Mommy SOS: Vacationing with Baby – How??

Clearly I am very stressed out and need a vacation.

Clearly I am very stressed out and need a vacation.

A reader emailed me with this mommy sos and it’s one that I’ve been meaning to ask you all anyway:

How do you vacation with your baby?

I guess I should be more specific: How do you vacation with a pain in the ass difficult baby? I have friends that take their baby EVERYWHERE,  this kid has logged more frequent flier miles in just over a year than I have in the past decade. But she’s the type of kid that will fall asleep anywhere, eat almost anything and generally goes with the flow.  If that sounds like your baby, I don’t want to hear from you. (Just kidding!!)

No, really, I want tips from everyone, but particularly from those with the kind of babies that don’t want to sit still, cry incessantly and refuse to fall asleep in the car-seat or stroller, the kind for whom napping on the go is NOT an option.  I.e the ones that make the idea of going on a vacation sound about as appealing as a lobotomy!

Because you know what? I’m sick of being housebound and a prisoner to Jasper’s difficult nature! I want to visit friends, family, lie on a sandy beach somewhere.. but these are the specific things I worry about:

Plane rides & ear aches – I had TERRIBLE ear pain when I flew when I was little. And now Jasper has fluid in one ear… do you get their ears checked before you fly? Do you get trip insurance in case you have to cancel because of an EI?

Sleeping Arrangements – Jasper is really picky about sleeping – he basically won’t do it unless he’s alone in the room.  I guess we’d have to get a suite or something?

Bedtime – If you are at a hotel you basically just have to stay in your room after bedtime (7pm)? That seems so…unvacation- like!

So how do you all do it? What do you bring? Where do you go? What has been your favorite family vacation?

I searched the internet and came up with a few ideas but they are pretty $$$. The one that sounded the best was the Franklyn D. Resort in Jamaica, every family gets a vacation nanny included in the price!! Now THAT’S what I’m talking about.


PS: Email me at ariana@becoming-mom dot net if you have an idea for a future mommy SOS!

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Katie says:

I hope I’m not too late posting this but we just went on vacation with a one year old that is NOT super easy and it was awesome. We went to a waterpark resort. OK this is not my idea of a dream vacation but there were 4 families with 1-year olds so this is what worked. We chose 2-2 bedroom condos which opened up to each other internally. Also, we made sure that our rooms were on the first floor and that we found a spot with a big patio. We brought a loud-ish fan so that we could creep into the room after baby fell asleep. We were able to lay out by the pool/grill out/ sit by the firepit with our monitors on and babies safe asleep inside without worry. It was absolutely the best trip for babies. There were indoor and outdoor waterparks and we just sortof played it by ear and hung out with whoever was not napping at the time. I think there were only a few times when all 4 babies were up playing together at once.

Lindy says:

Some people have mentioned this but it is a pet peeve of mine so I will repeat this tip. If you are traveling by plane, please, please, please let your baby nurse or suck from a bottle or sippy cup on the way up AND on the way down. The suck/swallow really helps them relieve the pressure build up in their ears. It will make your baby happier as well as the other passengers around you.

Rebecca says:

Okay, well, you’ve got lots of advice here (that I plan to use, too!) so I thought I’d just give you my list of “must haves” for travel. We go frequently to our beach condo (by plane) and always either keep this stuff there or Fedex Ground a box of stuff ahead.

1. A massive stroller shade that completely covers baby. My insane son NEVER sleeps in stroller, but he’ll doze a bit if I have this thing on there. Plus, it’s good for him: uv, bugs, etc:

2. A travel highchair. I got this sucker for $22 on Amazon and it has been an absolute lifesaver for dining out. I can’t stand those icky restaurant highchairs that every other kid has slobbered on. My little dude does so well in this and I can throw it in the basket of the stroller on the fly:

3. A really good sound machine. This thing sounds like an airplane and softens or eliminates random noises in a hotel that wake up baby. It’s just white noise (not ocean/rain sounds) and totally helped keep J asleep on our vacation. Small, too:

Susan says:

