My husband and I have always loved traveling. We spent two years of our lives in ministry traveling the United States, staying in strangers' home and spending countless hours on planes and buses. We were a long-distance dating couple for almost three years and spent many, many days driving back and forth to be able to spend time together. Traveling is in our bones, you could say. Before children were even in the picture, we made a pact that we wouldn't let the stereotypical attitude of 'you can't travel with kids, it's too stressful' apply to us. That being said, when it came time for the rubber to meet the road (literally) we learned that, while traveling with children is totally possible, it is stressful and kind of messy and can present a challenge. Our baby's first road trip happened when we were shooting a wedding 4 1/2 hours away from home. He was just around six weeks old.
Since then, we've also taken him camping in Kentucky, to Illinois for an overnight stay, and for many trips back and forth to Tennessee to visit family in the short six months he's been alive. We are, by no means, experts at traveling with babies and I realize there are others that have done far more with multiple children (if that applies to you then, you're awesome). I just thought I'd share a few things we've learned (some from others and some from our own experience) since adding Baby Behr as a road-trip, traveling companion. Whether you're planning a massive road trip to tour the country or just doing a 'staycation' in your area, I believe trying some these things might help you out.
-Accept that things aren't going to go as planned. Your baby will have a blowout. They will throw up everywhere. They will scream to be released from the dreaded prison of their car seat. I don't say that to scare anyone, but rather to prepare you for reality. If we go ahead and accept that things will become stressful at some point (instead of naively thinking that absolutely everything about the trip will be a dream) we can then take things as they come. It's better than being shocked and overwhelmed when things occasionally turn south.
-Observe your baby. The thing about babies under six months is they can't tell you what they need. It can be maddening trying to figure out what the issue is, "Why are you crying? Are you hungry? Are you lonely? Are you confused, bored, hot, scared? WHAT THE HECK DO YOU WANT?!" It takes some trial and error (and a lot of patience) but eventually, you will learn your baby and what works to calm them down. Maybe they want you to sing to them. Maybe you need to sit in the backseat and hold their hand while they fall asleep. Maybe they need that special blanket pressed up against their cheek to remind them of being home. Whatever it is, if you intently observe your baby and what calms them when you aren't traveling, you can try and recreate that environment (as much as you're able) to help them cope with the ups and downs of your family adventures.
(Pro tip I learned from my mom: a naked baby is happy baby. When you've tried absolutely everything else to stop the crying, strip your babe down to their diaper and watch them transform from a screaming goblin of terror to a chubby, happy lambface. It works, trust me.)
-Take breaks. While we're all about pushing our little man and teaching him to adapt, there comes a time when every baby is just done. They're exhausted, they're sick of that stupid car seat, they're tired of being passed around to new family members, etc. When it happens, you'll know. So my advice is, watch for subtle cues and quit while you're ahead. Stop the car so you can get them out and hold them for awhile. Take a quiet walk away from everyone at that holiday party. For goodness sake, let them go to sleep. Sleep is a cure-all in my book; do what you gotta do to try and make sure your baby gets as much of it as possible.
-Reward yourself. Even if it's something as small as stopping for your favorite coffee drink along the way, or watching a Netflix when your baby finally goes to sleep. Do it. Traveling with little ones isn't for the faint of heart and you deserve something to look forward to for attempting it.
-Change your perspective. When the stress hits an all time high with your poor baby collapsing into a sweaty, crying mess and you wishing you could jump out the window; take a deep breath and remind yourself that 'this too shall pass'. Say it out loud if necessary (if anything it might get a laugh out of your husband/wife, and laughter always helps, trust me). If I've learned anything about traveling with babies it's that it's made up of moments. Now before you think I'm getting all Hallmark cheesy on you, let me explain. There will be hard moments. There will be moments when you wish you had just stayed home. But then, they pass. And suddenly they're replaced by the moments that remind us why you decided to travel as a family in the first place. I've experience both the overwhelming tension from a non-stop, wailing child to the bliss of driving into the sunset toward our destination while he snoozes away in peace. Instead of focusing on how hard it might become in the ugly moments, I've started reminding myself that it'll be over eventually and the beautiful moments are coming, I just have to look for them.
And finally two items that have made traveling/exploring as family so much easier:
1. The Solly Baby Wrap (it's why you see us using it in most of these photos) It's by far my favorite product for the first few months of babyhood. It's super lightweight, folds up neatly without taking to much space in the diaper bag and our little guy loves it. Plus, it's excellent for those times when you have no other choice but to take naps on the go. Behr falls asleep in his all the time! And because we're wearing him in the wrap, we can continue doing the activities we had planned for the day while he's asleep.
2. A small, compact pack and play crib. We use the 'Arm's Reach Co-sleeper' Brand and love it because it doesn't take up much room in our already small car when we travel.
(We are in no way sponsored by these companies or their products but I wanted to include them because we think they're amazing and believe they're well worth the investment for other families with wee babes out there.)
Like I said earlier, this is by no means coming from experts on baby traveling. Our hope is that in some way this post can help boost the confidence of all the other newbie traveling families out there.
Trust us, you can do it!
ps. if you'd like to follow along with every day Rodgers adventures, find me on Instagram (@breabird).