Almost Fearless

Oh God, Traveling with an Infant

traveling with kids, parenting, babies, planning

It’s finally dawning on me.  When I leave in three weeks, I will have a backpack, film and photography gear, a computer, two dogs and a baby.  A freaking baby.

I have no idea how this is going to turn out.

Our plan is to do a long road trip from Oregon, camping our way to San Francisco.  There may be an extended stay in Napa.  If not, I’m still drinking wine.

After that, we’re leaving the country, permanently.

It’s not that he’s a difficult baby.  In fact, I take his constitution as proof that God loves me and wants me to continue traveling.  He’s a happy baby.  The thing is, he’s three months old and he has started rolling over.  I know where this is going.  Soon he’ll be sitting up, then crawling and by the time we’re outside the US, he’ll be keen on licking sockets in hotels and swallowing foreign change.  By the time he’s walking, he’ll know how to freak out mom in three different languages.

It’s all part of the adventure.

The only thing that is calming me is The Plan.  I’m sharing it with you now, because I’m a sadist, and I think in some way, it’ll be funny/interesting to look back on this in a year.

No Baby Furniture: We’re cosleeping, holding the baby and using a sling instead of your traditional crib/swing/walker/highchair setup.  We knew that it would be impossible to travel as much as we do and bring all the stuff along, so we planned from the beginning to do without it.  To date, the baby doesn’t have a stick of furniture and every night he sleeps in our bed.

Breastfeeding (as long as possible): Worried about the water?  Breastfeed.  Crying baby on a plane?  Breastfeed.  Forgot to pack snacks?  Breastfeed.  Avoid getting sick?  Breastfeed.  Basically, The Boob is my answer to pretty much anything that goes wrong.  I’ll do it until he’s a toddler and hopefully it’ll be a source of comfort on those long travel days.

Babe in Arms: It’s basically attachment parenting: we don’t let him cry, wear him in a sling, and try to address his needs quickly.  While it’s a nice way to parent in it’s own right, hopefully it will also get him used to being calm and content when he’s with mom or dad.  My cousin was a high need’s baby who screamed for her first year of life, but all the holding and soothing resulted in a little girl who was very happy just to be on her mama’s lap.  I’m hoping it works for us, as he’ll be in lots of situations where being quiet will be expected (by others).

The thing is, I know how plans go… especially with kids.  But that’s the plan today as we set out to travel with a four-month-old.  In the next year we’ll visit at least 8 countries.  Or I’ll make it as far as Napa, quit and you guys can come visit me at my new vineyard.

Travelers, tell me, how would you approach long term travel with a little one?

Pic: Cole sleeping in his monkey outfit

Christine Gilbert

I’ve been dragging my husband around the world since 2008 always with the promise that, “Yes, Drew there will definitely be hammocks there.”

THERE ARE RARELY HAMMOCKS.

http://christinegilbert.com

36 comments

  • Four months old baby is a good age to travel. They basically sleep for most of the time. You would have an awesome time. Make sure to take constant photos since they grow up pretty quickly.

  • Was kind of wondering when this would hit you [Grin]. Actually, I think you’ve got it right for traveling with an infant. Staying relaxed and flexible and nursing a lot are definitely key. We took our oldest on a month-long driving trip when he was three months old and he pretty much went with the flow. It’s when the baby gets older, more demanding, and mobile that things get trickier. I can give you lots of tips then.

    For example, I’m just like you in the avoiding any extraneous equipment, but when he’s a little bigger and you can’t carry him everywhere in a sling two things you may want are a really good folding stroller (we had a $38 model that traveled everywhere with us for years) and also a really good backpack carrier for hiking and walking through museums, etc. We had one from REI. This latter is more expensive – may I suggest you do what we did and ask parental units for it as Christmas gift?

    These two items aside, I was always amazed at how little we genuinely needed to travel with babies.
    .-= Mara´s last blog ..Mondays are for dreaming: The London Eye =-.

