Traveling with a Baby
Traveling with a baby can be challenging, if you don’t make preparations before you hit the road. Granted, no one can prepare for EVERY situation that may arise (thank goodness for superstores near highway exits!), or for a baby that gets fussy for no apparent reason, BUT, you can try to anticipate situations that will occur.
As the holiday season approaches, many families will hit the road to travel with their kids, to visit other family members. As the kids get older, I’ve found traveling DOES get a bit easier (though different issues need to be prepared for), but when you need to travel with a baby, there are things you must take into consideration.
Pack N Play or Travel Crib
When we traveled with our kids, often the hotels would have pack and play’s or cribs available for use. Sometimes complimentary, other times there was a small fee. However. They weren’t always the most sanitized, sometimes didn’t have sheets – or were odd sizes that our sheets didn’t fit, and other times we stayed with family members who didn’t have small children, so there wasn’t a designated place for a baby to sleep. We found it much easier to take our pack n play with us, with a couple of sets of sheets (potty accidents will happen). They also provide a safe place for a small child to play if there are other children or pets around, or if the place you aren’t staying isn’t baby-proofed. If we were at sports events, picnics, or cookouts, it was also a great place for the baby to sit and play, away from bugs, etc. They fold down pretty compact, for storage in your trunk when you’re on the go, and we never regretted bringing ours along.
Iam amazed at how many options are available now! We had the Fisher Price chair, as seen above, for all of our kids. At one point, we had three of them at our kitchen table, at once 🙂 They kids loved them, they were easy to clean, and easy to put in the trunk if we were going out to dinner. Sure, most restaurants have options, but they aren’t always in great condition (so many with broken straps) or the most sanitized. I have not forgotten how challenging it is to eat while holding a squirmy toddler. We had a special needs child, who got sick really easily, and it was necessary to make sure we reduced his exposure to germs, while also going out occasionally, for socialization and integration. We passed our portable high chairs along to friends with infants, as our kids outgrew them, because they held up really well!
When considering which lightweight stroller you should buy, you really have to take into consideration when and how you will be using it. We had two strollers, one heavy duty, that the baby carrier clipped into, then had a toddler seat for when they were older. It had a huge basket underneath that we loved when shopping at the mall or going to the zoo and museums. We were able to store our coats, bags, supplies, etc in the huge basket, and drinks in the cupholders, etc. It was great, and our go to stroller. However, when we were travelling, we just didn’t have room for it in the trunk. So, we needed a smaller umbrella style stroller. We did get one with strong wheels, and a small basket, and it worked ok for shorter outings where we didn’t need the larger basket for holding things. It also worked well as the kids got older, and just needed shorter breaks from walking so much. When shopping for one, make sure you take into consideration the terrain you’ll likely be pushing it over, and any accessories you find yourself using frequently.
We used baby gates in our home not only to block stairways, but also on the doorways to the kids rooms. Why? Safety. With a child on the autism spectrum, who sometimes had unique sleep patterns, we needed to know the kids were safely confined to their rooms during the night, while we were sleeping. We did have the house baby-proofed, but they can always find things you haven’t thought of, to get into trouble with. I have a friend right now who is exhausted because her three year old daughter is sleep walking. She and her husband have traded nights sleeping on the floor next to the bed, to make sure her daughter doesn’t get up and wander, but it’s making life very difficult for them. They recently got a baby gate for the doorway, made sure her everything in her daughter’s bedroom is secured, and have had several nights of full sleep! They left blankets and extra pillows next to the gate, and often find their daughter sleeping there in the mornings. She gets up, walks around the room, is perfectly safe, and goes back to sleep. They’re working on alternate resolutions, but now that they can sleep through the night, they can consider options, while not desperate for sleep. Taking a baby gate with you when you travel is also helpful, because if your child wakes up in a new place to go to the bathroom, etc. they may need help. In hotels, we put the gate across the bathroom door, so they would be prompted to wake us up if they needed to go to the restroom. No need to worry about playing with the tub faucet, when they couldn’t get in the door! Same with a family members house, and we didn’t have to worry that they’d get into cabinets/drawers in the kitchen/bathroom, that extended family may not have secured with child safety locks.
Whether you use cloth diapers or disposable diapers, before embarking on a trip, you’ll want to make sure you’ve packed enough supplies to last. If you’re taking a long road trip, even potty trained kids have the potential to have accidents, with restrooms sometimes few and far between. On our road trip this year, one of my kids found it necessary to use the restroom in EVERY STATE we drove through, and we visited 13 states. At one point, it felt like we were stopping hourly. If you’re using cloth diapers, make sure you have a wet/dry bag and places to launder them along the way. If you have boys, pee pee tee pees to prevent getting sprayed are oh so helpful. I have three boys. I know this well 🙂
Speaking of toilets being few and far between at times, I have a couple of friends that have recently shared their solution to this problem.