OK…not sure if this suggestion was posted but here goes:
Try and get somewhere with a separate sitting area and bedroom. Or…get a ground floor room with an outside sitting area. That way, when you put Jasper to bed, you can step outside (but not too far outside) the room. Also, with a balcony or ground floor deck area, even though you have to be “in” by 7pm, you can pop open some wine and relax.
On our last trip, we were lucky enough to have a place (thanks to mom and dad) with a separate living room that actually had a door between it and the bedroom. That said, Violet is pretty difficult to sleep with when she’s in the same room…she makes lots of noise and if she does get up and see us sleeping near to her, that’s it…she’s up. Soooooooooooo, we put her pack and play in the bathroom…seriously. It was large enough to just fit it in there so she had her own “room”…as for us, we used the second bathroom.
If you don’t have two bathrooms, see if they have a large closet that could fit the pack and play (or whatever). I was nervous about lack of oxygen (as any paranoid mother would be), but she was fine and I left the door open a crack (just in case)
OK….those are my suggestions.

Shane says:

I saved this post to read the comments — so i’m a bit late to the game. A few tips – for stroller time we got these littl straps w/ snaps to attach toys to the stroller to prevent them from ‘flying’ out when G tosses them. We also have one around his lovey too. Helps keep it all together.

Now about the BF on take off/landing. Do you have any safety concerns? There is so much attention to strapping the carseat in, tray tables up, seats up, bags under seats. A loose infant in your arms is a serious projectile in a crash. Maybe it’s the years of being in small planes and knowing what happens in a plane crash — even though the prospect is low, I’d prefer to have G strapped in a seat in the safest position possible. I’ll deal w/ a little crying for the safety. Would you pull your kid out of a carseat going down the highway to BF on a road trip if he/she was fussy?

I also don’t like to have a ‘lap’ baby in a seat behind me. In a crash that kid is flying straight into me.

And I’m not usually a safety, paranoid freak (at least I don’t think I am).

Samm Ivri says:

Perfect timing – next week I am flying to the other side of the world (Israel!!!) with Mia. And she is about as tough as babies get. Most people tell me I’m crazy. But we simply made the decision to go for it and “teach” Mia how to travel. The way I see it – either she’s gonna make the decisions for us, or vice versa. And since we’re the parents, I think we should do what we want and have her adjust. Whether or not this is possible, remains to be seen!
When she was 8 months old we took a 7 hour car ride to Utah. On the way there she was a dream. But the way back was terrible. The thing that made it all worthwhile (and the reason we decided we should take this next trip) was how much she loved being there, sightseeing, etc.
Hopefully it will all go well!

Heather says:

Hi Ariana,
In response to your comment…a lot of the exchanges do have cribs, etc. You just have to be a little flexible about when/where you go. I’d say about half the offers I received were people w/ kids. (I got a lot of offers for exchanges because I was living in Manhattan then)….just something to think about!

Stephanie says:

My older daughter was a really easy-going baby and we took her all over during her first year – Washington DC, New York, Montreal, San Francisco, Portland, Chicago, and a bunch of road trips around New England (we were living in Rhode Island at the time.) Car/plane/stroller – didn’t matter – she was happy as a clam (and could fall asleep anywhere.) Not so lucky with our younger daughter.

Flying with our youngest was OK before she learned to walk -she was happy to sit in her seat and be entertained. But once she was mobile – flying became really difficult because she refuses to sit still. (She also hates her stroller – she’s OK with the carseat because her sister is usually in the backseat with her.)

We pack lots of snacks and toys and try not to let her nap at all before the flight/time the flight to coincide with naptime so she will sleep for at least part of the flight – that helps a bit. Giving a bottle just as the plane begins to take off is helpful too – the sucking action helps the baby’s ears pop.

We’ve had good luck on a couple of flights to be seated in the same row as someone traveling with a baby the same age. At one, they don’t really want to play together, but they do enjoy checking each other out (and checking out each other’s toys!) Older kids toddlers/preschoolers will actually play together which takes the pressure off mom and dad for keeping the kids entertained!

We almost never stay in a hotel anymore (at least if we’re traveling with the girls). We almost always rent a house or a condo now – it works out so well with kids. Typically, they aren’t any more expensive than a hotel room would be (Craiglist is a great place to look – lots of stuff in the $100 – 150 per night range), but they make the trip so much better. The kids get their own room to sleep in, you get a kitchen (so you can easily make formula, snacks, etc. And you save $$ because you don’t have to eat out for every meal. We usually eat breakfast at the condo, pack a lunch and snacks for the girls that will fit in the diaper bag, and just eat out for dinner.)

