Definitive Guide to Traveling with a Baby
You are getting ready to travel, and this time it’s way different because you are traveling with your baby. It can get overwhelming just thinking about how to go about it and all the things you need to know and be prepared for. Well, don’t worry. Here is a definitive guide to traveling with your baby.
Plan your travel and, by all means, write it down. Studies have revealed that when you write something down, it sticks to your brain more therefore, you can remember it easily. This is, however, by no means cast in stone, so go ahead and make a record of your plan whichever way you prefer. Just be sure to plan your travel. Keep in mind that when traveling with a baby, you cannot afford to just wing things as you go. You have to plan. We can’t say this enough.
So, do some research to find places that are baby-friendly. Also, find out what the weather is like so that you can pack clothes that are suitable for the season. Find out about baggage weight; it almost always is a concern so don’t pack too many items. Carry enough milk for your baby if they’re not breastfeeding. Take with you extra formula so that in the event that your flight gets delayed, your baby will not starve. Also, plan for how you will get from one place to the next. You can arrange to have a car waiting for you upon your arrival or use public transport. Just be sure to plan for it as well.
Also, take note that when traveling with a baby, basically everything will take longer than you anticipate. This includes checking in at the airport, going through security, buying stuff you may need, and boarding the airplane. Plan to get to the airport early so you still have time in case things don’t go as expected, and this applies to basically every part of your trip. Leave enough time in your schedule for adjusting to whatever happens. So, as you can see there’s quite some planning you will need to do.
We covered a bit of this on the planning since with planning goes research. However, we thought we should emphasize this point more. The reason why a lot of research is necessary is that the fact that you have a baby changes everything you would otherwise normally do.
For instance, you will need to pack more stuff. The activities you can enjoy doing are different. No doubt you agree that there are some activities you cannot do with a baby, right? Similarly, the amount of time you will spend on whatever it is you choose to do will change as compared to if you didn’t have your baby with you.
Let us begin with the research that you will need to do regarding your flight. Buy a flight that coincides with the time that your little one sleeps. For example, an 8-hour flight for which take off time is at around the time your baby goes to sleep would be very ideal for you. Why, they could even sleep through the entire flight. Wouldn’t that be great?
You will also need to plan your itinerary with your baby in mind. Bear in mind your baby’s nap times and build around that. This will help ensure that your baby is well-rested while you travel so that they’re not tired and cranky. You certainly would not want that.
Also, bear in mind your baby’s safety and well-being. This means there are some activities you will steer clear off. Certainly, no mountain climbing or skiing is possible with a baby. Therefore, you will need to research for other suitable baby-friendly activities or sites available.
You also don’t want to travel 20 miles away to enjoy the next site because this would exhaust your baby. Remember, your baby’s well-being should come first before anything else you may want to do.
You should also do some research with regard to areas secluded for breastfeeding in the airports. Knowing what the weather is like beforehand will enable you to plan well for the activities you can do, as well as the clothes you should carry. Check for diaper-changing stations available.
You also need to know whether medicines for common illnesses are available. If they are not available, take them with you. Also, find out if there’s a brand like or equivalent to your baby’s formula available, as well as anything else you know you and/or your baby will require.
An infant requires several things. There’s a saying “the smaller the baby, the bigger the bag” and it is true. You will find that you have a big bag or bags. To avoid losing your mind as you rummage through your diaper bag looking for items, put items in clear plastic bags, preferably Ziplock bags. Have different bags for different items as per your needs. For instance, one for toys, another for diaper change, another for extra clothes, another for feeding items, etc. This way, you can simply just grab what you need.
When you pack, make a list of items you need to carry so that you don’t forget and leave anything behind. Always remember to pack an extra shirt for you, and extra clothes for all of you in case of any accidents where your clothes get soiled. Carry an extra baby carrier too and somewhere to throw in soiled items.
Do not travel with a lifetime supply of diapers. Carry enough to last you 2 days. The rest you can buy at your destination.
Basinet and Aisle Seat
Call the airline beforehand and inquire about their bulkhead seat reservation. Request for a baby bassinet too. For Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways, as well as most flights, the basinet cannot be requested online. You have to check-in first. However, for the bulkhead seat reservation, you can call beforehand to reserve it.
Generally, airlines give priority to passengers with infants or children and allow them to board first. Take full advantage of this provision and ensure your hand-carried bags are conveniently on the overhead bins that are just at the top of your seat. These are available on a first-come-first-serve basis so you need to get there early enough to beat other parents.
Get an aisle seat, especially for longer flights. On longer flights, you will need to get up and go change the baby and a seat on the aisle will be most convenient.
When planning, give yourself enough time to go through immigration to avoid missing your flight. The best thing is to just always be ready for the unexpected so that any glitches or holdups that come up don’t stress you out.
Carry your Baby’s Favorite Toy
For older babies, most of them have a favorite toy or a favorite item such as a pillow or a blanket. When you take with you items that are familiar to your baby, it makes it easier for them to adjust to the new surroundings.
