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St. Maarten, St. Martin

Top 5 Tips for Baby’s First Caribbean Travel Experience

Top 5 Tips for Baby’s First Caribbean Travel Experience

For many years, traveling has been my favorite way to fill my days. Limin’ on some coastline with a rum in my hand, listening to a soundtrack of West Indian music while allowing the sun to dip into the sea. Or tramping through the bush, marveling at the sounds and displays of Caribbean birds while collecting ripe, fallen mangoes on my way to some exotic location. Or countless other adventures varying widely from safe to undeniably ill-advised. This was what I liked to do more than anything.

Then, along came this guy:

New Baby Infant Traveler
The Baby

The prevailing wisdom said, my life would have to change… And it did. There are now several brightly colored “activity gyms” in my living room. I had to gut my home office converting it into a baby room—replacing my desk with a crib and assorted other baby-centric materials. My uninterrupted nights of sleep have become a fond, but distant memory and the woman with whom I spent so many nights out on the town has a new, demanding guy in her life.

But have you looked at that face above? How could you not want to shower that boy with love?

When it came to the all important subject of traveling, however, I took a slightly unconventional approach. Rather than giving it up, or at least reigning it in, I’m going to give something else a try:

Travel more!

My hope: If I venture out even more, with this new addition in tow, he’ll become more than just mildly comfortable with air, land and sea travel, but actually become a lover of international adventure as much as his “old man.”

As we began planning our three-month-old’s first Caribbean travel experience, there were five tips at the top of my list:

  • Spend as little time in-transit as possible. This was also on my list of tips for a babymoon and it goes double for baby’s first trip. Not only are you doing it for your child, who will find everything new and potentially irritating, but for yourselves too. Try to minimize the stress of maneuvering a baby through airport security, long bouts trying to sit still on an airplane, etc.
  • Go somewhere familiar. This is a funny tip coming from me, because normally I would advise the exact opposite for uncommon travelers. The world is so full of new things to explore, going back to a recently visited locale just doesn’t make much sense to me. But in this case, it’s the right thing to do. The last thing you want is to get lost with a fussy baby. And besides, just because you’re familiar with a place, doesn’t mean you can’t try to discover new things about it!
  • Bring everything you think you may need and a little more. I like to travel very, very light. So much so that on short trips my bags are often half empty. Now with a baby, this translates into more room for the kid’s tiny needs—a couple more diapers, a couple more wipes, a few more outfits, baby sunscreen, any of your child’s medicinal needs, etc. But don’t go overboard and pack excessively. You can always buy diapers and more at your destination if necessary.
  • Consider making the first trip a shorter one. We did this because we were worried our little boy might have some trouble with the trip, hotel, climate change, or other unimagined change to his surroundings. It turned out he didn’t, but I still feel it’s worth noting, because if he had, we would have all been miserable for an extended period.
  • Ask, ask ask. When you’re checking into your flight, ask if it’s full. If it isn’t, ask to have an empty seat next to you for your baby. We also called ahead to the delightful L’Esplanade Hotel to ask about a crib. (We’re very thankful that our three month old likes to sleep in his crib and we weren’t about to give that up.) Additionally, you can call ahead to airlines and ask to secure other baby needs, but we didn’t do this.

So, to cover tips one and two, we chose St. Martin as our destination. Not only had we just been there six months ago for our babymoon, but it’s a simple, direct flight out of the excellent Terminal 5 at JFK aboard JetBlue. In terms of the actual flight, here are a few more tips:

  • First impressions go a long way. Introduce your cute child to the whole plane by going for a little walk up and down the aisle while he’s happy and smiling. He’ll catch the eye of passengers who’ll form a positive opinion of your sweet baby. This way, should his demeanor hit a little turbulence, your fellow passengers will likely think “awww, poor adorable baby needs a little lovin'” as opposed to “damn, that obnoxious kid is loud.”
  • Feed for takeoff and landing. Many articles online mention that one of the main discomforts infants face on a flight is the cabin pressure changes that occur during takeoff and landing. Feeding during those periods allows your child to adjust more peacefully. Plus, a positive side effect of the tight seating configuration in today’s planes means even the shyest nursing mothers can feed their children with some sense of privacy.

