Nick and I have been traveling together for about 4 years and we absolutely love it – travel is our shared passion. And when we got pregnant we decided to deliver the baby in Vietnam and continue our nomadic lifestyle. “How hard can it be?” we thought, “especially while we’re breastfeeding!”
Since giving birth to our darling baby boy in January of 2020, we’ve taken a 19-hour train ride to Hoi An and had tropical getaways to the beach towns of An Bang Beach, Ho Tram, and Vung Tau. And my conclusion is that vacationing with a baby isn’t a vacation at all. You just have to wipe your baby’s butt in a more expensive room with a prettier view.
When you vacation with your baby you totally screw up their nighttime sleep schedule and daily routine. Plus you basically just have to sit in the room (or close by) while they sleep. My bubs was on a 5 nap per day schedule while we were at the beach which meant that by the time we got him up, fed, changed, and packed to go, we only had about 15 minutes in the pool before it was time for his next nap.
So if you’re planning on traveling after you have a baby and think that it won’t be that different, think again. Read on about all the things you may not be thinking about before you plan that next trip!
Don’t forget to check out our web story: Traveling with a Baby: 9 Things to Expect!
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9 Ways That Traveling Changes After Having a Baby
1. Your Packing Doubles
If you’re anything like me, you’ll end up packing more stuff for your baby than you do for yourself. The large items that you’ll probably need are a car seat and a stroller. You’ll also want a baby carrier of some sort in case you’re staying somewhere that isn’t stroller-friendly. And if your hotel doesn’t have a crib you may want to bring a Pack N Play (which will add about 30 lbs to your luggage).
If you’re traveling to a beachy destination of course you’ll need a swimsuit for your bubs, swim diapers, sunglasses, baby sunscreen, some kind of flotation device ideally, and potentially something to keep them out of the sun. And depending on your baby’s age you may want toys to play in the sand.
And, of course, if you are traveling to a chilly destination you’ll need to bring warm layers and blankets to bundle your baby. And no matter where you are going you’ll need to pack at least one outfit per day, preferably more since it’s unlikely that you’ll do laundry during your trip (and lord knows babies love to have messy blowouts).
Plus diapers, wipes, any medications and/or vitamins, diaper rash cream, baby feeding devices like a sippy cup, burp cloths, blankets, bibs, toys and books to keep them entertained, teething rings, and some emergency-only items like a thermometer and a snot-sucker. And don’t forget food, formula, breast pump (and possibly sanitizer), bottles, and so much more.
If you’re used to just throwing a few things in a weekender bag and hopping on a plane, your packing planning is about to get a lot more challenging.
2. There’s a Lot More to Carry
Back when Nick and I were traveling the globe I always dreaded the days when we had to take a train, plane, or bus. Because that meant that I’d have to pack my bag and then lug it around until we reached our destination. Well now we have to carry our own stuff, plus our baby’s stuff, and our heavy-ass baby. And our baby has to travel with a LOT of crap.
If you don’t have a stroller/car seat combo, trust me, you’ll need it. Unfortunately, we don’t. And trying to maneuver a stroller while carrying a heavy car seat is totally unrealistic.
Getting to your destination with all of the crap that you’ll need for you, your partner, and your baby while carrying your baby will be quite the challenge. Try to consolidate as much as possible into one large suitcase and pack light for yourself. And research in advance whether you can easily purchase necessities like diapers and formula at a store near your hotel.
3. You Have to be Picky About Where you Stay
It’s no longer possible to just casually scroll Booking.com for nice but still reasonably priced hotels because you’ll need to make sure that they will provide a crib for your room. You’ll also want to think about what surface you can use for a changing table (hopefully a desk or something similar) and what the bathtub situation is (unless your baby is small enough to fit in the sink).
Plus you’ll want to be able to stay close (but not too close) during naptime and early bedtime, so a nice patio right off your room is imperative. You’ll also just appreciate hanging out outside your room with your baby – enjoying the warm breeze while having easy access to diaper changing supplies and baby food.
We traveled recently to a cute little resort right on the beach which we figured would be really relaxing. The bathroom in our room was outdoors on a little covered patio. Normally I would think this was an adorable hotel perk, but not with a baby. I was totally paranoid about mosquitoes feasting on my child during his bathtime and just anytime we opened the bathroom door.
The best hotel room for your baby is just a standard (re: boring) Marriott-style room because you know it’ll be clean, comfortable, and they are used to having babies on the premises.
