Monday, October 30, 2017

Tips for Travelling with a Baby (6-12 months)

Mostar, Bosnia
We were so excited to embark on another family adventure and to introduce Adventure Baby to Europe. We spent four weeks travelling internationally with our 9.5-10.5 month old. Here are some things we learned that were different from our previous trip with her as a non-mover (for our 0-6 month-old tips, click here). We'll once again note that every baby is different and every couple has their own unique travel style, parenting philosophy, and and priorities. This is what worked for us on the road, so we hope you find something useful that fits with your adventures! Happy Travelling!

Tough critic...unimpressed with the falls in Krka

Packing List for Baby
We are notorious over-packers. For our previous trip with Baby, we took WAY too many clothes and toys. We promised ourselves that we were going to pair things down especially since we wanted our load to be hands-free for this journey (big backpacks, here we come!). For the most part, we accomplished our goal, and were thankful with our decision come travel days.

How much to bring is dependent a lot on your laundry plans. We stayed in rental properties, some of which had laundry facilities. We pre-booked all of our accommodation before our trip so we knew ahead of time that we would be doing laundry every 7 days. Our baby isn't very messy and rarely has a diaper explosion, so we didn't need a lot of clothes for her. We spent the first half of our trip in Croatia where it was warm (20-25 degrees most days) and the second half in Bosnia where it was cooler (12-20 degrees).

*A side note about laundry...we brought a little ziploc bag filled with our detergent from home. This way, all of Baby's clothes and crib sheets would smell like home, hopefully giving her more of a sense of security and comfort especially at night.

Taking a dip outside Dubrovnik
3 short-sleeve onesies
1 t-shirt, 1 romper, 1 dress
3 long-sleeve onesies
2 long-sleeved shirts (one was a very lightweight white one that was good on hot days for sun protection)
1 lightweight sweater, 1 heavy sweater
3 pairs of pants
1 footless sleeper
2 sleepers with feet
1 fleece sleeper with feet
1 bathing suit and swim diaper
1 sun bonnet, 1 headscarf, 1 toque
3 pairs of socks
1 pair of watershoes (great for the pebbly beaches in Croatia)
1 pair of softsole shoes

Strolling the harbourfront of Korcula
2 bibs (Kushie's washables that dry quick)
8 washcloths
2 sheets for the Pack n Play
1 change pad
Travel wipes container
Pack n Play
Nursing Pillow
Inflatable bathtub & pump
Baby carrier
Travel high chair (see review below)
Wet/dry bag
Hand sanitizer
Cloth collapsible cooler bag
Medical supplies: d-drops, Baby Tylenol, saline drops, nail clippers, etc.
Simple baby-proofing supplies: elastic bands, pipe cleaners, plug covers for the country you're going to, etc. (in practice there were too many hazards so we just kept a close eye on Baby constantly rather than use any of these supplies)
Diapers (we are big advocates of bringing as many diapers as you can from home that are the right size for your baby because when you travel internationally, you have to be prepared that diapers will fit differently even if the brands are the same as at home).

We did not take a car seat for this trip. When we rented a car, we rented a car seat with it. We were even able to request a car seat for our day trip to Montenegro from Dubrovnik, which was very awesome to have!

Loving her chair
(there is a tray that attaches)
For feeding baby, we used the Summer Infant Pop 'n' Sit. We really liked this chair for travelling because it folds up small, is lightweight, durable, and can easily be attached to the outside of your backpack in the space where sleeping bags are meant to go. It's made of a lightweight fabric that does absorb liquids and smells so it needed to be washed weekly (more than just a wipe-down). But it was very easy to give it a quick scrub with soapy water and leave to dry on a deck or balcony. You could probably also take the cover off and throw it in the washing machine but we never tried that.

Enjoying the view (and lunch!) in Mostar

Inside Sarajevo's City Hall


At this age we found that Baby's best entertainment came from two things: people and food. She was most interested and happy when given the opportunity to look at and interact with strangers. On the plane, that meant playing a lot of peek-a-boo with whomever in our vicinity was willing, walking up and down the aisles, and waving to flight attendants. We kept her preoccupied before flights by walking her around the airport visiting friendly travellers. On buses and in the stroller we would encourage waving at people, birds, cats, trees...anything. She learned the perfect pronunciation for both "hi" and "hey" and used them amply to charm people on the street. We rarely took toys with us when we went out.

Sharing a chacuterie plate with Mom and Dad
on our balcony in Lumbarda
What we did take was FOOD. Now, our baby loves to eat and she's young enough that it still takes her a really long time. We used this to our advantage and tried the best we could to plan travel days around her meal times. We kept her favourites on hand (bananas, cut fruit, mushrooms, yogurt, etc), tried to choose things that take a while to eat (peas, cherrios, halved blueberries, etc), and always carried an emergency pouch from home that we knew she liked, a small container of just-add-water oatmeal, a spoon, and a package of crackers. An easy go-to recipe we used countless times for travel meals for her were chia seed pancakes. They're 1 egg, 1 mashed banana, and 1 cup of chia seeds. You can add blueberries if you'd like, but that's the basic recipe. So easy, so simple to find those ingredients, and virtually mess-free when eating (and they are GREAT for alieviating constipation!). We fed her when we wanted to sit out at a restaurant and have a drink, when we did our walking tour...basically any time we wanted to keep her happy and non-moving.

