With the ink now dry on our travel blog, and life (mostly) returning to normal, it's time to return to this space to share my experiences during our recent trip to Ireland. And what better way to start than to rehash the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Traveling with a young baby has many advantages. Our son was not quite six months during our trip, and I am going to confidently go out on a limb and say that it would be much harder to travel even a month later considering his increased mobility and strong desire to explore. But while we were traveling he was extremely portable. He spent most of his time in the carrier, where he was able to look around and interact with all the new people and places around him. We rented a car to better see the countryside, and the baby mostly slept while in the car. When he wasn't sleeping, we would sing songs and play games. Speaking of sleeping, he adjusted to the time difference really easily. He didn't sleep on the overnight flight (too much to look at, I guess) so he was really tired upon landing but he just slept in the carrier or stroller while we walked around Dublin on the first day. It took him a couple of days, but he was on local time before I was. In terms of food, I was still exclusively breastfeeding, so no need to arrange for food for him or deal with any associated mess. For the most part, bringing him along with us didn't cost any more than if we had traveled alone. Probably the best thing about traveling with a baby, other than just spending time together, is that it makes your whole trip a little less serious. Taking care of a baby forces you to live in the moment more, not be too tied to an itinerary and just see where the day takes you. People smile at you more when you have a baby, and that's always a good thing, but particularly when you are away from home.
It was a different kind of trip than the one we took two years ago before we were parents. There were certain things that we just couldn't reasonably do, like stay out late at a pub, have a long leisurely meal, or climb a mountain. We couldn't exactly sit around and people watch, because at least one of us had to be watching the little person we had with us, and he only has so much patience for sitting around. It probably goes without saying, but there is not a lot of room for romance when you have a baby in tow, you're scrambling to find places to change him and adjusting to a new time zone. You kind of need to lower your expectations, or at least broaden your definition of romance to include those moments after your baby goes to bed but before you sleep that you can spend with your partner. Sharing some snacks and bottled water in your hotel room may not sound sexy, but after a long day it's nice just to share some quiet time together.
If we didn't accept that these kinds of things could (and likely would) happen, we never would have left home to go to the airport. I admit, I had a few "what was I thinking?" moments. When I was really tired and suffering from jet lag, when the baby was really tired and cranky, it just seemed like a bad idea. There were a couple of incidents when the baby cried at inopportune times and I just wanted to disappear. Think of a time when you were traveling when you felt exhausted or stressed out, and then add a tired baby. That would suck, right? On the way home, one of our flights was canceled and we were stuck at the airport for five hours after a seven hour flight, and when my son was crying, it was beyond feeling embarrassed, I felt like a bad parent. I had willingly put my son in this situation, and he was hurting. You don't get a vacation from parenting when you travel with your child, and that can be stressful if things don't go as planned. On our last day, my partner got sick. Really sick. We weren't sure if it was just from the ferry ride out to the Aran islands that day or if it was food poisoning, but he wasn't keeping anything down and was completely wrecked. That night I laid in bed mentally preparing myself to carry the baby and all our gear--my partner would have to fend for himself. My stomach was doing backflips and I started worrying that maybe I was getting sick too. I just can't, I told myself. My mother never got sick. So I didn't. We got through it, just another little hiccup during an otherwise amazing trip.
Traveling with a baby is a lot of fun. In a lot if ways, being a parent away from home is the same as at home. It's tiring, surprising, entertaining, and at times messy. If you like your child and you like traveling, I don't see why you wouldn't combine the two. For us, with no family around to look after him, bringing him along was the only option. Honestly, I couldn't imagine spending two weeks away from him at this stage, and it was so much fun having that time to be a family. We never felt so much like a unit--a real family--as we did during those two weeks. Taking care of a baby might not sound like much of a vacation, but when you're on a trip of a lifetime, there's no one more appropriate to have with you than the newest love of your life.