I’ve heard it before: new parents wouldn’t even consider traveling with their young child(ren). Reasons may vary (too expensive, too tiring, unsafe for their children, etc.) but the bottom line is that they’re not going to do it.
As a parent who started traveling internationally with their young child at 7 weeks, I’m here to ask young parents to reconsider and offer 4 tips to make that trip a little more feasible. Sure there will be frustrating moments (or days) and yes, having a young child probably means (at least it should mean) no clubbing or bar hopping into late hours, less time to relax by the pool or beach, segmented activities due to frequent feeding schedules, and just a lot more luggage... but it doesn’t have to be all grim. Traveling with a young child(ren) can help you and your spouse navigate new situations and grow closer together, help you experience culture through the lens of young parents, and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Here are 4 tips that I would advise to young parents considering traveling with their child(ren):
#1: Travel When They're Young
It might seem counter intuitive, but the younger they are the easier they are. Once you get past the first few (approximately 4 - 6) weeks with your newborn, I’d say you are ready to travel abroad. At this point, they are still sleeping A LOT (most babies under 2 months need about 18 hours of sleep per day) and can sleep pretty much anywhere, even in loud settings.
On the plane, young children will need to be held or placed in a bassinet (request a bulkhead seat when possible). If there happens to be an empty seat next to you, they may be placed in their carseat and strapped in. Children under 2 years old (also referred to as “infant in arms” or a “lap child”) are free when traveling domestically. When flying internationally, airlines typically charge 10% of the ticket fare per infant in arms.
Once children get standing or walking (usually around 1 year), they can get harder to travel with, especially on planes. While their feeding schedule may be less frequent than the young ones, they are more fidgety and need to be entertained a lot more, so dishing out the extra cost of another plane ticket will pay dividends the closer they approach two years old. In sum, traveling with a young infant has plenty of advantages over traveling with a toddler.
#2: Invest in a good stroller
When abroad, chances are you will be walking a lot and maybe even taking public transportation. Investing in a good stroller will make your life easier, especially if you plan on visiting museums, taking public transportation, or exploring the city.
I haven’t had the privilege of trying out different strollers—especially abroad—but I did do a lot of research before purchasing our own. While there is no perfect stroller (OK, maybe if you want to pay $1,500), there are some great strollers out there at a decent price point. My wife & I felt that the new Tavo stroller by NUNA would satisfy most of our needs. Nuna is a Dutch brand, creating well-designed children’s products like car seats and strollers for an international market.
After taking the Nuna Tavo to Argentina with our 7 week old, the stroller did very well maneuvering through all terrains. From the uneven concrete streets and metro stations of Buenos Aires to the dusty roads of Patagonia, we had little to complain about the stroller. One of its best features allows seamless integration between the Nuna car seat and the stroller, so we could either keep our young one in the car seat or strapped in. While it is a little heavier and bigger than many strollers on the market, we found it still possible to travel by taxi cab through Buenos Aires and are able to check it plane-side when flying. While you don’t need to go out and buy a Nuna Tavo, I would make sure you are comfortable with your stroller’s size, maneuverability over uneven surfaces, ability to collapse, and integration with the car seat.
Tip: Go for a trial run by spending a day walking around the downtown of your city. Try taking public transportation, cab, or Uber to get the full travel experience. This will help give you a realistic expectation for your upcoming trip.
#3: Look for special offers and/or special considerations
When traveling abroad with a young child(ren), you will be surprised to find how much effort has been made assist and allure young parents—even in less developed countries. My wife & I were surprised to find that when we landed in Buenos Aires, there was a special Customs & Immigration line for pregnant women and/or parents traveling with children. After a long overnight flight, avoiding a long line on arrival was a nice touch.
Do a little research on the places you want to visit. You may find special deals exist for children or discounts are offered to the entire family if visiting with children. For most people, money is one of the inhibiting factors to traveling abroad. The good news is that for most places, you will not need to pay for children and so you don’t have to worry about spending extra cash. Once they get older, you will need to start budgeting extra for food, entry fees, plane tickets, and the like.
#4: Don’t over do it
If you’re like me, sometimes you need a reminder that you’re doing too much—even on vacation. If you don’t hear it from your spouse, your child(ren) will help you slow down. Instead of getting to 3 or 4 different cities within the country, or going to 4 museums in one day, you might have to settle for 1 or 2. While you may see this through the lens of what you will miss, you can also look at it as what you get to focus on. Forcing yourself to slow down a bit will help you maximize each meal, experience, visit, and destination. It may even leave you wanting more—which is much better than leaving a place having no desire to return.
In sum, traveling with a young child(ren) is different than traveling solo or with your spouse, but it doesn’t need to be so grim. Take the opportunity to travel when they are young and with little-to-no extra cost because after they grow older, costs multiply very quickly. They may not remember it, but you have instilled in them—and in yourselves—the the confidence and ability to travel and embrace different cultures. Years later you will show them pictures riding the metro in a different country at 7 weeks old or strapped on dad's shoulders ready to board an overnight flight. They may just find the courage to travel on their own, experience the beauty that this world has to offer, and thank you for it later.
*At the time of writing, Tarjeem does not receive any financial or non-financial contributions from any company (travel related or non-travel related) for endorsing specific products or services.