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8 Things I Learned Traveling With A Four Month Old

Traveler #3 has been with us for just four months and she’s already teaching me about travel – mainly, that it’s not going to be easy traveling with a baby.  Or maybe, it’s just not going to be easy traveling with her.  

I’ve heard stories from people traveling with a 6 week old, 10 week old, 3 month old, and 6 month old and they all seemed to be pleasantly surprised by how well their babies did.  I’ve heard that it’s easier to travel with a baby than with a toddler since babies are still immobile. I’ve also heard that babies under one don’t experience the pressure changes in their ears on flights.  It all sounded manageable enough.

We decided to take a “test trip” to Hawaii with Traveler #3 when she was 4 months.  Up until then, the only other trip we took involved a short hour long flight and a hotel stay when she was 2.5 months.  Apparently, a lot changes between 2.5 months and 4 months (you know, like, her cries get louder and louder by 4 months).  While there were all the typical things you’d expect from traveling with a baby (e.g., the extra luggage, potential crying on a plane, etc.), here are the 8 things I learned on our trip:

  1. It’s a good idea to get to the airport extra early.  We gave ourselves an extra hour at the airport so for domestic flights that usually require you to get to the airport an hour before your flight, we opted to go there two hours in advance.  This gave us a buffer in case we needed to change the baby, feed the baby, or feed ourselves. Between checking in bags, going through security, and looking for food, the extra hour flew by fast.
  2. TSA Pre-Check is extra helpful when you have a baby.  Since Mr. T and I both have Global Entry, we were able to zip through the security lines with Traveler #3 using the TSA Pre-Check lanes.  When we already have a baby to hold, it is extra helpful not to have to deal with long security lines, taking our shoes and jackets off, and taking out liquids.  Thank goodness for this perk!
  3. The jury’s out on whether it’s worth it to pay for a seat for the baby. Even though babies travel for free on flights until they are two years old, some people recommend that you buy a seat for the baby.  Well, we didn’t take that advice because the whole point of traveling with the baby now is because she’s still free on flights – duh. Luckily, we’ve found that airlines will let you bring the baby’s car seat onboard if you have an unoccupied seat next to you which we did (click here for my tip on getting the whole row to yourselves).  I guess if you have a baby that doesn’t mind sitting in their car seat, then that would make your flight a whole lot easier and make paying for that seat worthwhile, but because Traveler #3 hates her car seat, she was going to be a lap baby no matter what.  On the way to Hawaii, the car seat just took up room in the unoccupied seat.  On the way home, we gate checked the car seat and just used the extra seat to hold our baby carrier, sling, and pillow which brings me to point #4:
  4. The best way to carry your baby in your lap during the flight really depends on the baby.  Some people suggested we bring a nursing pillow and others suggested wearing the baby in the carrier.  Our baby is fickle and refuses to hang out in any position for very long so not knowing what would work best, we brought everything.  It turned out, the nursing pillow does help when I’m feeding her but not after that since our baby doesn’t doze off easily after her meals.  The baby carrier and the slings were helpful for a little bit but again, I think Traveler #3 likes to sleep in our arms more than in a carrier so we were only able to use the carrier and sling for a little bit.
  5. Benedryl does not work on all babies.  Yes, we considered “drugging” Traveler #3 helping Traveler #3 sleep through the flight with a small dose of Benedryl (pre-approved by her pediatrician) but when we tested it out on her a few weeks before the flight, she was not impacted by it at all.

    (This was the view we had from our suite.)

    (This was the view we had from our suite.)

  6. Ask for a hotel room that is quiet even if it means you’ll have no view.  When we checked in, we were upgraded to a one bedroom suite with a view of the ocean and Diamond Head.  For anyone who hasn’t been to Waikiki, that’s the view that everyone wants. Well, everyone except us… because at luck would have it, the hotel kicked off a show over the pool area every night at 8 and 9pm with a startling horn followed by extremely loud polynesian music and narration.  This music was blasting.  All our windows were closed and it still sounded like we had front row seats to the party.  Unfortunately, Traveler #3 goes to bed at 8pm Pacific time (5pm in Hawaii) and was startled awake crying when the hotel started its production at 8pm.  While I wish the front desk would have warned us that our room would be loud, I quickly learned that next time I’m at a hotel I’m going to specify that I need a quiet room even if it means we have no view (we did change rooms the next day — to a room with no view but at least we were all able to sleep like babies the rest of the stay).

