New parents can feel as though their traveling days are over with the arrival of a little one, but this doesn’t have to be the case! With proper planning, preparing for your child’s first vacation can set the stage for a lifetime of enjoyable travel.
When you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, it’s all too easy to feel constrained or even trapped by the daily grind. You might feel like a caged bird whose wings have been clipped! Anything that makes the prospect of travel more logistically difficult to get your travel fix can be seen as an impediment that weighs you down. So it is that many new parents find themselves frustrated by the imagined impositions that their baby or new child places on their travel plans. Feelings of frustration can even become tinged with self-loathing: nobody wants to resent their children! New parents can worry themselves into a stereotype (Tilda Swinton in We Need To Talk About Kevin, anyone?). The truth, however, is that while children can certainly complicate your travel plans, they needn’t curtail them. Instead, they can enrich them. Planning and preparing for your child’s first vacation is not only doable, but will reward everyone in the family with the chance to begin traditions and make memories.
With a little extra planning and preparation your vacations and adventures can be rendered even more magical and unforgettable by the inclusion of your little ones. At the beginning of the year, many couples and families turn their thoughts to their travel plans, whether these might be a vacation in the summer sun or to take advantage of a bargain on a winter flight. If you’re worried about the logistics of taking your child with you, allow us to set the record straight on just how easy and rewarding it can be, provided you’re willing to make an effort.
You owe it to your child
Traveling with your child will bring you closer together as a family as the years go by. You’ll forge memories together that you’ll all revisit over and over again, as you pore over old photos and play “remember when?” Additionally, travel is educational, and has been scientifically proven to make children happier, awaken their intelligence and encourage a more cultured outlook. Travel stimulates brain development while making your child open to new experiences, cultures, tastes and sensations. The longer you wait to introduce your children to the benefits of international travel, the more chance they’ll have to become set in their ways and resistant to change. Plus, if you’re traveling within the US some airlines (Delta springs to mind) will allow you to “lap” your child without a ticket provided they are under the age of 2. Thus, it’s a good idea to get them started as early as possible.
“Easier said than done!” you may counter, and you’d be right… But things are likely to be far less hectic than you imagine with proper preparation.
Get your child’s passport ready as soon as possible
You never know when you might find that perfect winter bargain at your travel agent’s store or online. You know that if you don’t snap it up, someone else will – so get your passport situation in order ahead of time. Under normal conditions it can take up to 6 weeks to receive your passport. In a pinch, you can pay for expedited service, but it will cost you. There are some rush passport services that can get your child’s passport out to you in as little as 24 hours if you live in the continental United States. Nonetheless, it’s better to be safe than sorry and allow plenty of time for processing.
Pack well in advance
Depending on the topography and climate where you live and where you’ll be traveling you may need to pick up some specialty items to ensure your child’s safety and comfort. Young children need lots of sun protection. You may want to purchase special UV protective clothing, such as a sun suit.
Children will likely need a much higher SPF sunscreen than yours. If you’re going somewhere hot and humid you may want to take some insect repellant. If you’re concerned about potentially harmful (to your child and the environment) components, it’s cheap and easy to make a child safe version using ingredients such as vegetable glycerine, water, witch hazel and essential oils.
Not only does planning what to pack in advance make you better prepared, it lessens the psychological toll the trip may take on you, the parents. The organized parent is the relaxed parent! You will, after all, be venturing into new territory together and it’s important for you all to be as calm and happy as possible even as you stray out of your comfort zone.
Know your feeding rights
Depending on where you choose to go, laws on breastfeeding may or may not be liberal either in your chosen destination or on the flight. The TSA allows you to take “reasonable quantities” exceeding 3.4 ounces of breast milk, formula or baby food.
Keep them distracted and entertained
For an adult mind, the airport is a dull and monotonous yet gruelling chore that needs to be gotten out of the way before the vacation can begin in earnest. For a developing child’s mind, however, it must be an utterly terrifying environment. All the noise and bustle of the airport itself combined with the vertiginous feeling and change in air pressure that come with flying can all conspire for a scared, exhausted, cranky and noisy child.
For this reason, it’s important to ensure that they (and you) have as many of the comforts of home as possible to ensure that nobody succumbs to stress. Pack your carry-on baggage with favorite books, snacks and a tablet full of familiar movies and games.
As stressful as travel will be for your children, it’s likely to be even more for you. Who hasn’t cringed from the judgmental stares of your childless fellow passengers as your kid gives his or her vocal chords a good workout? Never underestimate the soothing effect of natural remedies for anxiety like a cup of chamomile tea, a whiff of lavender or a handful of blueberries.
In summary, simply because you’re a new parent doesn’t mean that you should defer travel! Little ones who are introduced to the pleasure and excitement of new places and experiences grow up to be curious about the world and interesting companions to their fellow humans!