Disney & Sanibel Island with a Baby

Apparently “real travelers” make fun of Disney-goers. I suppose it’s not as exotic or “authentic” as a backpacking trip across Southeast Asia…but I say why not enjoy BOTH?

We love our backpacking adventures in middle-of-nowhere countries, but we also love a good Disney trip. We would be sad if this were our idea of a big trip every year, but if we have the funds and time to do both…why not do both?? And we are so glad to have an excuse to do Disney now that we have a baby!

My MIL rents a condo in Florida almost every year, which I try to join if I’m able (i.e. if I’m able to work remotely every year, since I want to use vacation days for more action-packed trips). We were lucky enough to have our MIL help us at Disney before heading to Sanibel Island, which gave us some wonderful adult-only Disney time while S napped or played at the pool. Normally while traveling we are quite a bit more restricted with her since she sleeps at 7 PM, and naps for around 3-4 hours a day still – and we try to have her nap in her bed as much as possible rather than on the go. Generally we are okay if she naps for one of her naps in her stroller, so we would go to the parks with her in the morning, have her nap in the stroller while we walked around or ate some food, then dropped her back at the resort with MIL while we returned to the parks. I’ve been exclusively breastfeeding for the past 10 months, and it’s crazy to think that I’m nearing the 1 year mark where I’m planning on weaning so I’m almost done!! Since S eats a lot of solids now, I am okay switching to formula when we travel and we miss a feed, since I still am around to nurse during her other sessions and it’s way less hassle to not have to pump while I’m on the go.

This blogpost is less about our itinerary at Disney and Sanibel Island, since I am pretty sure we’ve done this exact trip (and written about it) a few times already – this is more around our “must-haves” while traveling with baby, and some tips and tricks to flying (S has been on ~15 flights so far!)

Flying with Baby

Flying with baby is pretty nice because you can still book the cheapest ticket but board before everyone else anyway! Most airlines allow you to carry on your normal bags, but also add on a diaper bag as well. Pump bags are not considered carry ons since they are medical devices, so you generally can bring as much necessary baby stuff as you need. You can even bring bottles of water through security if you say it’s for the baby (if you need it for formula, for example)! But we try to pack light to make everything easier, so this is what we do:

  • We generally do not check a bag for shorter trips unless absolutely necessary. We book hotels/airbnbs where we know there is a crib, and we only stuff our luggage with diapers/wipes if we have extra space (otherwise we buy once we’re at our destination).
  • If both of us are flying together, we will gate check both our stroller and our car seat, only because we usually don’t have another bag to check and are too impatient to wait at the check-in counter. However, if we do have to be at the check-in counter anyway, we will check our car seat there as well so we don’t have to lug it through the airport. We have a special car seat bag to pad the car-seat to protect it in transit. And we always bring our car-seat because I’ve heard horror stories about rental cars’ car seats + we need it to uber to and from the airport anyway + it’s not that hard to check the car seat! Strollers and car seats are considered special items that you don’t have to pay for.
  • If only one of us is traveling with baby (I did this for the first time flying back from Florida), check as much baggage as possible. I ended up only bringing my diaper bag, and carried S in a baby carrier rather than bringing her in her stroller through security. They do not make you take baby out of baby carrier through security, but will make you unstrap her during take-off/landing.
  • In our diaper bag, we will bring a lot of diapers and wipes, some pouches and puffs for solids (we cook all of our baby food at home, but when traveling we value convenience), a few changes of clothes for mom and baby, and some blankets. As S has gotten older, she’s had a harder time sleeping on planes, but having her favorite lovey helps.

A few other must-haves for traveling

  • Sheets for crib/pack-n-play
  • Inglesina travel high chair (this clips on to any table – in my experience it is harder to find lodging with a high chair than pack-n-play, and you can also bring it to restaurants)
  • Muslin blankets to cover stroller when baby is napping on the go
  • A portable sound machine
  • A blackout sleep tent for crib – especially helpful when sharing a room in a hotel, but useful as well when in an Airbnb so that baby doesn’t get distracted by a new place! We love the blackout sleep tent so that we can still enter the room and have the lights on without waking her up
  • A portable stroller fan
  • Ready-to-feed formula (to replace breastfeeding)
  • A breathable baby carrier
  • 1-2 small interesting toys for the plane ride

And that’s about it! We are more limited now when searching for lodging because we have to find a place that has a crib if we’re flying (if we’re driving somewhere, we just bring along a pack-n-play and baby tub if needed).

We have a few baby-free trips these next few months (we are very excited about a couples-only trip to Napa/Sonoma in April), and just had to cancel a 2 week trip to Scotland because S FINALLY got into daycare (while I’m sad about not going to Scotland, part of me is a little relieved – so we can save some money and stay put a little after all these weddings we’re going to). We have a few cabin weekends planned, and then will have a 2.5 week pacific northwest roadtrip in June to look forward to. Then our next big trip won’t be until November, where we’ll finally be going to Spain (after postponing our May 2020 Spain trip!). It’s going to be interesting flying to new time zones with a TODDLER – but we’re excited to travel with her at every stage of our lives!

(Also I’m sure we’ll have to completely update our traveling process when we have more than one human child….wild to think about. Maybe we’ll just always bring an extended family member whenever we travel once we have all our kids…hah!)

Very lucky to be able to have adult-only time!
Disney Baby Centers are an amazing place to rest at the parks
Don’t worry…she had her own crib
Happy girl in her portable high chair!

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