As former world travelers who sat in a small European flat for a year and then in a small home in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri for another, we needed to get. out. of. town. So earlier this year we booked two trips for the end of 2021; one to Florida and one to New York City.
Surely we would have figured out life with a baby and be ready to travel on a plane with her by November…. Hahahahahaha. I mean we did it but not without a lot of preparation and a steep learning curve during the process.
I tried my hardest to prepare in advance and search the internet for any resources that would help plan for those trips. Luckily I was able to gather enough information to give me an idea of what I needed to sort out before we went on our trip. But for people who are not as logistically minded… or are just too tired because #baby… I have put together a list of things you should figure out or at least have a plan for before you travel with Baby.
How are you getting to your vacation?
Basically, are you driving or flying?
If your first trip is going to be close, then driving is a great option. You don’t have to worry about how you will pack everything you need into a few small suitcases and no need to stress about navigating the airport or large crowds. However, it is important to remember the ‘Two Hour Rule.’ This is an established safety recommendation endorsed by safety experts and car seat manufacturers. Unfortunately, this can add a considerable amount of time to your road trip.
Or are you flying? It saves time! But then there are many details that you need to think about since you won't have your car with you. And if your flight is longer than 2 hours, the 'two hour rule' does still apply but this is easier to navigate on a plane since you are not also driving a car.
Where are you staying and what kind of vacation is this?
Depending on where you are headed, you will want to decide between a hotel or an Airbnb/vacation rental. If you are in a rental, you might not be right in the middle of town with restaurants, shops, or things to do. This means you will need a car to get around. If you stay in a hotel, will you be spending a lot of time there or are you hoping to spend most of your time out and about? That can determine the type of hotel, price point, and location of where you would like to stay.
Generally when road tripping, my family and I like to stay in a rental. We have our car and we can bring our dog with us. We have more freedom and, usually, more space to relax and bring things we may need for Baby. If flying, we generally stay in hotels. They are usually in the middle of the action and may even include an airport transfer!
Can't decide? I go through the pros and cons of both on my blog here.
What are the things you want to do while there and how do you plan on getting around?
When we traveled to Jacksonville, Florida, my goal was to spend as much time as possible doing nothing at all. This meant I was hoping to spend most of our time in or around the hotel, even more specifically the hotel pool and beach. This influenced a few decisions for us: We wanted to stay in a place on the beach with enough to do in the hotel that we would not need to leave if we didn’t want to. There should be meal/food options close by if not in the hotel and the room should be spacious enough that we could actually spend some time in it as a family. Seems like you would need to stay in a resort right? Actually, we found a great hotel that we really liked and had all of the above at a reasonable price. And since we would not be leaving very often, we also decided to book transfers to and from the airport instead of renting a car.
New York City was a completely different type of vacation. We were fine booking a hotel with a small room because we were ultimately going to spend very little time there. Being in the heart of midtown was important for us in order to be in the middle of the sites, even walkable from many. Additionally, it was important that we brought our stroller with us so Stella could take naps in it while we were out sightseeing. Fortunately, navigating the subway system with a stroller (a whole topic for another post) was something we figured out quickly and were able to use to our advantage.
Where will Baby sleep?
This is something you do need to think about in advance and can change depending on where you are staying or how you are getting there.
Not every vacation rental has sleeping arrangements for a baby. It is important to ask your host because you will be responsible for taking that item with you if not. This might be fine if you are driving and have that space but could be considered a checked bag and cost extra if you are flying.
Don't be afraid to get creative, for our first set of road trips when Stella was still small, we used her stroller bassinet as her "bed" wherever we traveled. It was flat, safe, compact, and worked perfectly for us.
Hotels often have some sort of sleeping arrangements that they can provide, as long as they are not already taken. Some provide pack n plays and other cribs. If needed, you should request a crib during your booking process and then always call a week before your trip just to confirm. That way if any information was lost in the booking they can either find you a crib or you can plan accordingly if they don’t have one.
We have experienced both in different hotels and I can tell you that I much prefer a pack n play. To me, hotel cribs seem like they are from the 1950s with metal bars that could easily have an arm or head stuck in between them. Luckily this hasn’t actually happened.
In order to keep the sleeping arrangements hygienic, they often come with a waterproof cover and then a few loose sheets or blankets. Since babies cannot sleep with blankets I am always perplexed as to why they do this, but we used to end up using it as a canopy of sorts over the crib to block out some of the light while Baby sleeps. When we realized that blocking light and sound was a persistent problem, we ended up buying a Slumberpod (use code TRAVELINGWITHBABIES20 at checkout for $20 off your purchase). We also always bring our own pack n play sheet to put over the "mattress" to create a comfier sleeping arrangement.
If you are flying, how are you getting from the airport to your hotel/rental? And then back again.
Should you rent a car? Does the place you are traveling to have public transportation? Do you need to arrange a transfer? How reliable is Uber or Lyft in that location, could you schedule an uber in advance? Also what time are you arriving in town? If you are arriving later in the evening, I think it is much better to arrange a transfer in advance than try to sort it once you are there. All things you need to consider and plan ahead.
Often, your hotel or rental host will have advice on the best way to get to your stay from the airport. You can also find my tips and considerations for each form of transfer on my blog here.