1) Baby Equipment Rental
We always bring everything with us — pack-and-play, stroller, car seat, etc. However, I have heard that there are companies that rent out baby equipment for a minimal fee. You’ll have to do some Googling beforehand, and I would definitely set up the rental before you get there…but if you are trying to minimize the amount of luggage you bring, this is a great idea. Here are a few sites that have locations across the United States:
And if you are staying at a hotel, call ahead and see if they have pack-and-plays or cribs that are available for renting. They are usually in limited supply, so definitely try and reserve one beforehand. Babies and young children may have issues re-adjusting to a new place, so bring along their favorite blankets and stuffed animals to help ease the process.
2) Be mindful of the weather
Before you go out on a nice, long walk, or plan to stay the whole day outside…check the weather. Babies are a very heat-sensitive, and they shouldn’t be in direct sunlight and heat for long periods of time. They can easily dehydrate and overheat. Don’t try and push the limits — it is not worth it one bit. Make sure to bring sunscreen that is specifically made for babies (and has a high SPF), sunhats, and even sunglasses. We found the cutest sunglasses are Target that came with an elastic band. Along with the sunhat, Jack was protected from the blazing sun in South Carolina.
The same thing goes for cold weather — don’t take your baby out in it unprepared. Be sure to bring along coats and hats and extra blankets. Just like babies can overheat easily, they also can get very cold easily as well.
3) Pack light
If you are flying, this is especially important. Those bag limits show no mercy. One thing that we’ve found to be particularly helpful is to just buy diapers when we get to our destination. Diapers can take a surprising amount of space, and we have recently started just buying diapers there, rather than lugging around our big supply. Obviously, bring enough for the car or plane trip, but otherwise — wait until you get there!
And just bring the necessities. It might be tempting to bring all of your baby’s cutest outfits (because, you definitely want everyone to think they are super adorable, right?) but simplicity is easiest, especially if you will be on the go a lot.
4) Appropriate clothing
Although weather can change quickly, before you leave, try and check the projected forecast, and pack accordingly. It would really be unfortunate to show up somewhere that is typically warm, only to find out they were having a very late winter, and all you have are shorts and flip flops! Or you could be visiting a place that is having an unseasonably warm winter, and you’ll be burning up the whole time. If it’s one of those place that the weather can change at the flip of a switch, bring outfits that can easily be layered up or down — such as onesies and a couple of jackets.
5) Don’t Over-schedule
Before you had a baby, you might have been able to jump from one place to another on vacation and not blink an eye. It’s not so easy with a child on board, so just plan a few activities a day that are moderately spaced apart. You can always have some ideas in the back of your head, just in case you do end up having extra time, but I think it is better to under-schedule and get to add a few fun activities, rather than be disappointed when you don’t get to do everything you planned. Babies may need to take a nap, or you might just get more exhausted than you used to! Vacations are a time to relax. Take advantage of the chance to just go with the flow of things.
6) Be Flexible
This goes hand-in-hand with not over-scheduling. You want to be flexible, and willing to change plans at the last moment. If you are traveling with others who may not have babies or small children, let them know ahead of time that you may not be able to participate in every single activity. If possible, bring along extra transportation so if you do have to leave, others don’t get frustrated or upset because everyone has to.
7) Choose appropriate activities
As tempting as it might be to take your baby on their first Disneyland trip, take the advice my Grandpa gave me — wait until their older. Not only will they not remember a thing, you will be very limited in the types of activities you can do. Sure, if you are going with a big group, and maybe Grandma is willing to sit around with the baby it might be fun, but if it’s just you, your spouse, and baby? Not so fun. Keep this in mind as you plan all your activities. You don’t want to have to sit on a bench while everyone else has lots of fun! Some fun ideas are visiting local zoos, aquariums, or children’s museums.
If you are going to have your own car, that would be ideal. However, if you will be without a car, be sure to figure out what options there are for transportation, and what the public transit is like. If you will be relying on public transportation, find out what forms of payment are taken. Some take cards, others don’t. Or they may have to be one of those cards that can just be “waved” over the machine. It’s always a good idea to have some spare cash though.
And try and figure out the best way to transport your baby places. If the baby is old enough, bringing an umbrella stroller will lighten your load a little bit, though I always like having the extra basket space our travel system allows, just to hold our bags, blankets, water bottles, and jackets. I also really liked “wearing” Jack when we went on vacation last summer. So if you have a good baby carrier, consider bringing that, especially if you are planning to go on a hike.
9) Keep the schedule (and plan around naps)
Even though you are on vacation, unless you want your baby to be on a crazy schedule when you get home, try your best to keep them on their regular schedule. If you are going to a different time zone, try and keep them on their regular home time, if possible. I’m a nap and schedule nazi, and I know that it can probably be frustrating if you are vacationing with others…but remember, you’re the one that will have to deal with a baby on a messed up schedule otherwise, so do what is best for you.
10) Be familiar with the area
If you are going somewhere that you aren’t totally familiar with, be sure to look at maps and websites about the place before you go. It’s just nice to be able to have some kind of idea of where restaurants, bathrooms, and bus stops are at. Forrest and I both have phones with GPS systems, that will tell you the best routes for walking, riding buses, biking, or driving, and I’m sure most smart phones do. But if you don’t have something like that, maps don’t usually let people down.