As an avid traveler I was worried that having a baby would cramp my travel style. My wife and I vowed that we would not let having a baby change our desire.
Since our son was born, we’ve taken him on 2 short road trips from NY: Atlantic City, NJ in the dead of winter & Philadelphia, PA over a long Labor Day weekend. On the wild side, we took him to Israel on a 3 week trip over Memorial Day and Shavuot holidays… with a stopover in Amsterdam. And before our son turns 1, we’ll hopefully get to take another 4-5 day trip (destination currently TBD).
Ultimately, taking such trips with your infant child(ren) is a case by case decision made by the parents. Not every baby is going to travel as well as others. We are blessed that our son has a calm demeanor no matter the situation: as a 2-month old being bundled up on the boardwalk of Atlantic City in January, or as a 6-month old in the scorching summer heat of Tel Aviv in May, he was a trooper through and through, Baruch Hashem (Thank G-d). Not all babies are, and it is up to the parents to identify whether their child can handle grueling schedules and/or temperatures.
In the crazy year we’ve had since becoming parents, I wanted to share a few things Arielle and I learned along the way while traveling with our son. The majority of these tips can be applied by all parents of infants (kosher observant or not).
- 1. Prepare for the Unexpected: This is especially important for new parents, as we technically still are. Packing extra everything is often needed, albeit difficult if traveling by plane. If you normally go through 5 diapers a day, bring 8-10/day. If you normally change your child’s onesie or outfit once a day, bring 3-4 changes of clothes/onesies, especially if traveling to warmer climates (babies sweat … a lot!). Take this rule of thumb and apply it to anything you pack for your child unless you’re certain you’re able to replenish supplies at your destination.
- 2. Have a Washing Machine Nearby: Instead of renting a hotel room, rent an apartment. Apartments are likely to come with washing machines and dryers which help you wash both your and the baby’s soiled clothes (confirm that the apt does in fact come with a washer/dryer). This helps you (1) keep from packing too many articles of clothes as well as (2) carrying around smelly doody-stained onesies. I’ve yet to come across a washing machine in a hotel room of any kind, and hotels that do offer laundering services will likely not have your clothes back to you within 2 hours. The third option is staying with family/friends, which often happens when traveling to Israel.
- 3. Have Ready-Made, Easily Ingestible Foods Available for Your Baby: Obviously, if your baby is only a couple months old and still nursing / exclusively on the bottle, this does not apply… but if your child is slightly older and eating solids, we’ve been very successful with the travel-friendly prepackaged baby food that can withstand the temperatures and shlepping. Happy Squeeze, Ella’s Kitchen, Earth’s Best, Plum Organics, and other brands make squeezable pouches that do not need refrigeration until they’re opened. They’re really great to feed infants with as you dont even need a spoon. Most of these flavors are Kosher, but some are not, check the packaging to make sure.
- 4. Have a Sturdy Umbrella Stroller: This is especially true if you like to do a lot of walking, touring, and anything short of hiking (and if you don’t have a particularly strong back to carry your baby on you for hours at a time). A small but strong umbrella stroller came in handy on our international trip by allowing us to zip through airports, in and out of taxis and buses, and around the city. It also helped that the small carriage didn’t take up too much room in restaurants. 2 main features you should look for: (1) Large hood/canopy for shade (example) and (2) ability to recline – allowing your baby to sleep while you’re on the move. Check out these strollers: Chicco Lightweight Stroller, Britax B-Nimble Stroller, UPPABaby G-Lite Stroller, and the Maclaren Triumph.
- 5. Account for Extreme Temperatures: Younger babies are more sensitive to extreme temperatures than older infants. Assume that however cold or hot you are, that the baby is at least 10°F colder/hotter than you. Keeping this in mind you’ll need to keep your baby extra warm in the cold, and extra cool, hydrated, and shaded in the heat. Our son at six months was downing large glasses of water during our Israel trip, which is something everyone should do when in hot climates. We also tried, to the best of our ability, to keep him in the shade as much as possible. When doing walking tours and treks, such as a day at Ceaseria, Israel (which is beautiful, but alas has no shade), make sure to use the hood of the stroller or an umbrella to protect your child.
- 6. Test New Foods: As I’ve come to appreciate Kosher food from around the world, I want to be able to give that worldly appreciation to my son as well. Now that he’s able to eat table food, we’re sure to include him on all the meals we have by guests and at restaurants. This helps us travel lightly (baby food can add a lot of weight to your carry on luggage!) and helps expand his young developing palate. The more foods he tries now, the more he’ll hopefully be open to at an older age. Here’s hoping!
- 7. Reserve a Bulk Head Seat in Advance: If you are flying overseas (or even on a long domestic trip), you should definitely call the airline in advance and reserve bulkhead seats and bassinets for every leg of your trip. On my four-leg trip (NYC-AMS-TLV / TLV-AMS-NYC) we made sure to request a bulkhead and bassinet for each leg. And even though we were guaranteed those over the phone, one of the flights did not have a bassinet on board at all, and we had to take turns holding our son for a few hours. Do your due diligence here!
Oh, and for you kosher travelers, while you have the airlines on the phone, make sure they reserve for you kosher meals as well.
- 8. Make Sure Your Baby has a Passport of his/her own: This seems like a no brainer, but many parents forget about this. Consider this your reminder!
I’m sure there are tons of tips other parents have figured out and mastered over the years… so if you’re a parent, please share your tips in the comment section below! If I receive enough, I can make a follow up post on user generated baby-travel tips!