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I am a mother of two, and by this point I’m no stranger to traveling with little ones. We’ve done big trips, little trips, fancy trips, cheap trips, solo trips, big family trips, and we’re still standing to tell the tale. And, for the most part, they are good tales.
But, traveling with children isn’t exactly the same as traveling with a baby. Life in general with a baby is just fundamentally different than life without one. Babies can’t talk, can’t walk, can’t eat solid foods, can’t just safely crash on a couch or bed, can’t be reasoned with, can’t use the restroom, and can start wailing with no notice. In other words, it isn’t unreasonable to think of travel with a baby as traveling with a live bomb that may explode in screams or projectile poop at any time. In fact, it really isn’t an “if” that will happen, it is more of a “when”. However, travel with a baby is so much more than just that.
Traveling with a baby is empowering. It is easy to fall into the mental trap of thinking that you can’t do anything you used to do once you have a baby. Meeting their needs can indeed become absolutely all-consuming at times (especially if they are on the more demanding end of the spectrum), but getting out and traveling is a great confidence booster and reminder that your life isn’t over, just different.
Traveling with a baby is relaxing. Okay, not always, but having a baby forces you to just stop more. At Disney last week Baby S and I would have to stop and nurse every couple hours, and that was a forced break in the mad dash between parades, rides, etc. Those breaks could be viewed as disruptive, but they also can be viewed as forced relaxation.
The same is true on the plane. Without a baby you are probably going to work, surf the internet, watch a movie, or otherwise keep yourself occupied. However, while holding a baby you may just get a chance to sit and just be.
Traveling with a baby is better than staying home. This will vary from baby to baby and parent to parent, but my 3 month old does far better when there is activity and things to see/do than she does just in a quiet house alone with me. In the house she gets pretty cranky pretty quickly even though we have no shortage of rockers, playmats, toys, etc. but out in the “real world” she generally stays much happier with new things to see and experience. I also do better when there are things to do rather than just sit and feel confined in a house for too long.
On our two big trips with her thus far to the beach in Mexico and to Disney World, Baby S was generally much happier during the day and slept much better at night than via her average routine at home. In fact, she slept through the night the three nights we were at Disney and then went right back to being up 3-5 times per night as soon as we got home. In other news, we are officially moving to Disney effective immediately…
Traveling with a baby makes you social. When I have my baby with me people constantly stop to say something, or at least nod and smile (or nod and say thank God that’s not me anymore!). Seriously though you will probably interact far more with those around you when you travel with a baby both because the baby makes for an easy conversation starter and because you will be moving at a slower pace than you did without a little one. It is a cool experience to feel more a part of the world around you thanks to having your tiny traveler with you.
Traveling with a baby makes you stronger. Having a baby in general makes you stronger mentally, physically, and emotionally (though you may be weaker than normal in any given moment from exhaustion), but bringing them on a trip makes you a stronger traveler. You have to learn to anticipate and prevent more problems in advance, learn how to do everything you used to do with one hand and dozens of extra pounds attached, and simply stay calmer in the face of hurdles that come up along the way.
The next time you have a delay when you are flying without your baby you will never view it as disruptive again once you have been delayed with a demandy pants baby! In other words, babies help put things in perspective.
Traveling with a baby is tough. Traveling with a baby isn’t all fairy tales and roses. It is also tough. It can be hard to manage all of the baby’s needs and still find the time and energy to enjoy where you are. If your baby happens to have a tough time on the plane, in the hotel, etc. it can be draining on your whole group. Even just going through the mental checklist of everything to pack can be a challenge. Plus, when you get home you can’t just crash on the couch for a day or two – you have to hit the ground running and continue the marathon that is parenting an infant.
Traveling with a baby is worth it. Traveling with a baby isn’t always easy, it isn’t always fun, but it is worth it. If you like to travel, just knowing you can still do it post-baby is invaluable for your spirit. More than that though, experiencing the world in a new way with your expanded family is worth it. They may not remember it, but you are setting the foundation to explore, be flexible, and know that the world is bigger than their own quiet house.
And thank God for that.