Most condos and houses will have a washer and dryer – which is great with a baby. You don’t have to pack nearly as many outfits that way. I’ve gotten in the habit of doing a load of laundry the night before we head home. Then when we get home, our luggage is full of clean folded laundry that can just get popped in the dresser. I hate coming home to a suitcase full of dirty laundry – that’s no way to end a vacation! :)

The other thing that’s nice about renting a house/condo is that when you inevitably return to your room earlier than you’d like, at least you can watch movies without waking the baby, because the TV is in a separate room. I always end up letting our kids stay up/out later on vacation because, like you said, it’s no fun going back to your room at 7:30. My younger daughter will stay awake however long we stay out, so we’re usually back by 9. The older one would fall asleep in her stroller, so we could stay out much later, walking around whatever city we were visiting, because she wasn’t missing out on any sleep. Depends on the baby, I guess!

I will also give a plug for vacationing without the kids. I’ve only done it twice. Once, I won a grant to attend a conference in Chicago (which is where my mother-in-law lives.) All my expenses were paid for, so we bought plane tickets for my husband and girls and flew to Chicago together. We dropped the girls off at Grandma’s house, and my husband and took advantage of the hotel room in the city. He played tourist all day while I attended the conference. At night we went out (which we almost never get to do) – it was fabulous! And if the girls needed us (which they didn’t) we were only 45 minutes away. That was a great trip!

The other time was much harder, but also awesome. We decided to take a big trip for our 10th anniversary – we went to Amsterdam. About two weeks before the trip, my mother-in-law came to visit and spent a week with my daughter (she only sees her once or twice a year, so it was important for them to get reacquainted.) While my MIL was here, we talked about how we’d be flying to see her in Chicago in two weeks – that gave my daughter something to look forward to. For the week between MIL’s visit and our flight to Chicago, we talked about how Chloe would be seeing grandma again in a few days and then they would have a sleepover at grandma’s house while mommy and daddy went out of town.(Chloe was 3 1/2 at the time.) We stayed overnight at Grandma’s house the first night to get Chloe settled in and then we left on our trip the next afternoon. I’d never been away from my daughter overnight before, so I cried the entire drive to the airport. SHE was fine – apparently didn’t even notice we’d left. We were gone for four nights – we called each night at the same time to check in with her. She never wanted to talk very long because she was having too much fun being spoiled by all of the Midwest relatives. We had a wonderful trip – lots of sightseeing and sleeping in – it was really wonderful. And Chloe had a really great time too. I don’t know how young is too young for something like that to work, but at 3 1/2 Chloe was able to understand what was happening and that we’d be coming back. She still asks when she can sleep over at Grandma’s again, so it definitely wasn’t traumatizing for her! So, if taking grandma on the trip with you isn’t an option, leaving the baby with grandma might be – even if grandma lives out of state. :)

Sorry this is so long!

Heather says:

Car ride: schedule departure right before a nap. Give him keys to play with. My son is obsessed! And, get a kids CD to play over and over and over.

We recently went to Cape Cod from NY, and the beach was great, and we got into a perfect routine. Up early-ish, breakfast, and beach. Totally wore him out. He took a 2 hr. nap everyday, then more beach time in the p.m. and was more than exhausted by 7pm.

I agree w/ others, if you could go w/ friends, or family that would help out, it would be really great for you. I work, so when I went recently, I knew it would be tough, but I really wanted to have that uninterrupted baby time all to myself.

Could you stay at some sort of Marriott suites that has more than one room, w/o being too expensive? Also, I know it sounds completely NUTS, but I’ve done a home exchange before (when I was single….read about it here:

I would definitely do this again with a house. It would be free, and we’d get much more space than a hotel, and a kitchen which would be great.

Whatever you end up doing…have FUN!

