We’re back from sunny Nevada. GB is cold and flooding and it’s safe to say that we definitely miss the desert!
Travelling half-way across world with a nine-month-old was something we will remember forever. As promised, I wanted to share our experience in a blog, mainly how we made the most of it by finding fun baby-friendly things to do in a place that many presume is just for adults (spoiler alert, it’s not).
I’ve brain-dumped our entire visit into a pretty lengthy post below. Sorrynotsorry for the general disorder and rambling-ness. We’re all still a bit jet lagged so as always, I’m just going to dive right in and share my thoughts (and photos) completely unedited.
A LONG HAUL FLIGHT & DEALING WITH JET LAG
So, I’ve decided not to dedicate too much space to waffling on about this (even though I could write an entire book on it) because every baby and holiday is different. If you’re about to do it, just know that it may be challenging for everyone at first (much like those initial sleepless weeks with a newborn), but once you settle in, the end result of enjoying your first holiday together in a new place is exhilarating.
Not sleeping great on the outbound journey plus needing a week to adapt to the time zone initially made our baby quite unhappy at times. I think it was a shock to his system not being able to get to sleep at night and being so overtired, he also lost the ability to get himself off for naps during the day. We’d underestimated how much there was for him to get used to – new time zone, apartment, cot, car, pram, foods, smells, sights, sounds… taking all of this in whilst incredibly tired. Seeing our baby so upset at times, we agreed was super tough.
But… we did it! He did it. It was such an epic challenge, in so many ways, for all three of us, but watching him adapt so amazingly under new circumstances in a new environment brought proud tears to our tired eyes. With our unwavering care and attention, he began to settle in, feel secure and enjoy himself. We focused on his needs, we followed our usual routine, we were patient, we had lots of cuddles, we prioritised getting him down for daytime naps and carrying out our usual bedtime traditions, we all went to bed early, we remained positive, and we made the most of the early mornings (ensuring we didn’t do too much and had down-time in the evenings).
Because of our teamwork, attitude and strategy, we all adjusted – our baby became more and more happy as time went on and we ended up having one of, if not, the most rewarding and uplifting experiences of our lives. Knowing that it was a struggle to begin with just made the good bits feel even better!
So, as promised, moving onto those good bits, what we got up to.
We chose to visit Las Vegas for our friends’ wedding and because we’ve been here many times before, it was the perfect place to take our son for his first trip abroad. We hired a car (so that we could explore) and stayed in a privately rented apartment (so that we could avoid hotel resort fees and taxes and benefit from a kitchen for purees and formula feeding).
Before we travelled we made a list of all the things we wanted to do with our son, things we had never gotten the chance to do before, and I can’t believe we managed to tick them all off! Hopefully this can provide you with some inspiration.
THINGS WE DID WITH OUR BABY IN LAS VEGAS
Exploring nature with our little one was top of our list, and he was just as in awe at the gorgeous plains of Nevada as we were. We’re big on getting out in the daylight and fresh air, so if this isn’t your vibe, don’t bother reading ahead as this was the focus of our visit (and I am convinced it helped him adapt to a new time zone).
Our first day trip was to Red Rock Canyon, only a 25 minute drive from LV. You explore the 13 mile loop around the park by car, stopping and getting out when you want to check out one of the 26 different hikes available across the area. As with all of the parks we visited, we got a detailed map at the entrance, lots of tips from staff and everything was incredibly well sign-posted. We stopped at nearly all of the points on the loop, eventually taking a short, flat walk from the Pine Creek Canyon point.
And you don’t have to commit to an entire hike – especially if you’re only planning to do 20 minutes or so with a heavy baby strapped to you, you can just begin the trail and turn around when you want or when it gets tough (remembering how far you’ve walked and so how far you need to do back again). Be aware of where the sun is and don’t forget to take sunscreen – we did all of these walks in a cooler than usual November climate but still needed protection from the midday sun and woolly jumpers for the chilly mornings and evenings.