If you follow these tips, you should end up with a happy baby both here:

New Baby Infant Traveler - Airplane
Happy Baby on a Plane

And here:

New Baby Infant Traveler - Beach
Happy Baby at the Beach

A new arrival doesn’t have to be the end of your life as an avid traveler. So far, with our three-month-old, it just took following a few simple tips to make the whole experience not just doable, but actually a lot of fun.

Good luck!

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  • Nathalie

    where in St. Maarten did you stay? We’re thinking of doing the same when our baby is 3.5 months old. Let me know. thanks.

  • Sara

    What vaccinations did you need for you and the baby? My brother is getting married in Carribbean and while we don’t have the baby yet, our baby will be about 3.5 months old when we go for the wedding.

    • uncommoncarib

      Sara, there are no vaccinations necessary! Where in the Caribbean is the wedding?

  • Traveling mom

    Would you recommend a bassinet or other for outdoor use? Like on beach or by pool. I have a 3 month old and we,re heading to Jamaica in a few weeks.

    • uncommoncarib

      Hey there. For us, we didn’t need a bassinet. Our boys when they were that age happily slept on beach chairs with no problem. The more stuff you bring, but bigger the hassle. Like I said above, try not to go overboard and pack excessively!

  • Lindsey

    I love this post! I’m pregnant with my first and my husband and I are determined to still get out and see the world after our little one arrives…we believe it will be better for her in the long run! That said, we are traveling to St. Thomas for a wedding when she’ll be ~3.5 months old. Did you bring a travel crib? And did you use sunscreen? I keep hearing moms say you can’t put sunscreen on an infant, but I’m curious as to why something all natural would t work…


    • uncommoncarib

      Hey Lindsey!

      Thanks so much for loving the post and congratulations on the countdown to your new Caribbean traveler!

      When we’re on the road, we very much prefer to bring as little as possible. Just think, you’ll have your stuff, dad’s stuff, and the babies essentials like clothes, some diapers, maybe some bottles, car seat, etc. Even trying to take as little as possible, you’ll have a lot.

      So, no we don’t travel with a crib. We prefer to ask the property if they can supply one. Most will gladly do that for free. If you’re in a rental villa, there could be a cost associated with that, though it won’t be much.

      As for sunscreen, yes! There’s some sunscreen formulated for these little guys. As you can see here http://bit.ly/GEwtmO, we used California Baby SPF30+ Sunscreen Lotion


      • Bi

        Where in St Thomas did you stay? Thank you!

  • Summer Ann

    I love this article. We are taking a cruise with our 6 month old next month and one of the stops will be in St. Maarten. We have been on plenty of cruises before but never with a baby but we are also determined to travel with our little guy because we love it so much. This will be his third trip but the first one to a beach and I have been googling like crazy trying to get advice on what activity to do in the short 8 hours or so we will have there. Do you have any advice on specific beaches or places to hang out?

    Summer Ann

  • Alexis

    Hello! I know this blog post is a little old but I have some questions! We are taking our 2 month old and 2 year old to Turks and Caicos next month. This will be in July, any tips for appropriate clothing for my 2 month old to make sure he is well protected but also not at risk for overheating? Everything I read is making it out to seem like babies aren’t allowed in the Caribbean, however babies are born there every year! I do have my parents, sister, and aunt coming with us so we aren’t completely crazy!

    • uncommoncarib

      Hey! My apologies on the delay in getting back to you.

      OK, #1: Babies are allowed in the Caribbean! In fact, babies are amazing in the Caribbean. See: http://bit.ly/zLAtBl

      And it’s actually pretty easy to protect them:
      • Lots of sunscreen reapplied regularly
      • SPF50+ Sun Protection One Piece Rash Guards http://amzn.to/1W3EDvY
      • A hat with SPF protection http://amzn.to/1W3Fk8H

      That’s it!

      Before you know it, you’ll look just like this photo.

  • Jay

    My daughter will be 5 months when we head to st maarten is there any specific vaccines she will need?