We recently returned from our family summer trip to Vinalhaven, Maine. I got SO many questions about the location and about car tripping with a baby (it was about a 6.5-hour drive + a 90-minute ferry to Vinalhaven.)
So, I wanted to share it all in one place! I’m recapping our trip via your FAQs and sharing some of what I packed for baby for this trip and what did/didn’t work for us for a road trip with an infant.
Besides that, there’s not much else. No big shopping. No golfing. No movie theatre. Oh, and very limited cellphone service.
Where’d you go/Tell us about Vinalhaven, ME:
Vinalhaven is a small island off the coast of Maine. You take a ferry out of Rockland, ME. Only about 1,200 people live there year-round.
There is a SMALL downtown that consists of a small grocery store, 5-7 restaurants (depending on the year, they come and go) including a pizza spot, speakeasy, casual dining, slightly nicer dinner place, food truck, and bakery. There’s a few small gift shops/art galleries, two coffee shops, and a small beer/wine store. Oh, and of course a local spot to get lobsters off the boat – where, oddly enough, you can also pump your gas.
The real enjoyment of the island is, well, the island itself. It has miles of trails through spruce forests, along the rocky coast, and through estuaries. There’s a 40-acre nature preserve, plenty of tide pools to explore, and countless rocky beaches. The island has a lot of granite as well so there are some granite bluffs and 2 old granite quarries which are now freshwater swimming holes – which is good because the ocean that north is a little cold for swimming. Be forewarned though, one quarry does boast to be clothing optional.
It’s a great place to visit as a family. Perfect for people looking to unplug, spend time outdoors either biking, hiking, sailing, or just relaxing. It’s not a vacation destination for everyone. If you’re someone who likes to “see all the sights” and “go all the places,” Vinalhaven might be too slow for you. You’ll exhaust downtown in about 30 minutes and have eaten at every establishment by day two.
How did you find your rental?
We used VRBO for this vacation. However, there are TONS of rentals on the island and many are just done privately. So, google “Vinalhaven Rentals” as well to see the options.
I suggest booking in Jan/Feb to get the house you want if you’re looking to go in the summer. Keep in mind many of the houses might not have modern amenities (WiFi, TV, etc.) So, if these things are important to you, check ahead.
How did you decide on Vinalhaven?
I’ve been going to the Maine islands since I was a baby. We’ve done North Haven, Islesboro, and Monhegan. We like Vinalhaven because it has the “most” of the islands, in terms of a grocery store and a few restaurants, and is the largest.
But, if you really want to get away, the others are all highly recommended as well.
How do you get to the island?
There’s a ferry that runs throughout the day, starting at 7ish and ending around 4ish. If you want to take your car across each ferry holds about 16 cars, so you NEED to make a reservation ahead of time. Making a reservation is an ordeal. You can’t reserve until exactly 30 days before you travel and can’t call until 9:30am. If you call at 10:30am and are trying to book a busy day like a Saturday, you might be too late.
What did you pack for baby?
So, this vacation is maybe a little different than others since we were renting a house out on an island we had to bring everything. When you stay at hotels or rentals in bigger cities, sometimes you have the option to rent things like a crib, highchair, etc., so you don’t have to travel with it.
Since we were driving, it wasn’t too bad – a lot more wiggle room than trying to fly. We borrowed a friend’s cartop carrier and easily fit everything we needed. I try really hard not to overpack while still having what I need.
- Stroller – I packed our UppaBaby stroller in the cartop carrier. We used it every day to walk into town. I love that this stroller has tons of underneath storage, too, so we could grocery shop with it.
- Baby Carrier – We used our Lille Baby Carrier for hiking with Miles as well as for getting on/off the ferry. I like this carrier because you can wear it front or back. If you’re planning to do tons of hiking I might suggest a carrier made specifically for hiking, but we just did two fairly easier hikes so this worked perfectly for us.
- Pack n Play – Miles slept in a Pack n Play for the trip. He’d slept in it a few times before on other trips. He never sleeps quite as good in them as at home, but they do the trick. I bring a Pack n Play mattress pad to make it a little more comfortable like his crib at home and a crib sheet. I also have a SnoozeShade for my Pack n Play that helps block out some additional light, which is nice for travel when you don’t know what the window/light situation will be. I don’t bring travel blackout shades with me. While Miles would maybe sleep a little better with them, it wouldn’t be exponentially for the hassle and price of travel shades. I just tack up some blankets on the windows if I need to and call it “good enough.”
