If you’re interested in language learning, there’s a good chance you’re interested in travel too! Whether your wanderlust is sparked by wanting to see new places, learn about new cultures, or simply to escape from the ordinary, you may be wondering how your little one fits into the equation. Traveling with a baby can be a daunting task, but it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience. If you’re thinking about traveling with your tot in tow, keep reading for some practical tips and tricks.
Giving your child the ability to experience the world is an incredible gift that comes with benefits for both baby and you! Traveling as a family creates an opportunity for bonding with your little one in a way that’s unique from your everyday experience. In fact, the ability to see the world through the lens of your child’s eyes will make you realize the beauty of a child’s (especially your child’s) perspective.
Nonetheless, you may be nervous about the how. How will baby nap during a day of travel or out of his element? How will you possibly manage to pack everything you need into the finite space of a suitcase? How will you manage potential meltdowns during a car or plane ride? The fact is that traveling with a baby forces you to grow your own resiliency and ability to problem solve, even in uncharted territory. And while all this may seem stressful, it’s actually a wonderful opportunity for growth for both you and your child.
This summer, I packed up my Italian-learning-smallTalk baby and headed for our yearly summer trip to Italy, where my family is from. Here are some things I learned along the way:
- Do a test run (or a few “incremental” test runs), if at all possible. The truth is, I was pretty scared about international travel for a number of reasons. As a first-time mom, I had some difficulty letting go of the idea that everything needed to run as perfectly as it did when we are home and able to follow our routine. To ease my way into a big trip, I first planned a small weekend road trip, and then a weekend trip with a short domestic flight. This allowed me to build up baby’s “travel stamina,” and helped me to feel more at ease that I could conquer a longer flight. During these smaller trips, I was able to really figure out what our actual necessities were, which helped me to pack smarter (see next tips for more on this).
- Do your research about your location. It’s helpful to know the general terrain of where you’re going (are you headed to a beach town? To a city? Or is your trip more outdoorsy?). This will help you to determine how to pack. Also, you may learn some interesting things about the culture of the area you’re traveling to (especially if you happen to be traveling internationally). An example from my own travels: I was surprised to learn that in Italy, baby food items are found in the farmacia– not in grocery stores! This is a great example of how exploring the world with my child gave me an opportunity to learn something I didn’t know about the culture of a place I’ve been to countless times.
- Pack your essentials– but don’t overpack. If you’re reading this and thinking that I’m giving conflicting advice, hear me out: there’s a difference between the essentials and your essentials. While you’ll likely be able to restock items you’ve run out of (or forgotten, because it happens) try to think about the items you feel are non-negotiable in order for your trip with baby to run smoothly. One of mine was a blackout bassinet/ pack and play cover. And while my essentials list also included our preferred type of baby formula, we did compromise for space by purchasing diapers and other items like baby food at our destination (just be sure to pack enough to last the trip getting there!). And while I wouldn’t suggest packing an overwhelming amount of toys, I would suggest thinking about which toys are baby’s absolute favorites– these will come in handy for in-car or in-flight entertainment.
- Invest in a good travel stroller. A travel stroller is going to be your best friend when traveling with an infant or toddler, and one that folds small enough to fit in the overhead compartment of a plane is ideal. I was so pleasantly surprised by how lightweight and functional our travel stroller was that I actually began using it in place of my regular stroller once I returned home.
- Travel during nap time. For shorter car rides or flights, this tip is ideal. However, international or longer- distance travel, it’s likely that this might not be possible, pointing to my next tip, which is…
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. I’m going to be honest– my baby did not sleep more than 2 of the 9 hours in flight from New York to Italy. I remember sitting on the plane, panicking about disturbing other passengers, and also frantically thinking ahead about how the next day he would be completely off his schedule. The truth is, he was off his schedule for about a day or so, and then adjusted (mostly) fine. I will not say that every day followed a perfect nap and sleep schedule, but we stuck to our routine as much as we possibly could and tried our best to go with the flow when we couldn’t. If you’re a Type-A person like myself (and a first-time mom), reading this may cause you to cringe. It would have made me cringe too– but I can promise you that the reward of the memories made and the new feeling of being able to conquer tricky things with an infant make up for whatever unsettled feelings you may have about the challenges that traveling with a baby will inevitably present.
- Have patience and give yourself grace. If I can guarantee one thing, it will be this: everything will likely not go 100% according to plan. But if I can persuade you that this is part of the beauty of the experience, then I’m happy to have shared my own. Remember, it’s rare that travel plans go off without a hitch when there isn’t a tiny human involved, so be sure to cut yourself some slack!
- Enjoy the experience. Travel is meant to be a beautiful and enriching experience for you, and this is likely the reason why you’ve chosen to bring your bub along for the ride! Remember to savor the moments, create beautiful memories, and snap some great photos along the way.