Most people think traveling with a baby is either impossible, or that it sounds more like torture than fun. We have traveled with both of our kids when they were very young, and it can be an fun and memorable time. Our youngest is now three, so we are getting out of the traveling with babies/toddlers phase. Out of all the types of vacations we have taken with our kids when they were babies, the easiest and funnest vacation we took were the cruises. Here are our best tips and tricks for having an amazing time on a cruise with your baby.
Use the Nursery
There are currently two main stream cruise lines* that have installed nurseries on the their ships. These are Disney and Royal Caribbean. USE THEM!! There are several ways to do this. You can choose to sign your child up for the nursery if there are activities that you want to do that you can’t take kids to. Some of the non baby friendly activities are the Flow Rider, the pool or the hot tub as kiddos in swim diapers are not allowed. You can also choose to put your baby in the nursery in the evenings and have a date night. If your little one is a solid napper, you can also try to schedule the nursery during nap time so you and/or your spouse are not stuck in your cabin for nap time. Even if you just need an hour break every so often, this is what the nursery is there for. Cruises offer an amazing balance between family time and adult time. Take full advantage.
*There are actually three cruise lines, but Norwegian Cruise Line has one ship with a nursery, the Norwegian Escape. Royal Caribbean has a nursery on 19 of their ships, and Disney has a nursery on all 4 of their ships. Just make sure the ship you are going has a nursery if you plan on using it.
Go to the Family Friendly Activities
All cruises have family friendly activities. Family friendly typically also means baby friendly. Find out what they are and take advantage, especially on sea days. Some of our favorites are the family friendly production shows,
ice skating shows,
and any of the family play times.
There can also be parades,
character meet and greets.
and open play areas.
The baby friendly options around the ship are plentiful. There was even one cruise that we went on that offered power wheel driving on deck!
Our son, who was 15 months old at the time, absolutely loved it. They sometimes have kid friendly movies playing in varying locations throughout the ship, and some ships have movie theaters! Just investigate your ship before you book to make sure the ship amenities fit your family.
The more you take advantage of these activities, the more memories you will create and the more fun you will have. As an added bonus you will typically meet other families with babies in tow. While babies don’t care about playing with other babies it can save a parents sanity to meet others who are also in the trenches of parenthood. It also comes comes in handy if you run out of diapers and wipes and need a spare or two.
Pick Baby Friendly Excursions … Or Not
I know, I know! You are going on vacation and you want to do all the things! The reality of traveling with a baby is that there are somethings that you will not be able to do. If there is an excursion that you want to do that is not kid friendly, booking nursery time is always an option. If you want to take your kiddo with you, then focus on excursions that are kid friendly. A very long bus tour might not be your best option. However, a short 4 hour bus tour can be doable as they sleep most of the time.
Other excursions that would not be very baby friendly are excursions that are very physically intense or to a destination a few hours away. We pick excursions that last a few hours max and offer breaks for food and diaper changes.
There is also the option to not book an excursion through the ship. Touring independently is our favorite way to go. Seeing what is offered right off the pier can give you more options often at a better price. There is also the Hop On Hop Off option. For those that don’t know, this is a bus that you take around the city.
There is a tour guide or prerecorded audio narration, and there are designated sights that you can “Hop Off” the bus to explore and see. Busses come by about every 20 min, and you “Hop on” to go to the next destination until you have finished the loop.
Another easy option if you are doing a Caribbean cruise or a cruise with ports with beaches, is obviously just doing a beach day. These days are about as easy as it gets with a baby, and every gets a little fun in the sun.
These are some of our favorites, and tend to work very well with babies. There is also the option of staying on the boat or just around the dock. Ultimately, parents know there infants best so pick the best option for your family.
Every parent likes to be prepared, but packing for a trip with a baby is a case of packing smarter, not more. You don’t need to bring your whole house to help your baby be comfortable. However, there are some things that we do not leave home without!
- A Baby Carrier – This helps you get around the ship and tours much more easily, especially if they happen to fall asleep.
- Minimal Toys – We always take advantage of the toy exchange program if the nursery offers one. They will let you borrow a bag of toys for free. You can also exchange them for different toys.
- Diapers and Wipes – Take my advice. Running out of diapers or wipes while on a cruise is VERY expensive. Just Don’t!
- Medicine – Having the basics (Tylenol, band-aids, Benadryl) will help you tackle most issues that will arise. While they are available on the ship, scrambling to find them on the ship when you need them is not ideal.
- Laundry Soap – Babies are messy. Bringing a bar of laundry soap so you can spot clean and wash little outfits as needed helps cut down on how much you have to pack.
We all know babies can be unpredictable. Given this fact, the most valuable piece of advice I can give you is to be flexible and adaptable. A baby might fall asleep at an inconvenient time, get hungry at an in opportune moment, or not handle an excursion as well as you thought. You might not get to do everything you want, and I can almost guarantee that things will not go according to plan. Tempering expectations and being able and willing to roll with the punches is key to having a good vacation. It won’t be perfect, but that does not mean that it can’t be a lot fun and extremely memorable!