Traveling has always been one of my passions, and when I got pregnant I was determined that having a baby wouldn’t stop me from doing what I love.
Having a little one may slow you down a tad, with a bit of planning and a can-do attitude, I promise you can do it too! In a little over 10 months we have completed 12 flights, including a trip across the Atlantic. Below are my top 20 travel tips for flying and traveling with baby!
1. Plan in advance. Weeks ahead of time I start making lists of what I intend to back. Rushing to pack mommy, daddy and baby (not to mention other kiddos) the night before sometimes can’t be helped, but odds are you will forget something. Make a list and create a small staging area where you can start to collect those things you don’t to make sure you remember!
2. Get a passport card. For international travel baby will need a passport, which will be good for 5 years. I suggest also getting the passport card for baby as a form of identification. Although the card can only be used for international travel to select destinations, you can throw it in your wallet and use for domestic travel so you can avoid lugging around a copy of the birth certificate or passport in your things.
3. Stroller is your best friend. Take a stroller that is nice enough that it’s enjoyable to push around, but that you will feel ok checking at the gate. If you don’t have the stomach to have an expensive jogging stroller possibly damaged, don’t bring it. The stroller will be a great place for baby to nap while you enjoy a museum, seeing the sites, or use as a place to feed baby. It’s also an excellent caddy at the airport. Until you check your larger luggage, it can be hard to manage getting all that stuff through the airport, so I usually wear my Baby Bjorn Carrier with him and dump the diaper bag and carry ons in the stroller. (Side note, Baby Bjorn is also a must have getting on and off the plane with your bags.) Adding an extra caddy and cupholder will add to the convenience. You will need to stop at gate check-in to get a tag to check your stroller. Don’t worry, it will be waiting for you when you disembark the plane.
4. Clutch and diaper bag. The days of a trendy purse are now replaced with a diaper bag, but I still need someway to organize my necessities (wallet, phone, lipgloss, hair ties, sunglasses), so I use a small clutch to contain all my clutter and then stuff it into my carry on or diaper bag. I highly recommend a backpack diaper bag because you can wear it, keeping your hands free for holding your baby, carry on, pacifier, tickets, folding your stroller, car seat, and well, you get the point. :-). There are lots of cute ones out there, but I’ve coveted my husband’s Diaper Dude bag I bought him last year- it’s the most practical and comfortable hands down. PetuniaPicklebottom also has another great option!
5. Changes of clothes. As a general rule, I pack 2 outfits a day for baby, assuming we will have a food or butt disaster at some point :-). Make sure to pack a few onesies in your diaper bag or carry on so you can do a quick change, or aren’t left scrambling if your luggage doesn’t arrive with you. Also remember to bring plastic bags to put the dirty stuff into (dog poop or produce bags are a good because they wrap around what’s inside pretty easily), although if it’s too gross and just a basic onsie, you may just want to cut your losses (no need to carry poop with you for a full day if you aren’t returning to your hotel). Also pack an extra shirt for mommy and daddy in the event of a longer trip where you won’t want to be in dirty clothes all day.
6. Don’t Stress! A lot is going on at the airport, but try not to get stressed or rushed. There are lots of people without babies who fumble about and take forever to board. Don’t let anyone rush you or make you feel bad. You paid for this flight, and just because you take longer to unpack or may have some crying here or there, other non-baby passengers can do the same thing. That guy farting up a storm across the aisle or teenager with headphones blaring for the world to hear can be far worse!! While in a good mood, let you baby smile and mingle, charming all those around him. That way he’s that cute baby who just happens to be crying, just not another noise. And honestly, I have found other passengers to mostly be very understanding and helpful, one college girl even offering to “babysit” on the plane for us 🙂 If someone does give you a hard time, just turn the other cheek and pay all your attention to cuddling and caring for baby!
