When I had a baby in my belly, everyone told me to travel as much as possible when my little one was pint-sized. So, I did. My rationale: If life is going to be a round-the-clock cocktail of drinking (milk, obviously) and diapers, why not enjoy it with a change of scene, a dose of vitamin D, and a real cocktail.
To prep for our first big vacation with the wee, Mr. Trip Styler and I took a tiny test trip from our home in Vancouver, British Columbia, to Whistler. At the time, our son (a.k.a., Baby Styler) was 4 weeks old. We wanted to gauge how he (and we) would react to the newfound joys of tyke-in-tow travel: time in moving objects, hotel life, and eating out.
Within seconds of our arrival, Baby Styler ensured we were initiated into the “family travel club” by miraculously skipping his change pad, and christening the hotel bed and his entire body with a fountain of pee. Despite this small hiccup, we figured out our family travel flow (pun intended), packing essentials, and even managed to eat out at a few fancy restaurants while he slept beside us in his stroller.
High on the semi-success of our tester trip, we booked 10 days in California , including stopovers in Los Angeles and Palm Springs. We chose this destination for three reasons: first, it’s in the same time zone as Vancouver, which helped with Baby Styler’s ever-evolving sleep schedule; second, the flight south is only two hours long, in case he “lost it” at 35,000 feet; and third, we love L.A., and we’re devoted fans of the warm California sun.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this: I was so nervous about Baby Styler’s first flight, it’s possible nearby passengers could hear my heart beating. As it turned out, all my worry was for naught; in a stroke of sky-high serendipity, Baby Styler didn’t make a peep. (And, our plane was only half-full, which meant we were able to figure out flying with our little one without a big audience.)
Seasoned baby-in-tow travelers told me to feed our junior jet-setter on the way up and down, so I employed this method with hopeful determination. Here’s where it got embarrassing: When the method worked, the only one who wailed was me—I was so proud of Baby Styler, I started crying.
The only challenge we encountered aside from two hours of turbulence (to which Baby Styler didn’t even react), was a flight delay. In this situation, baby-less travelers just sigh, roll their eyes, and re-open their books. For me it was a little more complicated knowing the extra time would wreak havoc on Baby Styler’s feeding schedule.
As a result, in a moment of she’s-in-the-bathroom-a-little-too-long awkwardness, I abandoned any hint of self-respect, ducked into the lavatory for 15 minutes, and pumped into a bottle to make sure Baby Styler had enough nourishment. Aside from one traveler who vigorously pulled my locked lavatory door several times until he or she realized someone was inside, it all worked out. (Thank goodness for good locks.)
As gutsy as this might sound for new inductees into the Hall of Family Travelers, we decided not to book a traditionally family-friendly hotel with amenities such as loop de loop water slides or cute towel animals. That’s not our beat. Wanting our vacation to have the hope of being an actual getaway with our newborn (which I learned is possible), we decided to stay at two scene-stealing hotels where we could chill poolside, and enjoy some couples time at cool culinary outposts without even leaving the buildings.
Viewfinder Tip: When traveling with a baby, book a hotel with a bevy of amenities you enjoy. If your child squawks, your room is only an elevator ride away!
Since our trip was divided into two parts (urban exploration and desert sun-seeking), we chose to stay at the Downtown Los Angeles and Palm Springs outposts of Ace Hotels, an ahead-of-the-curve, edgy-luxury brand we know well from past, pre-baby trips.
Our decision to dive into family travel at a set of vibe-y hotels was confirmed when we mustered up the courage to walk into the open-air, rooftop lounge at the Ace Hotel in Downtown L.A. and ask if we were allowed inside with a baby. To our astonishment the host replied, “you are if you’re a hotel guest.” Sleeping baby + commanding view of the LA skyline + craft cocktails = mission accomplished.
In the desert, we experienced a similar stroke of traveling-with-baby genius when we requested a room with a private outdoor patio heated by a gas fireplace. Once the Palm Springs sun set behind the San Jacinto Mountains and our babe fell asleep, we sat in our little outdoor enclave with a bottle of wine and had our own version of happy hour.
To our delight—make that euphoria—Baby Styler napped at almost every eatery. To set us up for success, we fed him at the hotel, then dashed to each restaurant as he fell asleep.
At first, dining out with a baby was so nerve-racking we walked in with our heads held low and requested tables near the door. But, we had to try, a) because eating is essential, and b) we can’t sequester ourselves to a takeout-only diet now that we have a kid.
If Baby Styler cried, our action plan would have involved swiftly requesting our meals to-go, downing our drinks, paying the bill, and dashing out without disturbing the other patrons. Thankfully, we never had to employ this aggressive-yet-polite-to-others plan.
To our astonishment, of 30 meals out, Baby Styler only got fussy once when we dined at a hotel restaurant in Palm Springs. Determined to keep our cool, we took turns wheeling him around the quiet recesses of the lobby to lull him to sleep. After a few tours, his eyelids closed and we went back to eating tacos and toasting our traveler-in-training for bestowing his parents with the confidence to travel with a wee one.
What are your tips for traveling with a baby? How was your first experience?