The 4 Best Family Trips I Took Before My Baby Turned One

written by KATIE CLINE

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Source: Alaina Kaz
Source: Alaina Kaz

I’ve always been an avid traveler. I usually spend December 31 calculating the closing year’s miles flown and destinations visited in order to determine if it was a “success” or not. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I didn’t foresee this changing. I envisioned us traveling the world together at every age and would often say (obnoxious) things like, “Kids are portable!” and “It can’t be that hard.”

Now, firmly in toddlerhood, I’m here to report that it can, indeed, be that hard. But toddler travel is a different story. In my daughter’s first year, we managed to travel a lot. By the time she turned 1, she’d taken eight flights and three train rides, stayed in nine hotels and two Airbnbs, and visited five countries. Looking back, I now realize her age and stage of development really impacted our travels. And while our experience may not hold true for everyone, if you still want to travel once you become a mom, I found these were the best types of trips to take before your child turns one.

The Best Trips to Take Before Your Child Turns One

Ages 0-3 Months: City by Train

travel before one
Source: @hikarimurakami

These bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived months are an adjustment—to the new, magical human in your life, to your new role as a parent, and to this new normal that feels both foreign and familiar. Once my body started to heal and the routine became a little less daunting, I felt ready to introduce my daughter to the world of travel… and, quite frankly, to get out of the house myself. 

The Perks of Train Travel

At this age, traveling via train is fantastic. It’s a good practice run for future trips before your child turns one, with lower stakes, shorter travel times, and less stringent baggage rules. The lulling, nap-inducing train movements are an added bonus. We were living in London at the time, so in less than two hours, the Eurostar brought us to the Belgian capital city of Brussels, allowing us to change cultures and time zones without ever stepping foot in an airport. And while train travel in the U.S. may not be as ubiquitous as it is in Europe, Amtrak’s 500+ destinations combined with the 1,250+ stations serviced by the 32 commuter rail systems make it a unique option for baby’s first trip.

Cities Have Everything You Need

Visiting a city is a great way to maintain a significant level of convenience when your baby is still in that fourth trimester. If you forgot something (which, let’s face it, you definitely did), there’s usually a store nearby that stocks the essentials like diapers, bottles, and formula. Cities tend to boast more delivery options than their rural counterparts, too. I once had some onesies and a pack of diapers arrive via InstaCart in Los Angeles. The wide variety of options and the ease of walkability also ensure flexibility, the key component to enjoyable travel with your baby. I ran perpetually late these first three months, so more choices meant I didn’t need to stick to a set schedule or firm reservation times.

Top Travel Tip: Treat Yourself

Book yourself a really nice hotel. First, you’re still recovering postpartum, and after everything you’ve been through, you deserve it. Second, a nice hotel is likely to have certain conveniences that will make your trip easier: a portable crib available to borrow, a mini-fridge or buckets of ice delivered to the room to keep milk/ bottles cold, and 24/7 room service bringing food and drinks straight to your door, even when baby is sleeping.

MVP Travel Item: The Doona

I don’t think there’s a more versatile baby item on the market than the Doona. It’s an all-in-one convertible car seat and stroller. We used it as a stroller to get on the train and converted it into a car seat during the journey. It makes taking Ubers easy, as you always have your own car seat with you and don’t need to worry about trunk space for the stroller. Restaurants that won’t allow a stroller next to the table typically do allow you to keep a car seat with you. And not needing to transfer a sleeping baby from one to the other means a little more time for the parents to actually enjoy the destination they’re in.

Nordstrom | Doona
Convertible Infant Car Seat/Compact Stroller System with Base
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Ages 3-6 Months: Beach Trip

trips to take before your child turns one
Source: @fulchersunfiltered

Beach, baby. Before I became a mom, my ideal vacation included a lounge chair near the ocean, a never-ending “pile” of books on my Kindle, and a copious amount of cocktails delivered on demand. Once I had my daughter, I thought those days were over. But I was wrong! Less than four hours from London (plus an hour ferry ride) is the Greek Island of Naxos, where we spent a week as a family doing a lot of the vacation things I loved from my life “before.”

