In the first four months of my son’s life, we traveled from coast to coast and north to south. Many people said we were crazy to travel with a baby like that. But I have no regrets.
Our story as to why we did all this traveling has less to do with any gallant notion of how traveling benefits babies (though I think it does) and more about practicality—with a dash of obstinance. (Having a baby isn’t going to change our lives!) Plus, my parents took me on an impromptu road trip from Indiana to the Rockies when I was about six weeks old. If they could do it, so could we! Before I even had an inkling about a baby growing inside of me, we had a planned vacation with my family in Colorado and my brother-in-law’s wedding in California. And being the stubborn person that I am, I didn’t see any reason to give these trips up once we found out that our little one was on the way—even after calculating that he’d be all of six or seven weeks old then. *Gulp.*
“Ehhh, no problem,” we thought. Babies are portable, right?
Yes. Yes, they are.
(It’s all their accessories that are the problem. Ha! Fortunately, I subscribe to the semi-minimalist notion of baby/kid stuff. So, for us, personally? I don’t think the “stuff” was very much of a hindrance in our traveling. But I digress.)
So we did what normal people do while preparing for their first child. Registry, check. Baby shower, check, check. Crib assembled, check. Freak out about having a baby, check. Nursery prettified, check. Plan an almost two-week vacation less than two months after baby’s due date, check!
Our agenda? To fly from Nashville to LA for five days—then fly to Denver to drive to Vail for a week before flying back home again. That is one long trip with multiple stops (and layovers) and drives and hotels even sans children. But why not? I’d be on maternity leave, and my middle-school-teacher-husband would be on summer break. We had the time and the motivation and the wherewithal. Plus, we figured, we’d be sleep deprived at home, so why not be sleep deprived in sunny CA and beautiful CO?
The practical side of me made sure to book refundable hotel rooms and plane tickets (thanks, Southwest!) in case unexpected medical issues cropped up and we had to cancel the trip. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and our trip went well—despite issues with our initial flight to LA. There were hard times to be sure, mostly stemming from adjusted expectations about what travel and vacation looks like with a baby, but overall? It was quite fun, and I am so glad we went.
The success of this long vacation even made me courageous enough to go on two more trips during my maternity leave. At two and a half months old, my son and I drove eight hours to my parents’ new house in South Carolina. A few weeks later, we flew north to see family in northern Indiana and Michigan. My husband had to stay home and work during those trips, but they were manageable because I had plenty of family help—even though the travel portions were solo.
Those early trips taught me a lot about parenting and my son. A few of the lessons I learned include:
- Traveling teaches adaptability—both for you and your baby. One example: by staying in different accommodations, your baby learns to adapt to new surroundings (and hopefully learns to sleep in different settings).
- Traveling also teaches bravery. If you’re nursing and want to travel, you’ll have to get used to nursing in public. (Otherwise you’ll be in the hotel room alllll the time.) Sometimes you have to feed your baby in some weird locations—like a shady grocery store parking lot in Georgia. If you’re nursing, this can be a little awkward—especially if you’re alone. But just lock your doors, and pray you’ll be safe! Even if you aren’t nursing, travel teaches bravery as you care for your child outside the comforts of home.
- But you can take pieces of home with you! Bring a sound machine, a pack ‘n play sheet, favorite books, and other (small) necessities that make for more comfortable, familiar surroundings. This seems to be more important as baby gets older, at least in our experience.
- The day after a long driving trip, if possible, try not to put your baby in the carseat. He may cry quite a bit—even if he is normally happy in the car.
Why I Fully Recommend New Parents Should Travel with Baby
(even when it’s hard)
I fully believe that traveling with your babies when they are young sets the stage for future travel success. Whether you want to travel (desire, curiosity, exposure to new cultures, settings, events) or have to travel (family, jobs)—or both—you have to start somewhere.
So many people say that traveling with kids is hard. I’m not saying it’s easy. But I do believe it gets easier with practice. It’s a learning experience for both parent and child. You both get better with each trip—and the hard parts probably won’t be as bad as you think.
My son is now one. Since those first few trips, we’ve traveled on numerous occasions—holidays, weekend trips, a wedding. For the most part, things have been great. Sure, we got less sleep and baby’s routine was disrupted. But we have been able to experience new things, introduce our son to many family members and friends, and get out of our normal Nashville bubble. I have no regrets and am SO thankful for the memories we’ve gained from all our travel opportunities in just one year. I can’t wait to see what other adventures we take as a family in the future!