For many people (me included for many years), the idea of prepping for a flight or long drive with a baby is overwhelming. In fact, many people just assume that travel won’t be possible in the first few years with baby.
Certainly, travel doesn’t get easier with an additional small human who needs to be carried everywhere, but it is far from impossible! Plus it has some perks like typically an easier time getting through airport security.
After almost 11 years of traveling with babies both domestically and internationally, I wanted to share some tips we’ve learned along the way. These tips are by no means foolproof ways to make a baby easy to travel with, but they’ve been really helpful to us.
Tips for Traveling With a Baby
Adaptability is the most important thing for traveling with a baby. You know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men, and never is this more true that while traveling. For instance, in our first major travel disaster where we had to quickly rebook a flight back to the US, we were up for over 24 hours. Our kids were great sleepers when they were on a routine, but throw that routine out the window and… wow.
On other trips, flights were delayed, weather happened, or other things disrupted our plans. I’ve learned it’s important to be adaptable and always have a backup plan for food and sleep.
Most of all, kids and especially babies feed off their parents’ energy. It can be really tough, but staying calm if at all possible and keeping the mood light really is half the battle.
Tip 1: Find a Good Travel Bed and Get Baby Used to It
Nothing makes travel tough like a baby who won’t sleep. We learned the hard way that when you have a baby who is used to a very specific routine, crib, and sound machine, he doesn’t sleep so well when you take those things away and change the schedule.
With later babies, we wised up and used a nice and comfortable travel crib in our room for their early months (until about a year old). This way, the bed goes with us wherever we go and is some stability for the baby.
Update: We have since discovered Baby Quip (think AirBnB for baby gear) and use this when we fly or need to pack light. You can rent baby carriers, highchairs, pack n plays, toys, and more from local hosts for reasonable prices.
Tip 2: Always Have Extra Clothes on Hand
This applies for you and for baby. With babies, poop happens and so do other messes. Have at least two simple outfit changes for baby and at least one for yourself. If checking bags, make sure these go in a carry-on (another lesson learned the hard way) and have double the diapers you think you’ll need (also learned the hard way). I am usually a cloth diaper fan but use disposables when I travel.
Tip 3: Stock Up on Food and Fluids
A hungry or thirsty baby is a grumpy baby. I always love traveling with nursing babies because there is almost nothing extra to pack and food is always available for them! For older babies, make sure to pack snacks, baby food, and drinks (some ideas here). In most cases, there are exceptions to the travel liquid restrictions when flying for these items, but ask ahead if you aren’t sure.
Travel is also not a good time to introduce new foods. Baby may have an upset stomach or other reaction and it is hard to tell if it is from the travel or the new foods. Stick to the basics and the favorites while traveling.
Tip 4: Bring a Good Stroller (But a Small One) & Sling
I’ve yet to ever hear someone complain that they wish they’d packed more luggage to carry on a trip. Minimal luggage seems harder to achieve with a baby. I’ve seen parents trying to lug a massive stroller through airports and not be able to quickly go up escalators because they couldn’t lift it.
We started this way too, thinking we had to bring tons of extra gear for baby. The first breakthrough: finding this really light 13-pound stroller with 5-point harness. It is light enough to carry up stairs and get on escalators but sturdy enough to hold baby safely (if over a few months old). I review some other strollers we’ve tried as well when traveling here.
We also bring a neutral Ergo carrier (or similar sling) for smaller babies or for hiking with older babies.
Tip 5: Be Ready to Throw It All Out the Window and Improvise
Of course, all the planning in the world is great, but sometimes (most of the time) life with a baby is unpredictable.
As an example, I remember my baby got a 105 fever the day I started drafting this post. We had to change the schedule, drive to find our go-to natural remedies, and just hold her all day until she felt better.
Tip 6: Stock Up on Natural Remedies
Natural remedies have been so helpful when traveling with babies (or even when traveling by yourself!). Often, a situation that isn’t enough to warrant medical attention but is uncomfortable will pop up, like teething or a small cold.
I always keep a pared down version of this natural medicine kit with me when I travel. It contains things like chamomile, saline, homeopathic arnica, omega-3s, lavender essential oil (for too much sun exposure), probiotics, activated charcoal, and other remedies.
If assembling all of that sounds overwhelming (although I definitely recommend having it at home too!), this line of natural over-the-counter medicine is affordable and found easily online and in many pharmacies. (Hooray for progress!) I use both their saline and their sleep aid for kids (yes, that does exist and it is wonderful), and both are free of artificial additives, dyes, GMOs etc.
Bottom Line: Be Brave, and Go Forth!
I know it can be intimating (and tiring) at times, but my two cents: don’t wait until baby is older to travel! It can be tough at first, but traveling really helps babies learn to be adaptable, and shows us as parents how little stuff we really need to make it work!
So, that’s my list in progress. What are your best tips for traveling with babies?