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Traveling with a baby is a daunting task, especially if you are suffering from some sort of pain, illness, or disability. You kind of feel like you’re packing everything you own, even the kitchen sink. No joke. Marshall is five months old and so far we’ve house sat for a week twice, gone to the beach for a week, and had two weekend trips. That doesn’t make me an expert, but I sure have learned a lot from all of this travel and each time gets easier. Hopefully my experience can save you from some potentially painful lessons.
As I said, when you travel with baby it feels like you’re packing everything you own. Starting about 4 weeks before our beach trip I began obsessive list making. My husband mocks my lists, but hey, we made it to the beach with everything we needed… and some things we didn’t. The things we didn’t need, we might have if we hadn’t had a bunch of family with us. I feel like the two natural inclinations are either to pack everything you could possibly need (which is mine) or take as little as possible. Both of these have merit, but there are things to pass on and things that you might not think about being non-negotiable. You need to make sure you have baby things you need to make you comfortable. If you are struggling because of your disability or your injury pain is flaring because you didn’t have what you need to take care of yourself, you will be miserable the entire time you’re gone.
- Nursing gear –
If you’re nursing, you need to make sure you have everything you need to do it well and comfortably. The comfortably part is key. Though I prefer my Brest Friend nursing pillow at home, it is HUGE and hard to transport. My Boppy is much more manageable and came with a nice, durable plastic zippered bag. I take that when we travel, but honestly, that is used most often in the car and less at our destination. So often wherever we’re staying does not have a chair that is comfortable and supportive for nursing. I have found what works best for us is, if we are at our house/room, to side-lie nurse him on our bed. It means less I have to deal with and more chances for a snuggle nap! Now, some of you mamas may beg to differ, but my child is reigning King of the Spitters. Even if your child isn’t a spitter, chances are they dribble a little when they eat. It’s pretty cute when their sweet, chubby cheeks have milk dribbles on them, but it isn’t so cute when there’s a puddle on your sheets. It’s even less cute when you’re in a vacation home or at someone else’s house and it’s an actual spit-up puddle with smelly chunks of curdled milk. I know it’s one more thing to haul, but if you’re going to side-lie nurse baby while you’re traveling, I suggest taking a waterproof mattress protector, like this one.
- Baby-hauling gear –
I cannot stress enough the importance of having a way to haul baby around that is safe and comfortable for you. Vacations often have a lot of up and around. Your baby is also out of his routine and his known space. You might find your little one is a little bit needier than normal. For myself, that meant taking my MiaMily Hipster 3D carrier and my Summer Infant 3D Lite stroller. I love my MiaMily carrier. I gave birth to a small giant and he is so very heavy. Free-carrying him for 15 minutes leaves my back hurting and arms burning. With the carrier, I can carry him for 3 or 4 hours without pain. The beach was a rough trip for us and I felt like I missed out on a lot, but with him in the carrier, I was able to actually go out with my mom, aunts, and cousins for a few hours one day. He even napped for me there. The stroller is great because it weighs only 13 lbs, is super easy to operate, and has a reclining seat back. That was nice to have for quick back and forth walks (my family is so big we were in 2 houses) and anywhere we were going to be sitting. Sitting with a carrier isn’t my favorite, especially if I’m trying to eat. I may have gotten food poisoning while we were on vacation, but my back did great!
- Sleeping arrangements
My parents have a Graco Pack and Play that is in a carrier bag. Our play yard doesn’t have one, so we borrowed theirs for the beach. The best part of using theirs was that it has a built in changing table. That was wonderful because it meant not having to bend over a low bed, sit on that bed all twisted up, or get down on the floor and change him. If you are having a baby soon and don’t have a play yard, I recommend looking into that. Also, make sure you have your baby monitor with you. It could mean the difference between being stuck inside during naptime or getting to hang out in and by the pool.
- Clothes, diapers, and toys, oh my!
As I said, I’m inclined to take everything I could possibly need no matter the situations. I actually keep mini-tampons in my first aid kit for gunshots. How often do people around me get shot, you may ask? Never, but you know the moment I take those out of my kit, the bullets will start flying. Okay, I know that’s silly, but I like to be prepared. To that end, I packed enough clothes for Marshall to last 3 weeks. Thing is, he is King of the Spitters! Some days we’re both on our 4th outfit by lunchtime. What I wasn’t considering is that our beach house, as well as both places we house-sat, have a washer and dryer. I ended up using maybe a third of what I packed because I washed clothes, then they were on top of the pile so he wore them again, then I washed them…. Clothes are something you can cut back on if you will be somewhere you can wash them and you don’t mind doing laundry while you travel. Diapers are also something to think about whether or not you want to pack. Chances are you can buy them wherever you end up traveling. Where we go to the beach, you take a ferry over and there is a little grocery. Their prices are typically higher and selection smaller. If that’s not a big deal, save yourself the luggage space and hauling and buy them where you’re there. For us, we were concerned with saving some money and I am somewhat picky about diapers, so we just packed them. At the time, he was going through 10-14 a day so that took quite a bit of room. Toys were just about useless to us. The only ones we used of all the ones that we took to the beach were an activity mat and Marshall’s favorite stuffed animal. We were with family and they kept him busy and entertained. As he’s gotten older, we’ve added teethers to the pile. He also has this fun Bright Starts Around We Go activity center that keeps him entertained for a good while. It’s bulky and hard to pack, but we took it when we were house sitting and it made our lives much easier. You know your kid and what he or she would like, so the “essential entertainers” might not be the same. Just know that you probably don’t need a ton of them.
Just as every personal situation is different, so is what you will need. So many of these tips are subjective, but hopefully they’ll get you thinking through what it is you need. Bon voyage!
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