Travelling with young kids and packing for a family vacation with little ones is an art. Travel blogger and mama Natalie Preddie of The Adventures of Natty P & Co. has travelled with her toddler 7 times in just over a year.
We caught up with Natalie to chat about what’s in her suitcase when she’s jetsetting around the world for family travel, and her best tips for taking a family vacation. Read our interview with her:
tripcentral.ca: You’ve been travelling and blogging for years on your own, or with your husband, so how has your travelling style had to change since having your son?
Natalie: I think my audience is still looking for an exclusive, somewhat luxury, experience, and they don’t want that to change now that they’ve had a baby. So when I’m travelling and writing, I’m still looking for that same sort of feel, that same story, but just to include a little one, as well. In some ways, the destinations I’m travelling to have changed: I’m not going to be backpacking southeast Asia with a baby, but other destinations I’m just looking for different experiences when I’m there to fit the family vacation storyline.
tripcentral.ca: So if someone told you that they feel they have to give up their dream of seeing the world because they’ve started a family, what would you say?
Natalie: I’d say you can totally still see the world! It just takes more planning than you would have beforehand! A baby carrier is going go to be your best friend, it gives you hands to manoeuvre to do airports or streets, but I think ultimately, family vacations are just a different mindset.
You’re now responsible for someone else; but if you’re relaxed, your baby is feeding off your emotions so I think if you are stressed and nervous, babies can feel that and it’s going to make your trip harder. But also: don’t underestimate yourself. Don’t completely abandon yourself because this baby is now here. It just takes more planning and a bit more deciding what you want to do ahead of time.
tripcentral.ca: What sort of things are you doing differently now to plan ahead for travelling with your family?
Natalie: One of the big things is our flight times – we try to not travel anywhere with more than a 4-hour flight time because we know that Charlie just can’t handle that. And by flight time I’m meaning getting on the plane and then on whatever transfer you have in the destination to get to the resort or hotel.
But when it comes to planning a family trip I’m also looking at childcare options if it’s an all-inclusive resort: is there somewhere just for little ones that is safe and maybe has babysitters so mom and dad can have time to themselves, but then also working your naps around flights and travel, and food options to make sure that your little one is going to be comfortable and happy.
tripcentral.ca: Once you’ve arrived at a destination, how do you find your travel to be different?
Natalie: What I love about taking trips with Charlie is discovering new sides to a destination that I’ve been to before. When we went to New York City, for example, we went to the Children’s Museum of Brooklyn and Children’s Museum of Manhattan and it was this really, really cool interactive place that was really captivating. But I probably wouldn’t have found about them if I hadn’t been with him.
Travel also just gives me the opportunity to take things slower: with a baby you need to be flexible with your schedule and be prepared for things to not go your way so that’s allowed me to take different avenues than I would normally. Even just being able to wander down a street that I wouldn’t necessarily, because he’s napping in the stroller and I’ve got time, or meeting someone else with a baby and getting their ideas.
I think the best thing I could say would be to think of what you can do ahead of time to make your life easier, but once you’re there, relax and enjoy yourself. Just go with the flow as much as you can.
tripcentral.ca: Okay, probably the biggest question new parents are going to have. What do you pack when you travel as a family that is outside of the usual bottles and diapers?
Natalie: That’s a good question! I have an app on my phone that plays white noise. This is great to drown out hotel noise but also for some consistency, so you know your little one is going to go down for naps and bedtime. My other big one I can’t go anywhere without is snacks! Always snacks! They can be used for bribery, for entertainment — so many reasons, no matter where you’re travelling. You can never have too many snacks.
I think the other big one that people might not think of is an extra blanket. You can use this if the plane is cold, to create darkness in the room for nap time, to create a bit of a cocoon in the stroller for nap time and a space that’s theirs. If you’re stuck and delayed in an airport, you can put this down on the floor so they can have somewhere to stretch and play.
My other big two are either a baby carrier so you can be hands free, and create a personal space for the baby if they’ll nap there or when they’re little to just feel close to you and comfortable even if they’re somewhere loud and different, and a travel or umbrella stroller – something that is lightweight that still has a good basket for carrying things, even just back and forth to the beach. If you have one of these, you don’t have to stop when they’re napping: you can keep going by either flipping up a carrier hood or pulling down the visor of the stroller and giving them some peace and quiet while you grab a drink, or keep exploring.
We loved learning about how Natalie travels with her toddler! What are you top family vacation tips and must-haves?