Beach vacations are accessible trips to take before your child turns one, no matter where you live. A road trip to the shore or a short flight south can be the perfect getaway before your baby is mobile enough to crawl off a beach blanket or eat handfuls of sand.

Top Travel Tip

Sitting down for dinner can be challenging at this age. What worked best for us was popping baby in the carrier for a sunset stroll down the sand. Once she was asleep, we’d post up at a local restaurant’s bar to stand for some tasty bites and drinks.

MVP Travel Item: Mini Beach Tent

Coverage is the name of the game for sun protection on babies under six months old, so long-sleeve swimsuits, hats, and staying out of the sun as much as possible were ideal. We found a small pop-up tent on Amazon that was intended to shade an adult head. As weird as that sounds, it was the perfect-sized tent for an infant. We set it up on a sun lounger between us, propped up our portable fan to circulate a cool breeze, and our daughter napped to the sounds of the natural white noise as we (shockingly) read and relaxed.

Mini Pop Up Beach Tent
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Ages 6-9 Months: Fly Somewhere Fun

trips to take before your child turns one
Source: Canva

At this point, you’ve probably forgotten what life before baby looked like, having settled into this new routine like a pro. Baby is now starting to sit up on their own and eat solid foods, two details that make traveling together slightly easier. With two to four hours of daytime naps and still being small enough to fit within the plane’s bassinet, it’s time to fly somewhere fun.

In addition to packing the diaper bag with multiple changes of clothes for baby, do yourself a favor and toss one in there for yourself. Dark colors, busy patterns, and wrinkle-free fabrics are the best ways to hide shared messes.

As to where to go at this age, it’s really up to you. Is there a place on your family travel bucket list you’ve been wanting to visit? A family tradition you’re eager to continue or start? We took a short flight from London to Edinburgh and were rewarded with a change of scenery and my daughter’s first taste of haggis (Just kidding).

Top Travel Tip: Maximize Airline Baggage Allowance

I was really surprised to learn that most airlines allow a lap infant to have their own checked bag. In addition, they’ll usually let you check a stroller and a car seat for free, too. I see this as permission to pack as much stuff as you want in order to give you peace of mind at your destination.

MVP Travel Item: BabyBjörn Carrier

Since the day my daughter was born, the BabyBjörn carrier has been lovingly referred to as the “magic bullet” in my house. It was always reliable, even on our hardest days, and if nothing else worked to soothe her, a stroll around the block with her nestled in the carrier was all it took to calm her down. For boarding and deplaning it’s also essential, holding baby close while keeping your hands free to carry bags, bottles, or both.

Baby Carrier One Air
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Age 9-12 Months: Family Road Trip

trips to take before your child turns one
Source: Canva

As the saying goes, the days are long, but the years are short. It’s unbelievable to be this close to your child’s first birthday, which also makes it the perfect time for one last hurrah before they start running around and everything changes again.

At this age, we appreciated the convenience and autonomy of a road trip, allowing us to be in our own space and on our own time. Since you no longer need to be concerned with baggage or liquid limits, pack the car full to the brim with anything and everything that you might need. Stay within 5 hours of home to maintain maximum enjoyment.

Top Travel Tip: Book a Rental Home

With baby becoming more mobile, our trips at this age centered around the right short-term rental rather than a specific destination. A rental from Airbnb, VRBO, etc. offered a few things that hotels did not: more space for baby to play and crawl; a kitchen that made storing and prepping baby’s food and bottles easier; a separate room for baby, so we didn’t have to whisper during naps or after bedtime; and a living room or outdoor space where we could relax after baby was asleep.

MVP Travel Item: Portable high chair

Packing a compact, portable high chair increases your dining options significantly since you no longer have to limit yourself to restaurants with high chairs. Additionally, this item works well for meals at your Airbnb and even works nicely on the ground for beach or park picnics.

Amazon | BabyBond
Baby Travel Booster Seat
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Traveling with an infant isn’t always easy. Heck, it’s rarely easy. But the memories you create and the photos you take during such a special year of life will certainly be worth it. And proving to yourself that you know what you’re doing more often than not, no matter the locale is just a bonus.

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