Once we start talking about our family trips, people often act as though we are very brave, foolhardy, or independently wealthy. We are none of these things (well, ok, maybe foolhardy). It’s true, however, that once you transition from child-free travel to taking those little monsters along, you have to come to terms with some truths.
Despite Kristin’s hesitation about taking her baby monster on a long trip before age one, I’m here to tell you it can be done. Our first went to Mexico at age four months, and I just went back to remember how old our third baby was on his first flight—six weeks. I’m not going to lie, there was an adjustment there. But still, TOTALLY WORTH IT!
There will be crying. And less sleep for everyone.
But if you have a child, you already know that you can survive both these things. Take heart! You will sleep again someday. And in the meantime, don’t miss out on some great experiences just for a little sleep. Being on a beach vacation in Mexico with an infant meant a lot of time bouncing a baby to sleep in a hotel room. But he also slept in a carrier on the beach, so we managed to take turns swimming. At the end of the day, we were still in the tropics in February, which was the goal.
You won’t be able to do the same things you loved doing on your childless vacations.
Unless you find/bring along a babysitter, you won’t be going to nice restaurants, clubbing, or doing any relaxing of any sort (I dream of one day again reading a book poolside). You will still be able to try new foods, meet new people, see the sights, go to museums, and sometimes even do grown-up things by handing over the baby to his/her other parent.
People will give you the side-eye.
If your kid starts screaming in the Met, people won’t like you. But some people will adore your kids, and they will be a conduit for cross-cultural experiences. Children are children everywhere.
You will have to check luggage when flying.
Some people manage to avoid this, but I sort of think those people have something wrong with them, and also must only be going to cities and using public transportation, and don’t have more children than adults (like we do). You will require car seats if you are going to be in a car/taxi at all. Plus you will have your hands full on the plane with the baby/toddler and the diaper bag, so I have no idea how to manage another carry-on with all that. So check a suitcase and car seat and come to a peaceful detente with the baggage carousel.
You will have to stop frequently on road trips.
Are you the type of person, both physically and personality-wise, who can sit next to an infant in a car seat and nurse them while they are still buckled in? No? Me either. (I have known people capable of this, but some parts of my body are too big and others too small to make this feasible. I know because I tried.) If your baby takes a bottle, you might be able to go farther on a road trip, but if you have a nursing baby, you are probably stopping every 2-5 hours to nurse. And if you have any kid in diapers, you are stopping to change them. And if they are NOT in diapers, you are stopping even more frequently to go to the bathroom. So just add 20% to the estimated time of the trip and be okay with it.
But it’s totally worth it!
I firmly believe there are lots of benefits to family travel. You will be making memories, and you’ll have a great story to tell at the end. Like everything else with this new little life, at first it seems unmanageable, but after a few experiences you are like, “It’s no big deal to pee with another human being attached to the front of my chest in an airport bathroom.” You got this.
And if you need some more practical tips, check out our ultimate guide to traveling with kids!