  • this brings back so many memories. When I had my first daughter (now 17?!) we were living in France and took her everywhere. The only thing that was really hard that first year were the transcontinental flights when I was by myself with her. Every time the “buckle your seatbelt” sign went on, she would wake up and poop…she has always been a bit of a live wire -flight attendants were always GREAT, but other travelers weren’t as understanding when I was by myself as when I was with my handsome husband – kind of a rude awakening. And packing the diaper bag needed a lot of forethought and good architectural skills, because invariably we ended up using everything I had packed. It’s interesting though – I swear she’s as bright and curious as she is today because of all she saw those first couple of years of her life.
    .-= Margo´s last blog ..To Your Health: How to French Kiss Life =-.

  • Sounds like you’ve got the right plan, and with some luck, God won’t laugh too hard. 🙂 He’s adorable, and I think you’ve got exactly the right mindset for traveling w/ a little one. And you’re absolutely right on two things – you don’t need any special equipment, and nursing cures (almost) all ills. Good luck!!

  • Like many here said, you seem to be quite on track..n well done if this is your first, cos u quite seem to know what you are doing. In any case a 3-6 month old doesn’t need more than mom’s milk as that is the only recommended nutrition. Planes can be a bit uncomfortable but guess you will only know once you have traveled with your baby. If the baby’s sleeping during take off or landing than u don’t have a lot to worry about. Ear buds or cotton, must carry for baby and ensure you have a plane seat that has enough leg room, preferably a front or middle row with leg room. The fellow passengers can be pretty mean or nasty, ignore them, you don’t have to be apologetic, if they were a baby they would be a bit cranky too, unless the cabin crew wants to shift you and your baby to first class, special cabin seat that doesn’t disturb you or others 😉 A stroller or a car seat isn’t a very bad idea cos if you plan to carry the baby all the time, than that is all you can carry than n nothing else cos u don’t want your hand bag or any other stuff to be hung on your shoulder or behind for a pick pocket to take a chance.

    Have a fun and safe travel journey.

  • Thanks guys!

    Beth: I often wonder what kind of adult he’ll be… it’s rare to meet people who have traveled the way we do in their childhood. Hopefully it’ll make him well-adjusted and compassionate.

  • Co-sleeping: check!
    Sling-wearing: check!
    Breastfeeding: check!
    Minimal/no equipment: check!

    We hit the road to resume our location independent/nomadic lives when our babe was 4 months and everything went mostly according to plan *huge sigh of relief*

    I am sure you’ll be fine 🙂

    The only thing we found difficult as she got older & more wriggly was having no highchair as we started to wean her from 6 months+. We tried one of those travel/material thingies which worked for a while until it cut off her circulation under her arms and haven’t yet found a decent solution for travel-friendly high chair.

  • Oh I forgot to say…co-sleeping also became a bit more difficult as soon as she could crawl/walk because she then developed the habit of lounging all over me, usually right across my windpipe or face which meant sleep for me became somewhat challenging!

    We found the travel tent solution has worked brilliantly so far – it’s like her own little pop-up bedroom wherever we go and it always seems familiar.
    .-= Lea Woodward´s last blog ..3 Simple But Valuable Location Independent Tips We’ve Learned From The Past Few Months Of A Digital Nomadic Lifestyle =-.

  • HI! I just found your site via a retweet and I was so excited- I’m in the same position, except my son is 6 months old. Next month we’ll be driving, flying and boating to three different vacations and then in august moving out of the country indefinitely, but country-hopping every year or two (first stop: China) That is a LOT of car & plane time and I’m so nervous for it!

    We’re an AP family as well so breastfeeding & babywearing are our planned tricks, too. Just knowing that you exist and are doing something similar makes me feel TONS better!

    I’m subscribing so I can follow your adventures!
    .-= Ameya´s last blog ..Drum roll please… =-.

  • I think the less you carry, the stronger your marriage will be 😉

    From birth Milli has has NO interest is sleeping with other people. She didn’t like being rocked to sleep, nothing. So when we knew we were going to travel, we started training once a week where I’d rock her until she fell asleep. The first attempt took 2.5 hours! We took a pack ‘n play with us, that way we could set up a bed anywhere, anytime.

