With my first kid, I did maternity leave all wrong. I went back to work way too soon, far before I was feeling physically or emotionally up to it, and I struggled a lot as a result. As soon as we got pregnant with baby #2 (many years later) I made myself and my family the promise that I would do maternity leave right this time. I would give myself more time to recover and get to know my baby, I would be present (no checking my work inbox), and I would try to make the most out of my time at home with my family, really enjoying and immersing myself in this short stay I had with them before going back to being a full-time working parent.
One thing I really wanted to do while on maternity leave was TRAVEL. I have pretty much worked my whole life, ever since I was a teenager. Having a few months off was a new thing to me, in a very welcome way. Plus, my toddler has a serious vagabond soul and LOVES traveling, so I knew with a trip we could make some really special memories together as a new family of 4. However, the thought of traveling with a newborn baby was relatively terrifying to me. They are so small and delicate, and airports are so dirty and busy! Plus with this modern-day anti-vax movement that is happening, herd immunity is getting ruined and diseases are spreading in 1st-world countries that had once been eradicated. Lastly, let’s get real that there is nothing ‘vacation-y’ about maternity leave… waking up late-night for feedings, breastfeeding and changing diapers all-day, every-day… I wondered if a vacation with a baby getting me up every 2 hours at night would feel like a vacation at all.
After baby was born it took me a few weeks to start feeling up to anything, but once I was feeling more myself again I was loving it! I had a very uncomfortable pregnancy so it was liberating feeling like a real person again. We quickly booked a trip to Leavenworth (a snowy little Bavarian town in Washington) right around Christmas time so we could enjoy the holiday vibe together. Over Thanksgiving I told my sister-in-law (who had a baby the same day as me, BTW!) about our plan, and she revealed they were thinking seriously about a family trip to Hawaii! Obviously my little travel plan instantly sounded lame and she got me thinking about doing something much bigger. She told me they were finding flights from Seattle to Hawaii as little as $350 in addition to some killer deals on VRBO rentals. They shared the idea of us splitting the rental and doing a super affordable trip with them, celebrating our two new bundles of joy in the family.
The idea sounded amazing… the weather in Washington in winter is dismal and a beach getaway would be perfect. It took us about a month to agree and nervously pull the trigger, but come January we were on the beach in Hawaii! Our final thought that tipped the scale was that having a newborn baby is hard, but we could just sit at home and let it be hard, or we could sit on the beach and enjoy some sunshine while it was hard. Sit on the beach won 🙂
It turned out that some of the things I was afraid of ended up being non-issues. I had worried about my baby crying on the plane, but she was a doll and slept peacefully almost the whole flight. I had been terrified about people getting sick with all this time spent in busy airports, but not so much as a sniffle was picked up. I had worried about troubles breastfeeding and pumping while out of our element, but we found or rhythm and things (though they had their glitches) and baby was happily fed. I returned to work almost right after getting back from our trip, and when people asked me about how maternity leave was, I found myself sharing pictures of my chunky baby in her swim suit with a big smile on my face and great stories of how much fun we had on our first family vacation.
Don’t get me wrong… traveling with a toddler and a 2-month old baby was super stressful. My husband and I fought over pointless stuff because of it. My toddler melted down in public way more than once. Plans fell through. We didn’t make it to half the places we wanted to visit on our list. However, if you asked me if I would do it again I would give you an enthusiastic “YES” without having to think twice, because at the end of the day the good memories we made can never be replaced and were totally worth any struggles!
So, if you are reading this and debating traveling with a small baby, here are some tips I would like to pass along to you that I hope you will find helpful and encouraging 🙂
First of all, DO make the decision to travel! As I mentioned earlier, my perspective is that you can sit on your couch and breastfeed your baby, or you can do it from some exotic location on your bucket list. Bucket list away! It will be a memory you and your child will cherish your whole lifetime.
However, DON’T overdo it. Remember you are traveling with a baby and that the more layovers, flight time, time in the car, etc. you add to everything, the more stressful it is going to be. Book a direct flight if you can. Don’t pick a location half-way across the world that is hard to get to. Stay in a metropolitan area close to hospitals if you are nervous about safety. Pick hotels in reasonable driving distance of the airport so you don’t have a long trek on the days you arrive/depart. It is your own sanity you are messing with here, so I suggest taking this one seriously!
DO research and write a list of all the things you want to do/see while on your trip. I kept a journal dividing up the attractions I wanted to hit by area. I made sure I searched for family-friendly activities and restaurants ahead of time and had a list of them, so when it was time to plan our day I already had an idea of what we could do that was appropriate for our group with a toddler and baby in-tow.
DON’T write a super planned out minute-by-minute itinerary for the trip, because you will just be setting yourself up for disappointment. There were a few days where baby was up fussing at night, and it really took us some time to get us up and out the door in the morning. We attended a luau one night and had to leave about half-way into the entertainment as our children started getting tired and attention spans ran short. You are going to have to wing-it a little, but that is okay! Cross off things you did do in your journal so you can see what you accomplished, and the items you weren’t able to do will just have to be on the list for your next time.
DO come super prepared! Make a huge list of all the essential items that you absolutely use every day at home, and either come up with a plan to bring them or rent them where you are going… if it is essential at home then it is going to be essential on your trip! If you are going to a hot, sunny destination, make sure you have all the sunscreen, hats, and other protective sun gear you need (don’t rely on being able to buy them when you arrive). Bring a variety of clothing choices so that you are prepared for all sorts of weather. My sister-in-law and I both purchased these little tents for our babies and they ended up being an absolute win for beach time! Without them the beaches would have been way too hot, but they were the perfect source of shade and allowed us to get kiddos down for naps on the go. Our travel bassinet was essential for having a safe place for baby to sleep too.
This travel bassinet is what we got with our first and I love it! I was able to fold it up in my big suitcase and it has made countless trips with our family.
DON’T go into your trip expecting the vacation to feel like vacations did before kids. You aren’t going to be out at bars and restaurants late nights partying. Those nights of drinking games have been traded for ones spent putting kiddos to bed, pumping and having a lactation tea followed by a reasonable bed time. Your day isn’t going to be totally carefree, and you likely will have to make your plans around nap times and breastfeeding schedules. That is totally okay/normal, but you just have to go into it with the right mind set that just because things are different doesn’t mean they aren’t fun!
Lastly, DO relax, enjoy yourself and savor every moment. Our precious babies are only little so long and these will be some of the best moments of your life!
If you have any questions or are looking for more details on how we made our trip work, please feel free to message me and ask.
Bon Voyage 😉
X.O. Abbey Co.
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