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Tourism: Traveling with Baby

Traveling with Baby
by Sheila O'Connor

"How on earth will you manage? Are you sure it's a good idea?" said friends when we told them we were planning a Caribbean vacation with our 8-month old son. And we had to admit, there might be something in their misgivings. Was it really a good idea? Would we be better to leave him with a reliable relative? And if we took him, would all the traveling around be too difficult for him? Still, we couldn't bear the thought of leaving him behind. So we came to the unanimous decision--baby comes too. And we needn't have worried, we all had fun along the way.
Of course there are some preparations we made in advance to make life as easy as possible. We made sure we were self-sufficient as far as baby items were concerned so that we didn't have to rely on hotels and restaurants to provide vital items they may end up not having.
A traveling crib was a must. So too was some kind of restraining system for eating out in restaurants. We found that even when restaurants did have high chairs, the straps were often missing or didn't fit comfortably.
We took along a cloth sling which hooked over the chair backs, through the child's legs and up to his waist then tied around the back of the chair. This was also great for when we fed him in the hotel room. And because it was cloth it was lightweight and could be easily folded.
Next on our list was a baby diaper bag. This we used for our personal items like a camera or book. For the baby we carried the usual diapers, clothes, food and toys.
Next question was: stroller or baby backpack? Deciding we couldn't take both and realizing that the backpack would not fold or travel easily (it is too bulky with its frame), we opted for the stroller. This turned out to be the best choice. The baby could sit, sleep, eat, even at a pinch, be changed in it. And of course he had somewhere safe to lie when he got bored with "adult" sightseeing. For us the kind of stroller that reclines was necessary because the baby still needed to nap a lot during the day. This we simply checked in with our bags at the airport.
Whilst most vacation areas have supermarkets for baby supplies, it's worth taking your own supply of diapers and milk anyway, as well as convenience jars of baby food, in case you're traveling late at night when most stores are closed. We took a can of powdered formula in two Ziplock plastic freezer bags (one inside the other) which helped reduce the bulk and weight.
We found that having a box of baby cereal and powdered formula was a must as we could add water to the milk then milk to the cereal for an instant meal if we had nothing else on hand. We were also able to give him cereal breakfast in the hotel room before we descended for our own breakfast. He remained quiet and played in his stroller (we tied the few small toys we'd brought along onto a string across the front of his stroller, while we had a leisurely breakfast.)
We also took a front baby sling that we used for strapping the baby to one of us during flight take off and landing. Some airlines don't give child belts at all and you have to hold the baby in your arms. The sling (not to be confused with the one we used in the restaurants) was also useful if we took a cab ride since the baby got less restless and because he was secure against one of us, was more protected if the cab braked suddenly.
One other useful tip while flying is to feed the baby during takeoff and landing. The swallowing helps clear the baby's ears and allows them to adjust to changing air pressure.
For the beach, total sunblock hats (we took two in case we lost one) and a vest are essential, though you might want to use a romper suit for protection. Since our baby had never been in the water before (except for his bath!) we were unsure of what to use in the pool or the sea that would be better than just one of us holding him. We came across an inflatable "turtle" that was lifebelt-shaped with plastic pants in the middle so the baby could sit in it. This he loved as we were able to pull him along, watch him at the same time and he only got wet from the waist down.
We were unsure how many blankets and sheets to take with us. Eventually we took one heavy stroller blanket that we also used for the crib at night. We took one lightweight stroller sheet for the baby to lie on to protect the stroller and another lightweight white cotton stroller blanket to put over him. This helped protect him from the sun while he was in the stroller. All blankets and sheets could be used in either the stroller or the crib. With hindsight, it would have been better to take a second lightweight cotton blanket for the stroller to use when the first one got grubby and for when the baby was "on show". By the end of the week, the one we had taken looked less than its best.
Laundry facilities are usually available in most hotels but for us there would be no time for laundry, so we packed clean clothes for the baby for every day with a couple of extra outfits in case he was ill. The outfits were no problem to pack because they were so small.
One thing we did make use of however, was the hotel babysitting service. This way we didn't have to give up all thoughts of having a nightlife. This we'd recommend. After all, traveling with a baby can still mean everyone has fun-and isn't that what vacations are all about?

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