Baby On Board: Lessons From Our First Family Bike Tour

Camping and bike touring with a 3 month old baby: a crazy plan? Perhaps. At least that’s what some of our friends thought. 

Crazy or not, the fact is that we were itching to go touring. We’d had a sedentary autumn and winter waiting for Luke to arrive and our last night in the tent was nearly 6 months ago.

It was the middle of May before the right factors came together: a baby that was (mostly) sleeping through the night, warmer evening temperatures and a good weather forecast. We packed up the bikes and set off. It had been ages, but the wait was worth it.

The roads were quiet, smooth and lined with spring flowers. This was bike touring in the Netherlands at its best.

Heading out on the quiet roads with Luke's trailerSpring touring in the Netherlands: glorious!

We cycled about 100km over two days (see the GPS track). It was fantastic, and we learned a few things about family bike touring along the way. Here are our main learning points for the next tour. Maybe they’ll help other families also planning to take a young child on tour.

1. Research The Route Carefully. The route we planned wasn’t as well laid out as it could have been. In a few places the bike paths were unpaved or very narrow. We didn’t want to jostle Luke around too much so we went slowly and occasionally walked the bike.

A very narrow path!We could have made some changes to our route to avoid ending up on small, bumpy paths.

We also ended up on a few roads which were a touch too busy for our liking. As single tourers, these roads wouldn’t have bothered us at all but as new parents we (unsurprisingly) felt very protective of our new little boy and more sensitive to traffic. For future tours, we’ll be researching the roads better to avoid these kinds of situations.

2. Divide and Conquer. A baby needs a lot of attention and it quickly became clear that the only way to get anything done around the campsite was to have one person take care of the baby while the others set up camp, did the cooking and took over any other tasks that needed doing. Happily, we had our good friend Alicia along for the ride and she was happy to take turns entertaining. That was a huge help!

Entertaining Luke
Entertaining Luke: someone was always on duty.

3. Go Slowly. With a baby in tow, it’s the baby that sets the pace and that’s unlikely to be anywhere near as quick as your pre-kid touring days. We only cycled 40km on Saturday because Luke was a little fussy. We didn’t want to stress him out so we stopped for plenty of play breaks and breastfeeding on demand.

On Sunday, we rode 60km and that was plenty. Andrew really noticed how much the extra drag of the trailer was wearing him out. For our 3 week bike tour later this summer, we’re planning on an average of 40km a day. That’s half the distance we were used to doing without a baby.

Chilling Out
Luke, just chilling out on his sleeping mat.

4. Expect The Unexpected. We didn’t have too many unexpected occurrences during our trip but one thing caught us off-guard: Luke’s bedtime. He normally drops right off to sleep at 8pm at home. When we put him in a tent at 8pm, however, it was still very bright out and all that sunshine meant he didn’t want to go to sleep at all. It took twice as long to get him to sleep as normal and that was initially a bit stressful.

Thankfully, once he dropped off he slept like a log. The next morning, we woke up to find that Luke had already been awake for some time but had been kept quietly amused by the patterns of light and shadows on the tent walls.

Luke going to bedPutting Luke to bed took longer than expected.

Overall, we had a wonderful time and we can’t wait to do more bike touring trips with Luke. Here are some more of our favourite pictures from the weekend…

Alicia making supper
Alicia making supper.

Asparagus! We bought it from a roadside farm stand.

Friedel & her cheese
Cheese that we bought from a small cheesefarm along the route.

Andrew with the Chariot
Andrew towing Luke’s Chariot trailer. Luxury travel for a baby!