When we tell people that we travel with our baby we always get a funny look. Our son took his first flight at 2 months old. It was a short flight from San Diego to Denver, but it still counts. We wanted to introduce him to traveling early because we knew that eventually, we would be traveling the world together. He is now 8 months old and has been on over 10 flights with only 1 trip being eventful (by eventful we mean crying or full of energy). We have learned through our family adventures a few things about traveling with a baby. We are by no means experts, but we would like to share with other parents what we have learned by traveling to 5 different states and 3 countries in the last 6 months with our little one.
1. Stay calm, traveling with a baby is easier than you think
Traveling with your baby is not a monumental task. Think of it as a small adventure and break it up into smaller pieces. This will be a mental victory, instead of focusing on the entire trip take it one step at a time. Start with packing. Determine all the necessities for traveling with your baby, if you make the statements “I might”, “maybe”, “just in case”, you do not need it. We've made the mistake of overpacking and trust me it is no fun dragging around suitcases stuffed full of unnecessary items. We traveled to Los Cabo for a week with our 8-month-old son with only a backpack each. You can do this. Remember, nothing lasts forever so if your little one is having a moment it will pass. The next step is to focus on getting to your destination. If you are flying, there are a few tips below that you can use to make traveling with your baby easier. Keep telling yourself babies will be babies; they are oftentimes easier to deal than adults.
2. A comfortable baby carrier is a must
There is always the debate, should I take a stroller or carrier? The answer is, always take a carrier. You can get around with your little one in a carrier all day if it is comfortable for you. Trust us, we know firsthand how difficult it can be trying to drag a stroller around. We forgot the carrier in our room during a trip to the beach. It was no fun dragging a stroller through the sand (although it was a killer leg workout) we were tired before we found a spot to settle. Carriers are a lot easier and in places such as Europe and Asia where there is cobblestone or larger populations. If you are looking to save money using public transportation with a carrier is a breeze.
3. Get an aisle seat, if you can
Depending on the age of your baby you may need additional space. A window seat is great if you need privacy to nurse but if your little one is active an aisle seat is the way to go. The aisle is great to let your little one look around and interact. It is also easier for frequent diaper changes and to soothe baby if they are upset. We also like to use the aisle for extra space if we need to pull something out of the diaper bag.
4. Organization is key
Organize your diaper bag before traveling with your baby. It will make it easier when you need to grab something to know where it is instead of having to look for it. When babies are hungry, they tend to be very impatient. If you are nursing having a nursing bra that can give your little one easy access to latch is essentials. If your little one uses formula having a bottle premade and ready is the way to go. Since I am an exclusive pumper, I have an extra bottle ready for him in the event I am not able to pump. Our son gets hangry when he wants his milk and it is not a pretty scene. We also travel with snacks and have them in at the top of the bag so they can be grabbed easily. When flying there always seems to be a line for the restroom, so having diapers and wipes in an easily accessible area will make the diaper changing process quicker.
5. Do not pack too many toys
Babies will play with and entertain themselves with anything. Our son can spend 30 minutes playing with his feet and fingers. People love babies and tend to give them toys randomly. While in Beijing our son was given a few toys from stores for free. We left with more stuff for him than what we came with, without buying anything. We also use everyday household items for him to play with. For example, we cut the cardboard from the paper towel when they were finished and used them as phones and telescopes.
6. It doesn’t hurt to ask
We ask a lot of questions. While flying we were able to get upgraded on several flights because we asked if there were empty seats available. During several of our long-haul flights, we got an entire row to ourselves (major score). Asking questions will make your life easier and people are a lot more open when you have a baby. We ask for smaller sides at restaurants and end up getting free bowls of rice or mashed potatoes for the baby. Do not be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to, you may be surprised by the answer.
7. Do not over plan
Babies crave routine so it is important to allow time for them to rest. When we travel, I like to do as much as possible, but babies force you to slow down and prioritize. Instead of doing organized tours I look at different tour agendas and create a do it yourself a tour to fit our family. We are still able to see everything just at a slower place to accommodate our little one. Plus, this allows you to rest as well, while baby sleeps, you sleep.
8. Board the plane first or last
Depending on the age of your baby you may want to board the plane first with families or at the very end. When our son was younger, we would board the plan first because we had a lot of stuff and wanted to get overhead space for our bags. Now that our son is crawling and trying to walk, we board the plane last. We take the approach to divide and conquer. One of us boards with family boarding to get the stroller checked and bags settled while the other one entertains the baby. This allows him to move around (get him tired). By the time we get one the plane, he is tired from trying to walk around and there is not a long wait before takeoff.
9. Try to reserve a bassinet
Always check with the airline you are flying if a baby bassinet is available. Bassinets are great because they give you a break from holding your little one if you have a long flight. We also discovered they may come with a free upgrade to premium seating with additional leg space. Every airline has different guidelines for who can reserve a bassinet, but they are usually on a first-come, first-serve basis. On our trip to Beijing, we called to reserve the bassinet immediately after we purchased our tickets and arrived at the airport early to be the first to get a bassinet. Trust us it is worth it.
10. Always pack a receiving blanket
Receiving blankets can be used for anything and are a must-have when you are traveling with your baby. I use the receiving blanket to cover up while I am pumping if we are in public. It can be used to keep baby warm is it gets cool unexpectantly, block the sun while baby naps, a barrier to change baby, a washcloth is needed, and a bib.
Have more tips for traveling with a baby? Comment below.