Happy New Year’s Eve to you all! Since we have recently returned from a trip to Ecuador, I thought it would be fun to do a series on travelling with babies. The Grasshopper has been travelling with us since she was six months old, and she’s an old pro at this point. I’m going to break this up into a 3 part series. Part 1 (this one) will deal with how attachment parenting practices make travel easy. Part 2 will deal with how we deal with the daily challenges of life away from home with a little one. Part 3 will be more of a me centered post on how emetophobia impacts my ability to travel.
My husband and I love to travel. We love it so much that we continued travelling after the Grasshopper was born. We pack her suitcase and bring her along with us wherever we go. I know there are parents who send the kids off to Grandma and Grandpa’s house when they take a trip, but there is no way we could leave her. As a deeply attached family, it would be neither relaxing nor a vacation with her missing.
She is a pretty well-travelled kid by this point. She’s been a variety of places in the US, as well as Nicaragua, Japan, and now Ecuador. She’s got lots of airline miles racked up already!
People always seem surprised when I tell them we brought the Grasshopper along on our latest trip, but in reality, travelling with a baby is not that hard. If you haven’t tried it yet, please do give it a chance. Little ones can be extremely portable. The younger the child, the easier it is to bring them along. Six months was a magic age for travelling with her. She was not yet mobile and content to sit still with me for long periods of time and still exclusively breastfed, so no need to worry about snacks and meal times.
Children can help you experience countries in interesting ways. Rest assured that you will need to find a local grocery store for some critical and forgotten something, and grocery stores are great places to learn about other cultures’ every-day habits. Babies also really seem to bring out that extra something in others. We find ourselves interacting with locals much more when we bring her with us. People see a cute kid and they want to interact. It’s pretty cool.
In Nicaragua, a boy in the market gave her a little toy grasshopper that he had made(so appropriate!). We had so many cute little old men on the train in Japan grinning and waving and trying to get her to smile at them. People do that wherever we go. A shopkeeper gave her a little packet of koala-shaped cookies. In Kyoto, a group of taxi drivers took pity on us in a rainstorm and rushed over with umbrellas to help get her into the car without her getting wet. People want to talk to her, make her smile, and they want to see her laugh.
Travelling with little ones is great, and if you are into attachment parenting like we are, it’s even easier. Here are some ways that AP has made travelling with our little one easier.
We nurse. Breastfeeding is wonderful for a variety of reasons, but when we are travelling, it’s great. On an airplane, when she was tiny, we would just nurse and sleep the entire flight. Now that she is older, it is still a way to keep her still and calm. It is also essential on take-off and landing to equalize the pressure in her ears.
Once we’ve arrived, nursing means we have a portable source of potable fluids for her, something especially important when travelling to countries where the tap water is not safe to drink. It is also a yummy nutritious snack (yes, I am a walking snack bar), a familiar food source when the local foods are a little too different for toddler tastes, and a place of retreat and comfort if the world becomes too stimulating. Nursing is the thing that most helps us when we travel.
We co-sleep. I’ll be honest and say that at home we don’t co-sleep in the traditional sense. When we travel, though, we transition to a more traditional form of co-sleeping. No need to pack porta cribs or rent cots or squeeze extra equipment into tiny hotel rooms. We just all snuggle up together.
It is more secure for her and easier for us if she wakes in the night for all the reasons co-sleeping at home makes night waking easier for parents. Instead of sleeping in a strange place, she’s sleeping comfortably between Mama and Papa, the most familiar and comfortable place she knows.
We babywear. When we are running through an airport or hiking across a city the baby carrier is an essential piece of equipment. While I have several carriers at home, I stick with the ERGO baby carrier when we travel. If you don’t already have one of these, get one. They truly are an excellent carrier. There are no metal parts on this carrier, so I don’t even need to take her out to go through airport security. Bonus!
The carrier gives her a place up high so she can see what we see. It gives her a place to hide if the surroundings become too intense. It gives her a place to nap that is comfortable and familiar. All this allows us to press forward and see the sights we want to see without having to go back to the hotel every afternoon for nap time.
For full disclosure, we don’t use the Ergo anymore. While she has not yet exceeded the weight limit, she has become simply too big and too active to use the ERGO effectively. Japan was our last trip using the ERGO. Now, we use the Maclaren Quest stroller. It is lightweight enough to haul up and down temple steps, but sturdy enough to have survived multiple encounters with airline baggage handlers. It’s only just now developed a tiny bit of a wobble since the Guayaquil-Miami flight. Pretty good for so many flights. It also reclines nearly flat, allowing her to nap wherever we happen to be.
Really, those are the big basics for our travels with the Grasshopper. Attachment parenting, far from tying us down as a few well-meaning friends suggested in the beginning, has given us the freedom we need to travel together as a family.