Joanna says:

We have a fussy baby here too, she is not the best napper, also hates her posh stroller which kills me, lol, and won’t eat solids so when we recently took a 3 hour plane ride I was SCARED. We had a bottle ready to go since I didn’t know if I would be able to BF on the plane, and she refused it. So I decided to get over my shyness and just nursed her on take off and landing. It turned out to be a great experience, I think the nursing comforted her. She actually slept due to the noise from the plane and loved the one on one attention when she was up. I rocked her to sleep in the back where the doors are. It turns out she was so quiet and other babies were bawling. I think BF was the key. At night we put her in the PNP and it was the hotel’s- she slept exactly as she does at home. When she would wake up at 5 which is her normal time I would nurse her in bed and we actually both would fall asleep until at least 7 am which is sleeping in to me, LOL.

Trust me she is usually not super easy, but you just have to get her out there. I liked the blanket providing security comment, I never thought of that. I will try it! Good luck and hope you have a great vacation very soon!

elizabeth says:

as a family member that recently returned from vacation with my husband’s extended family, i can say that vacation with older children (like 5 kids under the age of 6) really sucks if you have no children. it had been lots of fun in years past b/c there are enough adults to babysit as needed, and the kids go to bed early enough for the adults to have fun playing cards, etc. this year, the kids required so much attention and activity that the adults were too pooped to party. our friends that have children somehow manage to have fun and keep the kids entertained, so i will ask them for details and share!

Sarah says:

As Sheri already said, putting the baby’s music (and even white noise if you use it) on the ipod really helps to normalize things. We took a trip with Finn recently and wouldn’t have dreamed of trying to put him to sleep without his “ocean waves” soundtrack (he is not a great sleeper). Turns out, though, that my father had a dehumidifier in the room in which we were staying — and he slept even BETTER with that kind of louder, steadier hum.

As far as the plane goes, we were terrified since Finn RARELY sits still, but I breastfed as we rose in elevation to keep his ears from popping too much (not sure if it did the trick or if we just got lucky). To entertain him, we took along a couple of very small, simple, easily washable toys and then basically acted like circus clowns (my husband did most of that) to keep him happy. Funny faces, peek-a-boo, etc. worked for awhile. Then we let him make friends with other people on the plane. As long as we kept him busy, he didn’t get too bored. He also slept some of the time: the plane’s engines provided some pretty powerful white noise!

One other thing: I know you said that Jasper doesn’t like slings, but for those babies who don’t mind them too much, babywearing in the airport frees your hands and makes bolting from one terminal to another pretty easy…

Sorry I left such a lengthy comment!

ariana says:

Great tips guys, keep them coming!

Wow, I can’t believe two of you have actually been to FDR..nice to hear good reviews from people I actually “know”.

Jasper does have a lovey, its a teddy bear though – which means it would probably get jettisoned out of the stroller immediately. Will have to try a blanket.

Oh, and I wouldn’t DREAM of going anywhere without his sound machine!

Good point about the extra sights/activity wearing them out, I hadn’t though of that but it’s true.

Sheri says:

I also second the blanket idea. It is amazing what a little rountine will do, no matter where you are. We also have a lullabye CD we play when A is falling asleep, and we take that along on the iPod.

Good luck!

Sheri says:

This is one I could go on and on about. My husband’s whole family lives in England, and we’ve taken A there twice already, most recently last week. And my family lives 8 hours from us, a car trip we’ve done several times as well. I would say that traveling with a baby/toddler is do-able, but nowhere near as relaxing as traveling sans kid. (In fact, hubby and I are headed to San Diego for a long weekend without A this weekend so we have some time to relax.) That said, I love the new experiences it gives him, even at this young age. And I’ve found that he ususally can cope with whatever we have planned. We’re still working on the stroller nap, though…

The best resource I’ve been able to find is She has amazing tips about how to amuse your kids on planes, baby-proof a hotel room, you name it.

I would agree with everyone else that renting a beach house for a true vacation would be ideal. All of our travels have been to visit family and friends, which makes life easier. Everyone is always so excited to spend time with A, which means I’ve gotten to do some fun things for me.

For ears on the plane, A has always been fine. Last time he had a cold, and he was still okay. I always nurse him or give him a bottle on take-off and landing, and that seems to do the trick. I don’t think you’d know about Jasper for sure unless you tried it though.

