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Taking your little one on an adventure should be something you dream about, not dread. But travel can be unpredictable and stressful enough without adding a baby, so what's a new parent to do?
To make the experience less daunting, we rounded up five of our favorite jet-setting moms--including FEED's Lauren Bush Lauren and National Geographic Traveler's Amy Alipio--for their crib sheets.
Leave the Crap, Bring the Map
"Avoid packing and schlepping too much stuff around. Baby's Away has rentals (cribs, car seats, and high chairs) that can be shipped directly to your final destination. Great service but there is a service fee, so you have to crunch the numbers and ensure it makes sense financially. Diapers.com will deliver diapers and, of course, there's always Amazon.com. When I traveled to Portland with my daughter, it was cheaper to buy a new pack 'n play and have it delivered to a girlfriend's house than it was to rent one. Many hotels have pack 'n plays available to guests with infants, so be sure to call in advance and double check."
--Julia Dimon, author of Travel Junkie Julia
Invest in the Right Products
"We have taken a few road trips with baby James and the key is to be prepared for all scenarios while also trying to travel as light as possible. One incredibly handy thing has been the Doona ($800; amazon.com), which is a car seat and stroller all in one."
--Lauren Bush Lauren (below), founder of FEED
Make Life a Beach, Not a Bitch
"You want to consider a few things before taking a beach trip with a baby. For instance, how big are the waves? Pick a beach with mild to no waves so baby can splash at water's edge. Otherwise you'll be constantly hovering around baby, protecting her from a strong surf. Sapphire Beach in St. Thomas, Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas, Lewes Beach in Delaware, and the Peconic Bay side of the Hamptons are some of the gentle-surf beaches we've enjoyed. Also, think about how far you have to walk. Long expanses of sand are great for photos but when you're lugging stuff (diaper bag, stroller, towels, extra change of clothes, beach tent, beach toys, cooler, etc.) from the car or summer rental to the water you begin to appreciate narrower beaches. Google Earth is great for spotting them."
--Amy Alipio (below), features editor at National Geographic Traveler
Credit: Daniel K?d?r
More Flying, Less Crying
"My biggest tip is for the parents to SIT APART ON THE PLANE. It sounds crazy, but it's amazing: You take two-hour shifts sitting with the child (or children). You play with them, read to them, get apple juice, eat snacks. And then switch with your partner to the solo seat, where you get a full two hours to yourself to watch a movie, read a book, have a glass of wine, take a nap. You keep switching off until you land. It makes a cross-country trip totally doable, and actually enjoyable. And even the kids love it, because they get a fresh, happy parent every two hours. It shakes things up for everyone! I totally swear by this."
--Joanna Goddard, Founder of A Cup of Jo
Book a Home, Not a Hotel
"Instead of squeezing everyone into a hotel room, book a home through Airbnb, Homeaway, or (best of all) Kid & Coe, which specializes in family-friendly rentals. You'll get a lovely, comfortable house stocked with toys, high chairs, cribs, whatever you need."
"I prefer backpacks so I have my hands free. I'm currently using the Skip Hop Chelsea Forma Diaper Backpack ($70; skiphop.com). It's black, sleek, fashionable, and has a ton of pockets. Staying organized so that everything has a particular place can save you time and frustration."
Hide the Smell
"Babies R Us makes these great diaper bag dispensers which dispense a single bag ($5; toysrus.com). They are scented too, so if you have a poopy diaper and need to dispose of it, you are doing so in a sanitary way and the room doesn't smell disgusting! You can always call ahead and have the concierge buy diapers and supplies for you. Or have them shipped to the hotel so they are waiting when you arrive."
--Jacqueline Gifford (below), special projects director at Travel + Leisure
The Airport Is Your Friend, Not Your Enemy
"Wear baby through security and gate-check your stroller. Depending on how old your baby is, let them crawl or waddle around the airport to get out excess energy before the flight. Board the plane last."
Research Before, Relax Even More
"I look up the layouts of the hotel room if I can online to see where I might be able to fit the crib in advance. Every little bit of separation counts. My husband and I recently stayed at Viceroy L'Ermitage in Beverly Hills, and they had spacious studio suites--we could roll the crib into a little quiet alcove so it was a cinch to watch TV while Bobby slept."
If Romance Is Overdue, Make Time for Two
"I had a really hard time leaving my little one with anyone, but for those rare occasions when my husband and I were desperate for a date night during our travels, we used personal references from friends. We also used a service called UrbanSitter--I call the 'Airbnb of Babysitters.' You can see people's profiles, reviews, even videos. Be sure to select a person with lots of reviews and multiple repeat families. I was extremely apprehensive but used the service in Portland, New York, and Los Angeles and had great results! Wonderful people (mostly college students) who were very good with babies. I made sure to set up a phone interview first, then scheduled additional time to be with the sitter and baby to watch how they interact and made sure I was comfortable that they weren't a serial killer before leaving my most precious child alone with a stranger."