In your pre-baby life, your biggest vacation worry was fitting all your sundresses into one suitcase, or choosing the perfect babymoon for you and your partner. Now you’ve got a car seat, a stroller and a week’s worth of diapers to contend with—and you haven’t even hit security. “The first time you travel with a baby is more of an experiment than a vacation,” admits Erica Duecy, deputy editor at Fodors.com and mom to a 4-year-old globetrotter. True, but with some thoughtful planning, you can organize a first trip that your little family will love. We tapped real parents and travel pros for their stealth secrets and assembled this list of family-friendly vacation destinations in case you need some inspiration. Get going!
Before You Leave
- Save Space In Your Suitcase
A mom to two young boys, lifestyle blogger Joanna Goddard (Cup of Jo) typically pre-orders diapers, wipes, baby food and even inflatable swim wings from diapers.com shortly before leaving her New York City apartment. Schedule the goods to arrive at your destination on the same day you do (there’s free two-day delivery) so you can travel lighter. It’s also a good idea to call the hotel’s front desk to ask what gear you can rent during your stay. When you’re already attempting to cram an entire baby-goods store in your luggage, every ounce counts.
- Pack a Family First-Aid Kit
You know to bring the basics—baby sunscreen, acetaminophen and bandages—but Hannah Chow-Johnson, M.D., a pediatrician at Loyola University Health System near Chicago, recommends taking an extra step: Request fresh prescriptions for any routine, necessary pediatric medications (e.g., for acid reflux or asthma) and fill them before taking off if you’re running low. “Most doctors are not licensed out of the country and can’t call in prescriptions to destinations like Mexico or Europe,” Chow-Johnson says. If your pediatrician OKs it, also bring a powdered electrolyte solution for diarrhea and dehydration and Children’s Benadryl for bug bites and surprise allergic reactions (in a pinch, it’ll also quell motion sickness in adults).
- Screen Potential Babysitters
Exploring new terrain with your tiny traveler is a thrill, but what’s a vacation without some adults-only time? Booking a sitter in an unfamiliar city can be tricky, but thanks to modern technology, you don’t have to hire him or her sight unseen. If you have a personal recommendation from a relative or friend, follow Goddard’s lead and schedule a Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangout convo with the potential local babysitter pre-getaway. “It’s a nice way to ‘meet’ a sitter and feel comfortable with her before leaving on a trip,” she says. “I’ve even held our older son Toby up to the computer to say hello!”
You can also call your hotel concierge to see if they keep sitters on staff. “Ask if they’ve already been vetted and had a background check,” Duecy says. If your resort has a kids’ club, you might also stop by to inquire if any counselors are available to work evenings. Duecy adds that if you use a nationwide child care service such as Bright Horizons at home, the company might be able to make a referral.