I have received so many questions and comments from you all since we’ve been in Florida related to traveling with a baby! Both the ‘you give me hope we can do this and still have fun!’ and the ‘please share all your tips and tricks!!’ comments. I figured now was a great time to compile all my tips/packing essentials into one place. If you’re planning a trip with a baby, I hope this is helpful.
Long story short: YES, you can do it! You’ll be so glad you did–and you’ll have the memories of a lifetime to prove it!)
This is the second time we’ve brought June to Florida (the first time when she was 6 months old, we stayed in a hotel) and now, when we’re staying at a condo. I have had many people say, “it’s not a vacation with a baby, it’s a trip” which on one hand, I understand, but on the other–both have still felt like vacations. They aren’t AS relaxing as they were before, but escaping to warm weather to soak up the sun, relax, and enjoy a margarita at the pool still has the same restorative properties it did before! (I’m sure this will change when she’s older and running around, but it hasn’t yet!)
Moral of the story, as it always has been, is GO! TAKE THE TRIP!
How to Plan a Vacation with a Baby
The right setup:
First, I think the biggest factor in determining the success of your vacation with a baby is your setup! There are some new things you’ll want to keep in mind when deciding where to stay with baby in tow.
Key factors to look for in your hotel/vacation rental:
Place to hang out while baby sleeps:
Because last thing you want to do is spend every night of your vacation hiding in the bathroom watching Netflix on your iPad because your baby is sleeping in the next room–or stuck inside in the dark on a beautiful sunny 80 degree day while baby naps.
That being said, when staying in a hotel, a balcony, in our opinion, is essential, Also, look for hotel rooms that have a multi-room setup (like a separate living/bedroom space with kitchenette type of thing) and a balcony so you can hang out there after bedtime.
With an AirBnB you obviously have more flexibility here, especially if you’re renting a house. A house will by far be the easiest setup, but if you’re renting a condo, factor in whether or not there’s a nearby outdoor space for this reason. (If you can find out if the place you’re renting has a walk-in closet–that is also a really great place to set up a pack n play because it’s always dark in there!)
Another big factor…
Proximity to the pool:
If you’re planning a beach/pool vacation, obviously this is important! If you’re staying in a hotel or condo, is the pool close enough to where you can hang there while baby naps? (This is where a long range baby monitor is an essential). If not, is there an outdoor space you can hang out instead while baby is asleep? (Again, you just want to avoid being trapped inside!)
OR maybe you have a baby that will easily nap ON you under an umbrella and that’s not really a big factor for you. (June sadly is way too busy to nap on us anymore, so we had to have somewhere that was conducive to her napping in the pack n play inside.)
When planning a warm weather getaway with June, we try to keep things as simple as possible. Therefore, we didn’t want to deal with renting a car. Ubers with a baby are also easy (as we have a Doona and it can be safely secured with any seatbelt) BUT–that’s just not ideal. I don’t want to have to Uber everywhere with her, worried that she’s going to have a meltdown in a stranger’s car.
SO. That being said–location was very big for us. Walkability to restaurants and bars, easy location for food and instacart delivery, etc.
Consider length of stay:
I would choose a more affordable place for a longer period of time over a more expensive place for a shorter period of time. So many of us have jobs that allow us flexibility to work from anywhere, so if you can take advantage of this, I’d definitely consider it! Reason being: It can be a LOT to travel anywhere with a kid, and a shorter stay will make you feel like you have to cram everything into a few days. That’s stressful even WITHOUT a baby. You want to put the least amount of pressure on yourself as possible when traveling with a little one. If you can stay two weeks and do some work here and there–definitely do that, so you will be able to hang out at a leisurely pace vs. an action-packed one.
Consider kind of trip:
We have yet to bring June on a trip with a more action-packed, faster-paced itinerary. It’s much easier to bring her to Florida where there’s nothing to do other than go on walks, lay by the pool and hit some happy hours. There is no FOMO here. It would be harder to bring her somewhere where I felt like I was missing out if, say, we weren’t going to a new place I had never been and really wanted to explore, if I’d be sad if we didn’t go out to dinner a lot, or if I had a lot of things I wanted to do/see. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it, it would just take a lot more adjusting expectations and plans, if that makes sense.
For example, say we want to go to Italy and bring June. Planning to hit three or four different places within two weeks would probably not be the best idea. But renting an Air BnB or a villa in one place that was centrally located, say, in Florence or Paris (two cities I’m quite familiar with already) where we could enjoy the city at a leisurely place, take day trips to explore, cook delicious dinners at home, and had a lovely balcony to enjoy with a glass of wine after June goes to bed? PERFECT.
Things to consider purchasing/bringing with you:
Long range baby monitor:
This VTECH $19 1000 ft audio monitor is one of the biggest MVP’s of the trip. It extends from the condo we’re renting, through multiple walls, outside, and around the corner so we can hear June perfectly while we hang outside by the pool while she’s napping.
Collapsible activity center:
You definitely want something you can put baby “in” when you’re not holding them. We could’ve gotten away without this before June started crawling, but she’s so busy now that we need something to hold her in one place and entertain her. We use this collapsible activity center both inside and outside by the pool so one of us isn’t having to wrangle her the whole time. It also comes with a removable sun shade which is so nice! Best $54 I’ve spent.