Lauren says:

We were just at FDR this past April with our 4 1/2 year old and 1 1/2 year old. It was GREAT! After reading tons and tons of reviews on the nannies, I did not have any qualms about leaving my kids with her. My 4 1/2 year old ONLY wanted to be with me but my baby went to the nanny willingly and she was loved on and treated like one of her own. We went out every night (I think the nanny’s charge $6/hour) for dinner on the property and our nanny fed and put the girls to sleep. They are so good about keeping the kids busy and the resort is small enough that you can find them (if you need/want to) very quickly. If you have any other specific questions, I’d be happy to answer them. My little one is a tough traveler so the airplane ride was definitely the worst part. Fortunately, she is also a good sleeper so I don’t have any advice for you on that. Good luck!

Marcia says:

Lol at the how do you vacation with a difficult baby line?! My 11 month old is very similar to your Jasper in so many ways but I keep telling myself that her intense personality will payoff as she gets older!

We haven’t really vacationed but have taken too many road trips ranging anywhere from 10-16 hours to visit family. She has never liked the carseat either but every once in a while we get lucky and she sleeps well, you just never know. My husband reminds me all the time that we can’t just sit at home not enjoying these things because of how difficult she is, that she enjoys herself once we get there and it’s all worth it in the end. So yes, getting there can be difficult, but worth it despite the stress!

We haven’t had any trouble getting our sensitive/light/difficult sleeper to adjust to new sleeping situations (and we visited 2 families per trip/different pack-n-plays and even a smaller crib). We always bring her sound machine and do the bedtime routine exactly the same along with keeping the room nice and dark. We have always slept in the same room as her without a problem while visiting family and when we return home it has not made a difference.

I would think renting a house near the beach would be a great option and bring family or friends to help out, Jasper just might suprise you (Savannah was so distracted over our 4th of July trip with all the new faces that she wore herself out, so getting her to sleep was amazingly easy)!

Maggie says:

Ohhh…I have been to the FDR in Jamacia as a kid and I remember our nanny! She was sooo super nice and I wanted NOTHING to do with her – she brought in my favorite foods every morning, planned great activities, etc…but I was a pre-teen and thought I was the coolest thing ever. LOL!

With the travelling, I have that baby you were talking about in the beginning so I’m banned from posting anything else :)

lelu says:

We love a house on the beach. You can put baby down for a nap and generally keep a schedule but still get some alone time to enjoy the beach. And like Kari said extended family vacations are great. Let the grandparents enjoy the baby so you can enjoy a night out. You really just need to be realistic and know what your baby will and will not tolerate. Last summer we drove 16 hours to visit in laws. We also spent a couple of days in D.C. The baby was just a couple months old and did great in his car seat and and stroller. This summer he is 15 months old and I would NEVER attempt the same kind of trip. But he has done great on the quick airplane trips we have taken. When we fly I always get a couple of new toys that might engage him a little longer, I always have his “comfort” items i.e. blanket, pacifier, and I always have a stash of dum dums. Just in case.

Kimberly says:

I refuse to even LOOK at the link… it’s going to be a WHILE before we get any more vacations! ;)

We’ve taken a couple of big trips, from the west coast to Hawaii when James was 6 months and to NYC when he was 11 months, (As you know), as well as a quick trip to Vegas when he was 9 months. Granted, I do have a pretty easy-going baby, but I do have a couple of tips, particularly for plane travel. Get melatonin. Seriously… crush it up and add it to a spoonful of yogurt, or a bottle, or whatever. Make sure baby is sucking from the bottle (or nursing) during take off and landing, that will help them “pop” their ears. We also yawned at James, trying to get him to yawn as well, so that his ears wouldn’t get plugged. Works pretty well.

As for accommodations, I totally agree with staying somewhere with a kitchenette. We’ve done this all three trips, and it’s invaluable… just to have a refrigerator and a microwave goes a LONG way toward making feeding baby easier. I always packed frozen cubes of food (but now he’s pretty much eating what we do, so not necessary anymore) in my Medela bottle cooler for the plane rides and then was able to feed the whole time we were there. (well, for the shorter trips to Vegas and NY… he hadn’t started solids when we went to Hawaii, but that’s beside the point.)
I also agree with having some other family there… that’s how we pulled it off all 3 trips… but that might eliminate the idea of the “vacation.” Honestly, I think I would give it a go… you need to get away, and while the traveling part MAY not be easy (or he might surprise you!) it very likely would be worth it in the end!

