Books abound to help frazzled parents get through it, but El Cerrito mom Shelly Rivoli said she's found them incomplete.
"I bought a lot of books, and I was disappointed," said Rivoli, who has two children. "A lot was missing."
So she wrote one of her own, "Travels with Baby," published last month.
Rivoli and her husband, Tim, love to travel. But like many couples, they thought once they had children, their vacations, especially long trips to exotic destinations, would have to be put on hold for a few years. Before their daughters -- Angelina, 3, and Rosalyn, 1 -- were born, they squeezed in as many vacations as they could.
"We went on a whole bunch of trips as we were getting ready to have kids," she recalled. "Then Angelina came along, and we got the travel bug again."
One day, while bouncing baby Angelina in her home, Rivoli said she realized she could be doing that anywhere in the world.
"I might as well do it somewhere interesting," she said.
Determined not to stay home, the couple began taking short camping trips with their new baby and realized how refreshing it was to escape the everyday demands of life. As Rivoli's desire to travel farther away grew, she searched for information about traveling with children but didn't find everything she was looking for.
"Travels with Baby" offers the basics, such as what travel documents to take, which vaccines are required and what to pack in carry-on luggage for a trans-Atlantic flight. Rivoli also includes some extra details, such as comparison charts of different airlines and cruise lines: Does American Airlines have infant rates? (Yes) Does Disney's cruise line offer in-room baby sitting? (No) Does British Airways have diaper-changing facilities on its planes? (Sometimes).
There also are tips for traveling with children with different temperaments and activity levels; suggestions for co-sleepers or parents of multiples; tips on helping children adjust to new foods and jet lag; step-by-step instructions for changing a diaper at 30,000 feet; and what to do if it all goes wrong.
The information is based on three years of research, including talking to airline officials about their policies and offerings and to many traveling parents locally and abroad. Rivoli said the book can be useful to parents for years.
"It's a book they really can use again and again for all the trips they take, whether it's with a newborn or a school-aged child, going on a beach vacation or to Europe or a trip to grandma and grandpa's," she said.
For Rivoli, the hardest part of traveling with her two daughters is keeping them busy and happy while they spend hours in a small space.
"It's long hours, stuck," she said. "It's confinement in an airplane or a car seat. That's hard for anybody, especially for early toddlers who can't appreciate they're actually going somewhere and can't entertain themselves."
Rivoli suggests making sure everyone in the family gets what they need out of the vacation, whether it's play and exercise time for younger children, socialization opportunities for older children or a parent getting to sleep in while their partner takes the kids on a morning walk.
"Travels with Baby" is available online through booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and parents seem to be big fans. The book was labeled a "hot new release" on Amazon.com's parenting and families section, and reviews on that Web site are glowing.
One reader said she regretted not having the book years before, for trips she took with her 5-year-old. Another reader said, "My 8-month-old has already been across the country, coast-to-coast, and overseas to Europe, and this book has been such a blessing."
Rivoli continues to come up with new tips for traveling parents. In her family's latest trip, to Mexico in October, her daughter Rosalyn got a cut on her finger, and Rivoli was instructed to keep the wound closed up, clean and dry -- a challenge with an active toddler. When she returned, she added a tip titled "Bring waterproof first-aid tape" to the blog she keeps on Amazon.com.
Since she's still picking up bits of travel wisdom here and there, Rivoli said she wouldn't mind coming out with a revised book in a few years.
"I'd definitely like to see a second edition," she said, "but I'm not sure the kids will let me."
Reach Shelly Meron at 510-243-3578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.