How Traveling with a Baby is Different
When I first shared I was pregnant, apart from so much love and congratulations, came a sea of ‘just wait until’s.
Just wait until you take them somewhere amazing and they don’t care. Just wait until they have a blowout in the car on the way to somewhere important. Just wait until they’re screaming on the flight. Just wait, just wait, just wait.
It’s the best thing ever to hear as a pregnant person. Not.
I’ve traveled for over a decade sans-baby. Most of those years I traveled alone. I’ve been to over 60 countries, about 50 of them solo. I could be as selfish as I wanted. I could completely rely on serendipity. Would a child ruin that?
These are all the ways that traveling with a baby has been different, so far.
10. The Days Are Packed with Different Things
Before Felix, I would often set the alarm to be up before sunrise so that I could drive to a destination I had picked specifically for photography. I was often up with the stars and out well past sunset, hiking down from a trail by myself with a headlamp. I suppose I could do that with a baby, but then I think about how I’ve tripped over things in the dark and my mom anxiety can’t handle it.
I’m sure we will still have nights out gazing at the stars and I am sure we will still get up for the sunrise from time to time, but on our most recent trip to Vermont we were much more likely to sleep in as late as we possibly could, which was often until 10 AM since Felix was still on Pacific time, and that was delightful. Did I get the kind of photos that I normally would? Absolutely not, but now I take a new kind of photo – one of my adorable little guy.
9. There’s Less Serendipity
When I traveled by myself, especially in the early days when I was rich in time but cash poor, I would meet people in the dorms, hang out on beaches with them for weeks, and would wake up one morning and decide to leave at that instant. It didn’t matter that I traveled this way because it didn’t impact anyone else. I loved living la vie boheme.
But you know what? It also got old. I had my freedom, but I also started to wonder when I would meet someone, start a family, and let that be the new chapter. I am so glad that I got a chance to be completely selfish in my 20s, but I also knew that it wouldn’t be novel forever. Now I am traveling in a new way, with more plans and more people to consider, and that’s a change I wanted and asked for.
8. Everything Takes Longer
Getting through TSA, feeding the little guy, just getting ready to go in the morning with all of the extra stuff that he needs means that it takes hours to get going when before it would often just take me a few minutes. Although I knew this would be the case, I was unprepared for how much longer it would all take and how much extra time we would need to budget.
I learned that the hard way when a friend’s wedding was delayed because they were waiting for us – so sorry, Nell! We hadn’t budgeted the extra 45 minutes we’d need for the extra stops along the 3-hour drive. Now I know better.
7. There’s More Stuff
You guys, there is so much more stuff when you are traveling with a baby! I think we are pretty good about traveling light even considering his things, but it’s still a good 30% to 50% more than I ever traveled with before.
It becomes so easy to forget things as well. When you’re low on sleep and have hard-core mom brain, things get left behind, which become mini-crises that need immediate attention. Though travel has always been that way, now it’s that way with a lot more things.
6. Inconveniences Come Up
While in Vermont, despite it taking so long for us to get ready to get out the door and me being so sure that I had everything we needed, I somehow left my pumps behind. I wish I could just easily breast-feed my son, but that’s not part of our story, so I need my pumps at the ready.
We had to take extra time to find a Walmart so that I could get a hand pump, which caused us to barely make the last gondola ride. This wouldn’t have been a big deal, but you can’t get out at the last gondola ride, so we just had to make peace with going up and back. It’s not a huge deal, but I could fill this post with similar stories.
5. It’s More Expensive
Obviously adding more people is going to mean paying more for everything. We are still at the stage where Felix is free for most things, but I was surprised to find that even as a lap infant, many airlines charge an extra fee for international flights. I thought we would at least have a couple of years before that happened!
This is one of the things that we have to seriously consider with regards to expanding our family or not. How much do we want to travel? For us, the answer is still, ‘as much as possible!’
4. More Research is Required
Garrett and I have been talking about bringing Felix to Thailand as one of our first big international trips. But then I wondered, will we be able to find diapers easily on little remote islands? What happens when he gets low on formula, or will I have to use bottled water every time to wash bottles and pump parts? By then he will be eating some solids, too. What do Thai 6-month-olds eat?
Am I just going to strap him to me in a Songthaew or tuk tuk and forget all about how ultra careful we are about his carseat when driving at home? Probably.
All of it adds to the adventure, but these weren’t things I ever had to think or worry about before.
3. People are Lovelier
I worried that people might be nasty towards us for bringing a baby on a plane, into a quiet restaurant, or that we might be thrown shady glances if he were to cry. I knew well before traveling with a baby that when others had crying kids, there’s very little anyone can do about it and judgment doesn’t help, but that doesn’t mean that everyone understands that.
But I was happy to see that nobody acted that way towards us. On the contrary, when I took him hiking so many people commented on how wonderful it was to see a baby on the trail that I restored my faith in humanity a bit. People even seemed happy to see him on the planes and in the airport. I received more than a dozen comments from people about how beautiful he was. They didn’t need to say that – they wanted to.
I guess we forget how many people have had children themselves and miss these moments that they once shared with their little ones. It’s a magical time and I’m glad that we haven’t been made to feel bad about traveling with our little dude.
2. I Watch His Discoveries
Now that Felix is three months old, he notices so much more about the world around him. I loved taking him on his first hike and watching as he marveled at the leaves. He was in complete awe, and it was adorable.
This is one of the things I was looking forward to most traveling with a child. Everything is new to them. They are so in the moment and unconcerned with how they might appear to anyone else. They just express themselves however they are. The honesty is refreshing and I have always loved this about children, both the good and the difficult aspects of it.
I can’t wait to watch as he discovers more things for the first time. There is so much that we take for granted that children become enamored with, and I’m excited to see what inspires him.
1. I Unlock a New Level of Travel and Life
I recently told a pregnant friend that I’m getting to know a whole new person within myself. I never would have met this strong, compassionate, loving version of me without becoming a mother. I don’t think everyone should have children, and I fully support everyone who decides not to. But for me and my journey, it’s been more personal growth than I’ve ever experienced before, and he was the necessary ingredient.
I didn’t know I could feel this way about someone. I didn’t know how much I could sacrifice without resenting it, and I didn’t know how empowered I could feel by creating life. I know people do it every day. It’s one of the most common experiences there is, and yet it feels like this secret new level of life has been unlocked especially for me. It’s like the Universe bestowed this special gift upon me that’s entirely mine.
And it is beautiful.
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