Tips for travel and a personal recollection of our trip to Mexico with our 5-month old son.
By Kayla Hickman
For all of my parents with infants or toddlers, JUST DO IT! Travel, travel and travel more. Babies and kiddos are very resilient, and I personally think traveling is such a wonderful learning experience. The exposure to different cultures, places, food, etc. is a beautiful thing to watch your young adventurer understand. Yes, the meltdowns happen, but humans are pretty understanding. But, as my husband says…do it EARLY! It will give you the confidence to do it again…and then again…and then it will become the norm.
Traveling abroad or internationally can be a daunting task. You worry about everything from remembering your passport, to entry protocols during the pandemic. However, traveling with a baby adds a whole other layer of stress, anxiety and just ALL the feels! As a mom, naturally you worry about almost everything, especially while traveling. I’d like to consider myself a veteran traveler. I have been to over 30+ countries, and I have been to many of those locations several times over, both solo-traveling or with my husband. But, strapping my little 20-pound boulder baby to me, and heading down to Mexico for a 5-day trip was a learning experience like none other.
My baby was born to travel. No, but really. He traveled with me before he even came out of the womb. We even named him “Jett” like a little airplane…but also, his Daddy’s name is Brett. (He wanted a “Jr”, but I said no.) I knew Jett would just love to travel, and I was right! Even though I have nothing to compare it to, I think overall he did great on our quick trip to Mexico. However, it was mom and dad that had a hard time. Let me start from the beginning…
Mexico is a great location right now because you don’t have to provide a Covid test to get into the country. Perfect! One stress eliminated. However, many countries right now are starting to drop their entry requirements, which is a blessing for the travel industry. Anyway…we get to the airport and check-in. We decided to have Jett as a lap infant and we upgraded to premium economy seats to have a little more space. I know many people have opinions about not taking a car seat or purchasing a seat for their baby, but it was just our personal choice. We also didn’t want to take a car seat with us to Mexico, because we requested one with our private transfers. We did buy a little umbrella stroller to take with us, as well as a stroller bag. It was super convenient, but checking the stroller at the gate was not a good experience for us. Multiple times, we had to wait until everyone was off the plane for our stroller to be brought up. It was very annoying to be waiting around with the flight crew for a $30 stroller, when we were one of the first families off the plane. However, always take a stroller! My pro-tip is to spring for a nicer stroller than folds to the size of backpack. That way you do not have to check it at the gate and you can take it on the plane with you. Especially if you have a little hefty guy like us. We brought the Ergobaby carrier, but putting Jett in the stroller really helped our backs with the long walks through the airports.
I am still breastfeeding and pumping, so thankfully there is a very nice lactation room in the new Memphis airport terminal. I pumped before we got on the plane, and started feeding Jett when we sat down. Some airlines let people with children get on first, but it is very mixed. We ran into that issue a couple of times. My poor husband was a pack mule; carrying his carry-on with my breast pump and charger, the diaper bag, a roller bag and our stroller. So having the extra time to get on the airplane was a welcome amenity that I believe should always be extended to traveling parents with infants, or even small toddlers. The extra space in the premium seats was amazing on the plane, so if you can upgrade, do it! We kept out one little teether toy for Jett, a burp cloth, a fresh bottle and a little swaddle cloth that served as both a cover for breastfeeding and a little blanket for Jett. I left the bottle out because we have a little weird baby who doesn’t take his pacifier, so I wanted him to have something to suck on when we took off incase the pressure hurt his baby ears.
The first leg of the trip was early in the morning, so thankfully, Jett slept almost the entire first flight. We had a connection in Dallas and I purchased us Admiral Club day-passes to be a little more comfortable during our long layover. This was a little splurge, but I am so glad we did this! We were able to have avocado toast, bloody marys, comfortable seats and best of all, clean changing tables and a private area for me to pump. On our second leg of the trip, we flew from Dallas to Cancun. This was a longer flight, so we were a little nervous. However, we fed Jett again right before take-off, he slept most of the way and then played a little before we landed. Another pro-tip is to make sure to ask for “wings”. We were able to get Jett his first pair of wings and a little journal to keep track of his flights.
When we landed in Cancun, immigration and customs took a really long time. With a baby, it was difficult, but fast track at the Cancun airport is about $850, so we didn’t opt in for that. However, if it would have been my honeymoon or a longer trip, I would seriously consider it! We had private transfers to the resort, with a car seat waiting for us when we landed. The drive to our resort was only about 35 minutes. We paid a little more for private transfers because I knew I was going to either have to pump in the car or breastfeed. Plus, we didn’t want to wait for other travelers, and we wanted the driver to be on our schedule, or better yet, our baby’s schedule.
Once we got to the resort, it was mostly smooth sailing from there. We stayed at the beautiful Dreams Playa Mujeres, which was very conducive to babies. They provided a crib, free of charge, in our room. They also had highchairs at every restaurant, and an awesome kids splash park on property. I will say, we used our stroller every day, several times a day. So make sure you bring a stroller! When we went to the beach, we were sometimes lucky enough to get beach chairs under little tiki huts, which were fully shaded. However, these were not always available, so I would suggest bringing some kind of cover to keep your infant out of the sun when possible. Or, just go reserve shaded spots early. We started our days a little later. We did bring a little float, which was the best Amazon purchase ever. Jett loved being in the pool splashing around, and it was a nice break from holding him. In addition, we bought him baby polarized sunglasses, which I think really helped, but also just made him look like a little beach bum advertisement.
Even though Covid feels like it is nearing an end, the US is still requiring a Covid test to get back into the country. Thankfully our resort offered extremely efficient tests on property, for free, the day before we traveled. After our trip and on our way back home to Memphis, we flew from Cancun to Dallas in basic economy seats. Personally, the trip on the way to Cancun was a whole lot more comfortable in the bulkhead row. Again, if you can upgrade your seats, do so. One pro-tip I do want to mention about entering the US, is that if you don’t have Global Entry, then make sure you download Mobile Passport. It saved my family so much time, since I hadn’t renewed my Global Entry.
Overall, Jett was the best little traveler, but as I mentioned, traveling with a baby is just a different experience. But, we did it! Our little “Jett-setter” got his first international wings and passport stamp, and we had a wonderful family vacation. Check out some pro-tips below and also some suggestions on what to pack when traveling with a baby! Until next time.
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Pro-Tips for Traveling with a Baby:
Pick an early flight if you can. Baby will most likely sleep the first leg.
Wear a baby carrier through security, so baby can stay comfortable.
Invest in an umbrella stroller that folds to the size of a backpack.
If you have a diaper bag, make sure it is a backpack form with changing pad.
Upgrade seats for traveling if it is a lap child.
When on the beach, if you don’t have shade, grab the umbrella from your room provided by resort, and use it as your baby’s shade.
When booking transfers, always confirm the car seat option.
Invest in global entry or download mobile passport when traveling internationally.
Packing Essentials for Traveling with a Baby (Beach trip edition):
Plenty of diapers & wipes (We brought about 8 diapers a day and 2 packs of wipes)
Plenty of burp cloths
Disposable bibs (These were great!)
Bottle brush and bottle soap
Baby sunscreen and bug repellant
Baby wash and lotion
Baby sanitizing wipes
Baby swim gear & sun hats
Baby Tylenol, gas drops & teething drops