If you want to teach your child to love travel, it’s never too soon to start. With the right planning, travel with your little one can be a fun adventure that sparks a lifetime of passion for exploring the world around them. The benefits of traveling with your young child are hard to beat: they’ll grow to appreciate new experiences and have the opportunity to bond with you as they learn about new people and places. Plus, it never hurts to get away for a while.
However, it is true that taking vacations with babies and toddlers often takes a little extra work. Any parent knows how much time and attention you need to give your kids, and that doesn’t stop once you’re on the road. Be ready for the unexpected, pack everything you need (and then some), and keep some yummy snacks on hand. Plan ahead and you’ll be on your way to a great vacation with your babe.
Check out these tips to help you prepare for your child’s first adventure:
1. Pack Your Bags
A fun trip with your baby or toddler starts at home.
A well-stocked diaper bag is likely already your lifeline, but it becomes much more important when you’re on a trip. Check out The Baby Cubby’s curated collection of diaper bags to find the perfect one for you. Make sure you keep a backup or two of all your normal items in your bag while traveling, like diapers, pacifiers, and bottles. Stock up on plenty of formula as well, if your baby drinks it. You never know when a flight might be delayed or you’ll have to take a detour.
Bring plenty of things that make your child comfortable along for the trip. Favorite toys, blankets, and snacks are all familiar items from home that can soothe your child if they’re feeling cranky. You can also try bringing along some little surprises to help thwart fits — try small trinkets that are themed around your trip or destination.
If your child is old enough to use devices, make sure they’re well charged and you’ve got plenty of their favorite movies and shows ready to go. You can also bring along some old-fashioned entertainment, like puzzles, coloring books, or travel-themed toys like airplanes or mini luggage for a favorite stuffed animal or doll.
Need some handy items that will help end your headaches before they start? Bring along plenty of wet wipes, resealable plastic bags, and spare garbage bags — they’ll come in handy. A small first-aid kit is great to have on hand in a pinch to take care of scraped knees or bug bites. If you’re heading to a beachy spot, take some baby powder with you for an easy way to remove sticky sand from your skin. An RFID-blocking wallet can protect your passport and credit card and alleviate any worries you might have about identity theft while you travel.
Since your itinerary needs to be a little flexible, consider bringing some easy meals for breakfasts or lunches in the hotel. This can serve multiple purposes: you’ll save a little cash on eating meals out, and baby can nap during lunch, plus you’ll free up extra time for activities that you’d otherwise have spent sitting in a restaurant.
2. Travel Time
It’s a great idea to think about your travel destination, especially if it’s your first time traveling with your baby. Starting out, trips close to home are much easier to prepare for than long-distance ones. They can give you a good idea of what to expect when you’re in for the long haul. However, try not to let a little extra traveler keep you from longer trips or more exotic destinations — these trips can still be a blast. If you’ll be going out of the country, baby needs a passport too, so plan ahead as processing times can take over a month.
Travelling by car can give you a little more flexibility than flying as well. You’ll be able to stop when it’s best for your family to take care of meals, changes, or grabbing essentials that are tucked away in your bags. One tip for keeping baby happy: if your baby is close to you and can see you, they’ll be happier and feel comfortable. If you’re having a tough time on the trip, consider sitting with your baby in the back seat and occasionally swapping spots with the driving partner.
Flying with your baby requires a different approach, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a headache. Give yourself plenty of extra time to navigate the airport and make it through security. Diaper bags can be a gold mine for TSA prohibited items, so check the TSA guidelines ahead of time so you can have everything in order before passing through security. Be sure to bring along a car seat that you can use on the plane that’s FAA approved.
Once you arrive at your destination, it’s a good idea to give a little consideration to your trip itinerary. Try planning light on your first few days to gauge how your baby will adjust to a new schedule and how disrupted their normal sleeping times will be. Your baby still needs their sleep, but on your trip you might not have time to sit in your hotel room while they nap. Look to alternatives to the crib, like a shady stroller, a car seat, or a baby carrier to sneak in important shut-eye.
3. Building Memories
The memories you make and lessons you teach are the most valuable takeaway from any trip with your young child. Pictures are worth more than any souvenir you can buy, so be sure to take plenty. A travel journal beginning with your child’s first trip will be something you both can revisit for years to come. Save your child’s passport, plane tickets, admission tickets or any other documents you collect during your travels for some fun additions to include with the photos.
Travel can teach children lots of lessons that it can be hard to replicate any other way. Exploring can introduce your child to new concepts and ideas unique to a given destination.
For example, the Galapagos Islands offer many opportunities to teach little ones about conservation and the amazing diversity of wildlife in our world. Yellowstone National Park presents chances to introduce your child to breathtaking natural features and endless new environments sure to make their imagination go wild. Mexico will open their minds to new languages, food, and people, giving you valuable opportunities to teach about different cultures.
Visiting less-obvious vacation destinations might bring a little thrill and adventure to your trip and help teach children to compare the vast amount of difference in the world. You’ll likely find there are plenty of teaching moments wherever your destination may be, if you look for them!
Early trips with your kid also give you the special opportunity to revisit travel destinations at older ages and compare their experiences. Revisiting a destination can also help your child develop a fondness for even faraway places, encouraging future exploration. Establishing a comfortability with the challenges and growth that come with travel will help encourage your child to be adaptable and learn skills for coping with change.
When you’re ready to take your first trip with your family, it can never hurt to be prepared, but it’s also important to be flexible and ready to adjust your plants to make the trip fun for everyone. Doing what you can to bring a little bit of home along with you can ease the rocky moments. Prep for lots of luggage, snacks on hand, and plenty of entertainment, and give yourself some extra time to get to your destination. Travel with a baby or toddler might be extra work, but the memories you make and the lessons taught on your journeys will last a lifetime.