[fblike] Having recently completed my first Holland America cruise with my seven month old son in tow, I decided to record some lessons learned for those readers looking to travel with their babes. The biggest question for me was, what do I need to pack!?! Being that I was sailing on Holland America, there were zero options for childcare (they only cater to kids three years of age and older) so whatever I needed had better have been in my carry on!
First off, we flew Southwest to Florida and truly appreciated the free two checked bags per passenger – a lifesaver!
I’ve divided the post into the key activities in a babies day and how to accomodate them on a cruise ship:
All of the cruise lines will provide you with a play pen which is a lifesaver. I will admit, though, that we considered having them take it back because a full sized pack n’ play really eats a lot of real estate in a small stateroom. That being said, in the end, we found the perfect place for it and it was nice to have the bed to ourselves. We just couldn’t access our mini fridge, but more on that later. They send a sheet and blanket with the play pen but I recommend bringing a warm, snuggly blanket from home instead of using the cruise-issued one. I felt the sheets met my cleanliness threshold but I didn’t like the idea of my sweet babe snuggled up with someone else’s blanket. That is mostly personal preference, though.
The lido deck and seated restaurants all provided restaurant-style (no tray) booster chairs and high chairs which was great. We used them at every meal. We brought along a pack of sticky mats to put on the table to protect his food from the table and vice versa. These are a must if your child is old enough to pick up their own food. you will also want a few baby utensils but I say skip the plates and bowls – use the cruises.
I recommend bringing some food but depending on the age of your kid you might be able to find lots of options for your little one. I brought snacks – Lara Bars, puffs, etc- but also relied on the unsweetened cereals, copious fresh fruit, and noodles available at the Lido deck for his meal times. A sippy cup is obviously a necessity as the cups are all glass.
We had to bring pumped milk for the trip and stored it in the freezer of our mini fridge. (So, no accessing the milk while the babe slept in the pack n’ play.) The freezer was a TINY compartment along the top of the fridge so be sure to pack the milk in those storage bags vice bottles. You will need to bring a travel size bottle/dish detergent that you can pick up at Babies R Us or any local baby store and a bottle brush to clean everything in your bathroom sink. I also brought along my steam-sanitizer bags that can be used in the microwave but never actually used them. I still think it is a good idea but you will probably have to ask the stateroom attendant to take it to a microwave as I didn’t see any on board for passenger use.
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We brought a cheap umbrella stroller on board which is a MUST! They are so much easier to maneuver both onboard and in port cities than a traditional stroller system. If you don’t own one, its worth purchasing for the trip – I got one for $10 at Target and love it. I also brought a wrap that my baby loves to be carried in. It was great for bouncing/rocking him to sleep during restless evenings by walking on the track and enjoying the sea breeze.
One of the most important things to consider is how you will bath your little one. In the average stateroom on the average cruise line the only option will be a shower. Can your baby bathe in a shower, yet? If not, I recommend an inflatable tub. They pack up small, cost less than $20 and will be a lifesaver. The exceptions to this recommendation are for Holland America and Disney ships which have a tub in the stateroom bathroom. Generally, luxury lines, family rooms, and suites are going to have tubs and others will not.
Bring the soap and shampoo, skip the special towel and washcloth. Also don’t forget lotion for afterwards and SUNBLOCK for those sunny Caribbean days.
We brought a medium-size bag of toys and a small pack of baby-safe cleansing wipes to wipe down everything in the stateroom. You know you baby is DYING to lick the remote, so why not wipe it down first! Mostly though, our child was young and curious enough to make toys out of the things he found in the room. You wouldn’t believe how much time we spent staring out the windows.
I advise that bouncy seats, bumbos, and anything sizable is NOT worth lugging on board. You really don’t have much space in your stateroom to be storing such things and its amazing how easily you can make an umbrella stroller into a bouncy seat if you really need it.
Its worth mentioning that on Disney ships in the Nurseries and via Royal Caribbean’s Royal Babies and Royal Tots programs you can get a ton of play items while your kids are enrolled at the nursery. Nurseries charge between $5 – $8 per baby.
One thing worth mentioning is that we bothered to buy and bring walkie talkies in case one of us wa with the babe and NEEDED the other. In hindsight this was a complete waste. We never took the radios out of their cradles.
- A snuggly blanket
- Sticky disposable placemats
- Baby spoons
- Bottle cleaning detergent
- Bottle brush
- Steam clean bags (if you like)
- Umbrella stroller
- Wrap for babywearing
- Inflatable tub
- Baby soap and shampoo
- A small collection of his favorite toys
- Baby lotion
So, what did I miss? What can you not travel without?
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