published: 3/24/2023 | March 24, 2023
Everyone says you should stop traveling the world once you have kids. In this guest post, Christine from Be My Travel Muse shares how she’s been able to keep traveling the world—even with a baby—and the lessons and challenges that traveling with a baby has presented.
For nearly ten years, I myself have traveled to more than sixty countries on six continents.
If the 26-year-old, who was just beginning her solo travel adventures, had told me she would eventually have a baby, you might have looked to DeLorean to rewrite the script.
Traveling alone means absolute, intoxicating freedom. It doesn’t matter if you wake up and make a last-minute decision to leave somewhere or to stay for another two weeks. It didn’t matter if I completely upended my plans on a whim because of a new person I met or a new destination I became aware of. It doesn’t matter what I want to have for dinner or when. I could be completely selfish, which I loved at the time.
But the baby changes all of that.
My son is now six months old. He has traveled on 17 trips and has his own passport and global access card. While it’s nice to travel with him, he’s definitely very different in a way I wasn’t expecting.
These are the eight ways travel has changed me as a parent.
1. I’m looking a lot more than that
One of the great things about traveling by leaps and bounds on an open-ended trip in which you are rich in time (and in my case ten years ago, I was cash poor) is the ability to step back. Although I did some research for my year in Southeast Asia, I also knew I would learn a lot from the people I met along the way. Because of this, I didn’t want to set out an itinerary in advance or do a lot of research.
But now there is a lot I need to learn. What should I know about traveling with an infant? What kind of streets and sidewalks am I on? (This will determine if I just brought a baby carrier or stroller). Is the water safe to drink? Are diapers, baby food and formula easy to find?
When it comes to accommodation I have to consider whether or not it will be safe for him, whether my son will be mobile by the time we visit, whether or not they have a cot and even whether or not there is a microwave and a kettle to sterilize baby bottles .
For our trip to Mexico I had to make sure the house had a water filter to wash bottles safely. I wouldn’t have to worry about this just for me.
So, as a traveling parent, I spend more time on Reddit and parent groups than ever before. There are two sources worth checking out:
2. I plan a lot more
I remember how scared my mom was when I flew to Bangkok on a one-way ticket and nothing else was booked. I didn’t even have an accommodation chosen for the first night. I figured I’d come and find something – and I did!
Although some people may feel comfortable doing this with a baby, I need a plan to feel confident these days. For our recent trip to Japan, I knew what we were going to do each day of the trip because I researched the suitability of all the activities I wanted ahead of time. All of our accommodations have already been booked, train routes planned, and several restaurants and dining experiences selected.
This ended up being a good choice as most of our trip was drama free, thanks to my careful planning.
This goes back to research: I’ve read reviews and researched places where people have brought their kids. I read blog posts about traveling with a baby in Japan, so as not to repeat their mistakes (eg overpacking). I’ve come to realize that the fewer variables and decisions there are in the moment, the less stress we have to deal with.
3. I move less
There were times during my solo travels when I got to the place, decided I didn’t like it, and caught the next bus. I didn’t have a plan or reservation so it didn’t matter. But now, each new stop means taking turns watching the baby while the other parent packs up, planning around nap time, and passing all the extra stuff on to the kids for hours. With a baby, no one needs to be a hero who has 12 stops, all you can see in a couple of weeks. (Actually, this isn’t much fun even without a kid in tow.)
On our first domestic trip to Vermont and our first trip to Mexico, we stayed in one town at a time. In Japan, we visited four cities in two weeks, and even that felt ambitious.
More stops don’t always make the trip better. In fact, it often has the opposite effect, because you spend a lot of your time in transit. Slow travel is more comfortable, cheaper, and provides an opportunity to know a place on a deeper level. Over the years, it has become the best of them.
4. Do less on the trip
In Thailand a few years ago, I didn’t miss a single sunrise for the entire month. I felt like I needed to photograph each one, as well as journal, set intentions, and meditate each morning. Then I will spend all day adventuring. Rinse, repeat. This is the life of a blogger and photographer.