We went for small, lightweight, and diverse
So for actual toys, we did bring along a few things that came in handy. We tried to set up a little play area at each place we stayed with a few comfort items from home and things she hadn't seen before. What we hadn't thought of in advance is that most rental properties have tile or hardwood floors to enhance the noise of every toy dropped, thrown, or used in an impromptu drum solo. We wished we'd brought a few more softer toys and a few less hard plastic ones when considering our downstairs neighbours. The best choices were the three building blocks we found that we could squish down and elastic tightly together to save space when travelling, a couple of squirt toys that squished and she loved playing with outside of the bath, and the 1-2-3 Baby Einstein keyboard that she hadn't seen before. She spent the entire four weeks figuring out how to work it and was so pleased with herself when she finally did. :) We also brought a handful of thin paperback story books for bedtime (not pictured) including Sleep Tight Little Mouse, her before bed book since she was born, and her stuffed bunny who she sleeps with. (Shh..don't tell her but we also brought a back-up bunny just in case Bunny got lost somewhere!)

Walking along the sandbar in Lumbarda
People told us ahead of time not to worry about taking any toys at all and we'd probably pass along the same advice. At this age, the babies we know seem most interested in playing with the things you use. So cups, wooden spoons and pots, clothespegs, java jackets, water bottles, cell phones...all those everyday items that you'll find in your surroundings became her favourite toys. If you want to have some back-up items for the plane, a common idea is to get a bunch of little dollar-store items and wrap them individually ahead of time. Hand one out each hour on your flight or as needed and hope that the fun of unwrapping each thing draws out the enjoyment of the toy. Long haul flight can admittedly be stressful. Just remind yourself that the flight will end eventually. Nowadays, people are so plugged in to their devices that a crying baby isn't as annoying as it used to be. Planes are's really only the immediate people around you who will notice if your baby is being fussy and nearly everyone is understandable.

Accommodation & Pace
Adventure Baby takes over Split!
We loved our trip to New Zealand and Australia when Baby was 3.5-5.5 months old but it was tiring! We spent a lot of time on the road, saw a lot from the car, and stayed in many beautiful locations. This worked because she was still young enough that she spent a lot of time sleeping and was happy to sleep in the car seat or stroller. Going into the trip we knew we were going to have to plan our days around her two naps as ever since sleep training our baby only wants to sleep in her crib.  We KNOW... "don't plan your life around your baby." But her sleeping well is crutial to us enjoying ourselves so except for a few special occassions, we trudged ourselves back to our accomodations for each of her naps.

Early morning walks in Sarajevo's Stari Grad
What this meant was that we needed to stay in places that were central to the sites we wanted to visit. We chose to pay a little bit more so that it was easy to just pop out the door and do something for an hour or two. We also chose to stay exclusively in rental properties (mainly AirBnBs). This meant that we had enough space to feel comfortable for the few days we would be there. We found 2 bedroom places if we could so that Baby could have her own room but we at least had one bedroom so that she could sleep undisturbed for her nap times and at night without cramping our style. We had much more freedom for doing our own thing than if we were in a hotel room.

For this trip we chose to stay in places longer and keep travel to a minimum. It worked really well for us with her at this age. She wanted to be crawling and moving around, not stuck in a car seat, carrier, or stroller. It's all about knowing your baby and what they are capable of. If they're unhappy, you're probably going to be unhappy, too.

A huge advantage to off-season travel is that places aren't booked up solid. At every place we stayed, we asked our host if we could have a late check-out and were granted it with no extra charge. That made our travel days so much easier because Baby could nap in her crib and then we'd get up and go. It never hurts to ask!


We outlined the basics of air and car travel on our 0-6 month post, so for a recap, click here.

What we'll add is that we really recommend paying in advance to get a bulkhead seat. Ideally, your baby will sleep in the bassinet provided. If not, you at least have more leg room, which is especially helpful if your baby isn't sleeping and wants to move around. We found this to be essential at this age.

The hottest topic on travelling with children blogs is jet lag. There are two camps: try to adjust your child's schedule to the time change before you fly or wait until you arrive at your destination. We are firm believers in waiting. For us, the journey is the hardest part. We want to be as well-rested going into it as possible (baby, too!) so that it's easier to survive. We have found that our child adjusts to the new time zone way faster than us. Maybe babies have an easier time because they are used to sleeping more throughout the day? Or maybe our baby is just a super-star international jet-setter. Whatever the reason it took her less than 48 hours both there and back (6 hour difference there, 8 hour difference back) to get back to her regular sleep routine. We feel that the number one thing you can do to help yourselves get onto the correct time, no matter how far your journey or how many time zones you leap over, is to arrive at your destination in the late afternoon. Our baby usually goes to bed around 6 pm. Landing at 4 pm local time was perfect. By the time we got our bags, cleared customs, transfered from the airport to our accommodation, set up her crib, gave her some food, ran through her bedtime routine, it was 6:00 pm local time. That meant we had a moment to shower, eat some take-out, and go to bed at 7:30 pm local time. You will be tired from the journey and you'll sleep. You might not wake up at exactly the right time, but with some water, exercise, sunlight, and hearty meals the next day at local meal times, it won't take you long to get back on track.

Selfie attempt at the top of Dubrovnik's old town walls
Above all, enjoy this amazing opportunity to spend time together as a family. Your baby might not remember the sites you saw or the borders you crossed, but she will hold on to the feeling of being with parents who are happy and excited by new places and experiences. 

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