29 March 2023 by Pearl
We had a wonderful time on our bike touring adventure in Taiwan with our little 4-6 month old baby. Our confidence to try touring was very much inspired by two mini-guidebooks (Cycle Touring with a Baby/Toddler, Cycle Touring with Two Young Kids) written by Maya and Gili on the Life in MAGIc Land blog. Since we learned so much from them, I wanted to share our thoughts here, in case they can be of interest/use to others.
I’ll start with a note of encouragement. If you’re interested in cycle touring with your baby and your life circumstances make it possible, I encourage you to go for it! Our bicycle tour proved an important bonding experience for us as a family. There will be challenges and it’s hard to avoid being anxious about towing such precious cargo, but we also found many rewards. Four to six months was a nice sweet spot in terms of age – our baby was sturdy enough to be towed comfortably in a trailer and sleeping well but not yet crawling around (which would have made our lives a bit more challenging to tour and work remotely on Wandrer).
Here’s what we brought along and found useful for the baby:
What we shipped home
We did laundry about twice per week on average. At the beginning of our trip we bought a set of 13 laundry soap pods that lasted our entire trip. Most of the places we stayed had washing machines and laundromats with dryers were easy to find.
We initially tried cloth diapers but it was hard to keep up with the laundering and our baby would get a diaper rash from the cloth diapers that cleared pretty much instantly when switching to disposables. However, an unexpected nuisance of disposable diapers was blowouts – about once a day on average she’d have a blowout that went up the back or out the sides at her legs (or both). She didn’t seem to fit very well into the size small or medium diapers that we found in Taiwan. Now that she’s eating more solid foods, her poops have firmed up and we don’t have blowouts anymore no matter the diaper, so blowouts may be less of an issue if you’re traveling with an older baby.
Our baby and I shared a bed throughout the trip, which worked well for us. She switched time zones relatively easily and had no trouble with many different sleep environments (plus we didn’t have to carry a special crib for her). We successfully transitioned her to a crib about two weeks after we returned home, since she’s getting bigger, more mobile, and less considerate as a bedmate – so it’s possible to bed share for several months and then go back to a crib.
We carried camping gear for two months and tried to use it once – only to be offered a free bed to sleep in by the kind campground owners who didn’t want to see a baby sleep in a tiny backpacking tent on their watch. I know it’s possible to happily bike tour and camp (read the guidebooks from Maya and Gili linked above), but it wasn’t feasible for us to bike tour, camp, and keep working. If we weren’t trying to keep working on Wandrer, I think we would have camped more often. It probably also would have helped to have a bit more space (our 2 person bikepacking tent is comfortable for an adult and baby but two adults and a baby is a tight squeeze). Next time, I’ll probably leave the camping gear at home.
Prior to our trip, I breastfed our baby and she drank a bottle of pumped milk about once a day when I would go out. During the trip, I breastfed her whenever she seemed to need it, often using a blanket for privacy. I also didn’t leave her very often because I was worried that she would become super fussy and Craig wouldn’t be able to calm her down without food to offer. In hindsight, I wish we’d just traveled with one bottle and some formula so that Craig could feed her a bottle as needed. When we first arrived back home, she wouldn’t take a bottle from anyone except me, which made our transition back quite challenging. Oh well!
We woke up between 7 and 8 AM. After breakfast, the baby typically took a morning nap starting around 9:30 AM. Many days, we stayed at our hotel until 11 AM and worked during her morning nap. Then we’d pack up, check out of the hotel at 11, and start riding. At about 1 PM, we’d stop for lunch, nursing, and diaper change. We also tried to give her some tummy play time. Then we’d ride for a few hours in the afternoon and arrive to our next destination by 5 PM. We’d settle in, showers, dinner, and bed for me & baby while Craig usually worked at least an extra hour. On riding days, we averaged 50 km / 30 mi and we frequently took breaks where we stayed for several days in places that we liked so that there was more time for work.
Please don’t hesitate to email us if you have any questions about bike touring with a baby. Craig and I are happy to share more of our experience. I can’t think of a better way for our new family to bond. We’re already looking forward to our next adventure!
Craig and I hesitated about having a baby for a long time because we weren’t sure it would be possible to continue having adventures once we were responsible for a little one. But we haven’t stopped! We bike toured in Taiwan from age 4 to 6 months and spent almost a month at my family’s home in Maine at age 11 months. And last week we took a road trip to Bentonville, Arkansas, primarily to mountain bike with a group of riding friends while also hanging out with our 13-month old baby. I wanted to share a little bit about what we found in Bentonville and our experience traveling to mountain bike with a little one in case the info is helpful to anyone else.
Craig and I have very much enjoyed learning more about winter cycling from Wandrer Pekka Tahkola, an urban planner and well-being engineer who lives in Oulu, Finland. We recommend following him on social media (Instagram / Twitter / YouTube). Oulu is the the winter cycling capital of the world and this BBC News short video and Pekka’s head-to-head Winter Safe Cycling Showdown make it clear why.