We’ve just come back from our 1-month-trip with Mia with a travel trailer. While the memory is still fresh, I collected some tips for you if you have in mind to travel with your baby but are unsure if this is a good idea.
– let’s start from the main point: before you start planning your trip, make sure your baby is able to tolerate car rides. She may not be enjoying it much, but be able to sit in the car seat for at least one hour straight. SAFETY FIRST: even if you have a travel trailer and can lay down with the baby in the back, even if your baby is crying loud, please don’t do it during the ride. With time, your baby will get used to longer stretches, but you have to start being able to move forward even for 1-2 hours a day. We were riding 3,5 hours a day as maximum and stayed at each place (camping or appartment) mostly for two nights.
– be prepared for adjusting your route planning to the wake windows and sleeping times of your baby. We traveled with a 4 months old who turned 5 months at the end of the trip. The wake windows were between 1:30 and 2:20 hours. She slept about 4 times for about 30 min to 1:30 h (rarely) during the day. Some babies are already out of the sleep regression of 4 months, some are still experiencing difficulties falling asleep and sleeping for decent amount of time. So 4-5 months is a tricky age for traveling. So here is next bullet point:
– stay open-minded and improvise. Try to stay relaxed if something doesn’t go according to your plan. Once at 7-8 pm (Mia’s sleeping time) it was too hot for sleeping, so Mia was struggling to fall asleep in the hot stuffy (=blackened-out) bus. The only solution was to let her fall asleep in the carrier and then transfer her to the bed when the bus cooled down.
– don’t plan too much, you will not make it all. If you managed to go for a hike, it’s already a great achievement of the day! If you also ate at a restaurant, you have outdone yourself! If you just chilled the whole day (well, chilling with a baby is not our way of spending time as Mia cannot sit still longer than 10 minutes) or spend the whole day led by baby’s routine – this is also awesome. You did it in a new place, maybe even a new country, and you ARE TRAVELING, so well done, mama (or papa).
On the road
– be ready that one of you (I assume you are travelling at least with your partner) rides the whole time at the back seat next to your baby to entertain her / lure her to sleep. Probably, this will be the breastfeeding parent most of the times. Breast is a great way to calm the baby down and to stop the crying. I also managed to breastfeed the baby while driving with the safety belt on to prolong her sleep cycle. Consider changing the seats with the baby from time to time, so she could drink from another breast. If you are bottle-feeding, you are free in choice who sits where. If you are a lucky parent whose baby LOVES riding a car and falls asleep on her own, you can forget about this point and enjoy your trip from the front seat. In that case it is still advisable to install a mirror facing the baby so you can make sure your little one is fine at any time.
– have everything you need for your baby at hand in case you need to retrieve it quickly: diapers, wet tissues, diaper bags, a muslin cloth, her food and drinks, her favorite toys, a set of spare clothes, a scarf to cover baby’s car seat (so the lights don’t disturb her if she falls asleep).
– when you are planning short city trips or national park hikes, check in advance if the roads there are suitable for a stroller. We were happy that we had a baby carrier and not a buggy in the old city of Rovinj, but in Zagreb and Zadar a stroller was appropriate. However, once we started our walk around the Bohinj Lake, very soon we realized that we have had rather left the stroller at the camping place. We had to turn around and leave the stroller in an abandoned changing cabin and pick it up hours later.
– baby sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, a blanket, extra diapers, changing mat, wet tissues, a diaper bag, a spare set of clothes, a bottle of water and baby food (if you give it to your baby) are the essentials you need to pack in your backpack when starting a tour/go on a hike with your baby.
– don’t forget about yourself: sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and a lot of water are a must!
Sleeping in a new place
– you probably know that the sleep hormone melatonin is produced in the darkness. To let your baby (and you) sleep longer at night independently of the lighting in your holiday apartment or in the caravan, I recommend you to have a spare pack of the garbage bags, as big and as black as possible (or aluminium foil) and a duct tape to be able to black out the bedroom/your travel trailer. For someone it could look ridiculous seeing us taping the windows with the garbage first thing on arrival, but it worked out well and Mia didn’t get up earlier than 7 am. Agree, the garbage bags are not the best thing for the environment, but a great thing for the good night sleep and, of course, you can reuse the bags as many times as you wish.
– little ones thrive when they have routine and the people and things they are used to around. Of course, your baby has you, but think about taking some of her favorite toys with you and implement her good night routine as far as possible. At the beginning, I was worried if we were traveling not too fast for Mia to adjust to the surroundings, but then I calmed down as almost all nights we slept in the caravan, so this sleeping place became some sort of routine for Mia, her safe haven. When I was thinking of a good night ritual for Mia, I was trying to make it “portable” and adjustable for any person. Our routine is singing a song while changing the diaper, massaging her belly and feet with the baby oil, putting on the onesie and a sleeping bag (optimal if it is too warm), playing a melody with the music box (spieluhr), turning on the white noise, turning off the light and nursing. Later we have to shift nursing to an earlier timepoint, but for now this works very well.
– if you use any audial / visual aids in your baby’s good night routine, try to take them with you. We had our camera and a bluetooth speaker for the white noise. We also used our phones as a babyphone when no wifi was available. When moving to the next camping place/hotel/apartment, make sure to prepare everything for the evening routine in advance. If you have a sensitive baby, a day on the road and a new unknown place may overstimulate her and you will have to bring her to bed asap.
– when renting an apartment, think about two rooms, or one room and a kitchen. If you bring your baby to bed at around 7-8 pm, you will probably want to stay awake a bit longer and have time with your partner or for yourself. I remember one night we were sitting in the darkness in a tiny hotel room on the floor and whispering to each other trying not to wake up Mia who was sleeping on the bed divided from us with a stack of pillows. I’m pretty sure this is not the way you want to spend your precious YOU-TIME during your vacation!
Preparing for the trip in advance
– we bought a small swimming pool (60 l) and used it to cool Mia down when it was too hot during the day as well as a sweet water pool to wash off the salt after swimming in the sea. This is also a good tool for bathing your baby if there are no such utilities at the place you are staying.
– as an alternative to sitting / lying for your baby could be a bouncer / rocking seesaw (we purchased one for 5 Euro from the secondhand before the trip).
– think about a set of medicines and drogery for your baby. We had the following with us: Bepanthene, Otriven (baby nose drops), Kamistad (in case she should become first teeth), baby scissors, baby oil, lavender oil, thermometer, baby anti-mosquito spray (to be applied on the clothes and not directly to the skin).
– pack a hard (waterproof) bedding where you can put your baby for her tummy time or just to stretch when you make a break.
Different, more difficult but possible and still awesome – travelling with a baby. The best thing, both you and your baby will adapt to each other and develop better comprehension of each other!