how we survived: traveling with a baby
For the first few weeks of Avvie's life, it was incomprehensible to leave the apartment, let alone actually travel with her to a different zip code. How was I ever supposed to put her car seat in a cab by myself? What happens if I need to change her diaper and I'm on a train? What dark magic possessed my stroller whenever I tried to close it?
But, when she was seven weeks old, we decided to bite the bullet and attempt our first long distance trip with her. That's right: we left Manhattan. We even left New York state!
The occasion was Easter, mostly because she had an Easter dress and we had to show it off. Also, I think the grandparents enjoy seeing grandchildren. Just a guess. We opted to take Amtrak down to DC rather than to fly, because as annoying as Penn Station is, train travel with a newborn seemed more forgiving than a flight. And, since she's so little, we didn't need to get her a separate ticket.
Getting out of the apartment on time was a struggle, as was figuring out how to collapse the stroller ("I thought YOU knew how to close it!?" Ah, life with a baby when you hardly use a car), but we made it with enough time to spare so we could get on the train before the masses descended. Tip #1: Secure the first or second row on the train for yourself, so you can park your stroller (SANS BABY!) nearby.
The journey itself was rather uneventful; after she ate, she slept the entire time. And once we arrived at my parents' house, there were so many built-in babysitters that both of us were able to take it easy for a few days, which was very nice. Tip #2: Send as many items as you can via Amazon/Diapers.com so you're not lugging it with you. I sent a massive box down to my parents with everything from diapers to an infant bathtub. We also rented a pack and play, rather than trying to grapple with ours on the train.
One thing we weren't prepared for was that, at seven weeks, she was old enough to realize she was in a different home. She would wake up from her naps screaming, frantically looking around to figure out where she was. Needless to say, nighttime was punctuated with quite a few wake ups, but she was back on her schedule within a couple night of being back home. Tip #3: Pack a sound machine or Sleep Sheep so your baby hears familiar sounds.
This past weekend, we attempted our first road trip, up to the Hudson Valley for Mother's Day weekend. Now that she's 13 weeks, we've taken the car seat out for a spin quite a few times and are almost pros at stroller manipulation (but damn, that Bugaboo is a wily little thing). Since the drive to Rhinebeck was only a little over two hours, we timed it to be between feedings, so she more or less slept the whole way up.
Did we end up having to feed her in a bar (well, tavern, if we're being exact) when we got in? Why, yes, but I think she enjoyed the atmosphere. Traveling means adapting everyone's schedule and routine, and my philosophy is that she might as well get used to seeing different people, places and atmospheres at an early age. Does this mean we're disrupting everything? Of course not, she was still eating and going to sleep at more or less the same times, but the locations varied.
And, unlike in DC, she slept very well in her pack and play and her naps were better than they'd ever been, since she took a lot of them in her car seat. We also just bought Baby Elephant Ears to replace her infant car seat insert, which was getting too small.
Traveling with a baby is never as easy as traveling without one, but now that we've done two mini trips, it's good to know that it CAN be done. We're not going to be hiking Machu Picchu anytime soon, but quick jaunts -- at least at this age -- are doable. Don't let the fear of the unknown win out, fellow new parents. Anyway, the whole point of this post was to tell you what I found was good to pack, so please see my list below:
Car seat: Duh, but make sure to get one that's easy to maneuver! We love our Cybex Aton because it's light and straps into a cab without the base.
Carrier: We have the Baby Bjorn Miracle, which I like because it's breathable and not as complicated to strap on as others (Looking at you, Ergobaby). When we were wandering around Rhinebeck with Avvie, it was nice to be able to pop her in this rather than maneuver the stroller through stores.
Lots of extra diapers, wipes, and diaper cream: Self explanatory.
Clothes: I brought two outfit changes for every day, since our little lady loves to spit up. I also tossed in about three extra onesies, just in case. And, if you know you're arriving to your destination on the late side, make sure to dress them in PJs before you leave. It's always a good idea to pack extra hats and sweaters, just in case the weather changes.
Pumping supplies: Avvie now, finally, goes back and forth between bottle and boob, but I like feeding her bottles in the morning and at night so I know how much she's getting after and before her nighttime sleep. So, because of this, I pump -- a lot -- and, unfortunately, there are quite a few bits to pack. While I rent the hospital-grade Medela Symphony at home, I'm not lugging that monster on vacation, so I also have the Freestyle. I've used it both on a train and in the car, since it's battery operated. I don't think it's as good as the Symphony, but it does the job. You'll also need extra bottles to pump into, bottles for the baby, a travel drying rack, and bottle cleaner. I just tried this one from Giggle that I really like.
Car seat cover: You GUYS, aden + anais finally makes a car seat canopy!
Sleep Sheep: See above.
Gobs of pacifiers: I also finally caved and bought a Wubbanub.
I'm sure there's tons I'm forgetting. Leave your favorites in the comments!