After traveling with our infant for the first few months, we took some time off when Charlotte was 5 months until she was 8 months old. A lot of that had to do with the winter holidays (we stayed in Durham and most of our family traveled to us) and we got hit hard with some major sleep issues. During that time off we learned a lot about our baby and were able to regain some semblance of sleep. Once the holidays passed, we decided to start moving around again and knew there would be challenges, but also wanted to reap the benefits of showing our little one more people, places, and things.
Travel with an Older Baby
(6 months to 12 months)
This guide to travel with an older baby is the second in our series on baby travel and our broader section on travel with kids. We’ve also created a guide on travel with an infant baby (0 to 6 months) if you’re seeking even more info.
Gear for Travel with an Older Baby
To stay as minimalist as possible, we’ve given away some things from the earlier months. We haven’t changed car seats, though she might be too big for our current one in a couple of years. Many people like car seat stroller combos and I’m always impressed when seeing one in person. Some major additions to our travel gear selection include the collapsable Umbrella Stroller. It takes up way less space and is much easier to lug around than our jogging stroller. We also still carry her a lot in our Ergo 360, especially when we’re outside or hiking with our baby. However, another carrier that has been awesome for travel is the Maya Ring Sling. It’s small and lightweight and perfect for strolling. Charlotte pops on Mom’s hip and can still see the world!
These items and more feature in our Ultimate Travel Packing List for Your Older Baby!
More NAP Planning
One of those things that we learned was that little Charlotte needed some more structure to her naps! Gone were the days of “napping anywhere” and sleeping in coffee shops. We started to feel like a prisoner to the nap schedule. We could only go out and explore during that 3-hour window when she was awake. And really, that turned into two hours once we got her diapered and fed on both ends of the nap. As people who want to get out and move around, we couldn’t stay captive for too long. We’re still able to go places, but with her naps staying in the back of our minds when planning trips or things to do.
More Food for Baby
Our world suddenly got a lot messier! Feeding time when we travel with an older baby no longer just means popping a boob out and hoping for the best. Now, we require more eating gear when out and about. The diaper bag that used to hold just some diapers and our Nikon now has to hold baby puffs, pouches, disposable tablemats, and a rubber bib. We found that our little one chews on absolutely everything, so throwing a disposable tablemat down helps from germs and also from her gnawing away at the wood. Most restaurants that don’t have a tablecloth on tables are at least kid-friendly enough to have high chairs.
Preparing for High Chairs & Messes
We have a travel high chair but have rarely used it because that’s just one more thing you have to lug around. That being said, 90 percent of restaurants we’ve traveled to are not the same height as their highchairs. Either way, expect a massive mess from your little one and a massive tip left for the waiter or waitress. We clean up as much as we possibly can. I don’t want to be THAT jerk that brings a possibly shrieking baby in AND leaves a giant mess. So we do our best and leave a nice tip for the hassle.
Feeding her “Real” Food
When it comes to feeding this little monster, I usually give her a bit of what I’m having. I’ll scrape the salt off some French fries or throw her some veggies. If we’re eating something that has a lot of spice to it, I’ll order her a side of fruit and give her some puffs and a pouch. We’ve even asked a couple of restaurants to slice up a couple of veggies or whatever they have in the back for her and they’ve graciously done it without any extra charge.
Maybe Getting “Sleep”
We’re going to take a minute away from travel with an older baby to talk about…Sleep. Now, sleep is like fight club when you’re raising a kid. The first rule is that you don’t talk about it. But for transparency, we need to talk about sleep for the moment. Our kid doesn’t sleep well. She used to sleep every time I went out in public. My friends thought I was lying because we’d go out for coffee and within 10 minutes, she’d pass out in my arms. Then things got real and we had to get her on a schedule. Once we established that and some routines, life was great again!
Overcoming the Fear of Changing Routines
But we were stuck. I could only go out if she was awake and found myself not seeing my friends or only going to the grocery store between naps one and two. My fear to mess with her schedule was due to those many sleepless nights and I was starting to get used to having “longer” stretches of sleep. I knew I’d have to let go of that fear, though. We’d eventually want to start traveling again and I was terrified. What if she didn’t nap while we were out? What if she screamed her head off the entire night in the hotel room?
Our First Trip
Our first round of travel with an older baby was stressful for me. Charlotte handled the long drive to The Outer Banks very well and slept okay during the night. Around naptime on our first full day there, we put her in the Ergo and hoped for the best. She showed signs of wanting a nap but was squirming on Daddy’s back and wasn’t having it. After 40 minutes of walking around, we gave up and put her in the car and drove around. That actually worked and she got a nap. Luckily, we weren’t on a tight schedule that day and we could drive around. We’d sightsee and I’d get out and take some photos. We’ve now done this for several trips and it, unfortunately, seems to be the ticket right now.
What Works and What Doesn’t
We usually plan our events around predicted wake times and try to be in the car driving somewhere during naptime. If she doesn’t’ fall asleep, we always just hope for the best! So far, this interruption of naptime hasn’t ruined our lives. She crashes hard on our long drives back to Durham. Charlotte catches up on the first day home with some longer naps, and all becomes right in the world again. Sporadic naps do seem to affect nighttime sleep when traveling. She tends struggle going down for a bed in her Pack ’n Play because she isn’t used to it. At home, we use a floor bed, so the walls of the Pack ’n Play are strange and upsetting to her. She’s gotten used to it for now, but every new hotel is a new strange place for her so it takes some adjusting.
Travel with an older baby can be stressful and hard, but it can also be rewarding. In her short life, Charlotte has hung out on top of mountains and in the ocean. She’s seen historic houses and even dabbled in some of the delicious food we’ve experienced (so far, her favorite is brisket!). She smiles at every stranger and has made friends all over. Traveling with our baby has taught me to slow down and enjoy the things and the people around me and to always smile. It’s such a wonderful world and I’m so happy to be learning more about it with our little one. If you’re struggling with the idea of traveling with an older baby, we totally understand and hope you’ll use this as a little inspiration to keep trying!
What do you think of the way we’re traveling with our little one? Got any similar stories you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section below:)