Should you travel with a baby? I remember asking this question while I was pregnant and getting all kinds of reactions.
If you’re like me and suffer from constant wanderlust, you know that it’s hard to simply table traveling. I didn’t travel much while I was pregnant because I suffered from constant morning sickness, so after we had our baby girl in October and got over the initial adjustment hump of life with a baby, I was desperate to go somewhere foreign. But now that we had our little baby girl princess, I wasn’t quite sure how traveling with her would go. Before Isla, we travelled far and light. Now with her, neither option seemed possible or smart.
Or was it?
Why couldn’t we travel with a baby? And why couldn’t we travel light with a baby?
Babies are present all over the world, so why couldn’t we take our baby to other parts of the world where others babies lived their everyday lives? I was tired of being told I couldn’t go places because I had a baby, and I was ready for an adventure.
Always up for a challenge, I packed all of my and Isla’s things in a carry-on suitcase and booked airline tickets for Barcelona, Spain. What was the worst that could happen?
I had a lot of expectations for the trip. I expected great architecture, great food, amazing sights and sounds in a city filled with life and culture. But something I really didn’t expect was how having Isla with me would greatly change my experience traveling.
The change started as soon as we arrived at the airport.
Samuel and I usually keep to ourselves when we travel places. We are never chatty with anyone because we prefer to stay in our own little bubble. Well, you can’t do that with a baby, especially with Isla. Isla is a very social baby and made friends everywhere we went. Starting at the airport gate, we met rangers from Alaska, and heard crazy stories about the wilderness and bears…all because they noticed Isla’s smile and started talking to us about kids. We got to know the hotel staff because of Isla. She was the hotel superstar for a week at the Olivia Balmes hotel. In the old days, we would have checked in with a hello and checked out with a goodbye. But instead we made friends for the week and learned so much more about the local scene because of Isla’s big smile.
Isla forced us to engage more with everyone from the hotel staff, to the waiters at all the restaurants, to people walking down the street with or without kids, to the people on the day tours with us. We got to know people and hear their stories from all over the world. It enriched our trip so much more to meet people who, like us, just wanted to see and experience more of the world. And in this current climate, it was nice to be around friendly people who just shared a passion for travel, food, and culture. It didn’t matter our political or religious backgrounds, we all just wanted to see a bit of Gaudi or eat impeccable seafood. We had countless conversations with the wonderful Spanish people that we wouldn’t have had if Isla had not been with us.
Another thing Isla did for us that was actually for our benefit was that she made us slow down. Too many times, Samuel and I have landed in a foreign city and tried to see every major and minor sight we could in the short time we are there. Talk about needing a vacation from our vacation when we got home. We would typically come back with jetlag, sore feet, and feeling more exhausted than when we left on our trip. But not this trip. We actually came back more rested, inspired, and refreshed. Because of a 6 month old baby. Talk about irony. We slowed down because taking a baby places naturally takes more time between feeding them, changing them, buckling them in, etc. But it was perfect because we actually took in our surroundings more so than we have in the past. Instead of rushing from breakfast to sightseeing, to more sightseeing, lunch, sightseeing, a cafe, more sightseeing, zipping from one sight to the next, we meandered the streets of the city and typically planned one or two sightseeing places a day. Since Isla loves walking outside, it was perfect. When it was time for a diaper change and a break for her, we would stop at a cafe, order some coffee and enjoy people watching. We would put her in the Ergo baby and just walk. We saw so much of the city by simply walking the beautiful streets. We got to soak up the lovely architecture and the culture because we allowed ourselves the time. Isla would start out by facing outward in the Ergo baby, and when she got tired we would turn her around, and she would nap. One day, we went on a 2 hour walking tour of Girona, and she slept the entire walk all over the city, up the walls, and through a Cathedral and a museum. It was amazing!
But by far one of the best experiences I had the whole week was just spending uninterrupted time with Samuel and Isla. At home, even on the weekends, it’s hard to get dedicated family time because there’s always something to be done. The house needs cleaning, the yard needs to be mowed, so typically Samuel and I switch baby duty on the weekends. What family doesn’t? We take turns watching her so the other can get something done. But on vacation with her, we both got to sit and enjoy her together. We got to watch her personality bloom together. We both got to enjoy her excitement in the city. It no longer felt like we were on “baby duty,” but instead we were enjoying a new place, a new culture together as a unit.
