The New Normal: Traveling with a Baby

To tell the truth we haven’t really done a lot of travel with Marcella yet- mostly because we are trying to save our money for the big move in October. We will have ample opportunity to travel once we’re based in Europe (and she might even remember some of it).  We’ve done a few weekend trips and some cross-country trips to visit the grandparents, but that has been it until now.

As you can probably imagine I’ve been going stir-crazy.  I jumped on the chance to tag along on Mike’s business trip to Chicago last week. Yes, it meant flying alone with a 10-month old, and Mike would be working the entire time we were there, and Marcella had finally decided to start teething and I came down with some sort of death virus the night before we were supposed to leave, but we were going dammit.

I’m so glad we did! Chicago is a city that I’ve visited before and loved. As a result, I wasn’t too hung up on seeing the major sites and instead just focused on enjoying the change of scenery.

Along the way, I learned a few important things about traveling with a baby:

Traveling with a 10 month old is harder than traveling with a 2 month old

You try telling her to sit down…

The older babies get, the less portable they become. When we flew cross-country with Marcella at 2 months she slept most of the way. She didn’t much care that we were on a plane or in an airport, she just wanted the same things she’s always wanted: food, comfort, and sleep. Even at 4 months she mostly just sat there.

Fast-forward to 10 months and air-travel with a baby has morphed into a full-contact endurance sport. She’s bigger (20 pounds! Oof), stronger and she does NOT want to sit still even for a moment, much less four hours. Taking a flight now is a race against the clock to keep her entertained and prevent her from screaming or trying to climb over the seat to visit the person in 10A. By the end of our flight to Chicago I was exhausted and Marcella was happily chewing on the in-flight magazine.

Another thing: older babies are pretty attached to their schedules and you deviate from them at your peril. At home, it’s pretty fantastic that Marcella takes 2 90-minute naps each day, but on the road it’s kind of annoying to be completely out of commission from 9-10:30 and 2-3:30. Luckily Marcella is a decent stroller napper so I could wheel her around town.  Then bedtime is a strict 7 pm, at which point anyone else in the hotel room has no option but to sit silently in the dark. Thank goodness for my paperwhite

Say Goodbye to Itineraries

I approached this trip like I approach every trip: I bookmarked a ton of ideas then tried to organize an itinerary for Marcella and me. I had a list of places I wanted to eat, stuff we should do, like the Lincoln Park Zoo, etc.

We did almost none of it. It was just too hard to organize. What we did do was hunt out decent bagels, walk along the Riverwalk and eat ice cream, sit in the grass and watch a Korean high school dance concert at Jay Pritzker Pavilion. It wasn’t what I planned, but it was super fun anyways.

Babies are Easily Impressed, and Easily Unimpressed

hotel rooms are magic

I really wanted to take Marcella to the Lincoln Park Zoo, and we never made it. But you know what? There’s an 85% chance she wouldn’t have cared about the zoo anyways. 10 months old are like that. They don’t understand context or history or what a rhinoceros is.

Here are the things that impressed Marcella most about Chicago:

  • The hotel room. This was a huge hit. It had a floor length mirror, and Marcella is obsessed with mirrors. She spent hours wandering around the room and shouting “hi!” every time she caught her own reflection.
  • The Bean- Like I said, she loves mirrors!
  • Every time we went somewhere she could sit in the grass and people watch.

Things that did not impress Marcella: The miracle mile, great Mexican food (she did like the guacamole), drinks with Mike’s coworkers, Lake Michigan.

It’s the Moments that Matter

I guess you could say we didn’t really do anything very interesting on this trip, but I still had SO much fun somehow. Because in those long stretches of not doing much, there were these totally magic moments that I will always remember.

Things like: sitting in the grass by the Riverwalk on a gorgeous sunny day watching the people go by. Giving Marcella her first bagel (it was a hit) and watching her watch herself in the reflection of the bean. Just sharing the world with my baby, like I have always dreamed of doing.

Everything is Temporary

Not impressed by: cheese

Was it a perfect trip? Not by a mile (and I didn’t even get into some of the less savory details- like the incident at the hotel Wednesday morning that prompted me to text Mike “It’s the poopocalypse!”).

 

But, the great (and infuriating) thing about the new normal is that it’s always changing. Right now I’m subject to the forces of naptime, but that won’t always be the case.

 

I’m just psyched that Marcella seems to enjoy travel, and I can’t wait to see her grow into it. Next stop: Colombia!

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Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! She is the co-founder and editor of Why Wait To See the World. Learn more about her here.
  1. I love reading your posts about travel with Marcella (think I mentioned before she’s about 3-4 months older than my Sienna). We haven’t taken her out the state yet but we’ll be going to Michigan for a wedding and then stopping by Chicago on the way back to California in one month time. I’m a bit nervous about the flight but not as nervous as I am about the long one back to visit my family in the U.K. in September! One thing we are lucky with is she loves napping in her Ergo carrier or SollyBaby wrap so so far it’s been ok going out for day trips.

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