We recently took our first family vacation with our six-month-old baby. Let me clarify: We traveled all the way around the globe to South Asia with our six-month old. And you know what? I absolutely loved it.
I was originally a little stressed about packing and taking him to another continent. I know just driving to Kroger means loading the car to the brim with paraphernalia. How in the world did I expect to pack enough gear for him for 19 days in half a suitcase? I am an avid over-packer for myself, so I had to mentally brace myself for downsizing and sharing precious cargo space with my kid. (Such a sacrifice, I know.)
Here are a few things I firmly believe helped us travel internationally for three weeks with our infant.
First, both my husband and I had lived for many years in the country we were visiting. This helped me plan, know where I could restock on diapers, talk to local friends about baby culture (Is it okay to breastfeed in public? What should I do to be respectful with my child in your country?), and gave me reassurance that if all the wheels fell off the wagon, at least I knew enough of the language to get by.
Second, we love to travel. My husband and I both spent our first years out of college traveling around the globe. We know airports like the back of our hand. My sweet husband is the most efficient security-line participant I have ever seen. I felt confident taking our baby along with us because, well, we are seasoned travelers.
Now, traveling as a young, single woman is completely different than when you are a tired, new momma with a baby on her hip, or in her Moby wrap. There were certain precautions we took on this trip that we normally wouldn’t have worried about. Our main concerns with our baby were safe water for bathing and avoiding mosquitoes. Dengue, chikungunya fever, and malaria are very common where we traveled, so we wanted to be prepared to guard our little one’s sensitive skin with deet-free repellents.
Can we take a moment to bemoan packing? It is so stressful. Alas, I packed anyway and tried to make life as easy as possible for us on the road/plane/train . . . whatever transportation we might be in! We packed outfits into plastic bags and labeled them so we knew what was inside. This kept me from digging through the suitcase for jammies late at night or searching for tiny socks in the midst of all our belongings.
The first leg of our journey was obviously the flight overseas. We had two international flights to land in our destination, the first one lasting around 14 hours. Here is my best advice for those flights: Get the bulkhead seats with the bassinet attachment! Many major airlines that offer long international flights will offer a bassinet to a baby under 20 pounds. While you can’t have your baby in it while the seat belt sign is on, it is such a treat to be able to set him down while you eat or just to give your arms a break.
Our next traveling-baby hack was his bath. A friend who had recently traveled with her infant suggested that we use an inflatable pool toy and bottled water for bath time while overseas. While not all water overseas is dangerous, both my husband and I got incredibly sick when we lived overseas. We did not want to take any chances with our guy! This was a great way to keep him off the floors and support his head. As a plus, it was easy to pack when we were done!
We also brought a little “bed” for our baby that gave me peace of mind. We ordered it off of Amazon, and when it was packed up, it laid flat and fit inside my husband’s carry-on. (He bit the bullet and carried a few items that didn’t make it in my stuffed suitcase.) We looked for one that would protect him from mosquitoes at night and would also keep him from crawling around the room, should he wake up. We also purchased a miniature stand fan to blow on him at night, in case of power outages and loss of air conditioning.
Overall, our trip was an absolute blast, and we are so happy we took our baby with us. He did great adjusting to the time difference, loved making over a billion new friends, and soaked up all the sights and sounds from the festivals and markets we encountered. We loved getting to show him a new culture, language, and country. We got to introduce him to our friends still living there, and we made incredible memories as a family. It was more work, more planning, and more stress at times, but it was so worth it. Besides the fact I can’t stand to be away from him for three weeks, I would bring him on our trip every time. The only thing I would change for next time? More coffee.
Have you traveled internationally with kids? What was the best thing you did to make it a smooth trip?