I had a baby in September and as you might expect, Wylie had a passport appointment within a few days of being born. My husband and I didn’t want to do an international trip too early, though, so we cured our wanderlust with a few West Coast road trips during the fall and planned a trip to South America for right after Christmas. Wylie would be just under four months old, a sweet spot we’d been hearing for traveling with baby, and we wanted to take advantage of it. The holidays were a whirlwind and I had a cold by the time our trip rolled around. On the flight to Buenos Aires Wylie slept soundly for seven hours in a bassinet the flight attendants will fix to the wall if you have bulkhead seating. I was a mess, blowing my nose and coughing, and getting very little sleep, but he was an angel.
Justin and I were exhausted by the time we arrived in BA. After passing through customs, we quickly paid for a taxi and then went off to our Airbnb. We were dropped off at the address Justin had been given, but something was off. We were at the pin, but the building number we were looking for was not there. Justin ran around searching for the address while Wylie and I sat in the shade (it was a sweltering 80 degrees with humidity). He couldn’t find it. Finally he went to a cafe with internet and eventually figured out we were in the wrong location. Our apartment was half a mile away. We finally made it and after a shower we fell asleep hard for four hours. Wylie napped right along with us.
Those first 48 hours were by far the most challenging of the trip, but none of the drama had to do with Wylie. It really was just the regular hiccups that come with international travel. Things smoothed out from there and we enjoyed dinners out, activities like horseback riding and wine tasting and relaxing at the beach. I came away from the trip feeling like Justin and I were able to do all the things we would have done had it just been the two of us. Travel with baby requires effort, but travel, good travel, always requires some work. I feel very resolute in saying you can travel with baby. Here are some tips I picked up along the way.
Less is more
I think the hardest thing about traveling with a baby is packing. Some of the packing lists out there will make you want to shelve the trip all together. Of course you need to be prepared, but I think an important part of traveling with baby is realizing that it’s probably not possible for you to be prepared at every moment for every scenario. This adventure will require some improvising. Certain things are necessities– stroller, diapers, diaper cream, clothing, swaddles, burp cloths, and baby wipes, but unless you are going to a remote place, it is possible to purchase things you need at the destination. Pharmacies across the globe carry diapers, bug spray, baby tylenol etc… So, if you forget something or run out of diapers it’s not the end of the world.
Teamwork is key
I love horseback riding and it’s a wonderful thing to do in South America, so before we even went down Justin told me he’d be willing to watch Wylie while I did some riding in Mendoza. I chose a ranch called Estancia La Alejandra. Justin and Wylie were able to spend time in the charming 100 year old guest house while I rode and then we all had lunch together. In Uruguay, there was another horseback riding opportunity and so I urged Justin to go. We were staying in Garzón, a former staging post in the Uruguayan countryside at a famed Argentine Chef Francis Mallmann’s Hotel & Restaurant Garzón. The horses came right to our doorstep and Justin saddled up like a gaucho and took off across the town square with his guide while Wylie and I hung back at the pool and met Francis Mallmann who happened to be in town visiting the property for two weeks. I think both Justin and I had a wonderful time. While it’s fun to do things together, if you’re willing to divide and conquer you may end up having an even more memorable vacation.
Know your travel sweet spot
I have two sisters who had babies before I did and I’ve seen that as they become more mobile, travel does become a tad more difficult. This leads me to believe that an ideal time to travel with baby is from around one to eight months old. Truly take advantage of this time. Your baby probably sleeps a ton, is light weight, can fit in the baby bassinet on the airplane, and may or may not yet be grabbing for everything on your tray table. This also makes this the ideal time to maximize eating out. Wylie typically slept through dinner and that allowed us to savor some incredible meals on what we like to call our Francis Mallmann crawl at Garzón, Parador La Huella in Jose Ignacio and Siete Fuegos at the Vines Resort and Spa.
Splurge on transportation
For many years Justin and I prided ourselves on our ability to use public transportation to get to and from the airport and around cities all over the world. Well, when you have a stroller, car seat and luggage for three this is a lot less appealing. I’m not ashamed to admit that I will probably opt for a car hire or taxi to and from airports when traveling as a family and I’ll use Uber for getting around cities like Paris when it’s not possible to walk to our destination. It’s an added expense but ride sharing makes it doable and not having to navigate broken ticketing machines and miles of stairs with a baby and a stroller will help keep me sane.
Pick a destination that is in your wheelhouse
South America might seem like a pretty exotic place to go on your first big vacation with a baby, but we have good friends in Buenos Aires and Mendoza and Justin and I had been twice before so it wasn’t completely foreign to us. On your first international trip with a baby I recommend choosing something that isn’t too far outside your comfort zone and that allows you to do activities that are conducive to family travel. On this trip we did less museum visits and tasting menu restaurants and more asados with friends, wine tastings, swimming at the pool and playtime at the beach, all great activities to do with a baby.
Have you traveled with baby? Where did you go? Would you recommend it? Let me know in the comments below.