For younger ones, under 6 months, they really couldn’t differentiate between say a water bottle and a real toy. They may even prefer that which is not a real toy. So, you can save yourself the hustle of carrying toys, plus save on the needed space.
Squeeze in a little book in your bag so that you can read it to them. It will make them calm down and fall fast asleep if it is their nap time.
Takeoff and Landing
Children, and more so small babies do not know how to reduce the pressure in their ears after takeoff or after landing. After landing or takeoff, if your baby is awake, nurse them or bottle-feed them to help relieve them off that pressure. A pacifier may also do the trick.
Milk is a mild sedative so feed your baby and they will drift to sleep. Also, change your baby’s diaper before takeoff so that they are comfortable.
Baby Jet lag
Jet lag is a concern even for us adults so it could get you worrying about how your baby is going to cope. Some people change their body clock to deal with jet lag and it is a good idea to do that for your baby if you are crossing different time zones. So, adjust your baby’s nap-time schedule accordingly so that they are asleep during your departure.
However, babies are babies so when your baby wants to sleep, just let them be. If you insist on sticking to a nap and sleep schedule, you can do so. Just remember your baby’s well-being comes first so make sure you don’t sacrifice that.
To change your baby’s body clock, keep them in a well-lit room or sunlight and keep them busy so they are awake for a long as possible until it is time for them to sleep. The thing is to prevent naps anywhere close to their bedtime.
You may think that you need a warm and heavy dress item to keep your baby warm. However, the way to keep your baby warm is layering. It is the appropriate way to dress your baby while you travel. Layering means that you dress them in a number of clothing items instead of one heavy item. So, you can do a vest, a t-shirt, a dress, etc.
You also want to go through airport security or to change their diaper fast and easily. So, choose clothes that are easy to take off such as zippered ones instead of buttoned clothes or clothes that you need to snap on.
Vaccination, Medicines, Insurance
If you’re taking an international trip, make sure your baby’s vaccines are up-to-date and complete. Keep in mind that flu strains may differ from country to country, so research on this so you have enough knowledge. For tropical countries, you might need anti-dengue vaccines or anti-Japanese encephalitis. Take with you your baby’s vaccination book.
Carry medicines for general ailments such as cold, allergy, and fever.
Have travel insurance. We’re referring here to the insurance you purchase while you are purchasing your plane ticket. Anything from a false alarm to a real infection could happen while you are traveling. With travel insurance, you get easily reimbursed for any expenses you incur in the event that you need to see a doctor while traveling. And wherever you are traveling to, make sure you know where you can find the local doctor or emergency room
Adjust Your Mindset
You will need to adjust your mindset to the fact that you now have a baby and things will be different. For instance, you will be slow because you are running around with a baby. You will need to take breaks; probably several. Your trips will also be longer with a baby, and sometimes they will need to be cut short. All in all, we can’t say this more clearly or enough but your baby’s well-being and comfort is a huge priority when you travel.
Accept that things will go wrong. We covered this briefly when we talked about leaving enough time for the things that are bound to come up that you did not anticipate.
Most people think it is a good idea to pack a lot of stuff so that they have everything they need. However, far from it, this is not the way to go about it. Instead, pack as little as possible. This is because you will be walking around with your baby and so it’s best if you don’t have with you too much luggage.
What’s great is that there are babies everywhere you go, so in the event that you don’t have something you need, you can always buy it later upon arrival at your destination. So, don’t feel the need to pack everything.
Similarly, for the parents, pack light too. The less the better. A pair of shoes or two is sufficient. Also, don’t feel the need to pack for “in case”. Just as you baby’s clothes, you can buy whatever else you require at your destination.
Just remember the less you carry with you, the easier it will be to pack and to pack wisely, as we covered earlier. And, even better, the more room you will have for souvenirs.
If you are traveling longer, say more than a week, the trick to packing light is to do your laundry while away. When you do your laundry, you get to pack much less. Laundry services are available in most hotels. Similarly, most AirBnBs have washing machines. Many mothers have even used Laundromats when they have had to.
Remember to carry some stain removal solution because accidents happen very often so that you find that you have spots on clothes. You can make a chemical-free solution by using vinegar or baking soda.
Checking in in-person involves lining up and spending a considerable amount of time at the check-in counter. Doing this while carrying your baby can be very tedious. You may say that you are going to use a baby carrier but still, you should avoid exposing your baby in crowded places. For this reason, it is better to check-in online.
Pre-booking doesn’t end there, though. As covered earlier, you will need to do some research on your destination with regards to the weather, the sites available, etc. Prior to having a baby, you may have gotten used to arriving at your destination and after getting a feel of the place, just going ahead and selecting where to stay. With a baby, things are different now. You will need to go straight to where you will be lodging and give yourself and your baby time to rest. It is, therefore, important that you know where you will be staying before you get there.
If you prefer to have the flexibility to be able to change your accommodation in the event that you want to for whatever reason, then pre-book at least the first 2 nights and then later on once you’re settled, you can change your accommodation to where you want to.