Pack n Play:
Ask if wherever you’re staying has a crib or pack n play (most hotels and many vacation rentals do!) so then that’s one less thing you have to bring! We have an inexpensive standard Graco one which does the job–but lot’s of friends rave about this one that packs into a little backpack.
Blackout sheet or Slumber Pod:
Everyone’s baby is different, but June sleeps much better when it’s DARK. Sometimes this won’t be necessary to bring (for example, we put her pack n play in the big walk-in closet in the room we’re staying in, and it has no windows, so it’s very dark already). But, in situations where she’s sleeping somewhere that can’t get dark during the day, we have a breathable blackout cover that blocks a lot of light in the pack n play, and I like it because it’s inexpensive and way easier to travel with than a Slumber Pod. BUT. So many people rave about Slumber Pods (which are also nice because when your kid grows out of the pack n play they can still go over an inflatable toddler bed!) Either way, wanted to list both options here.
White noise machine:
This little travel one easily does the trick!
I don’t think you need to buy a Doona for a trip specifically (they’re EXPENSIVE), but if you’re expecting right now I HIGHLY recommend using it as your car seat. It’s so, so nice that her car seat is just automatically a stroller. It also can be fastened with any seatbelt and doesn’t need a base, so it’s easy to take Ubers with! If you don’t own one already, see if you can borrow someone’s! (If you don’t have friends with one, post in some local Facebook groups!) We always try to get away with the least amount of stuff possible and not having to check a big ole stroller makes a difference.
We much prefer to wear June vs. push her around in a stroller because it’s easier for us and she will fall asleep/nap in her Babybjorn but will rarely sleep in the stroller. Every baby is different, but I think baby wearing makes things much easier when you’re out and about. See my Babybjorn review to see which carrier best suits your needs!
Baby swimwear and sun protection:
A sun hat and SPF are absolute necessities. (I love Pipette’s SPF–it’s 100% mineral and isn’t impossible to rub in!) Also consider rash guards that have sleeves for extra sun protection. (It’s easier than continuing to slather them in SPF frequently!) June has been wearing this one and this one the most! We also love her Weefarers baby sunglasses!
Hands free diaper bag:
A bag that allows you to be hands-free is key, especially if you’re trying to schlep stuff to the pool, beach, etc! We’ve been using Neal’s backpack (he got it years ago for a hiking trip and always travels with it) and my Kibou fanny pack diaper bag during this trip and it’s made our experience so much easier than hauling around a big old diaper bag! I also have been loving my Lulu belt bag for quicker outings like coffee runs, long walks, etc! (It doesn’t hold as much as the Kibou but nice when you want a smaller footprint!)
Other sun-related baby contraption:
We used this little pop up thing when she was younger and couldn’t crawl yet–luckily we borrowed it from a friend–it came in really handy to put her in at the pool (it has shade) and she played/napped in it. Now that she’s crawling it’s pretty much useless–but something like this pop up playpen would probably be useful (OR you could just set up the pack n play wherever you are outside?)
Obviously you’ll want to ensure you have all the feeding essentials with you, but my random tip is to only pack two bottles. I swear–you’ll thank me later. Why? Because it forces you to keep washing bottles each time you use them and you’ll never have to deal with the dreaded dirty bottle pileup in the sink. (See my bottle-feeding learnings/essentials here.)
How to get out and about with baby on vacation:
Embrace lunch and happy hour outings:
We used to be 9pm dinner people–but obviously that’s not super conducive with a baby! Getting out at lunch or happy hour is easier with baby’s bedtime, and you’ll likely find that places won’t be as busy during those times, either. (Plus, happy hour specials!) We will either go out to lunch and then cook dinner at home, or hit a happy hour and eat an early dinner and then head home to put June to bed.
On schedules and wake windows:
Everyone will handle this the way that suits their family best, but wanted to throw a couple things out here that might be helpful. For the first week we were here, we kept June’s normal 7am wake-7/7:30pm bedtime, but on Eastern time. So that means it shifted from 8am wake to 8/8:30pm bedtime, and it has worked great, but there have also been days where she’s extra tired, so we let her sleep longer for her naps–and the schedule went out the window! It doesn’t really matter, because–vacation! In those instances, we would just follow wake windows. (June usually is awake for about 2-2.5 hours between naps).
Since June sleeps best in her pack n play, we try and aim for her to get at least one nap in that environment, but the other can also be on the go–for example, in her babybjorn. Every baby is different, but we have always tried to be flexible with June so she is in turn, a flexible baby. Don’t feel like you have to be in baby jail or that your vacation has to revolve around nap schedules.
If you’re worried about your baby being flexible with naps, work on it at home! Instead of putting them in the crib for every nap, make a point to take one of their naps on the go each day so they get used to going with the flow.
Don’t make too many plans:
This can be hard if you’re on vacation with other people or if you have a lot of people you are trying to visit when you’re in town, but the less plans you make, the less stressed you will be. Go with the flow as much as possible. Plan that day THAT day–not four days in advance. This will set you and baby up for success.
Have realistic expectations:
Overall, like everything with babies, have realistic expectations! Your vacations aren’t going to look like they did without kids, but they can still be just as fun! Being able to see and experience everything through their eyes is so special! ♥️