7. Car seat. You can use a TSA approved car seat on the plane if you buy a ticket for baby, or you can have a lap child up to 2 years of age. If you intend on getting in a car when you land, you will need a car seat, so you will need to bring one along unless you plan to rent one. Car seats can be very heavy, so I recommend investing in a lightweight travel car seat so it isn’t as bad to lug through the airport- I love this Costco Carseat and it has been recommended for travel on a number of websites too. If you buy baby a seat, it is required he or she sit in a car seat. Also, install the seat the way you would in a car- rear facing is ok!! Car seat hack: Buy a container of bungee cords (which can also be super helpful around the house), and use those to attach your car seat to your wheely carry on bag.
8. Basic baby stuff. Don’t obsess and bring 50 bottle along with you, as you can only use one at a time. I’d recommend maybe 2 bottles in your carry on and then maybe another one in your checked bags if you are nervous. Always have a fresh bottle or sippy cup ready for takeoff and landing- keeping baby swallowing often will help regulate the pressure in their ears during takeoff and descent. Remember, anywhere you travel will generally have bottles and diapers. Anything that you can buy locally, leave at home and take only the travel day essentials with you. If you need a specific formula or medicine, make sure you bring along. Bring pacifiers, one or two small toys and a book – babies don’t need a huge variety to be happy. I highly recommend stocking up on a few of these Baby Rings that I usually just order on Amazon. They have great textures and colors for baby to play with, look at and chew on, and you can also loop some of their favorite smaller toys or pacifiers through one end and attach the other to you, the stroller or the baby carrier – that way when baby chucks that toy it won’t land on the dirty airplane or airport floor!
9. Seat or no seat. As a general rule, I’ll fly up to 3 hours holding a baby in my lap on a plane, but after that I’ll purchase a seat. Some airlines offer reduced fare for babies, so be sure to call and ask the airline to see what they may offer. Another plus of the seat is two more possible bags you can carry on board – although that also means two more bags to manage through the airport. If you don’t buy a seat, you will still need to check baby in and get a boarding pass to proceed though security and onto the plane. Even if you don’t buy a seat, still bring that car seat and ask to see if there are any open seats – you can possibly get that baby in a seat free of charge!
10. Download. On your phone, iPad, whatever you have, download some visual apps to distract baby, and some noise maker apps to help sooth baby wherever you are. My favorites at the moment include a couple Fischer Price apps, and Sesame Street has a great one as well. We don’t leave home without a fan episode of Sesame Street or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. And no need to download 20 shows- babies are happy watching the same thing over and over again. Remember to bring your charging cord in your carry on to power up in the airport, or pack a few small battery chargers.
11. Rent a car. Sometimes taxis and trains can sound appealing, but renting a car is the best way to get around on the ground after you get to your destination. Make sure to get one big enough for your stroller and extra baby bags. Having a car will allow you to stop when baby needs to stop and take a break, or have baby’s diaper changed, and is less stressful than trying to rush baby, stroller and a million bags on and off a train before it takes off for its next stop.
12. Packing Cubes. These things are amazing for travel with or without babies, but are especially nice for corralling all the little tidbits like socks, washcloths, onesies, food packets, ect. It allows for easy categorization and organization, especially if mixing mommy and daddy’s clothes in the same cases. I have found the ones on Someebags to be really nice and have several – they also have lots of other great diaper and travel bags as well.
13. Accommodations. Stay close to the sites you want to see so you can make pit stops back at the hotel pretty easily for meals or naps if you like. It’s also nice to have someplace where baby can crawl around in the grass at the end of the day and stretch this legs. Staying in a rental house or apartment is ideal so you can have access to a kitchen and more space to move around. It’s also great to have a separate sleeping area for parents and baby, and a bonus if there is a washer/dryer inside. If choosing a hotel, call ahead to make sure they can help provide a crib and the room will be big enough. If you are driving (or don’t mind lugging one more item when you fly), I recommend bringing your own portable crib, that way baby has the same bed night after night and you know it’s clean.
14. Inflatable tub. This is a great option to help contain baby in a cleaner space. It’s also a good idea to bring along when traveling in Europe, because not all hotels will have a bath tub. You can pick them up on Amazon, so its super easy!