We left Barcelona with nothing but a positive experience not only of the city and the people, but also of traveling with her. Of course, it wasn’t perfect, she had a handful of meltdowns – what baby doesn’t? But that would have happened at home or abroad. And I’m of the opinion that you shouldn’t let your child having a meltdown stop you from experiencing the world. After all, if they don’t learn to travel young, when will they learn?
As Isla’s mother, it is one of my goals to show her the world, to show her how the rest of the world lives. I want her to have a broad perspective on everything, a full perspective. I don’t want her growing up thinking that her way and her life is the only “right” way to be. I want her to grow up knowing different cultures, different lifestyles. I want her to know other people’s struggles, others people’s triumphs. By starting her young, I hope she will grow up to be a very open-minded, but grounded individual because she’s seen and experienced more than just her backyard…and she’s not going to learn that by staying home.
So if you are thinking of traveling with your baby, please do it! You won’t regret it. It was amazing to have a full week just watching Samuel and Isla interact with one another. It was fun to experience a completely different culture with them and also see the world from a baby’s perspective.
Barcelona or Spain in general is a great place to start. It is very baby friendly there, and in my experience much more so than the States (shock and awe). No one batted an eye when we brought Isla into a restaurant, took her on a wine-tasting tour, took her on the rooftop of Gaudi’s La Pedrera, or kept her out late to watch the Magic Fountain show. Isla was just one of several babies in the crowd. I nonchalantly breastfed her while walking down the streets of the Gothic Quarter and on the balcony of Casa Batllo, and no one seemed to mind or make unnecessary comments. There were also changing facilities available everywhere and some establishments/restaurants even had mommy rooms where you could nurse or change your baby in peace and privacy if you wanted. Also some places like the MNAC (the National Museum of Art of Catalonia) even offered discount for parents with a baby.
The ultimate baby win in Spain was at the airport. They let us skip the 2-3 hour passport control line because we had Isla with us! Talk about a nice perk of traveling with a baby. And the big airport security line when we got to the airport to fly home? We bypassed that too. There’s a special area just for families flying out of Barcelona.
I’m telling you if you want some real #babylove, go to Barcelona!
Here are a few tips if you’re thinking of traveling with your little one:
- Feed them while the plane is taking off because it helps with their ears. We had a total of 4 flights, there and back, and the major meltdown we had was the one time I missed that window thinking her ears would be ok. All three other times, she nursed and passed out during takeoff and slept for a good while with zero problems.
- Wear your baby! You have no idea how much easier it was with her in the Ergo walking all over the cobbled streets of Barcelona. We also took the metro, and it was so easy getting up and down the stairs. Sightseeing was much easier too because we didn’t have to worry about storing a stroller at different places that don’t allow strollers inside. We could quickly and easily zip in and out of shops. Typically, I wore Isla, and Samuel wore a backpack that had her changing things as well as bottles of water and other things we would need throughout the day.
- Expect to go slower, but enjoy the new pace. The slower pace allows you to soak in more, but only if you’re not constantly worried about being behind on a schedule. The only time we put ourselves on a schedule was when we booked a tour. And we always allowed ourselves more time than we needed because you never know when your kid is going to need a diaper change.
- Ask about baby perks. Don’t be obnoxious about it, but ask if there are lines for families or discounts for families. You would be surprised what some places offer, especially in Europe!
- If you are flying anywhere, save room in your luggage and just buy your baby essentials when you arrive at your destinations. Babies all around the world need diapers.
- Most importantly – have the right attitude. Things will go wrong. But they would go wrong even if your baby wasn’t with you. Enjoy watching your baby watch the world. I know for us it was amazing to watch Isla soak in all the sounds and colors around her. We took hundreds of pictures, and I can’t wait to show her and tell her all the funny stories of her first International trip.
Go! The world is waiting…