How to Prepare for Your Baby’s First Vacation
Johnny Jet Offers Tips for Parents Traveling with Children
by Johnny Jet
My wife and I have been to over 65 countries as a couple, and when we found out she was pregnant, we were thrilled! But we thought our travels would come to a complete halt – especially those luxury trips we’d grown to love! But that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. The only times we were not able to travel was during the period when my wife was put on bed rest before delivering our son Jack, and during the first eight months of his life when we decided not to travel to keep him healthy. Overall, we have been able to travel extensively and, believe it or not, maintain a level of luxury, too! From hotels that are luxurious but still family-friendly to services and products that make us feel like less of a traveling circus – here’s a peek at how we roll!
Our First Trip with Our Son
Our initial plan was to take Jack on a short flight when he was about three months old to see how he fared on a plane. But when his pediatrician recommended that he not fly during flu season, we scrapped that idea. So, Jack’s first trip turned out to be a road trip, which was probably a much smarter idea, anyway. Fortunately, there are so many luxurious hotels to choose from in the United States. So, no matter where you travel, there’s usually one nearby.
At the time, we lived in Southern California and were going through travel withdrawals, especially my wife since she hadn’t traveled in quite some time. There are lots of luxury options nearby, so we decided to go somewhere my wife had never been before: Palm Desert! Valentine’s Day seemed like the perfect time for our first family trip; so, we packed up the car and headed east to the Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage. As new, first-time parents, we were nervous about everything, including the drive, the hotel, the weather and the food.
Jack was great in the car for the two-hour trip and Natalie sat in the back seat with him, just to make sure he knew she was nearby. When we arrived at the hotel, we were so relieved to see that there were plenty of other families there and Jack wouldn’t be the only baby crying on a romantic getaway!
Perks of Traveling with a Child
I quickly realized that traveling with a baby, while challenging, also comes with some perks. The hotel staff and other guests seemed much friendlier. When the front desk clerk saw Jack, she went into the back room and brought him a cute teddy bear. By the way, this happens often at luxury hotels and every time it does, I’m reminded of the advice a cousin gave me at Natalie’s baby shower: Don’t buy any stuffed animals because everyone will buy them for you. So true!
There are a lot more perks that come with traveling with a child in addition to free stuffed toys. The best one is being able to board the airplane first. Not all airlines allow this so find out in advance which ones do. I know United Airlines allows families with kids under two to go first. Southwest Airlines allows families to board after Group A.
The first time we landed at New York’s LaGuardia airport, the taxi line was so long but I thought it was better than schlepping all of our bags on a shuttle bus to get an Uber (this is the process during the major construction that’s going on). While standing at the back of the line, which easily had 100 people in it, the taxi dispatcher approached us and said that that we could go to the front since we were traveling with a baby. My wife and I both looked at each other and were like, “Whoa!” Traveling with Jack is better than any elite status or credit card perk we’ve ever had!
How to Travel Light with Baby
One way to avoid schlepping bags while traveling with a baby is to use a service like Babierge. It’s a concierge service for kids. You pre-order everything in advance: high chair, diapers, food, toys, cribs and they will deliver it right to your hotel room and pick it up upon check-out. This way, you can travel without porters and just carry-on bags. It’s an amazing service that can really simplify family travel.
If you noticed that I didn’t include a car seat or stroller in the Babierge list above, it’s not because they don’t supply them, but because we use a Doona – hands down the most valuable travel accessory we have used as parents. Believe me, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would get excited about a stroller, but this is worth the hype. What makes the Doona so special is that it’s a car seat that, with just the press of a button, quickly and easily converts into a stroller! This all-in-one system is perfect for travel because it means you won’t have to deal with a car seat and separate stroller base and will be able to move around more freely. Not only is it compact and stylish, but the Doona is also a safe solution. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave its 5-star stamp of approval, and the Federal Aviation Administration has also approved it, which means that you can use it on an airplane as well. It’s been a game-changer for us.
One way to avoid schlepping bags while traveling with a baby is to use a service like Babierge.
One of the best parts about having a child under the age of two is that they fly for free. So, when buying or redeeming points, for business or first-class tickets, you just need to buy two tickets instead of three. It’s obviously always safer to have a baby in a car seat and in their own seat, but that’s almost impossible with our son. He always wants to be in his mother’s arms or be free to get up and roam around now that he can walk.
When three coach tickets are much cheaper than two first class tickets, I’ll buy the whole bulkhead row for my family. We would bring his car seat onto the plane but since Jack would refuse to sit in it, we just started gate checking it so we all had more room – especially Jack. The only downside of the bulkhead is that the armrests don’t go up and there’s no floor storage. Be sure one parent boards early with the bags to secure overhead bin space.
Contact Your hotel in Advance
My last tip is to always let the hotel and airline know that you’re traveling with a child so that they can babyproof the room. My best experiences so far have been at the Four Seasons San Francisco and the Ritz-Carlton Waikiki, where they put foam around all the edges. Just in case the hotel doesn’t offer this, we always carry cushion corner protectors with us to put on any sharp edges found in the room.
As any parent knows, traveling with a child has it challenges, but the advantages far outweigh the drawbacks. If I’d known that traveling with a child was this great, I wouldn’t have waited so long to have one. The challenges and inconveniences are a small sacrifice for the reward and privilege of showing my son the world and seeing everything anew through his eyes.
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