tips for traveling with a baby
quite often, i am asked for tips when it comes to traveling with a baby. we have taken our little moses on about thirty flights and to visit to thirteen countries (and six states) – so we certainly have some experience when it comes to this topic … but we are definitely just learning as we go. i’m happy to share what we’ve discovered and what has worked for us!
i feel like traveling with a baby gets such a bad rap – there are so many horror stories out there about dreadful plane rides and ruined plans and lots of work. but ian and i love traveling with a baby and feel that having moses along on our adventures really makes them sweeter in a lot of ways. it’s definitely different, and certainly challenging at times, but it’s also so much fun! surely the experience varies depending on the baby and the parents, but i do wish that traveling with a baby was celebrated more and harped on less. it really can be awesome!
here’s just a few of our tips for traveling with a baby…
- first and foremost, adjust your expectations. traveling with a baby is fundamentally different than traveling without one. you’ll need to take more stops/breaks, you’ll likely end the nights and start the mornings early, your pace will just be different. go into your trip realizing that you’ll need to be flexible, and that it’s okay if you don’t get to everything on your itinerary/list, and that it’s going to be an adventure :)
- remember that different doesn’t mean worse! a lot of times and in a lot of ways it means better! traveling with a baby fosters positive interaction with locals and fellow travelers, and watching your child experience something new is so much fun! and often a slower pace means more savoring of the experience and a deeper appreciation for things seen and done. enjoy all that!
- pack less as opposed to more. i think sometimes parents traveling with kids want to make sure they have everything their child could possibly want or need from home with them … but having a lot of stuff can really put a damper on travel experiences in our opinion. bring just the bare necessities and know that you can get diapers, wipes. baby food, etc pretty much anywhere … and that babies tend to be entertained by new random objects no matter where you go (they don’t need all their toys from home!).
- recognize that kids are resilient, and allow your baby to be adaptable. there’s lots of different parenting styles out there and every parent should do what they feel is best for their baby (and every baby is unique!) – but for what it’s worth we feel that taking on a “go with the flow” type approach really helps keep travel with a baby enjoyable. most babies will be just fine if they break from their routine or need to crawl around on a dirty floor (and then get a thorough wipedown!) or have to get a crying fit out of their system in a public place.
- that said, do what you can reasonably do to make sure baby gets fairly regular naps and nighttime sleeping. moses has been an awesome stroller/carrier napper, but we have also occasionally taken breaks in the middle of the day to let him nap in a crib at wherever we are staying. and we nearly always make sure to be in for the night around his regular bedtime (8pm) and do his regular bedtime routine – and i think this has really helped keep our experiences positive.
- and be flexible yourselves. just roll with it. if there’s exploded poop or overtiredness or tantrums, let your plans evolve and don’t get discouraged :)
for plane rides:
- again, adjust your expectations. not every flight has to be terrible, as the general language around flying with kids may make you think – it really probably will be just fine. but, it’s not going to be the same as flying without a baby! a good part of the flight (especially on a long haul) is going to be work. but truly, it doesn’t have to be awful. i legitimately have had some really fun flights with moses on my lap. ,
(obviously it depends greatly on you and on your baby, but i personally think that buying a seat on a plane for a child under two years old is not necessary. even if the experience turns out to be really taxing, you can do anything for a few (or twelve if you’re going a loooong way!) hours. save your money :) )
- again, bring less as opposed to more. i know you want to be prepared for anything/the worst … but digging through your luggage and squishing your bursting bag under the seat in front of you and loading and unloading everything – it stinks. you need some diapers and wipes, just a few toys, an extra pair of clothes, a baby carrier (more on that below) and comfort items to help your baby sleep. don’t cram more in.
- in our experience, “family boarding” is not a good idea when you are traveling with really small kids. you and your baby are going to be stuck in a small contained space for long enough already – so instead of boarding first, board last! use the extra time in the boarding area to let your baby get all his/her wiggles out.
- i think this is a pretty well-known tip, but sucking and swallowing will help your baby avoid ear pain when the plane is taking off and landing. breastfeed, bottle feed, or have your baby suck on a pacifier while you’re going up and down.
- utilize a baby carrier. wether your baby is brand new or becoming a toddler, strapping him/her on can be a lifesaver on flights, especially when it comes to sleeping. (it’s nearly impossible to sleep yourself if you’re holding your baby in your arms!) when i’ve flown by myself with moses, i have kept the baby carrier on my body the entire flight. having the ability to use two hands is invaluable at times!
- if you’re going on a long haul flight, utilize the baby bassinets that most airlines have. i didn’t even realize these existed until i had a baby, but they are a total game changer, especially when baby is really little. every airline has different policies when it comes to reserving and using bassinets, so do your research and figure out what you need to do to get one and utilize it. (be aware that some airlines require you to take the baby out of the bassinet – even if they are sound asleep! – when the seatbelt sign comes on.) moses has slept many hours in an airplane bassinet … and also it has been so helpful to just have a place to set him down at times!
- if your baby is a bit older and quite active, i’ve found that it helps to bring new toys on the plane that have never seen before. in anticipation of our most recent trip to the usa, i went to a store that sells cheap toys (like the dollar store) and picked up a half a dozen new things for moses – and did not let him have even a peek at them until we were on the flight and he was particularly wiggly. i also heard that post-it notes can keep babies entertained for long stretches of time so i brought some of those and little mo was fascinated by them!
- connected to the point above, don’t underestimate the entertainment value of things already on the plane – like tv controllers, safety brochures, plastic cups, etc. use what’s already there to keep your baby busy and happy. there’s actually quite a lot to explore on a plane and moses has enjoyed being carried up and down aisles to see all different kinds of people and gadgets. also, the bathroom! on most long flights i spend up to thirty minutes with moses playing the in tiny lavatory (making sure there’s not people waiting to use it, of course!) – lots to discover and the mirror is always a hit.
- lastly, don’t worry. chill out. seriously, you’re going to be fine. and also, most people are kind and patient and think babies are cute. the vast majority of the fellow travelers on the plane will not notice or totally tune out your babies noises. and if your baby is really annoying someone and you’re doing your very best to be courteous, that’s their problem, not yours. and – the flight will end. i promise. you’ll make it – no matter how challenging it has been (but remember, it really doesn’t have to be super challenging!) :)