4. Baby Food and Formula Takes Planning
This may or may not be difficult to plan while traveling with your baby depending on their age and what you are feeding them. If you’re only breastfeeding then obviously you’ll have no problem at all! Except if you need to pack a pump, bottles, and possibly a sanitizer depending on where you are traveling.
But if your baby has started solids or if they are on a formula diet, that adds another element of difficulty when traveling.
Does the hotel that you’ve chosen have a restaurant that serves cuisine that you can easily feed to your baby? Is that restaurant low key so you won’t feel like you’re disturbing everyone around you if you bring your baby? Are there stores nearby to pick up baby snacks and possibly formula if you run out? Does the hotel booking include breakfast or will you be on your own in the morning?
It’ll be a bummer if you end up ordering room service for every meal because the restaurant is too fancy for a baby or they don’t have a highchair for your bubs. It’ll also be unfortunate if you end up spending a fortune on food that your baby ends up just throwing on the ground anyway.
Be sure to research the dining options in the hotel as well as whether or not you’ll be within walking distance to other restaurants.
5. Sunscreen and Bug Spray Might be Necessary
If you are traveling to a tropical destination, you’ll want to protect your baby from the sun and from the bugs. But most sunscreen isn’t safe for babies under 6 months. And if you’re anything like me you’ll feel totally uncomfortable putting deet on your baby’s skin (even though technically it’s safe for babies over 2 months of age).
After hearing a friend’s horror story about their baby getting burned while under an umbrella from the reflection on the sand, I was super paranoid during our beach vacation. I would dart from shady patch to shady patch to keep my baby’s bald head from the sun. And we had to huddle in the one shaded corner of the pool whenever we went for a swim.
We chose not to put sunscreen or bug spray on our small baby during our tropical beach vacation but that meant we were extra paranoid about the sun. If you are also extra-concerned about your baby’s fragile skin, then you probably won’t be able to enjoy the sunny weather either.
Gone are the days of lounging on a sunbed, tanning your skin while sipping on a cocktail. You’ll be stone-cold sober and hovering under an umbrella.
6. The Romance is Gone
If you’re used to your vacations involving a bit of romance, that ship has sailed my friend. At least when you’re home you may be able to stick your baby in a separate room for a bit. But while on vacation you’ll probably be splitting just one hotel room which will make any chance of romance nonexistent.
Plus it’s not like you’ll know anyone there to babysit for an hour or two while you go to dinner just the two of you. Your baby will be with you all the time – at the restaurant, at the pool, at the beach, and back in your room. No baby breaks.
The best you can hope for is to enjoy a nice bottle of wine on your balcony once you put your baby to bed for the evening. Or travel with your parents so they can watch your baby, although that would probably be even less romantic.
7. It’s Hard to Relax
When I think of the term “vacation”, I usually daydream about afternoon massages, lounging on the beach, sipping on fruity cocktails, and sleeping in as late as I want.
But when you “vacation” with a baby, they are still going to wake up at a god awful hour, they’re still going to need regular naps (probably in the air-conditioned hotel room), they’re still going to have a super early bedtime, and they probably won’t stay still long enough for you to lounge anywhere.
Basically, a vacation is not going to be relaxing for you, and it’s going to screw up your baby’s routine so it won’t be exactly relaxing for them either. On our beach vacations, the only person who gets to relax is my damn husband since his nipples aren’t an all-you-can-eat buffet.
8. You May Want to Research Emergency Services
As someone who has spent too much time at the doctor’s office since my baby was born, I know firsthand how important it is to have easy access to a reliable medical facility. Hopefully you won’t need it, but if something does go wrong you’ll want to be relatively close to good, quality care.
Prior to moving to Vietnam I never considered that 911 isn’t the emergency number outside of the US. Here in Saigon you would call 115 in case of emergency for a public hospital, and *9999 for our preferred private hospital.
As a precaution, you may want to research the medical facilities that are in the vicinity of your vacation destination and make sure you know how to get ahold of them, just in case.
9. Consider Additional Vaccinations
Did you know that while rabies is a disease that is basically nonexistent in the US, it’s actually fairly prevalent in Vietnam? So a rabies vaccination is recommended for young babies that may be exposed to stray dogs. Measles are also pretty common here so if your baby doesn’t have that vaccination and you’re planning a trip to Vietnam, consider adding it to the to-do list before you leave.
Depending on where you’re going, it’s best to make sure you’re up-to-date with their required vaccinations for your home country, as well as any that might be recommended for the country that you’re visiting.
Have you traveled with a baby? Did you have other challenges that weren’t mentioned above? Comment below so we can add them to the list!
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