During this time in Jackson’s life, we traveled to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, Paris, the USA, Trier and Rudesheim, and two long road trips through the Balkans, Southern Germany, France, and Italy. I think we might be kind of crazy, and I’m not sure if it’s smart to travel this much, but, we’re only living in Germany for two years and we’ve wanted to take advantage of our close proximity to some awesome places.
I cannot say this age was any easier or harder than when he was younger. Because he had colic for 5 months, everything is relatively easier now, but without colic, I wouldn’t know how to compare it. He’s changed a lot during this period of time, and no week has been the same. It’s hard to give one-size-fits all advice, but here are some tips we learned.
Hello, world, sleep now dominating life.
I would consider sleeping to be the most difficult thing about traveling with a baby, and every baby is different regarding sleep. If a baby misses a nap, they get fussy, but it’s not the end of the world, and they’re remarkably adaptive. It’s far better IMHO to include your little one in the activities you love, rather than sit at home trying to get naps perfect.
At home, we co-slept with Jackson until he was 11ish months old, and that made the most sense when traveling. We always made sure to book a room with a large enough bed, or at least one double bed and one twin so that one parent could co-sleep while the other was in his/her own bed. For naps, if we weren’t “out and about,” we would have to lay with Jackson till he fell asleep, and that would take up to an hour of fussing. We always found it easier to have Jackson either nap in his car seat if we were driving, or in the carrier or stroller while we were out and about.
The most difficult time we had with sleep was when we spent ten days in Paris when Jackson was 12.5 months old. He was transitioning to his crib at home but still needed our help. We co-slept while in Paris, but we didn’t get much sleep because Jackson is very active while he sleeps, constantly making noises and kicking us in the face or ribs. He also refused to take naps in the bed, so I needed to use the stroller to put him to sleep, including at night. After a frustrating experience trying to participate in a walking tour of Paris, with a screaming baby who wouldn’t sleep, I realized I still needed to do our normal home nap routine even while out. Before his nap in the stroller, I would need to nurse him, sing to him, and if it was at all windy, put the rain cover over the stroller to block the wind. Sometimes he would only nap for 30 minutes and therefore need a third nap.
Our next trip to southern Germany we tried to co-sleep again, but it didn’t work, Jackson was used to having his own space in his crib, and we were all up all night in each other’s way. At one point Jackson scooted to the foot of the bed and fell off the bed while still asleep. He knows how to safely get off the bed. That was scary to wake up to! No more co-sleeping. Fortunately, the hotel had a crib, so we used that the next night and all got better sleep.
He is now 15 months old and I feel we have a different baby. He naps and sleeps best in the crib. We are currently on a road trip, so we brought our own pack-and-play, but if we didn’t we would only look for places that had one.
My biggest advice is to keep as similar of a sleep routine while you travel as you do at home. Co-sleeping vs. having his/her own bed. Reading a book, nursing, brushing teeth, whatever you do, can still be done while traveling. Sometimes you’ll have to weigh how important it is to go do something vs. your kid getting enough sleep. During our Balkans trip, Jackson’s naps were all over the place so we didn’t have to be in the hotel to nap, which made it easier for us to tour and see more during the day. I would say he napped best in the car seat and the carrier.
If you co-sleep at this age, you have to worry about your baby falling off the bed, even after she/he learns to get off the bed safely. If your baby sleeps 12 hours at night and you only sleep 8, what do you do during the extra time you’re not in bed? Pillows on the sides of the bed worked well until around 10 months, but then our son was so active they didn’t work well. I would not feel safe with him in the bed unless I was in the same room, actively paying attention to him.
Sorry, this has been long and with very little specific advice. I could go on and on about our experience, but it’s really up to you and your baby. You will have to learn what works best for you.
Flying vs. taking a road trip
Unless you’re only traveling a short distance, I personally think road trips make more sense during this age. You have to pack so much for your baby, it makes it so much easier to decide to bring everything you’ll use, then decide what’s most important. You also don’t have to interrupt nap time as much in the car (yep, it’s about sleep again). I also think road trips are so much more fun! (well, that is depending on where your road trip is).
