Traveling brings out the best in me. My husband and I share the love of exploring new places and so obviously, when our son was born two years ago, we decided to continue this journey — with tiny feet this time.
While we sometimes miss the spontaneity in our travel plans, chasing our toddler in some of the most exotic locations of the world is our new interest.
But traveling with a baby is not as tough as it sounds. No, I am not lying. I can sense the anxiety as you land on this page, looking for tips for peaceful travel. But trust me, eight countries, 15 cities and 26 flights later, our two-year-old is a pro at travel.
I have often found myself comparing traveling with a baby with a rocket launch in terms of preparation, technique and the final send-off. One wrong move can leave you with an unhappy baby and exhausted parents. But if you get it right, it's a beautiful and stress-free journey.
The key is advance planning, putting together a checklist and working in teams (if traveling with a partner) or asking for help from fellow passengers and airline staff when traveling alone. Let's go over these steps.
The world may be your oyster but when it comes to choosing a location, you've got to take into account the tiny human accompanying you. While the cobbled streets of Prague look great for a nice trek to the top of the castle, they are not quite ideal for pushing a stroller.
Beach resorts are my go-to places when it comes to traveling with my little one. There is sun, sand, water and enough activities to keep the little one engaged— and some respite for you to put your feet up and enjoy a drink. City breaks are good too. However, it depends on how old your baby is.
For instance, when our son was four months old, we decided to be a bit brave and travel to India and then to the Maldives with him. After a series of long flights from London — with some connecting flights too — we made it, and most of our stay in the Maldives was very relaxed as he was less mobile then.
A few months later, we were in Costa Brava in Spain and spent most of our holiday trying to baby-proof our hotel room; by that time, little Aditya, our son, was crawling all over the place. A year later, in the gorgeous Atlantis resort in the Bahamas, we found ourselves even more exhausted chasing our active toddler on the beach.
Here's a tip: Make the most of it when they are young and less mobile. While it may seem hard to travel with a baby, it conserves your energy for years and years of active holidays coming up.
Now that you have decided on a location, the next step is to book your flights. Now, this is a tricky one. Before kids, we booked the cheapest flight available, no matter how inconvenient the timing. I remember flying to Helsinki at 4 a.m. on a Saturday because we got a £20 ($26) return deal with Ryanair. No check-in baggage, no worries of boarding first and absolutely no tantrums to take care of until touchdown.
But life isn't so simple anymore. Night flights are our new favorites as our baby sleeps through most long-haul journeys. The key to booking flights is knowing your baby's schedule. For shorter journeys, afternoon flights are generally a good option if your baby naps after lunch.
For instance, on our way back from India last week, our only option was a day flight. Our super-active, two-year-old toddler slept for only 1.5 hours of the nine-hour journey. The rest of the journey was spent reading, some screen time and walking up and down the aisle. He had a great time and got a lot of attention and smiles during the flight, but we (parents) promised never to travel again as we left the aircraft (only to plan another holiday soon thereafter).
A few more tips on air travel:
Traveling with a baby can be quite a nightmare when it comes to packing. While you want to travel light, a part of you wants to carry every single piece of clothing and accessory that your baby owns. "Oh, what if it suddenly starts to snow in the Maldives?" and "I am sure my baby will need sunglasses in rainy and gloomy Paris."
Let's accept it. We parents can sometimes go completely overboard, and that is why it is important to be smart about it. Create a checklist — or even better, a Google document — and share it with your partner; then keep updating it over time. Very soon, it will make the cumbersome task of packing a lot easier.
Here's a little sneak peek into the first checklist we created for our India and Maldives trip.
You have planned, packed and are ready for the final launch. Here's a tip — stay calm. Little humans tend to feed off our stress, so try to relax (even though you may be dead nervous inside).
The preparation for me starts the night before. My partner and I ensure that all three of us get a good night's sleep. In trying to execute this, we finish our packing in advance, put our son to bed by 8 p.m., watch Netflix and then go to bed early so we are ready and fresh to take on the world the next morning.
On the day of travel, we divide our areas of work. My partner takes care of the logistics and luggage, getting us through the tedious tasks of checking in and security, while I ensure our son is engaged and ready to travel.
This means talking to him about going into an airplane and keeping his excitement levels up so he stays awake until we enter the aircraft. Always look for family lines when checking in and boarding, as well at security and immigration clearance. Don't be shy about asking airport officials if you need assistance.
Here are some tips on how to beat stress on the day of travel:
And finally, look forward to the holiday ahead. Remember that the flight will end at some point, so make the most of what you have and enjoy the journey with your little one.