Overcoming the Hardest Part of Traveling with a Baby

The hardest part of traveling with a baby is no different than the hardest part of most other things in life – getting started.  Of all the challenges kids add to traveling, the biggest one is getting out the door.  It sounds simple and it should be simple but parents, myself included, continue to struggle to leave home with their little ones.  Why?

There are always more chores to be done.

No matter how much time you do or don’t commit to chores, there will always be more to do.  There will always be more things to clean, more food to cook, and more laundry to wash.  Even nudists do laundry, people.  It can be hard to enjoy traveling when you know a mess is waiting for you at home.  I’ve found that keeping up with chores throughout the week is the best way to make weekend excursions more enjoyable.  One of my father’s favorite sayings is:

Work by the inch, it’ll be a cinch.  Work by the mile, it’ll take a while.

Do a load of laundry every night and clean up the day’s dishes.  Figure out a weekly schedule for vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms and other non-daily chores you have on the to-do list.  Same goes for grocery shopping and cooking.  Once you get into a routine of chipping away at chores during the week you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to pick up and go somewhere on the weekends.  Automate where you can (I highly recommend a Roomba for my fellow dog lovers) and refuse the temptation to skip chores during the week.  Doing a little bit every day is preferable to doing everything on your days off, trust me.

Other people think you shouldn’t.

Whether they have the courtesy to tell you to your face or settle for dirty looks and inaudible mutters, other people have opinions about virtually everything you do with your child.  Traveling is no exception.  I’ve gotten dirty looks more than once for hiking with Giota in the rain or changing a diaper in my seat on an airplane – it’s not like you can tell a child to hold it until the seatbelt light turns off and on a bumpy flight, who knows when that will be.

While people’s exact words or gestures may vary, the translation is pretty consistent – stay home.  I do find that the “stay home where baby is safe” people are preferable to the “stay out of my way” people but in an ideal world I wouldn’t have to deal with either and neither would you.  If you think about these individuals every time you’re getting ready to leave on an adventure, you’ll never leave your house.  People are people and they’re going to say what they’re going to say.  You can’t control them so best not to stress about it.  Take that first step out the front door and do your best to have fun, judgers be damned.

You can’t pack your whole house in your diaper bag.

Diaper bags are big but nowhere near the size of a mother’s capacity to worry.  Will it rain?  Will it get cold?  Will four sandwiches, two apples, a bag of carrots, an entire box of brownies, and six gallons of water be enough for our two hour walk?  Longer outings pose more of a challenge but any excursion with a baby requires some thoughtful packing.

I know it’s tempting to pack for every possible scenario but do yourself a favor, don’t.  Only one of two things will happen if you do – you’ll either have so much stuff you can’t carry it or fit in the car, or you’ll get so worried about all the things that could go wrong you won’t go out at all.  What’s the worst that could happen if you forget to pack something?  Odds are you can make do without it and if you can’t, that’s what stores are for.

(Disclaimer:  I am all for severely over packing and regularly do for any kind of outdoor wilderness adventures.)

You don’t know where to go.

This one can be tough for us new and veteran parents alike since we still live in a world of amenities that often overlooks the basic needs of families.  Take comfort in knowing that practice makes perfect when it comes to acrobatic diaper changes.  Look for travel opportunities that include activities you enjoy before you start researching whether or not a destination is baby friendly.  Visiting somewhere you wouldn’t ordinarily be interested in just because it’s baby friendly won’t make the destination any cooler.

Start with places close to home and work your way up to overnight stays and air travel.  Backyard adventures may not be as sexy as week long trips to the tropics but they’re easier on the budget and require minimal vacation time.  Try out lots of different places and activities with your little one to see what fits your family best.  There are plenty of great online resources (like Fodor’s list of Best Family Vacation Destinations) to help you pick the perfect spot.

You’re tired.

Being tired isn’t limited to parents, it’s a fundamental part of adulthood.  Accept it.  The sooner you stop using “I’m tired” as a reason for not doing things, the sooner you’ll start doing more and feeling more energetic.  (This logic only applies to fun things like travel – doing more adult like activities such as work, paying bills, or thinking about the state of the world will in fact make you feel more tired.)

Just because.

So many things stand between you and walking out the front door with your little one for an adventure.  I’m a mom, I get it, I’m in the same boat.  At the end of the day you realize there will never be a perfect time to just up and adventure.  While that’s beyond frustrating, it is also an incredibly liberating thought.  Life will continue whether or not you travel so you may as well get out the door with your little one and have some fun in the process.


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