On our first trip to Vermont as a family, I realized we weren’t going to get up for sunrise, walk after sunset, and go to extremes that I often take on my solo trips, because it often takes us way too long to just get out the door each day. We need to make sure he’s fed, his diaper bag packed appropriately, and his nappy dry before we head out, and we take turns getting ready while the other person watches over the baby.
So I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that we won’t be doing all the things I normally do – and sometimes that’s still a struggle for me.
But I’m also happy with the slower pace.
I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to “see it all” on a trip, and that sometimes made me miss the idea of being in the moment and feeling grateful to be on the road at all—which I now feel more aware of.
5. I can no longer travel with just a hand bag
For the first year of my solo travel in Southeast Asia, I had a 35-liter backpack and a crossbody bag that I could easily carry on my own – that was it. I never had to check baggage, which gave me a lot more freedom than people lugging bulky suitcases. It was cheaper not to pay the checked bag fee either.
But the strange thing about humans is that the younger they are, the more things they need. He may need a stroller, a travel cot, a car seat, and definitely plenty of diapers, wipes, clothes, and food. Gone are the days of traveling only with a carry-on backpack.
I still try to go as minimal as possible, but I definitely check luggage now that I’m traveling with a baby. But being older and wiser with travel hacks, I have cards that refund checked baggage fees, and the case on some airlines give me checked baggage for free, so it’s not a big deal.
6. People treat me differently (in a good way)
I met some amazing people when I was traveling alone. I’ve trekked through China, soloed in the Peruvian Andes, and sailed my way through Mozambique. At the eleventh hour of any given situation, someone will always show up to help if you need them. It reinforced my view that humanity is mostly good.
I thought this was about as good as it could get, but I couldn’t imagine how many people would light up at the sight of a baby boy outside, on trails in national parks, even if it was only on social media.
Many have gone out of their way to be more helpful. In Japan, Felix was almost a celebrity, getting lots of smiles and positive attention. We were given toys at dinner, a private eating area just because we were family, and always right of way when walking him. These are kindnesses beyond what I have experienced before.
7. I see the world through a new lens
When you travel alone, there is no one to influence your impression of a place. No one knows you or has preconceived notions about who you are, so you also have to be whatever version of yourself is right then and there. I was loving this, but I think I was also discovering who I was at the time, and needed that time.
Although I’m always on a journey of self-discovery, now I see the world through someone else’s eyes. It’s amazing how much my son loves wind chimes, the way he smiles when it snows, and his love of colorful lights. I know that as he gets older, there will be more seemingly random things he will pick up when we travel that I would never have noticed. I’m excited to see how he continues to explore the world. It gives me a new way to watch it, too.
8. I know myself better
They say you never really know a person until you travel with them. The same can be said about yourself.
Solo travel has helped me get to know myself on a level I never had the chance to discover before. I learned what I was capable of when there was no one else around to make decisions for me. I became more confident.
But it wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized that I would define myself on a deeper level. While I don’t think parenthood is for everyone—and I fully support those who don’t want kids—I’ve been amazed to see how far I’ve come, not just as a traveler but as a person, by becoming a mom.
I didn’t realize I could be so selfless. I didn’t realize I could plan a trip, mostly with someone else’s needs in mind, and in some ways find it more enjoyable than when I traveled on my own.
Little did I know I could enjoy traveling so much with a baby. I was worried that it would make things more difficult, as I’ve heard a lot of people say. But now I think it’s all about how you handle it. Letting go of expectations, planning more, packing strategically, and letting it be a whole new kind of travel experience all help. It’s a lot different than traveling alone.
But different does not mean worse.
I’m glad I got to experience so much of the world solo. I will cherish these memories forever.
Now, I can make new friends with family.
Kristin Addis is a solo travel guru who inspires women to travel the world in an authentic and adventurous way. A former investment banker who sold all her possessions and left California in 2012, Christine has been traveling the world since. You can find more of her musings at Be My Travel Muse or on Instagram and Facebook.
Book your flight: logistics tips and tricks
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