15. Blankets. I usually being a soft snuggle blanket to help baby fall asleep and cuddle with, and an old swaddling blanket or two for something to put down on the ground when baby needs to stretch his legs.
16. Changing in Europe. Get ready to change baby anywhere and everywhere. There are not as many public bathrooms with changing stations readily available. Get a cushy changing mat and get ready for some baby buns in the piazza. No one seems to mind, but it is a little tricky when have have to address a Mt Vesuvius explosion in the diaper.
17. Doctors and Meds. Before leaving, try to locate through your doctor, recommendations from locals, or even the internet, a pediatrician and/or hospital in case baby needs to go to the doctor. My doctor said if you are flying blind, generally speaking she would recommend going to a university hospital because they tend to have better care and services. Bring a digital thermometer (I like the ones that you can scan their ear or forehead) so you can easily check if baby is just tired and a little off or actually sick. Always have a fever and pain reducer like Tylenol or Advil on hand, some teething aids, and a nasal bulb. If going to a foreign country, also bring any other regular meds with you that baby often takes because it can be difficult to find the same brands that you are used to, not to mention trying to figure out the dosage. In addition to his ear infection, out little dude also got pinkeye, and trying to find drops was crazy (we eventually did succeed in convincing a pharmacist what to give us after going to med school at WebMD). Another great thing to take along to help with dehydration if baby isn’t eating well or has tummy issues is powder packets of Pedialite.
18. Flight Times. Try to book your flights that work well around baby’s schedule. While you may be up for a 6am flight, baby might have different ideas woken up at 3am from a cozy snooze to get ready and packed in the car. if traveling internationally, doing an overnight flight where baby can sleep most of the time can be great!!
19. Time Zones. When we flew to Italy the time difference was 6 hours ahead for us. He slept most of the way over on the flight, but his schedule was still a little off those first few days. The first night it was tricky to get him to go down to bed because for him it felt way early, but night by night we backed it down a little, and by the 3rd night he had adjusted and seemed to be sleeping and napping close to his regular schedule. On the return he seemed to bounce back in about 3 days as well. Pushing the bed times back or forward just a little for a few days should help them adjust to the new time, and they will be sleeping well before you know it. If only changing an hour here or there, I’d recommend sticking to their regular schedule to make it easier on everyone.
20. Great Expectations. It is good to have realistic expectations before embarking on a trip with baby and plan accordingly.
If you are day dreaming of a relaxing trip to the south of France, it is healthy to embrace the fact that you will in fact get to bask in the sun along the French Riviera, but as you try to balance a glass of rose in one hand you will be applying copious amounts of sunscreen on a wiggling little critter with the other, desperately looking for shade for baby, lugging a beach bag and a diaper bag, chasing baby around quickly blocking baby’s attempts to eat yet another pebble on the beaches you peer over at the other beach goers, the lovely people who are lazily sipping delicious cocktails, gazing out at the sea for hours on end, drifting in and out of a lovely sleep while reading their new favorite summer novel.
Get ready. Babies can cry, get tired, get cranky, require a lot of extra equipment, and can get sick (ours got a double ear infection and cold when we went to Italy). That being said, I would take a vacation day with baby than staying at home any day of the week, hands down. I am so excited to share this planet with my child and watch him experience all the amazing things this world has to offer. I will never forget watching him crawl around in the grass under a giant lemon tree in Tuscany, watching the world whisk by him in a busy market in Florence, sitting at an Italian restaurant teething on a hunk of delicious crunchy bread, and going for a boat ride on Lake Como. Vacations, big or small, are moments for families to come together and make memories, and I promise as soon as you are back you will forget the hard parts (well, for the most part anyway), and just look back at those photos and smile.
To make it easier on yourself, pick an itinerary that is more suited for a baby lifestyle. Choose one or two key places and set up camp for a few days at that destination to minimize unpacking and repacking your and baby’s things. Pick a few items on your agenda that are must see and leave the rest of your schedule open for walking around and just taking in the sights, or playing at a park. A more relaxed itinerary will lend itself to a more relaxing trip for the mommy, daddy and baby.