For parents who have always loved traveling, suddenly having to take a baby along can be a daunting prospect. Even managing with a baby in a supermarket can be a challenge, so how does anyone cope in airports, hotels or museums? The fact is that they do cope, all the time, and so can anyone who puts their mind to it. Babies present challenges but in the vast majority of cases those challenges can be overcome, and traveling together is not only possible, it’s a lot of fun. The key is preparation.
Think about transport
In order to travel safely, babies need car seats, and these have to meet the regulatory requirements in every country the baby will be traveling through. They’re not strictly necessary for planes, where a baby can travel free if carried and it’s relatively easy to rig up a hammock or sling, but a well designed car seat will also be able to be firmly secured to a seat on a train or bus. For families who don’t want to fly with them, they’re relatively easy to hire in most destinations but this should be arranged in advance. The same goes for stroller hire if required, though many parents prefer to use baby carriers or papooses when traveling, because they’re much more adaptable and don’t present problems when cobblestones or steps turn up in unexpected places.
Think about food
If a baby is still nursing, it’s generally much easier to get by with breast milk when traveling, but it is important to know the local customs to know where it’s acceptable to do it in public and how to go about that. If bottle feeding, it’s important to research the availability of formula milk in the destination, and be prepared for it to taste slightly different and for the baby to be resentful. At the weaning stage, tinned and jarred foods are safe in European Union countries and most other first world countries but other foods should be treated with caution because they’re more likely to contain germs to which the baby has no immunity. The exceptions are staples like fresh banana and tinned baked beans.
Think about sleep
Some babies fall asleep instantly on any form of transport, which makes traveling easy. Others, however, find the whole process unsettling and are much more difficult to settle than usual. Parents should call ahead to make sure a crib can be provided at their accommodation and, if not, make sure they have suitable provision with them. For a small baby not yet at the climbing stage, a well-padded hotel room drawer can work surprisingly well. It’s important not to forget favorite snuggle toys, and to consider lightweight extras like a mobile for crib as an addition to the nursery. Something for the baby to focus on and something that makes an unfamiliar room feel more like home is essential.
Health and safety
Some countries are simply not recommended for travel with a baby due to disease issues. Infants have to reach the right age before they can have all the vaccinations available to adults, so this should be discussed with a doctor before plans are made. The other big health risk on vacation is the sun, and in sunny destinations it’s important to make sure that babies have high intensity sunblock applied frequently and wear hats and sunglasses. This may make them look a bit odd, but their skin and eyes need to be protected. Finally, it’s important to know how to access medical care in the destination country, including knowing how to call an ambulance in the event of emergency.
Prepare for disruption
It’s impossible to stick to routines when traveling. Some babies cope with this better than others, but almost all babies struggle to settle down into normal routines again when they get back home. They’re likely to suffer from disrupted sleep for a few weeks, and they may get hungry at unusual times. This means that parents need to be prepared for some challenges in the aftermath of the trip as well as on the trip itself.
These issues give parents a lot to consider but illustrate how careful planning can make that first trip abroad much easier. Although they’re often thought of as too young to learn much from such trips, babies will benefit from the simulation of different sounds, smells and experiences, and a temporary break from home will often have the effect of boosting their confidence. Traveling together can be beneficial for the whole family, and it shouldn’t be seen as impossible.