- One friend has toddlers, and keeps a toddler potty in the back of her vehicle, for emergencies on the go. She has an SUV with dark tinted windows, so they just climb in the back and take care of business, then make proper disposal.
- Another friend frequently goes camping, and also has children in a multitude of sports, like my own. She carries a portable camping/hiking potty with her. Her children, like mine, loathe using porta potty buildings, so this is her solution. My kids think it’s brilliant. She also keeps it in the back of her SUV, they can climb in to use it. When camping, they have a separate room in the tent where they store it, so there aren’t any walks through the woods in the dark, looking for the bathrooms when wildlife is active.
- A third friend just got a Squatty Potty. She bravely shared about this on social media, and received confessions from dozens of friends who also use one in their home. This friend has relatives scattered within an 8 hour radius in several directions from her home, that they visit often. Her daughter began having tummy issues when they traveled. After trying a multitude of things, they tried this on suggestion from a close friend. They were amazed to find that it resolved the issue. Apparently there are different heights, angles, sizes of toilets, that vary from home to home, and her daughter couldn’t get comfortable enough to take care of necessary business. Now they keep this in the trunk, bring it in discreetly (some family members bought them to keep in the bathrooms too), and she is able to relax and do what she needs to do.
Even with older kids, I still take these with us when we travel. The on the go packages are great for cleaning restaurant tables, changing tables in restrooms, etc. I also tend to wipe down surfaces like door knobs in hotel rooms, light switch covers, etc. just to be extra cautious. I also took some wipes that are made to clean the interior of the car, because my boys are messsy! The spray is great for when little ones may have accidents, and older ones (boys especially) have excess gas. I spend six days driving in the car with boys aged 10-14, and trust me, the Lysol spray was never too far from my reach 🙂
I didn’t link any cute graphics here, because the sizes, etc can vary so much. However. We always keep a gym bag with a full change of clothes for everyone, a couple of towels, etc. in the back. Why? We’ve stopped several times and found beautiful scenic views to look at, some with creeks, where a child is guaranteed to get wet when we don’t have spare clothes. Anyone can spill something on themselves, sometimes there is car sickness to deal with, other times the weather may be bad and you’ll find yourself soaked. It pays to be prepared for the unexpected 🙂
Food and Snacks
When you stop for fuel and/or bathroom breaks, it can be tempting to grab snacks, especially if it’ll be a while before meal time. Buying these things ahead of time will allow you the opportunity to plan for healthier options, some not so healthy treats are nice from time to time, and help you save money. We buy in bulk, put in zipper bags or reusable containers, and refill as necessary. I can put the larger bags in the very back, but keep the portioned sizes in reach, so they can grab when necessary. Then, they aren’t tempted to buy overpriced items in convenience stores.
Portable bowls, dishes, cups
With infants or toddlers, you may be sharing some of your meal with them. It can be helpful to take your own portable dishware. You may not want them to be able to grab breakable dishes, or perhaps you need the type with suction cups so they can’t grab the plate or bowl and turn it over (or throw it). We’ve all been there. These things happen. It can be easier to avoid with some of the options available. We use some of the camping gear with our older kids, especially if we’re eating in the car on the go. They’re great for eating at sporting events too 🙂
Water and water bottles
Earlier this month, I flew to Austin, Texas, and was so grateful for my water bottle! While you can’t take a filled bottle through airport security, you can take an empty one. Most of the airports had water fountains with a water bottle filling area, so once through security it was easy to fill it right up. Bottled water was ridiculously expensive in the shops, so it was awesome to have my refillable bottle with me. I was able to check in to my hotel online ahead of time, and they generously offered to have disposable water bottles waiting in my room for me. For $5 each, plus a $5 delivery charge, and a $3 gratuity. I passed on the offer and stopped at a grocery store, and picked up a 12 pack of bottles for $1.99, and shared with friends 🙂 I try to avoid drinking tap water when traveling (I went to Mexico for my senior trip and a classmate got very ill due to water), so I wasn’t able to refill my travel bottle in the room, without disposable bottles of water. I also keep a case of bottles in the back of my vehicle, to use when traveling or attending sporting events. I buy it at a local warehouse club, so it’s significantly more affordable than convenience stores 🙂
Part 1 & Part 2
If you followed my recent Summer Road Trip, you know that even with my tween/teenagers, we had unexpected situations arise. Since we left at noon on the last day of school (they had a half day), I planned to pack the minivan that morning, pick up the kids at dismissal at noon, and hit the road. Little did I know that TWO of my three would get injured during recess, less than an hour before departure. While the nurses did a great job of bandaging them up, we did need to stop at superstores and pharmacies along the way, to get additional supplies for their injuries. I now keep an enhanced emergency first aid kit, with supplies we replenished several times, on that trip. Here’s a few must haves for us, that you may want to consider, but I hope you never have cause to need 🙂
These are a few items that I found helpful when traveling with my own babies, or friends have suggested they currently find helpful!
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