This past week my wife, daughter, and I spent a week in the Dominican Republic and while it was
beautiful and nice to be away from the daily grind, it was exhausting. Traveling with a 1 year old is
stressful enough, especially on a trip that pushes roughly 5 hours of air time but factor in early
departure times and layovers and unfamiliar scenarios for a baby that has a very structured life at home and things start to get even more stressful. She did great (and my wife deserves all the credit) and we are so blessed to have a baby that is well behaved but overall I think as parents we stress ourselves out, right? We make ourselves so anxious about the hypothetical “what ifs?”, that we drive ourselves crazy when at the end of the day we all get through it and we survive and everything is ok. I think people tend to put themselves in bubbles and need to realize that millions of people travel with children and have been forever so you are not alone. People understand the complications and stressing yourself out only rubs off on the people around you. Stay calm, ask for help when needed, and know everything is going to be ok. Something that really helped us, and I think can help anyone traveling with a young one, is scheduling your departure times as close as possible to the babies nap time and/or sleep schedule. For instance leaving early in the morning will allow the baby to fall asleep for a large portion of the trip, and for us our daughter naps around 1 p.m. every day so scheduling flights mid-afternoon allows her to eat, have a bottle, and fall asleep. I also had a friend suggest to me that using a sound machine not only helps at home but the sound is very familiar to the rumble of the plane so your child will be used to the rumbling from the plane’s engine. Every little advantage helps you and your little one make the trip better for all parties.
Many may disagree but to me the traveling is 1B, I think the hardest part about traveling as a young parent is the sudden realization you can’t travel like you used to. As young adults we are used to jet setting to wherever we want, exploring new locations, trying new foods, seeing the sights and sounds, staying out late getting drinks with the locals, and then sleeping in late and hitting the repeat button. When you have children though, especially young children, your agenda doesn’t matter. There is no more lying out on the beach and reading, there is no more hour at the swim up bar, there is no more casino after dinner, there is no more excursion to go zip lining, your entire day needs to be planned around your baby. Breakfast comes early, pool time is interrupted by nap time, and when everyone is heading out for drinks and dancing, you are winding down for bed time. This is just a fact of life, your life in general changes the second your baby is born but I think we all still have that little selfish part of us that thinks we can still do a lot of things we did before. Reality hits hard though and quick. Your new reality needs to be embraced and honestly take advantage of it. Have drinks on your patio while the baby naps and take advantage of going to bed early, it is vacation after all right? Catch up on sleep!
I would say this past trip was an eye opener for my wife and me. Leading up to the trip we would kind of make plans and project what our days might look like but until you are truly there you have no idea. You can never assume what or how your baby will react to being in a strange place with people they don’t know and unfamiliar sleeping arrangements. We were lucky enough to have family around to help us but even on those nights you are allowed to sneak out for dinner and drinks do you really want to feel a little “groggy” in the morning? Your baby doesn’t exactly care if you are feeling a little hungover. I think the best thing to do is to establish that routine with your partner early. For us we would wake up, take care of the baby, grab breakfast, hit the pool with her, head back for a nap, grab lunch, get some more pool time in, change for dinner, eat, then head back to start to turn down routine for her. We established this routine early on and kept to it day in and day out without exception. Doing this helped the baby to have a familiar routine and become comfortable in an unfamiliar environment. It takes a lot of dedication and will power but it pays off in a well-rested and calm baby. Remember a marriage is a partnership so working together helps keep everyone focused and relaxed in a stressful surrounding.
On top of the stress of traveling and then settling down into a new location as vegans we have an
additional layer of complexity. What are we going to eat? Will the baby have enough options? These questions are getting easier and easier to manage but there are still so many unknowns while traveling. What we did before leaving was pack an extra suitcase with non-dairy boxed milk and lots of snacks. These can be found in any grocery store but we found Oat, Pea, Almond, and Soy milk in boxes at Whole Foods. This allowed us to not worry about milk spoiling and ensuring we had enough for the week. We were able to give our daughter the same milk she is used to at home and then store it in the refrigerator once opened. We were lucky enough to stay at a resort that had extensive options including but not limited to an Indian buffet station that had a wide array of vegan options. This was kind of our haven each and every day. We could not really go to any of the restaurants anyways due to them opening late so having a buffet available with cuisines for everyone’s pallet was a godsend. What also helped was being in the Dominican they obviously had an endless supply of rice, beans, and mangu (mashed plantains) that my daughter enjoyed and has even had at home. Add to that the fruit station and the various soups, roasted vegetables, pasta, and even mashed pumpkin (which she loved) and she enjoyed the variety of foods we gave her.
In Summary I would say never feel scared about traveling with an infant, while stressful don’t ever worry about other people’s opinions for instance if your baby is crying on the plane then who cares what other people think, she/he is a baby and there is no stopping them from feeling uncomfortable. If need be get up and walk around to calm them down. If the people on the flight don’t have noise cancelling headphones then it’s their fault. Also use your partner or any other help you can as much as possible. Raising and taking care of a baby is a team effort and as you know there is no I in team. Lastly, don’t try and itemize your trip. Don’t try and make plans or go into the trip expecting to do certain things. Establish a routine and play it by ear, enjoy traveling with your family and showing your child new places and new experiences. It’s truly a blessing to be able to travel with your entire family so take deep breaths, prepare, and enjoy.