By Linda Childers
Shelly Rivoli of El Cerrito, CA, initially thought her days of taking long, exotic vacations would be put on hold after the birth of her daughter, Angelina, now 4. “One day, when Angelina was an infant, I was bouncing her on my lap and I realized I could be doing that anywhere in the world,” Rivoli says. “By the time she turned 2, she’d crawled, cruised, or walked on 4 continents and a handful of islands, and had a brand new sister.” Many new parents might cringe at the thought of traveling with a baby in tow, but some travel experts claim that with proper planning, vacationing with your baby can actually be a fun and memorable experience.
Rivoli used her own experiences to make the process easier for other new parents. Her book, Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children , is full of tips on how to make traveling with your little one a fun experience. Rivoli’s first vacation with her husband, Tim, and new baby was a family camping trip. She advises new parents to start small when planning that first trip. “The best vacations for babies under 3 months are car trips to see family and friends, train trips, and short cruises,” she says. “When your baby is between 3 and 6 months of age, you can begin contemplating overseas travel.”
Rivoli says that one of the biggest benefits of traveling with your baby is affordability. “Until your child turns 2, they can fly free on your lap for domestic flights and for 10 percent of your ticket on international flights,” Rivoli says. “Many cruise lines, all-inclusive resorts, and tour operators also don’t charge for infants under a year old.”
Lisa Cork, author of the books, Baby Travel. Toddler Travel. and What To Pack and Where To Put It, says one of the most common questions she’s asked by new parents is what to pack for a trip with their baby. “I created comprehensive lists that are available on my website to ensure that new parents think of everything,” Cork says. “The lists cover everything from what clothes to pack for a newborn, to taking along a roll of clear packing tape to child-proof a hotel room.”
Cork, who divides the year between California and New Zealand, speaks from experience. By the time her son, Luca, was 2 years old, her family had taken more than 55 airline flights and had spent 6 months traveling. She says one of the most challenging aspects of planning a trip with a new baby was locating family-friendly accommodations. “New parents are busy and don’t have hours to spend online.”
Executives at Disney Family also realized the lack of travel information available for new parents and decided to include age-appropriate travel planning ideas on their new website, disneyfamily.com. “Many of us at Disney are parents and we saw there was a need for a user-friendly website that could give parents ideas on the best places to vacation with their baby,” says Emily Smith, a mother of two young girls and vice president of the Disney Family group. The free Disney Family website lists travel tips for a number of family vacation destinations complete with itineraries for different ages such as babies and toddlers, places to stay and eat, prices, ratings, and insider tips.
New parents can also work with a travel agent who specializes in family travel. Staci Blunt, a mother of two, and owner of Family-Friendly Vacations in Mesa, AZ, is one of many travel agents across the country that specializes in booking family trips. She says some of the best destinations for new parents to travel include Mexico, Hawaii, cruises, and Disney vacations. “There are several Club Med locations in Ixtapa, Mexico, Sandpiper, FL, and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic that offer programs for babies ages 4 to 23 months,” Blunt says. “Little ones can enjoy naps and enjoy puppet shows and other activities while their parents take a break knowing that their little babies are being well-cared for in a nearby location.”
Blunt says all-inclusive family resorts are a good vacation and value option for families with babies. In addition to Club Med, there is Beaches with three locations in Jamaica, and Turks and Caicos, and Breezes in the Caribbean. Visit superclubs.com for a complete listing of all-inclusive resorts. Several cruise lines allow babies as guests. Disney accepts infants as young as 6 weeks old, while Carnival, Norwegian, and Princess cruise lines have programs for children as young as 2 years old.
For new parents who enjoy snow sports, resorts in Jackson Hole, WY; Lake Tahoe, CA; and Telluride, CO; offer programs where your baby will be cared for while you hit the slopes.
In addition to working with families to determine a vacation within their budget, Blunt says a family-friendly travel agent can help with family-friendly hotels, car rentals, and securing reservations with a company such as Baby’s Away that will deliver a crib, playpen, and even age-appropriate toys to your hotel. “Using a service like this makes it so much easier for parents,” Blunt says. “They don’t have to worry about packing a lot of equipment.”
Blunt took daughter, Tara, on her first road trip when she was 3 months old. “I believe in getting children accustomed to traveling at a young age,” she says. “Let’s face it, most new parents could really use a vacation.”
- Getting around
- Andrea Gonzalez-Lewis of Martinez, CA, brought lightweight umbrella strollers that allowed her and her husband, Bob, to take their twins through airports on their way to Hawaii without having to carry them and juggle luggage at the same time.
- Airport security
- Perhaps the most challenging part of the family’s trip was going through security at the airport. “Security made us empty the contents of our carry-on luggage which contained electronics, creams, etc.,” Gonzalez-Lewis says. “Our shoes and the twins shoes had to be removed, and the strollers put through the scanning device. I wish the airports would allow parents with children to go through a separate security line because of the amount of time it takes.” In short: Dress the whole family in slip-on shoes.
- Liquid on the plane
- Changes to airplane carry-on guidelines from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have left some new parents confused as to what can and cannot be brought on board. Check the TSA’s website to determine whether or not you can bring formula on board.
- Car rental
- The family also located a family-friendly car rental company in Hawaii that had a van waiting for them at the airport complete with car seats. Most companies offer child safety seats, but there may be limited availability, so it’s important to reserve in advance. Child safety seats can range from $2 to $10 a day, depending on the rental company.
- Gonzalez-Lewis also booked a hotel that provided two cribs in the room for the twins. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), encourages parents to ask ahead of time if the hotel or motel in which they are planning to stay has a system in place to ensure their cribs meet national safety standards.Linda Childers has also written for Redbook and Heart Healthy Living magazines. She enjoyed an Alaskan cruise during her pregnancy and a Mexican Riviera cruise with her son shortly after he celebrated his second birthday.