Our family just came back from our very first vacation together! We had a really fun, relaxing week away, which is exactly what we needed. We decided to drive to Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, which is a beautiful town outside of Myrtle Beach. Our little babe has been there twice now; this recent trip by driving down (13 hours!) and earlier when he was a little over six months old on a flight with me. Traveling with a baby either way certainly has its pros and cons so I thought I’d do a post sharing the details of both in case any of you are working on your own first getaway with a little one!
Flying with Baby
The first trip down was something of an adventure for me since it was my first time essentially flying alone, along with the stress of our son’s first flight ever. I was really scared that he was going to cry the entire time and upset other passengers so I packed everything possible, which I ended up regretting! However, flying is obviously much faster and although it can be a hassle getting everything together, it was so nice having to deal with the “travel” part of our trip for just a couple hours. I learned a lot on that flight though, the good and bad, so here are my tips for getting through it:
- If possible, keep baggage light. Especially if you’re traveling alone. At first I thought I would get the biggest bag possible as my “carry on”, but it ended up being tough because it was heavy and most of the stuff I brought wasn’t used. Thomas was more interested in looking around at everything and not the toys/books I brought. I do suggest bringing just one or two favorites if your baby is older than 6 months, along with a new toy just in case (especially for long flights!).
- Put your baby in a baby carrier and try to avoid bringing the stroller. They can easily be rented and it’s much nicer navigating through an airport when they’re attached to you. It’ll free up your hands for your own luggage! Plus going through security is easier as well since you don’t have to take your baby out when they’re in the carrier but you do when they’re in the stroller.
- Before flying I read that it’s good to make your baby look its cutest on the flight since you don’t want people upset when they see a baby come on board. That to me was the biggest waste of time! lol Thomas ended up soiling his diaper pretty badly and trying to deal with all the snaps/buckles/details of that cute outfit was the worst. I suggest going with the easiest outfit possible. A simple onesie is perfect and make sure you have bags to put dirty clothes in. On the way there and on the way back I ended up having to try and find baggies to put his clothes in because they were dirty. The stress of that, while my baby is crying naked in an airport bathroom was just…ugh. You might even want to consider buying cheap white onesies that can be thrown away if they get too bad.
- Try and book that window seat if you’re nursing so you have a little bit more room and more privacy. Also try to choose a flight time during nap time so they will hopefully snooze for most of it!
- Board early! They will let you on first with a baby so take advantage. It was great getting settled in before everyone else came on.
- Make sure they’re eating during takeoff and during landing. That was a big one! Also something that I wasn’t expecting was my son didn’t want to nurse. He didn’t want to go under the nursing cover because he was upset during takeoff so have a bottle prepared too! I bought water before boarding the flight for formula, but you can also tell your flight attendant when you get on board that you need water for a bottle. They most likely won’t charge you the ridiculous price for a water bottle and will just get some for you. You’re also allowed to bring a bottle of breastmilk on with you from home.
- Bring a blanket to help keep them warm during the flight. There’s always someone who has to put on that air nozzle so it’s blasting in your face!
- Lastly, just relax. Your attitude about a flight can either make it stressful or not. I tried to keep that in mind as problems arose. The way back Thomas cried a bunch but instead of getting upset I just did my best to keep him happy. If he bothered anyone, oh well. Most people are very understanding and will help if you need it.
I can honestly say flying wasn’t that bad, even though problems did come up that I wish didn’t. But that’s life with a baby. Most of them happened before the flight and once we were up it was fine. You know your baby best so just be prepared for their best & worst!
Driving with Baby
We decided to drive down the second time so we could have the use of our car when we got there. Our son is now eleven months and really active so we wanted to bring his pool float, beach toys, etc., which can easily be packed in a car. He also eats a ton of solid foods so it was nice to pack some fruits and veggies for him instead of trying to find something to buy at the airport. We drove a little over 13 hours with just a couple stops to rest. The hardest part of this trip was just the amount of time you have until your destination. However, if your baby is fussy it’s easy to just stop for a bit. It’ll delay your ETA, which stinks but the rest time is worth it!
- While flying it was better to pack light, I feel like it’s the opposite for driving. If you want to make it through for longer stretches, it’s good to have a lot of tricks up your sleeve to keep your baby entertained. Since they’re stuck in the seat without much to look at it’s good to have snacks/toys/more toys/books/more snacks/etc. to entertain them for as long as possible. Also, have someone sit in the back with them for easier feedings and play time.
- We expected our son would sleep through a bunch of it. He did not. So towards the end he got cranky. If you have a long trip it might be a good idea to split it up. We considered stopping along the way, but my husband was determined to get there in one day. The end was tough but we did it! The good part about that is you don’t have to deal with another long trip the next day and can start having fun right away, but it’s nice to have a backup plan in case you can’t make it.
- Although you want your baby to go through long stretches, it is still very important to also build in time to stop. Make sure you get out, stretch your legs and maybe find a spot of grass that you can eat and let your baby play for 20 minutes or so. It’ll keep everyone happier. When Thomas had time to stretch his legs, he was much happier getting back into the car seat again.
- Bring your own food! Stopping to get breakfast, lunch and dinners can add up quickly and there aren’t always a lot of food options available. It also takes a huge chunk of time out of your trip. It’s better to pack sandwiches, drinks, snacks, etc. to avoid spending a lot on food and can help you avoid more stops.
- Long trips suck up more of your energy. When we got to South Carolina, I was so beat that I just wanted to go to bed. It worked out fine since it was late at night, but even if it was earlier I probably wouldn’t have the energy to do much else. With flying, we were ready to have fun when we arrived.
So Which to Choose?
If I had to choose one to do over again, I’d choose driving. I know flying is 100x faster, but to me driving gave me more control and made more sense economically. I also like to know what I’m getting into, and with flights there are just too many unknowns. There are several options if things go awry while driving. With flying you’re pretty much stuck and kind of have to deal with whatever happens.
Don’t fret if you’d prefer to fly though! Flying gets easier with babies & children the more you do it, and when I traveled it was alone. Having my husband there would have changed things dramatically so if you have help that’ll make things go much smoother. If not, ask for help! You’d be surprised at the kindness of strangers.
Anyways, hope this helps any future vacationers out there! Remember, your attitude can make or break a trip so don’t stress about the little things. In the end, it’s not worth it and you’ll forget all about them once you get to your final destination!
Did I forget something? Mention it below! xoxo