    We did throw it away after about six months on the road and started co-sleeping. It was the biggest pain to carry around! We still carried a carseat though, but that really depends where you are going. Are you?

    Most babies cry on planes because their ears hurt. Feed the baby on take off. They put all the families with babies in one area, so most of the cabin won’t be able to tell if it’s your baby or not.

    I’m nervous about your plan to hold the baby frequently as the source of pacifying. I’m really happy that we encouraged Milli to be independent and self-entertained. You will really miss having family as a babysitting resource. Milli’s independent time was as close as we came to a break.

    You will get a lot less done than you have planned! But now you have an excuse…hehe! Awesome!

  • First of all, he is absolutely precious! Second, I laughed at the thought of him freaking you out in three languages.

    I’m not sure how I’d approach traveling with any sort of a child – let alone an infant. Hopefully, this won’t be something I have to consider for some time! It sounds like you have everything planned out quite well – I’ll be excited to see how it goes for you all.

    Good luck!
    .-= Matt´s last blog ..Friday Travel Photo: Kowloon Pier =-.

  • If you think it’s a juggling act with one, just wait until you have two and then you’ll realise you had it easy. Then have a third and wonder why you thought life was so exhausting with two! Then they get to be school age or older and you actually can get some sleep.

    I did more adventurous travel before having kids & since they’ve been a bit older but when they were small it was just easier to stay by the pool on holiday.

    The biggest mistake is thinking that you can work and look after your baby at the same moment – children have an inbuilt sensor & know when you have a deadline looming.

  • Lea- I love the image of her laying on you though, it’s sounds so cute. I’m sure the cuteness wears off at 3 AM though1

    Ameya- Awesome, there aren’t many of us, we have to stick together. 🙂

    Courtney- Yes we have a car seat… we just got an infant seat (up to 20 lbs) because I think that car seats in Europe are different, so we’ll probably buy one over there eventually.

  • Sounds like a good plan…it’s essentially my plan for living with a 2 year old and a newborn (minus the co-sleeping, cuz I don’t sleep well). For me a sling got pretty uncomfortable after about 5-6 months, so I would suggest a Beco baby carrier http://www.becobabycarrier.com It is the best thing for being out and about with my toddler. Good luck and I look forward to hearing more about your adventures!!

  • As a Mom that travels with her kids all the time (and especially when my kids were infants), I do have one bit of advice that no one seems to have mentioned…

    PACIFIER!!! Get one!

    I know you’re thinking, “But my kid will be breastfeeding. Only au natural for junior.” But here’s something you REALLY need to think about when traveling with a baby….Air Pressure and tiny ear drums. It’s bad enough being an adult at 35K feet in the air, but it’s worse for a baby. As adults, we chew gum and yawn a lot. Babies don’t know that. Their gum is a pacifier or a bottle nipple. So be kind to your child (and your fellow travelers) and cork that kid before they’re screaming in pain. If they won’t take the pacifier, give them a baby bottle…at least until you reach full altitude, and on the way back down to Earth.

    One other tip…it’s best to fly during the kid’s peak nap times, or to catch red eyes. They’ll sleep through most of the flight this way and be a lot more peaceful.

    Good luck. Keep us updated.

  • I think this is a great strategy. Although there will definitely be challenges along the way, travelling with a small infant when they can’t really move or aren’t particularly independent should be pretty easy with your attitude. Stay relaxed and laugh at the silly/dangerous situations you’ll put your child in. Things that you would never do at home.

    For example, last week in Laos we had all four of us on a single motorbike, our son Noah was slightly electrocuted by an errant wire hanging near the beach etc. We try to keep them under control but life (and children) have a way of taking that away from you. The best laid plans are bound to change, just like the nature and behaviours of your little one over the next few months/years.

    Our philosophy is that it can’t be any harder than living at home in Australia working our arses off while trying to pay off the mortgage and leaving the kids in childcare all the time.