- Baby Monitor – I like to see Miles during naps and bedtime, especially in a new place. He sometimes takes 10-20 minutes to fall asleep and the monitor helps me know if he’s awake or just trying to get to sleep. We have the Summer Infant Pixel monitor. I like it because you can hook up multiple cameras so I don’t have to take down the one in his nursery for travel, I just have an extra one. And, I like that it’s not via a Wifi connection so works anywhere. The cons are the picture quality is eh and its range isn’t super far.
- Sound Machine- White noise helps Miles sleep and helps cancel out any noise from wherever you are. When traveling, it can be noisy so a sound machine is a must. We have the Hatch sound machine, but a portable one is another great option for travel.
- Zip-up blanket- I’ve shared this blanket on instagram a lot. It’s like a waterproof picnic blanket that zips up into a little bag. I use it all the time. With a baby who can’t walk yet, it’s great to be able to have a spot to plop him down anywhere I am!
- To see the rest of the baby travel products I recommend, check out my Airplane Travel with a Baby post.
Tips for a long road trip with a baby:
Tons of questions about taking a road trip with a baby. Let’s remember I’m no pro at this. It was our first car trip with Miles that was longer than 3 hours. It wasn’t perfect. We had a few meltdowns (from the baby, not us…thankfully). But, here are my best tips that worked for us.
- Know your baby: I asked you all on IG for your best road trip with baby tips and I got just about every contradicting answer there was. Drive at night the baby will sleep…don’t drive at night, not all babies will sleep. Sit in the back…don’t sit in the back. Make lots of stops…don’t stop, just power through! So, I’d say, know your baby. Miles doesn’t LOVE being in the car for long periods of time. He’s also not a great car seat napper. He’ll easily nap for 2 hours in his crib but in a car seat I’m lucky to get 45 minutes. So, I knew powering through would be absolutely miserable for me and Miles. Instead, we left with ample time and planned to make as many stops as we needed. For us, that ended up being about every 2-1/2 hours. We’d get out for at least an hour. I packed a fold-up picnic blanket so we could have baby playtime anywhere.
- Bring Entertainment: I had extra toys packed for Miles to play with in the car. And, since he’s usually most entertained by me, we made sure the middle seat next to him was empty when we packed the car so I could jump back and sit next to him.
- Use a car-top carrier: We borrowed a soft car top carrier from a friend to pack a lot of stuff in. This freed up space in the car so it didn’t feel so cramped during the long car ride. This especially helped with, like I said above, when I needed to jump in back to entertain Miles.
- Choose the right time of day: Like I said, a lot of people said to drive at night because it was a baby’s natural bedtime and they are more likely to sleep through it. However, others said they tried that and their baby DID NOT sleep. So, some of this comes down to knowing your baby. If you can, an overnight drive can be a great option. But, if you have a baby who doesn’t sleep well in the car seat, going for a daytime trip might work, too. Or, consider leaving around 4. Make a stop for dinner where the baby can have some playtime, then put them “to bed” in the car seat and see how far you can power through while they sleep.
- Be flexible: You can plan until the cows come home, but at the end, like with anything with babes, be flexible. Don’t get upset if things don’t go right on plan.
What’s a good age to travel with a baby?
This is SO personal and really depends on you and your baby. I think if you asked me I’d maybe say after 4 months. But, this is also coming from someone who had a baby who really struggled to nurse and had to pump 8-10 times a day for the first 3 months of his life. Traveling during this time would have been unenjoyable. I could see, if the circumstances were different, that traveling with a younger baby could be just fine! So, the answer is there is no answer. 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, you do what feels right and comfortable to you.
It’s true that traveling with babies is different and it’s hard. Their schedules are going to be thrown off. They will likely sleep less. You’ll sleep less. Your car will get trashed. You’ll probably return with a couple more wrinkles. There might even be a meltdown or two. BUT the memories are ALL worth it. Travel with your babies. Make the memories. Take a CRAPLOAD (yes this is a technical numerical value) of photos. Home and routine and schedules will be waiting for you when you get home.