    (Early to bed and early to rise meant we got to take walks in the wee early morning hours before the sun was up.)

    (Early to bed and early to rise meant we got to take walks in the wee early morning hours before the sun was up.)

  7. Babies don’t recognize time zones.  Traveler #3 just discovered the fun in playing with her own feet not too long ago so I guess I can’t expect her to register that Hawaii is three hours behind Pacific time.  As a result, we decided to stay on Pacific time while we were there which wasn’t ideal for us but at least it made it easier on the baby.  The fact that Traveler #3 won’t register time zone changes (and if she does, it’d take a long time for her circadian rhythm to adjust) has me rethinking the places we can travel with her.  Ugh, Europe is probably out of the question for a while unless we want to do all our activities at night.

    (One of the few times we were able to make it out to the beach.)

    (One of the few times we were able to make it out to the beach.)

  8. You can’t do a whole lot when you’re accommodating the baby’s napping schedule.  Traveler #3 napped about every 90 minutes after waking up so she’d have 3-4 naps a day.  Since she’s the type of baby that gets super fussy when she’s tired, we opted to head back to our hotel room to accommodate her naps, which meant we spent a majority of our “vacation” in the hotel room (that has no view).  Things would be different if Traveler #3 could nap more easily.

When we got home, Traveler #3 was clearly happy to be back.  She was all smiles to be in familiar surroundings again.  At four months, she’s already a creature of habit.  As for where we are taking her next, I’m really not sure now.  I’m starting to think that airlines allow babies to fly for free to make up for the fact that once you’re at your destination, you can’t actually do a whole lot… 😉

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Mark - October 9, 2014 - 11:22 am

That photo of the baby is so cute!

Trishia Jacobs - October 9, 2014 - 1:36 pm

I’m sorry to hear that Traveler No. 3 is not the “bestest” of travel partners:) I think the good news is that, in another year or two or three … kids being kids … you might find that she totally changes and traveling will be easier.

I appreciate your candidness in relating your experience. I am skeptical of travel blogs that always paint a rosy picture of traveling, and especially, traveling with kids.

Reading between the lines, I gather that you and your husband strive to be conscientious and considerate of your fellow travelers. This is something that many new parents forget — not everyone is crazy about babies. I know that sounds crass, but the truth is: I’ve been there and done that. At my age, I appreciate silence. I’ve been around parents who tune out their crying child while every scream pierces through my nervous system.

It will be interesting to see how Traveler No. 3 influences your future travel choices. Perhaps road trips or cruises may be better for a while. Whatever your decision, it’s very heartwarming to read how you are indeed putting the baby’s interests foremost even if it means sacrificing some travel fun.

JustWanderlust - October 9, 2014 - 5:43 pm

Thanks, Mark!

JustWanderlust - October 9, 2014 - 5:51 pm

Hi Trishia – Thanks for your note! I’m hoping that as Traveler #3 grows, she’ll be easier to bring out. Right now, it’s hard just to take her to the store! 😛 I was one of those people who couldn’t stand babies/toddlers on flights because I always happen to sit in front of one who likes to kick my seat or cry nonstop while the parents don’t do anything about it. I love Traveler #3 tons, but I do NOT want to be one of those parents! So…we’re definitely going to have to adjust our traveling style for a bit while we figure out how to manage it with a baby. And lastly, I’m glad to hear you appreciate the candor. Traveling is fun and all, but not everything about traveling is rosy – that’s for sure! Of course, the “less rosy” experiences make me appreciate the “rosy” ones that much more. 🙂

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