A bit further afield, the Valley of Fire State Park is about a 1 hour 15 minutes drive but the views are worth the slightly longer journey. Again, we drove around the park and decided to do the final hike on the map, a 45 minute trek around the White Domes – it’s not flat and is just about do-able with a carrier if you feel strong, confident and stable on foot, and you can always go really slow or turn around if you don’t feel up for tackling it.
One of our most memorable days was at Mount Charleston. A 45 minute drive, the landscape is completely different to anything you’d imagine to find in Vegas. Free entry, breathtaking views which are accessible by car, friendly visitor centre staff who will give you lots of tips and even snow activities in the Winter (search Lee Canyon if this is your sort of thing). We did a couple of short walks from the visitor centre, and via car stopped at the Desert View Overlook, which is a paved platform with stunning views that you could definitely walk along with a pram.
We’ve visited Lake Mead National Recreation Area before – when you say Las Vegas people don’t think of water, yet this lake is a place of outstanding beauty. Entry is $25 per car, there are sandy beaches, picnic spots, hikes, camping areas and more. We actually drove South to the Colorado River (it took us about an hour and a half) and rented a boat with some friends. The rental place should have a life-jacket for your baby as they will need to wear one. Don’t forget a warm layer as (depending on what time of year you visit) being out on a boat can be chilly at times.
A short drive out of Vegas, Seven Magic Mountains is a colourful piece of art make from stacks of rocks that is definitely a sensory delight for a baby – it’s free to visit and a nice thing to do for a morning or afternoon. If you have a sturdy one, the short path to the boulders is definitely pram-friendly.
We enjoyed a couple of afternoons in the Arts District area. Head to South Main Street which is buzzing with a Soho vibe: street art, galleries, coffee spots and loads of retro and vintage shops – if your baby is quite happy to sit in the pram whilst you browse, you could easily kill a day here (if like me you could get lost in an antique shop forever).
A short drive away, the Downtown area and Fremont Street are worth an explore – all ages can gaze at the ceiling light show and vibrant street art, and when you’re ready to stop for something to eat, set up camp at the Container Park, a small centre filled with shops, eateries, galleries… all family-friendly.
Despite wanting to get familiar with the outskirts of Vegas, we did also spend a lot of time on ‘The Strip’ (South Las Vegas Boulevard). The beautiful Wynn hotel became our base – the venue for the stunning wedding we attended. Jax loved looking at the intricate floral displays in the lobby, every place we chose to eat in here was baby-friendly and there’s free self-parking too. Big yay.
Under 21s aren’t allowed on any casino floors in Vegas – you can pass through with a child, or walk around for hours if you want, you just can’t sit and use the slot machines with an infant. During our trip we went to New York New York and The Venetian (the latter also free parking) and found every hotel to be welcoming to babies – you see loads of families walking up and down The Strip and in and out of hotels… I promise you won’t be the only person with a stroller!
Other hotel recommendations (if you’re looking for them): having visited LV for six years or so, our favourite hotel is Aria (because of its new facilities but generally affordable price for what you get). After checking it out, we said that in the future we’d try the new Park MGM as it looks lovely. And if we ever won the lottery you’d find us at The Wynn or The Encore, which in our opinion continue to be the nicest hotels on the strip.
If you’re going off-season, working out which hotels have pools open all year round is worth the research. It’s November in Nevada, a really nice 26/27 degrees in the day, yet loads of pools were closed, including the one at our apartment complex. For Vegans this is Winter, but for us Brits it was 100% bikini weather. Off the top of my head, Aria, The Wynn and MGM Signature have pools that are open off-season but policies do change so get contacting the concierge via email to find out before you book. One day I really want to take Jax to the Circus Circus pool which is known for being a hit with kids.
Another week here with our baby and we would have been sure to check out The Mirage Zoo, take a ride on a Gondola at The Venetian and also seen the Bellagio Fountains display and The Wynn’s Lake of Dreams light show. In terms of sensory experiences, the bright lights of Vegas means there is loads for a baby to enjoy just by walking around. We’ve also visited the famous Neon Museum a few times before and absolutely loved it – if you have a car, make sure you add this to your list (and visit at night when the lights will be turned on!).
