather than haul and extra item, we took a Boba carrier, and it worked very well. For a city vacation, a stroller would be ideal.
- Car seat. Not only was our own Graco Snugride (or, as the Argentineans call it, the huevito) a reassurance of safety along the journey, it was a familiar place where our daughter could nap.
- Two of all of your child’s comfort objects. Muslin blankies, Wubbanubs, and handmade Hobbes dolls are hard to come by in most of the world.
- Disposal bags, or Ziplocs. On the go, or in your hotel room, you’re going to want to quarantine something, at some point.
A special addendum for nursing moms:
- I mentioned above, a nursing cover, if you are nursing. Not only did I feed my daughter on many airplanes, and more than one restaurant, and the viewing deck at Iguazu Falls, but the canopy created a warm, dark napping environment on the plane.
- Also, a manual pump is great to have. There were a few days when my daughter stayed behind with my husband, and I kept my handy little Medela hand pump in my purse while I adventured. I couldn’t save the milk, but I could save myself some discomfort. If you go this route, supplemental formula is a good idea for the little one who stays behind. Similac makes these great little on-the-go bottles that work well for travel.
In a high end hotel, or any city hotel, the concierge can help you if you need medicine, diapers, wipes, or other basic baby needs. We chose to pack some of our own grooming and medical essentials for the sake of familiarity. The night your child gets a fever, God forbid, is not the night you want to learn to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit. We did replenish our supply of diapers and wipes at a local grocery store. Easy.
Full disclosure: I’m not sure that I could honestly say that travel with an infant is easy and fun if it were not for two things: First, Ker & Downey’s style of tailor-made travel, that allowed room in our itinerary for naps, changing table detours, and nursing breaks. Having guides, hotel staff, and the Ker & Downey team customizing the trip for us made for a restful family getaway. Second, my laid-back, happy baby. Her disposition is ideal for travel, and we hope that this sort of adventure that will help her grow into a flexible, inspired child and adult.
For more information about traveling with a baby, please contact your Travel Professional. Visit us online at www.kerdowney.com and stay up to date on all of Ker & Downey’s online content by “liking” our Facebook page.