Anything you can book ahead of time means another thing you cease to worry about. After all, worrying about your baby’s wellbeing and safety and that they’re happy is enough. There are many things you can book ahead e.g., transportation, sites to visit, guides, museum tickets, parks and other attractions, etc.
Wear Your Baby
When you wear your baby, unlike when you put them in a stroller, you can move around easily, you can easily climb stairs, and you will be generally faster. Babies also just love it when they are close to you. It is soothing to most babies, and they fall asleep even when you’re moving around in different places.
When is it Safe for your Baby to Travel?
Airlines have policies that vary with regards to when a baby can travel. For some, an infant has to be at least 2 days old, while for others, 2 weeks. Doctors recommended that you should travel only after their immune system is developed, which is at least after a month. Most, however, recommend that your baby be 3 to 6 months old.
When you breastfeed your baby, it makes things way easier. The beauty of breastfeeding is that you can do it practically anywhere and at any time. It is so convenient, plus you will be setting a good example for would-be mothers that breastfeeding is natural and normal and very doable for anyone.
It could be that for whatever reason you cannot breastfeed, or that you prefer not to. Well, don’t fret. Airplanes have provision for warming up breast milk, formula, or baby food and so they can warm it for you. Make a point of booking a place to stay that will make it easier for you to warm your baby’s food. For example, a hotel room with a little kitchen would be ideal or great staff that you can easily request to warm your baby’s foodstuff for you.
Use a Car Seat
Get a rental car that has a car seat. In case you prefer to travel with your own, buy one that clips like the seat on a stroller does so that you don’t have to carry your car seat around.
If you’re not renting a car, consider taking the train because trains are the safest mode of public transportation.
Know When to Quit
Sometimes your baby just is not happy and so they are very cranky and cry incessantly. At such times, it is wise to just quit. Just go back to your hotel or wherever it is you are staying at and call it a day.
At security, before you walk through the detector, you must first remove your baby from the stroller or carrier. They will usually require you to collapse the stroller and place it on the belt. It will be easier for you, especially if you are traveling by yourself to remove everything before you get to the security line.
Keep your laptop under the baby’s stroller, your liquids inside a Ziplock bag. That way, you can easily just throw them in the tray without having to struggle getting them out while handling your baby.
Sometimes they will require you to walk through the detector while carrying your baby, then hand the baby to someone to hold them as you walk back through the detector. Here, it will be great if you have a partner so you can hand your baby to them. If you are alone, a security officer will hold the baby for you.
Ask for a Crib
Many hotels can provide a crib or a pack n play. So, while making your reservations, be sure to enquire if they do have cribs so that you don’t have to carry one. However, if you do have to carry yours, get a light-weight crib.
Apps to Keep Baby Occupied
Use the RainyMood.Co or the RainyMood app on your devices i.e., your cellphone, laptop or iPad. This will help you, especially when it turns out that your baby is a light sleeper and even just breathing in the same room keeps them awake. Using such an app beats carrying around a noise machine because carrying one (the noise machine) means extra luggage. Make sure you download the app to your phone or laptop just in case there is no internet connection available, and every once in a while, there are such times.
There are also nursery rhyme shows such as Dave and Ava available on YouTube. These are bound to mesmerize your baby and keep them occupied and out of your hair. Such rhymes come in handy when you urgently need to calm your baby down so you can focus on something you cannot do with a screaming baby or, you guessed it, on a flight. Download it to your phone so you can use it even when there’s cell service is unavailable.
You can also try cardboard books. These will keep your baby busy and they can’t tear them.
Baby’s Passport and Ticket
Yes, your baby does need a passport too. So, start the process well in advance if you are planning to travel abroad to avoid the stress of rushing your documents.
When flying international, even with an infant in your arms, there’s a fee charged for the baby. Often times when you book online, it is difficult to pay this fee. So, after you have booked your flight, just call and notify them that you will be traveling with your baby.
Of course, you can also pay for this at the airport, but it is much easier if you do it in advance. This will make it faster for you. Remember you have parents to beat in the run for a bassinet.
Request for an Empty Seat
When you are flying with your baby in your arms, as most parents do, you may not see the need to purchase an extra seat for your baby. Inquire, though, if there is an empty seat available and request to sit next to it. Chances are they will agree if there are indeed empty seats. The extra seat space will come in handy, especially for an older baby who squirms a lot.
Less Moving Around
You are probably used to a trip full of movement; three days here, one night there, two days there. Well, things are different now. It is better if you pick a place you enjoy and then really explore it. Take day trips to visit different sites and places and just soak it all up. If there is something you really want to see or visit that is somewhere else, by all means, do so. Just avoid hopping around from one place to the next because it means more of a hustle and you are bound to tire your baby out.
So, there’s how to survive a long flight with a baby. Some stress is inevitable but with proper planning and preparation as covered in this article, you can enjoy your travel with way less stress. Happy traveling!