There’s nothing detailed I can say about baby-friendly restaurants. We didn’t make plans to find anywhere specific – we just went to the favourite spots we normally love and found everyone to be welcoming and accommodating. The Cheesecake Factory, America (in New York New York, get the Nutella pancakes!) and Hash House were all fab with a baby. The Wynn Buffet was a big highlight and it’s worth noting that with most buffets, those under a certain age ate for free (Jax loved trying waffles for the first time!).
The list of things we tried but didn’t love isn’t huge – the only place we visited that we weren’t impressed by is Lake Las Vegas, a new development about 40 minutes out of the centre. Because we loved Lake Mead so much, we thought we’d give it a try but (as it’s still under construction and aimed at private residents rather visitors) it’s very quiet, it’s not easy to work out what there is to do, so after 15 minutes of boredom, we left!
THINGS WE ARE SO GLAD WE TOOK
- Baby sling / carrier
- Home comforts for bedtime (nightlight, sheet from the cot, favourite cuddly toy)
- New toys for the plane (for distraction)
- SPF50 sun cream
- Picnic bags / tupperware / plastic freezer bags / flasks / water bottles
- Baby cutlery
- Milton tabs for sterilising bottles (and found a 2.5l plastic bowl in the apartment to use as receptacle then halved the tablets)
- Sun hat for baby
- Cable for rental car to connect iPhone for navigation / music
- Charged iPad with downloaded Cat in the Hat (Jax’s favourite programme) for the plane
- All the usual nappy bag things we couldn’t survive without – teething salts, teething gel, nappy bags, nappy rash cream, etc.
- A few swim nappies
- Thin blanket for the pram (daytime)
- Thicker blanket for the pram (for the evenings which in Vegas in November, are very cold)
THINGS WE SORTED WHEN WE GOT THERE
- Pram – we borrowed a pram from a friend who lived in Vegas and we would have not coped without one. But we did agree that next time we travel we will hire a car seat, pram and travel cot when we get there, as carting so much stuff in the airport, to the car rental place, etc. was tough.
- We took enough for the plane but bought most nappies and wipes when we got there.
- We managed without baby’s sippy cup and plates, and just used glasses and crockery from the apartment – on the road he learnt to drink from an adult water bottle which was just one of the new skills we saw him pick up whilst we were away!
- COFFEE – the early hours when we opened that fridge and realised we’d run out of cold brew were sad times.
- For evening meals (quick dinner once baby had gone to bed before we soon followed), we were so thankful for the Uber Eats app – so many great restaurants deliver around Vegas to your door, too many to choose from.
- Baby meals – we bought food from local supermarkets and made our own baby food. Jax struggled to eat like normal whilst abroad, taking in much less than usual, so for these ten days (and during the flight especially), we did let him have whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, however he wanted (sometimes this meant waking up in the night for snacks).
- Water – take lots when you go out, especially if hiking. The tap water in LV is drinkable but some locals will tell you it’s worth filtering first. We used it straight from the tap to boil for bottles and purees. Like us, Jax drank bottled water when out and about.
THINGS WE FORGOT TO TAKE
- An old travel towel for food and sick mess – the apartment we rented didn’t have a high chair so he ate on our laps, on the floor and on the couch – it was good to see him try something out of his comfort zone but a layer for mess meant that we would have worried a bit less about ruining the AirBnB’s rug!
- Not a big thing but I forgot nail clippers and those baby nails grow at an incredible rate, don’t they?! Ouch.
Seeing a baby struggle with jet lag can be really hard at times. Try to have fun, lose yourself in the moments, keep smiling and know that you’re doing a good job. The first few nights might be tough but as soon as you all start to gain some proper sleep, things will seem clearer. Soon you’ll be looking back at holiday photos and reflecting on the wonderful memories you made with your little one.
We look back on travelling long haul with our baby with a sense of awe, having witnessed someone so tiny and vulnerable adapt so amazingly in challenging circumstances. Feelings of pride and accomplishment have brought us closer together as a family – we just love him and want to protect him even more so than we did before, warm in the knowledge that we were his comfort in a new place.
Now, we can’t stop looking back at our photos and wishing we were still there… where can we explore next?!