The Best Age to Travel with a Baby
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“What is the best age to travel with a baby?”
I’ve been asked this question countless times by friends and family who know I’ve been brave (read: crazy) enough to travel with my young babies multiple times. 3 months? 6 months? 12 months? What is the best time to travel with a baby? Or REALLY, Is there any ‘best age to travel with a baby’? Is it CRAZY to even bother traveling with a baby? Am I going to feel like I am ‘just parenting’ in a tropical destination?! Will it be any fun??
We’ve traveled with our young ones at a variety of ages and I’m here to report back on the pros and cons of each category. Of course, each baby is different, some babies ‘just sleep’ for the first three months and some (like mine) ‘just screams’ for the first three months. You never know when teething, developmental leaps or other (disastrous) baby phases are going to strike. I do have a favorite age though, so make sure to read through to the end to find out!
I have to say that we haven’t traveled much at this age. The earliest we have traveled with our youngest son was 2.5 months and I was basically counting that as 3 months by then.
- The baby will sleep a lot. Usually not when you want the baby to sleep, but nevertheless, he will be sleeping for most of the hours of the day.
- Baby is completely immobile. Wherever you put the baby down is likely where they are going to stay. Put the baby in a beach tent with a mobile or play gym and enjoy the LUXURY of reading a book, or drinking a coffee while it’s hot!
- You are still recovering from a baby exiting your body. Your life is one padsicle after another. I could barely manage a 5-minute walk let alone a beach vacation for a good 6 weeks after the birth of my first (c-section) and second (VBAC) babies.
- Sleep deprivation. Although this got better with my second, the initial shock of sleep deprivation with my first was the worst. I remember people telling me ‘this too shall pass’ and I clearly remember wanting to punch those people in the face! Sleep deprivation sucks and being on vacation doesn’t help.
- Potential illness. For us, this is the biggest reason we don’t travel much before three months. it’s not good when babies under 3 months get sick, their little immune system is not yet mature. I like to have at least the first set of immunizations done before we leave the country, especially if it’s a country with fewer healthcare resources. Since I live in Canada, where temperatures are pretty frigid for much of the year, I tend to want to leave the country when I travel!
- Bring your boobs only. If your baby is exclusively breastfed, it’s super easy to travel at this age. No need to worry about food contamination or washing and sterilizing bottles. All you need are your boobs and you are good to go! My youngest also got formula supplementation and although washing bottles was a pain, it was still easier than when eating solids became an issue. I would bring the prepared formula bottles or the travel packs and use bottled water. I would use these microwave sterilizer bags or a sterilizer rented from the hotel or resort to keep the bottles sterilized.
- Mostly immobile. Although some babies are rolling pretty well or even starting to crawl towards 6 months most are still pretty immobile. My little ones were pretty happy to be parked in their stroller at a restaurant or at the beach. The sights and sounds and people were enough entertainment! If I try keeping my now 14-month-old in a stroller for more than 35 seconds and I’m doomed.
- (Still) sleeps a lot. 3-6 months tends to be the time when (most) babies start consolidating their night sleep (thank YOU) and being more awake during the day. Check out my post on how to get your baby to sleep on vacation to hear the crazy stuff we’ve done to keep our precious ‘sleep routine’ intact on vacation. Well-rested parents = much higher chance of actually enjoying your vacation.
- They won’t enjoy anything. At this age, babies don’t really care if they are in a tropical paradise or not. They aren’t going to particularly enjoy the pool or the ocean more than they would enjoy the bath. Putting their toes in the sand is probably just going to make them cry. The picture is NOT going to turn out as cute as you wanted it to. Or if it does, it will take 105,678 attempts to do it. This vacation is for you. Not them.
Ok so this is one of my least favorite ages to travel with a baby so I have to admit I struggled to come up with ANY pros for this age. Despite this, I have actually traveled with a baby at this age quite a bit. We stayed at the Empress Hotel in Victoria BC and we went on a Disney Cruise when my youngest was between 6-9 months. Now that I’m thinking about it, it wasn’t that bad at all 😉
- Everything is exciting. Clearly, I wasn’t up to my usual Pinterest standards on my recent trip to Victoria BC with my then 6-month-old. For the plane trip, I literally brought NOTHING. I did not bring a single thing to entertain my child for a four-hour plane ride. At this age, EVERYTHING is exciting. Cups are exciting. Napkins are exciting. The seat tray is SUPER exciting. We made it through the flight using only the items already on the plane without causing any sort of ‘scene’. Take that, Pinterest!
- High Chairs are exciting. Once my babies started really walking or crawling there was no chance they were going to be staying in their high chairs longer than 5-10 minutes. No matter how many delicious treats I was bribing them with. At 6-9 months, most babies are pretty content to sit in a high chair and enjoy the excitement of a meal with their family. Since solids are still a pretty new and exciting thing, it’s easy for that to take up some serious entertainment. I even brought my 6-month-old to the high tea at the Fairmont Empress in Victoria (and he was reasonably well behaved!)