Planning for your road trip
We’ve tried to keep our driving time (not including stops) no longer than 6 hours a day so that with stops, it’s only around 8 hours travel time. Not only because Jackson was eating solid foods, but also because he wanted time to stretch and move outside his car seat, each stop was around 1 hour.It’s possible to drive more, but it’s not fun. Depending on your child’s temperament, you might have to deal with a lot of whining and crying. No one likes to sit still that long, never mind a baby!
It’s nice having someone sit in the backseat next to your child, who can play with them and give new toys when they get sick of the one they are playing with. We kept a small bag of new toys with us in the car and would pull one out when he got fussy. Sometimes those toys would be empty water bottles or other random things we found in the car that wouldn’t be choking hazard.
If you want some tips for flying with an older baby (not yet mobile), here’s my post about flying with a 9-10-month-old
If you’re traveling to another country, I would recommend buying some of your favorite baby food before you leave. It’s not always easy to find easy/healthy food for your baby in every country, especially when you’re staying in tourist locations that only have tiny supermarkets. We didn’t do this on our trip to the Balkans, and we ended up feeding Jackson way more bread and French fries than I would like to admit. We did baby-led weaning, so from the beginning of eating solid food, Jackson would usually eat what we were eating, and this made meal-time easier while traveling. Sometimes we wouldn’t be able to order what we wanted because it was not baby-friendly. Even if you can’t find good baby food, you’ll usually be able to find bananas and fruit.
Depending on where you’re traveling, restaurants may not have a baby high chair or one that buckles (another child-dependent requirement). We purchased a portable chair-seat that we’ve used a ton. We either used that or the stroller at restaurants where there was no high chair. At a few Airbnb’s, Jackson just sat on the floor with his extremely functional bib
I think this is the latest age you don’t have to plan your trip around entertaining your child. Hiking, biking (with a trailer), going to museums, finding random parks with baby swings, going on a photo walk with Trey Ratcliff in Paris, etc, are all game. They do start to get more interested in their surroundings and it starts to get more rewarding finding things they do love (such as being outside, places with color, music, being in the water, the feeling of sand, stealing your sunglasses, etc.) You don’t need to work hard to find them something entertaining.
We enjoyed mixing it up between staying at hotels with breakfast, and Airbnb’s with a small kitchen. When we were short on time to go shopping for food, we liked having breakfast included. However, if we were at one location more than 2 nights, it was nice being able to grab a quick breakfast or lunch without having to find a restaurant and deal with a cranky baby. Size also matters, and while it is doable to spend ten nights in a 12 sqm hotel room (like we did in Paris), at least 20 sqm is more preferred. Even better if there is more than 1 room, so that your baby can nap in one room while you read/cook/chat with your significant other, etc, without waking your baby.
Snacks are very very important! Kids get hungry, and before they can tell you, they will cry. Snacks almost always calmed Jackson when he was cranky. They helped us enjoy a sit-down meal, while we waited for the food, he ate snacks. In the car, he ate snacks. When we wanted to enjoy a cup of coffee in the middle of the day, he ate snacks. You won’t always be able to find the same things from country to country, so if your kid is picky, bring along a supply of their favorites. Our child will literally eat anything, but we keep fruits, crackers, and snack bars ready.
While we used our lightweight travel stroller a lot, we used our baby carrier even more. It’s so much easier to be mobile and flexible without the stroller, but we also liked having the option of the stroller. Use both if you can. As they get older, a baby backpack can also become very handy. What you use and bring is completely dependent on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. We wouldn’t fly with the baby backpack if we can use the regular baby carrier, and we use the stroller when we know he needs a long nap while we’re out. By this age, you know what you’re most comfortable with.
Make sure you plan some time in your hotel so your baby can get some energy out. Once they start crawling, they will want to be moving all the time. If they spend all day in the car seat/stroller, it will be harder to get them to sleep. This is becoming more and more important as Jackson gets older, but easier once while he starts walking. We did let him crawl on the floor in select places that didn’t have disgusting floors, but I was still a little hesitant when he’s so young and putting everything in his mouth.
Enjoy this time! This age has been so much fun, especially while exploring new places!