Traveling with Babies? Is it Even Possible to be Sustainable?

Sep 27 , 2022

Rachel Dodds

Traveling with Babies? Is it Even Possible to be Sustainable?

I remember when my daughter was three months old and my partner and I were discussing taking her to Morocco. My friends told me I was crazy. Actually …everyone I talked to told me that it was a bad idea and I should curb my love to travel now that I was a parent and stick to weekend trips to grandmas.

Did I follow their advice? No, I didn’t because traveling with a baby is wonderful for many reasons. These are just a few.

1.You can get preferential treatment

Babies can attract attention almost as much as a cute pet and although it can be tough, more and more travel companies are providing preferential boarding or preferential toilets and seating areas for families.

2. It can be affordable

Of course, this depends how many children you have, but a young baby is free on an airplane until they reach two years of age. Most places around the world have free entrance at attractions, events and even food for young ones. When we lived in France when my daughter was young, we were thrilled to realize children were free at almost all attractions until the age of 6!

3. You realize you have a whole new community

When we become parents, we realis that all other parents have been in our shoes at some stage and they often have a level of empathy we weren’t previously aware of. You also realize how people all over the world love children. Of course, not everyone likes them but often, especially in developing countries, young children open doors you never knew existed. In Morocco, waiters would make funny faces to occupy my daughter and people would often offer to hold her when I needed to go to the bathroom or get something out of my bag.

The question is not about can you travel – the real question is can you travel and also be more sustainable? Yes, you can and as parents or grandparents we need to be thinking of our children’s’ future. We know travel has an impact and so we need to do more to be responsible. For example, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, tourism is responsible for approximately 5% of global emissions and approximately 22% of all transport emissions? One long haul flight can generate as much emissions as one car does in a year. Travel can also be unsustainable and not everyone benefits. Many all-inclusive resorts or cruise ships pressure their guests to not leave the resort or only take excursions owned by the cruise line!

This doesn’t mean to say there every trip is unsustainable but there are some tips which can make your life easier and you can be kinder to communities you visit and the earth.  

1. Plan ahead

Being more responsible and sustainable when you travel does take thought but it doesn’t have to be impossible.

  • Pack biodegradable or bamboo diapers and wipes with you so you don’t have to worry about running around in a new country trying to find some. Just make sure you don’t flush them! Disposable diapers take, on average 500 years to decompose and are manufactured using many harsh chemicals. They don’t take up that much room and then you are not only prepared but also not harming the earth. Also bring a few biodegradable swim diapers for your pool time – no one wants to see floaties!
  • Bring a sippy cup so you can skip the straw and bring a reusable spoon. This allows for you to avoid getting single use plastic items or straws at restaurants and means you have the ability to provide snacks anywhere. A reusable, washable waterproof bag is also great to put dirty anything
  • If you have young children bring snack containers. You can often get a little something from breakfast that will be a life saver mid-morning and you don’t then need to buy something that is unhealthy or single use plastic.
  • Figure out how to get somewhere before the day of. Nap times are time for a cup of much needed coffee and perhaps use Google Maps or SkyScanner to figure out your next spot in the least carbon intensive manner. Try to take local transit such as trains or buses but if you do have to fly – fly direct. You will not only save carbon emissions; you will save yourself a lot of stress by not changing planes and security line ups (even though young children usually are offered through the priority line ups)

2. Pack Less

Although it is useful to bring biodegradable items with you to avoid buying things that will go into landfill, it doesn’t mean you need to pack everything including the kitchen sink. The less you pack, the lighter your carbon footprint will be

  • Remove all packaging before you go. Many countries don’t have adequate recycling facilities
  • Try to bring carry-on only or only things you can carry. Remember your child is now allowed one bag so if you can do it without checking luggage, it will be cheaper and easier on the other end. Don’t forget that really young children are easy to carry in a sling but if not, buggies/strollers do not count as a piece of luggage.
  • Bring less with you as you can wash things. I remember taking my daughter to Japan when she was two. We had two backpacks and a stroller. I thought we wouldn’t have everything but we found we could get laundry done easily (and it always came back nicely folded and cleaner than when I did it!) and we realized we didn’t even use ¼ of the things we brought and we brought far less than the first time we traveled!

3. Take it Easy.

Do one thing a day and enjoy it. If that means writing a postcard and posting it then great. You are traveling after all so take time to see the sites or enjoy it when a shopkeeper makes googly eyes at your baby. Often it is the small moments that we get the most joy out of.  Even booking a more sustainable accommodation by using sites BookDifferent, EcoBnB or Fairbnb and look for tour operators which outline responsible tourism practices You don’t have to be perfect – just choose one thing and celebrate that effort.

Want more information? Need more tips? Check out the 5* read: Are We There Yet? Traveling more responsibly with your children. Available on Amazon or a bookshop near you.

Are we there yet? - Rachel Dodds & Richard Butler