- Eating sand. If you are planning a beach trip with kids, FORGET IT at this age. Especially if your baby is already crawling, this is a sure disaster. Babies love eating sand, and I’ve tried those Pinterest hacks with the mattress cover on the beach and let me tell you there is NO HACK that will keep sand away from a 6-month-old baby who is determined to eat sand. Certainly a sightseeing or city trip is a better bet at this age.
- Eating everything. 6-9 months is the peak of the ‘put everything in your mouth stage’. If you are a germaphobe it’s probably not a good idea to travel with your baby at this age. Even myself, whose dog basically french kissed my babies every day since birth, I draw the line at some point. I tend to use a lot of the stroller or the baby carrier at this age to keep those little exploring hands out of every disgusting thing they can find.
- Eating real food. When babies start to eat real food, they start to demand real food on schedule. Which means you have to be prepared with REAL FOOD on demand. No joke. We opted to do a mix of purees and baby-led weaning with both of our littles simply because it afforded us the flexibility to be a bit lazy in this regard. Hungry? Here’s a banana kid. Good luck.
9-12 months has been very hit or miss for us. Babies can be so different at this age! Some are walking and some are just starting to crawl. Those developmental leaps (complete with cranky periods) are so unpredictable.
- They might start to actually like some stuff. Splashing in the pool and dipping their toes in the ocean might genuinely be the greatest moment of their little lives. Warning, also possible they will REALLY hate it. My sons have loved splashing in the pool, dancing to music and exploring new activities at this age. They have so much curiosity (and no fear) which makes everything awesome. all. the. time.
- Feeding and naps will be well established. Although both of my kids seemed to strongly resist any sort of schedule I imposed on them, by 9-12 months they had a somewhat predictable routine. They reliably had two naps and both MOSTLY slept through the night. At this point, they were both eating mostly ‘table food’ which made them much better travel buddies.
- Might be too mobile. One of our worst trips with a baby was Jamaica when our son was exactly 12 months. He had JUST learned to walk and when we arrived at our destination with slippery floors and lots of bumps and stairs, he latched on to daddy and basically didn’t let go of him for 7 days straight. Although he could ‘walk’ it sure didn’t seem like it for the 7 days he was there.
- Sleep regression. For both of our kids, the 9-12 month sleep regression was KILLER. On the same trip as above, our son woke up at 4 am every single night. I didn’t think our hotel room neighbors would appreciate any renewed attempts at sleep training so the only thing that kept him quiet was to bounce him UP AND DOWN UP AND DOWN in a baby carrier for an hour straight until he fell back asleep. Not fun.
- Separation anxiety. Thankfully, my hubby is a PROSTAR DAD who is quite popular with both my kiddos. In fact, until recently, he was definitely both boys ‘favorite’. As such, when we go on vacation, the kids typically need to ensure they have some sort of body part touching him at all times. Or ELSE. Sorry, Daddy! I’ll just be over here sipping my strawberry daiquiri…
- They won’t eat sand! Ok, they might put a little in their mouth at first. Usually, one taste will be enough to make them realize their mistake fast! Not eating sand = not having to be constantly hovering over them on the beach. Win!
- They may only take one nap. This is likely closer to the 18-month mark, but having only one nap a day allowed for a lot of flexibility when traveling. When our kids are napping two naps a day having a separate bedroom is a MUST for us. I am NOT going on vacation to sit in a dark room for hours on end.
- They know what they want, but don’t know how to tell you! Ok, this is pretty much the trend for the next 2.5 years, but I’ve found it all starts after 12 months. In fact, as I’m currently writing this post, my 14-month old’s favorite method of getting my attention is screaming at the top of his lungs. I have to admit, it’s quite effective. Until they are speaking in sentences, expressing what they want, and understanding why they sometimes can’t have it, is a constant battle. This is where choosing the right trip with kids is so important! Don’t pick a trip where you are going to be constantly saying ‘NO’ or no one will have any fun!
- This is the WORST age for the plane. Plane trips are especially hard at this age. 12-18-month-olds don’t like to be restrained and have NO IDEA why being on a plane would require them to stay in the same place for HOURS. AND unlike 18month+ babies who can be entertained with iPad apps on the plane, they aren’t too enthralled with the iPad either. I keep my plane trips <4 hours at this age and try to plan at least a short nap on the plane to pass the time.
SOOOOOO…What Is The Best Age to Travel with a Baby?
Our favorite age to travel with a baby is definitely 3-6 months. We have now done 3 trips at this age with our two kids and each one has been a success. Ah, the blissful long stroller walks! Casually enjoying lunch while baby naps in the stroller or carrier. Not needing to think about food and not needing to worry about illness it’s a perfect age (IMO) to travel with a little one. After 3-6 months it’s all downhill until age 3.5 (Sad but true!!).
What is your favorite age to travel with a baby? Drop me a line in the comments below to let me know your experience traveling with a baby!