My alarm went off at 4:00am. I showered, dressed, and pumped. I packed the milk while my husband ever-so-gently woke Cora at such an ungodly hour and changed her. She babbled along as if it were 9am. I fed her and then we put her in her car seat, which was strapped into a massive caravan. The rest of us piled in and off we went to JFK Airport.
Off we went.
Yes, maybe I’m crazy. Last week I flew with my husband, my in-laws, and my six-month-old Cora to sunny Anguilla. Actually, we first flew to St. Martin and then took a (very) small 8-minute chartered flight to Anguilla.
I was so anxious about the whole thing – making it through an airport with a baby, flying with the baby, feeding the baby, keeping a baby busy on a plane, and flying on a very small plane, again, with a baby.
Cora handled it all with much more grace than me, but here we are, back in New Jersey to tell the tale.
My husband and I love to travel, and we always said that we didn’t want having kids to hold us back from doing the things we love. So I figured it was time to finally follow my own philosophy. There were a million “what-ifs” that came with traveling with a baby, but there are a million “what-ifs” when it comes to simply (or not so simply) having baby. So we packed up (that’s a whole post in and of itself!) and went.
The vacation was blissful, chaotic, and at times stressful. HOWEVER, watching my daughter experience some of my favorite things about life (the ocean, different places and cultures, etc.) was pretty incredible. And completely worth the stress about nap schedules.
On one of our last days on the island, we visited The Dune Preserve, a hidden away, ramshackle treehouse-like bar on the beach. It had been destroyed in the hurricanes last year, but its owner, Bankie Banx, and his family had worked tirelessly to bring it back to life. There he was, enjoying his afternoon in paradise selling t-shirts from behind his bar, each printed with his life’s motto: “It ain’t easy, but it’s alright.” I laughed to myself at how well his message and his general attitude matched how I felt that week. Somehow stressed and blissful all at once. Traveling certainly reminded me that motherhood is never easy, but that everything was and would be alright.
A few things we brought made the journey a little easier. Hopefully they work for you too!
- Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder – We only recently started feeding Cora solid foods. While Cora has seriously loved everything she’s eaten, we didn’t want to try anything new in the days leading to vacation or while on vacation (just in case she had an allergic reaction). On the trip she had avocado, sweet potatoes, bananas, blueberries, and broccoli. This mesh feeder was amazing because before we had a chance to steam and blend anything up for her, we could just stick some chunks of banana inside and she could feed herself! The handle is super easy for her to hold, and it was great fine-motor and hand-eye coordination practice for her. It also occupied her for at least 30 minutes. We brought it to lunch one day and the restaurant brought out half an avocado for us. That again bought the rest of us some time to eat and enjoy the ocean views all while providing the restaurant staff with plenty of entertainment (Cora was quite popular with the locals). My mother-in-law said that of all the contraptions and gadgets us new parents have these days, this one trumps them all. So simple, yet seriously a game changer. Get it for all your pregnant friends!!
- Summer Infant Convenience Stroller – We Amazon-Primed this last minute, just a few days before we left for the trip (tangent: mom, how did you survive without Amazon Prime?). We couldn’t decide how we would get Cora through the airport. Carrier? Our stroller? Hold her? Carry her in her carseat (um, so glad we didn’t go with this option)? I was “team carrier” and Zach was “team stroller.” Cora never really liked the carrier from the beginning, and is not patient getting in and out of it. Zach thought it might be risky trying to use it in the airport for this reason (and he’s not really a fan of it either), but I didn’t want our expensive stroller getting banged up in the plane. And there was no way I was lugging the carseat around. So, we bought this umbrella stroller and I’m so glad we did! It was so light, easy to get Cora in and out of, had some storage under her seat, and steered really well. We got a great deal on it and I knew we’d use it again. We brought it with us almost everywhere on the trip because it was so easy to toss in the car.
- Sunscreen – This one is pretty obvious, but I was sort of a nut about Cora’s sun exposure. She was pretty covered with hats, sleeves, and umbrellas most of the time, but when we did bring her into the water, I needed to make sure her skin was protected. I used the Beautycounter Countersun Sunscreen, which is a mineral sunscreen (always choose mineral) and she had zero issues! It felt weird slathering her perfect six-month-old skin in sunscreen, but I always know that when I reach for Beautycounter I’m choosing something safe for my family (first priority) and also safe for the oceans. I reapplied often just to be safe, and she stayed her fair little self. This article from ThinkBaby.org does a great job of summing up the importance of using safe sunscreen with your baby. While I am currently loving Beautycounter’s Sunscreen, the author also suggests a number of other alternatives. Blue Lizard is fantastic! (P.S. check out the rest of the articles on ThinkBaby.org — there are so many relatable and helpful posts on all things motherhood!
- Sun Hat – Okay, first of all, Cora looked dang-adorable in this hat so she’d probably have worn it even if it was raining. Second of all, it stayed on her head (win), and it shaded her face and covered her ears and neck (win). It also is made of UPF50 material that dries SO quickly when it gets wet. The little toggle in the back will make sure she can wear it for the next few years. I’ll probably pick up another next year because I love it so much. Zach’s mom got us this and it was such a great purchase! For your reference, we used the i play Baby Sun Protection Hat.
- Baby Banz Earmuffs: I’ll admit we only used these a few times on the trip, but we were so grateful that we had them when we needed them. We used them on our small flight from St. Martin to Anguilla. It was a short trip, but between the engine and the propellers it was very loud. Cora was completely fine and unaffected. She nursed to help her ears adjust to the altitude change.
- Sun Protective Swimsuits: These were another gift from Zach’s mom. I had plenty of cute little swimsuits, but I just didn’t feel like they were enough to protect Cora from the Caribbean sun. These suits had sleeves and were very protective. Sometimes they got hot, but we just brought her in the water or unzipped her in the shade to cool down. This one was from Vivafun on Amazon, and it provided great coverage. We also had this long sleeve top from i play which was very lightweight and easy to wear with swim diapers. We used these ALVABABY swim diapers.
- Cold Bottles: When we first started giving Cora bottles, I was fairly obsessive over heating them to JUST the right temperature. We figured out quickly that Cora just wants to eat and she could care less about the temperature of the milk. Most of the time, we heat her bottles so they are warm and soothing, but when we were out and about on the trip we sometimes just gave her the bottle right from the cooler. Honestly? I bet that was so, so refreshing for her! It was so hot on some days that I think it would have been weird to be drinking warm milk. Our favorite bottles are the Dr. Brown’s bottles.
Things I wish I had:
- Carrier: While I’m so glad we brought the Umbrella Stroller with us, I still think the carrier would have been awesome to have. Sometimes Cora (and any baby, really) just wants to be held. And when those situations happened, we had to carry her plus our luggage. We also would have been able to take her on more beach walks and she probably would have fallen asleep.
This trip was once in a lifetime. My husband and his family have been to Anguilla before, and I’ve been hearing stories about it throughout the 8 years we’ve been together. I was so thrilled to finally go and experience it through my own eyes, and BONUS, through my daughter’s eyes too. Traveling with a baby is no joke and not for the faint of heart, but I can put a big, fat, check next to that item on my “Do-With-A-Baby” bucket list. And, for sure, we will do it again with a little bit more experience.
Have you traveled with a baby or small children? Where to? What made the trip easier? I would love to hear your stories and experiences so I can dream up our next adventure! Leave me a comment below! Also, is there anything else you’d like to hear about our trip (activities, food, our specific experience with flying, etc)? Let me know!