Going on a vacation with baby in tow, how is it different?
We have traveled from Burlington Ontario, to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic twice now with babies – once when my first child was 5 months, and once when my second child was 11 months. We aren’t experts by any means, but can say that going on a vacation with baby certainly presented some unique challenges. Here are a few tips that can make going on vacation with your baby a bit smoother.
The second time around, we chose to travel with our friends – another couple and their two children who were a little older than our two. It made a world of difference having some extra hands around, and playmates for my older child.
The extra hands are key in many scenarios. For example, when your juggling a million bags and a baby AND a coffee at the airport. When your older child suddenly has to go to the bathroom at dinner and your spouse is up at the buffet. You get the drift.
Having playmates meant my older child was never bored, complaining, or acting out for our attention. When eating at the resort, he had two little friends to chat with and the adults could enjoy our dining experience.
Airplane travel with a baby is never fun no matter how much you prepare and how many Baby Mum Mums you pack. There is just TOO much unpredictability at the airport, on the plane, during airport transfers, and at hotel check in, that your baby’s schedule is bound to get out of whack and they will become cranky.
We chose a child-friendly resort 15 minutes from the airport so there wasn’t much time after the airport travel to get to the resort. We also called ahead to request a crib in our child friendly room. Our room had two separate bedrooms so baby could have her own quiet space to rest while we unpacked.
If you have one of those super portable babies who will nap through an earthquake, you can skip this one. If you don’t, then it’s inevitable that you will be spending some time in the room while your baby naps. The first time I went on vacation with a baby, it surprised me just how much time I was in our room putting my baby for naps and waiting for him to wake. I kept longing to be out poolside enjoying the sunshine, and questioning if the trip was really worth it.
The second time around, I prepared for this scenario. During naps I listened to audio books on my phone, read magazines, and sorted through some of my personal pictures to pass the time. The resort also had two separate rooms, with balconies – so while she napped in her room, I could be out on my balcony enjoying the view and the weather, while sipping a mojito. I still felt like I was relaxing and enjoying my time, and less like a slave to the baby’s nap schedule.
Going on vacation with baby is never as relaxing as you imagine it. You are just parenting in a different place. There is also a lot of preparation before you travel, and a lot of “stuff” do to afterwards (laundry, putting everything away). So it is important to carve out some time to do something for yourself while you’re away.
Because we traveled with friends, me and the other mom were able to leave the kids with the dads and visit the spa together. We got massages, body scrubs and facials and felt like a million bucks afterwards. We reciprocated by taking all the kids another day so the dads could visit the casino. Win-win for everyone.
Our resort also had a Kids Club with lots of fun activities for the kiddos. I didn’t leave my kids there because I felt they were too young for the level of supervision provided. But if your kids are older, that might be another way to get some time for yourselves.
Because your baby requires a lot of your attention, it is good to carve out some time to make special memories with your older child (who will likely remember the trip the most). Taking them to do something one-on-one can be a great way to spend quality time, while not feeling like you are spreading your attention too thin.
Our resort had no shortage of fun activities for my older child – bowling, water parks, mini golf to name a few. He had one-on-one time with each parent during our stay and made some great memories.
When traveling before kids, it was a no brainer to plan a few excursions away from the resort. You could just get up at the crack of dawn, board a speed boat, and venture off to a remote island for some snorkeling or sight-seeing. This is much more difficult with little ones. Getting them out the door on time, preserving eating/sleeping schedules, and even doing those types of activities, sometimes isn’t possible.
Just remember that kids can be equally entertained doing simple things. I took my son for a ride on the resort’s shuttle (which looked like a train) and he thought that was the cat’s meow. Another day, he went around collecting coconuts and had a grand old time sorting them all with his playmates – AND it kept him busy and happy for a couple hours. So don’t put too much pressure on yourself to plan a week of super fun excursions. There is SO much for your little ones that’s new for them to see, that you’ll be surprised how quickly you can fill your time.
Prior to our trip, our very smart travel companions made us restaurant reservations for each night. This saved us SO much time and stress because we didn’t have to plan where we were going for dinner each night, or wait for a table.
Every night we had a dinner scheduled early enough for us to enjoy before the kids started to get too tired and cranky. Our resort had many awesome restaurants to choose from in addition to the buffet – Teppanyaki, French cuisine, Italian, Seafood, and a Steakhouse. Enjoying them all was one of the most memorable and delicious parts of the trip. We even had time to visit the coffee bar after our meal most nights, before putting the kiddos to bed.
I brought my camera but only took it out at select times. It is actually a bit of a pain having to look after a camera (or your phone if you use that to take pictures) when you are vacationing in a tropical place. There’s water and sand around which can damage it, and there’s not always a safe place to leave it when you are out and about.
I typically bring my camera out two or three times during the trip, and that’s it. I plan to document certain things like the kids at the beach and pools where we spent most of our time, what the resort looked like, the foliage and wildlife, and some family pics of course. That way I know the memory of our time there will be preserved, and the rest of the time I can be fully in the moment.
Above all, going on vacation with baby is worth it. You will make some great family memories that your little ones will love to look back on. Remember though, that vacationing with a baby is never like going sans kids. Being realistic about this will help to avoid disappointment.
There is definitely more work and planning involved, and there will be moments of chaos and tears. But also moments of true joy that you and your little ones will cherish forever.
I hope this was helpful to you if you are planning on traveling with your little one(s)! Thank you for reading. We loved our time at Barcelo Bavaro Beach Palace in Punta Cana Dominican Republic and would definitely go back!