Until recently, I could NEVER get my baby to fall asleep in a stroller, and it was really hard getting him to sleep anywhere that wasn’t his own crib. Then my sister told me that he needed a blanket. He doesn’t have his own “blankie” or lovey of any sort, but putting a soft blanket in the crib with him, or draping one over him in the stroller is just what he needs to fall asleep. I had no idea that a blanket would offer so much comfort, but it does. And I really don’t want him to get attached to one blanket (I’m far too forgetful and I’d hate to lose it somewhere), so I use a different blanket all the time.

vtjill says:

Um, yeah. I want to go to the place you linked. Like right now.

kari says:

Not that we have really “vacationed” w/ Liam… but plane travel – yes.

re: the EI thing – if he has fluid or tugging on the ear, I would get it checked a few days prior to travel – if there seems to be an issue, they can give you antibiotics which would ensure no EI on the plane. (this scares me too!)

my girlfriend who has taken several vacations w/ her toddler reccommends trying to take a family vaca… as in EXTENDED fam. she said her best trip w/ the fam was renting a house in maui. gramma and grampa were there to babysit, so they could relax and enjoy a few adult nights out. (a house rental might work for you too because of the sleeping thing) this scenario also would work well on a cruise too.

anxious to hear these tips – we too need an actual vacation!

jbhat says:

A) Rent a house somewhere. I have friends who did that with a toddler and a new baby and they had much success with it. They went to Molokai in HI; just found the house on the internet.

B) YOU go. Maybe it would be a more relaxing vacation if you were to go alone or at least not with Jasper. Even a long weekend? Especially if you anticipate that he will not be an easy-going traveling companion.

C) I have never felt comfortable leaving our kiddo with strangers either, so have never tested out a place with a built-in babysitter. OMG, even thinking about that makes me feel all panicky.

D) I recommend B. But are you wanting a getaway for the two of you or for the one of you?

ariana says:

Hami, yeah, that’s another thing.. some resorts (club med and sandals) have daycare included from 9-6 or whatever. But Jasper would FREAK if we left him with total strangers!

HamiHarri says:

Ohhh…I can’t wait to read all the responses. Hubs thinks we’ll just leave our future 7 month old at one of those kids clubs…riiiight.

ariana says:

Don’t apologize Lou! This is the kind of stuff I want to hear.

Yeah, so I should have added that Jasper doesn’t like being in baby carriers OR his stroller (for more than a few minutes at a time) even though his stroller is quite posh. Spoiled little thing!

Ooh, good question. I can’t wait to see the responses.

We’ve traveled with Wes twice already, but only by car to Orlando, which is just about 3 hours away.

At 6 weeks, he was better in the carseat because he was easily sleeping in it still. Of course, he was hell at Disney (in and out of the parks). One problem was the heat, but altogether I just think he was still terribly fussy period. We couldn’t even take him on errands to Target. What made us think we could take him on vacation!!!???

We went again a couple of weeks ago and he was MUCH better. He slept often in his stroller and was happy in it overall. I guess that’s one piece of advice: make sure you have a comfortable stroller if you’re going to be doing a lot of walking. I would suggest a carrier, too, but if you’re somewhere hot like we were, out and about, it just gets too hot for both the person carrying and the baby, plus the baby just gets too exposed to the sun that way, I think.

Wes doesn’t sleep that well in his carseat anymore — I think a byproduct of now being so accustomed to napping mainly in his crib maybe? So I rode in the backseat both ways to help keep him entertained when awake and prevent full meltdowns.

I, too, had read that you should try to keep separate sleeping arrangements when traveling if baby is used to sleeping in his room, but I can imagine as you said that that would get expensive…we’re lucky that Wes slept in the Pack-n-Play without any big to do. And we didn’t even have to take our own: the hotel provided it. That’s another piece of advice — see what you can avoid taking if provided otherwise.

Next time, I think I may prefer staying somewhere with a small kitchen though, because it becomes difficult to wash bottles (and I guess spoons, etc. for older babies) in a hotel bathroom.

As for bedtime, I’ll admit we sacrificed going out to see the fireworks for the sake of keeping Wes’ bedtime. It just wasn’t worth it to us to go out just to end up with a crabby baby. I think that choice may depend on how difficult a baby you have…

LOL — sorry for the long response!