Brooke and Harrison are traveling pros by this point. This was their third time flying and they know the drill by now. (You can read about our first time flying with them here.) A backpack full of snacks, their Kindles, headphones, a couple books, and they're good to go. We did let them each have their own carry on suitcase this time, and as excited as they were about them, we still wound up pulling their suitcase through the airport the majority of the time.
We had never cruised before, so I did a lot of online research before we left. Some of the info I found was really helpful, and other stuff not so much. Here are the tips and tricks we found most helpful.
- Take a carrier and a stroller. Our Beco carriers were a must. Both Scarlett and Clark napped in them almost every day. We also brought two single umbrella strollers. We knew our double strollers were going to be too big for the cruise ship, although we did see another set of twins cruising in their Baby Jogger City Select. Both times we've gate checked strollers they have sustained minor damage. Keep possible damage in mind when deciding if you will bring a favorite, more expensive stroller.
- Wear your baby(ies) through security checkpoints. We didn't have to take them off when we went through security lines, which made for one less thing to worry about. When you have 4 carry ons, 4 kids, and 2 strollers, anything to make it easier is better.
- Have passports for everyone. Yes we could have traveled without them. You can travel to Puerto Rico and board a cruise ship without one. (you will need original birth certificates if you don't have passports) It made security easier and gave us peace of mind that if something were to happen and we missed our ship, we wouldn't be stuck in another country.
- Snacks, pouches, and sippy cups. Make sure you have lots of different choices when it comes to food and snacks for the plane ride. Fill sippy cups with water before you get on the plane. You want to make sure you have lots of options to keep your baby swallowing during take off and descent.
- Call the airline as soon as you book your flight(s) to get the baby(ies) added to your flight. We've sat both across the aisle from each other and in subsequent rows. I prefer subsequent rows because it lets the babies play with each other over the seats. Some planes have rules on where lap infants can and can't sit, so make sure to call as soon as you book your flight that way you don't end up being 20 rows apart.
- If you can avoid bringing your car seat, do. If you are driving to your port that's easy, just leave it in the car. If you are flying to your port city, look into travel options from the airport to the cruise port or hotel. See if shuttle or bus options are available. Also check with your hotel, if you're staying at one, to see if they can hold your car seat for you while you cruise. We didn't need car seats to take a taxi, but we weren't able to use Uber without them. This is another place where the carriers were handy. I felt much safer having the babies strapped to me while in taxis than I would have if they were just sitting in a seat or on my lap. I know how important safety is, and you should consider your comfort level when deciding whether to bring a car seat or not. In my opinion, there is no feasible way to take a convertible car seat with you and use it while in port. If your baby is still in an infant car seat and stroller system, you may be able to safely and efficiently make that work.
- If you don't already have baby friendly games or shows on your phone or tablet, make sure to download them before you go. A little screen time can be a lifesaver. The wifi on our ship was pretty slow. I could barely load Instagram. Forget downloading an app or streaming a show.
- Take a small container of laundry detergent. Cruise ship rooms are small and luggage space is limited. You probably won't have room to pack multiple outfits for each day. You can wash clothes in your bathroom sink if needed. On board laundry is available, but it's expensive.
- The same thing with sippy cups and utensils. You won't have enough room to pack a cup for every day, so take a small bottle of dish soap along.
- If you're staying in a hotel before your cruise, see if you can ship items to your hotel. We shipped a box of diapers which saved us so much room in our suitcases. FYI - Amazon Prime ships free to Puerto Rico.
- Take crib sheets/pack and play sheets with you. Our hotel didn't have the right size sheets available on our first night there, and the cruise line was so worried about liability they wouldn't give us any bedding, including sheets, for the pack and plays.
- If you have a balcony room on the ship, consider bringing a small inflatable pool. Check your ship's policy, but most cruise ships will not allow babies and toddler who aren't fully potty trained in the pools. Some ships have splash pad type areas, but many don't. We didn't use our pool, but it was nice to know that we could have set it up on the balcony if we wanted.
- Call the cruise line to verify which amenities will be available for young children. We called potential cruise lines to see what nursery and babysitting options were available on the ships we were considering. We ruled out a potential ship and itinerary because there were no babysitting options available. Some cruise lines also offer room delivery for items such as diapers, formula, and baby food.
- Check to see if there is a toy lending program on your ship. We didn't check out toys because we barely spent any time during the day in our room. If you have multiple cruising days, it's probably worth it to check out toys if they're available. RCL ships do have toys available to borrow, and you can obtain them through Adventure Ocean, their kid's club
We went into our cruise with zero expectations of how it was going to go. We planned as best we could, but as every parent knows, things don't always go as planned. It was a lot of work and I'm glad we did it, but it would have been so much easier if they were a few months older. When I think back to our first time traveling with Harrison and Brooke, it was a cake walk compared to this trip. It's exponentially easier to travel with 2 year olds than it is 1 year olds. My biggest tip of all is to make sure you are up for the challenge of traveling with a baby. I am a very laid back, go with the flow kind of person, and my kids are too. If I were more of a control freak, I probably would have been miserable the entire time. If it seems like too much work, wait a year, and then plan that family vacation. If it seems like something you're down for, plan ahead, go with the flow, and have a great time.
Have you cruised or flown with a baby or young toddlers before? Any must haves or tips you can add to this list?