    We just make sure that we have some money stashed away just in case something goes wrong. We can always return to the old template life if we had to.

    Have a great time.

    Cheers,
    Colin
    .-= Colin Burns´s last blog ..What the “Tech” do you bring on a RTW trip… =-.

  • Sounds like you’re ready for a new type of adventure!
    We don’t have kids so I will abstain from adding anything, except that one of my interviewees was Shelly Rivoli, whose site and eponymous book is http://www.travelswithbaby.com
    She’s got some great product reviews and gear rental info there.

  • Sounds like you’ve got all the right ideas to me.
    The best thing + the thing that will carry you furthest is the fact that you know you have an easy baby. Having had a high-needs preemie + then an easy one, I can honestly say that traveling with an easy one is a piece of cake.
    You’ll be great. It’ll be fun.
    .-= wandermom´s last blog ..Twelve Weeks And Counting =-.

  • Your plan is good. Sometimes it’s best not to think about things too much beforehand; it’s better to have the bandwidth to handle the things that need to be addressed on the fly… Babies DO sense stress, so the more simple your day’s plan, the more flexibility you have, margin in your schedule, etc, the happier you ALL will be. Eager to hear all about it!
    .-= Lisa Bergren´s last blog ..A Dream Realized =-.

  • It seems like you have the right attitude, and in my experience, traveling with a baby is not that hard, especially when there are 2 of you to share responsibilities. I will echo Lea that co-sleeping gets uncomfortable (and extremely annoying) the older they get. My son still sleeps w/ me at almost 3, and I wish he would hurry up and sleep alone because he wakes me up a few times a night still. I have a post about tips for traveling with babies on airplanes on my blog. Best of luck– it sounds like a very exciting and fun journey!
    .-= Jenna´s last blog ..This is the Bali Bird Park =-.

  • Nothing to worry if traveling along with the Infant, you just need to check all the basic things before leaving. Thanks to this site, now you all got the tips from the experienced travelers.

    Have a nice day.

  • Christine – you’re so brave! And your baby is lucky to have such adventurous parents.

    since you’re traveling through Napa on the way to SF, I have to let you know about one of my favorite places to rejuvenate:

    a natural hot springs in the funky town of calistoga, ca.

    Lots of hotels in town have hot springs and mud baths, but my favorite is called
    Indian Springs

    http://www.indianspringscalistoga.com/

    It’s not nearly as fancy as their website makes it look, and is family-friendly.

    You can pay a fee to use the pool for the day. When I’m in town, my friends and I go here the day after Thanksgiving, instead of shopping, with a picnic made of leftovers. It’s fine to bring a picnic into the pool area. Low key and relaxing!

    If you want to meet up with any SF Bay area nomads, let me know. I’d be happy to help organize.

    Happy travels!
    .-= Lisa Sonora Beam´s last blog ..Art Project Organization + 28 New Works: 1008 Paintings Project Update #9 =-.

  • Well firstly I must take my hat off to you just for considering taking the little one on your travels. I have always seen kids as my time to settle but your showing that it does not have to be that way.

    I think the ultimate way to success is that you and your husband are both behind the idea, I’m sure there are others out there who would also like to do this but getting the other half on board would be a battle in itself 🙂

    I’m so looking forward to keeping up with how it is going and i can certainly see an e-book coming from this experience. I will be asking my mrs to read it 🙂

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  • I’m reading this about a month after you posted; I hope you’re still drinking your wine and all is well in your world.

    Cole is just darn cute. Much cuter than my two were this morning on our travels, fighting over who gets to do what in the baking of the muffins.

    Traveling with kids at any age has different kinds of challenges… you’ll figure out what works for you and yours. I say, just keep traveling… and wine and patience and ear plugs help too.
    .-= Dee Andrews´s last blog ..Family Dynamics on the Road =-.

  • Thanks for the great article with the great sense of humor! I have always wondered how that works, and despite what anyone says, traveling with babies still seems like the scariest thing EVER – so I choose to be a non-parent for now. 🙂

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