9 1/2 Essential Tips for Traveling with a Baby
traveling with a baby evoked a ton of anxiety for me. air-travel is already not the most pleasant experience and then throw an unpredictable tiny human in the mix – yikes.
our daughter’s first flight was when she was 6 weeks old. she just turned 7 months and is currently in the midst of her 7th trip! i have been asked about things we have found helpful while traveling with a baby. we have certainly learned a lot along the way! these suggestions are based on our experience with intercontinental flights lasting 4.5 hours or less. check out courtney’s advice for those long, international flights!
we have gone through lost luggage (first trip), massive blow outs (multiple trips) and other learning experiences i hope you benefit from. traveling with a baby isn’t for the faint of heart but it’s also totally doable!
1) pack a carry-on
on our very first trip, i learned a lot and learned it the hard way. they lost our luggage – the luggage that contained all my clothes, my nursing pads, her clothes, her diapers, her bottle cleaning supplies and toys. this is when i learned how important it is to pack a carry-on in addition to your diaper bag.
taking a trip to target isn’t actually that fun when you have to buy diapers, clothes, etc. and feel completely overwhelmed. thankfully they returned the bag 2 days later but i was stressing the whole time.
i will say, this is much easier when there are two of you traveling. i have only taken one flight alone with our daughter and it was coming back home so i checked our bag because i couldn’t manage it all.
in that carry-on, there should be a good chunk of diapers, your breastpump (electic and handheld), forumla, an clean, extra bottle, pajamas, additional clothes for you and the babe and anything else that you will potentially need that night and in the morning.
2) breastmilk and bottles of water are allowed
since babies can only eat breastmilk or formula, it’s important to be prepared and then over-prepared. flight delays are not that uncommon so come prepared. you are allowed ‘reasonable quantities’ of formula, breastmilk and even juice. be sure to check current restrictions and allowances according to your country’s specifications (here is the USA’s TSA site).
when atlas was on breastmilk, i’d bring enough milk in bottles for multiple feedings as well as my handpump. now that she’s on formula, i bring two bottles of water from home and then pre-measured formula using this. i also have a whole day’s worth of formula just in case. i like to keep these as backups in my diaper bag using the pre-measured packets.
be prepared for your bag to get tested and for them to test the liquid. i figure it’s worth it because bottles of water at the airport cost an absurd amount. you are also allowed to bring gel packets, ice packs or things of that nature to keep your breastmilk or formula cold.
3) wear your baby through security
this is a total must for us. we love our solly wrap because she stays close and then our hands are free. in some airports they have to do a quick swab over your hands through security but usually they let you pass without inspection. we take her out once we get to our gate and do #5 but she goes back in once we are boarding!
4) what to do with your carseat and stroller
this is up to you. you have a few options if you choose to bring both of these with you. we personally like to bring the carseat and stroller with us to the gate and check it there. we use this travel bag to put the carseat in. since atlas couldn’t use the stroller we got her without the bucket seat attached (yet), we bring both. we absolutely ADORE our stroller because you can fold it up with one hand, which is so helpful for traveling. it’s a bit more spendy but honestly, we have loved it.
i am a little more paranoid of them losing those since they lost our luggage on our very flight. again, traveling with a baby isn’t for the faint of heart.
if you are more trusting or want less crap to drag through the airport, then you can check these at the counter when you check your other bags. it is annoying to put those through security but for us, we do it.
5) roll around before you leave
this wasn’t a huge deal until atlas got to be about 3 months old. as she got older, she continues to want to be held less and spend more time on her own. bring an extra blanket to let your little one roll around on the ground so they can get their wiggles out (i just rolled my own eyes at how motherly ‘get their wiggles out’ sounds). then we take that blanket and throw it in our carseat cover bag before we get on the plane (you could also shove coats in there too)!
6) feeding while taking off
this one is pretty common knowledge and very important! babies can’t pop their own ears like we do when the pressure changes so getting them to swallow does this for them. i used to be extremely stressed about this because i would time her feedings perfectly to coincide with when we took off.
then the flight kept getting more and more delayed.
my daughter never latched so i couldn’t rely on her to nurse. in the beginning, the milk i pumped and brought was of a limited quantity and pumping in the airport is the very worst. that gold had to be rationed!
now that we are on formula, i am able to give her a little less in the feeding beforehand and then prepare the bottle either before we get on the plane (assuming it’s on time) or before we take off.
if you can breastfeed – do that! otherwise, go with bottle or even pacifier but something to get them to suck and swallow. my daughter doesn’t need this (as of now) for when we are landing but it may be good to do the same when you land to pop those ears again!
7) use night-time diapers
night-time diapers hold more than normal ones so your little one stays more comfortable, longer. these are especially great for the 2-3 hour flight times because if it’s only urine, you can wait to change them once off the plane. we swear by these baby-dry diapers, not only to help atlas sleep through the night but also on planes.
planes have changing tables that fold either from the side or on the back wall in the restroom (usually the one at the front of the plane). they are cramped and not fun to change them in so these diapers are perfect.
i typically pack at least 2-3 more diapers than i plan on needing. plus – in those early days you can usually convince your husband to go change the diaper because you just birthed a human body from your own body.
8) pack multiple changes of clothing
if you aren’t so lucky and get something besides pee, this is where not one but two extra outfits are needed. we always dress atlas in an easy-zip onesie and then pack two additional ones in the diaper bag. the change in altitude and cabin pressure has been known to pressurize the hell out of those baby intestines. we have gone through both outfits at least on two flights. one time my husband had to call the flight attendant to come back and get me for back-up – that was the definition of a blow out! be prepared!
throw in a few disposable grocery bags (or maybe you have these) so you can put the dirty clothes in them. if you forget, grab an air-sickness bag and toss in the nasty onesie.
9) unfamiliar toy
we have dubbed two of her toys as ‘travel toys.’ we have used this little elephant (or the monkey equivalent) since the beginning because it’s not loud, it has multiple textures and you can make it vibrate by pulling it down. the other one we use is a rattle (it is louder but it keeps her very entertained. rattle noise > baby crying). she doesn’t play with these toys any other time than while on the airplane. it keeps them ‘new’ for her and fun!
½) treat yo’ self
you must celebrate the accomplishment of traveling with a baby! maybe this is some delicious dark chocolate, a cookie, a salad (who are you?!), or a drink. on our first flight, a couple actually offered to buy our drinks! we totally took them up on it and will always remember the kindness of them. while pointing to their 10 year old immersed in a movie, “it really does get easier so hang in there!” i totally teared up and ordered a gin and ginger.
it’s also perfectly fine to treat yo’ self while still on the plane or afterwards or both…
feel free to share this with those you know who are traveling with a baby soon or save for later!
what else would you add to the list?