Traveling With an Infant: My Top Tips for a Stress-Free Trip
The thought of traveling with an infant can be very stressful for parents. But it doesn’t have to be! There’s a whole world out there and I say, parents get to discover it too! Perhaps it is because I always remember traveling on planes that I never thought about not traveling with my kids. Also, since my husband’s family lives on the other side of the Atlantic, not traveling was not an option for us. So, we’ve always traveled. My son’s first trip was when he was 10 months old. My daughter made her trans-atlantic debut when she was just three months old. We traveled from NYC to France. The four of us traveled, my 6 year old, my husband and myself.
Traveling with an infant doesn’t have to be stressful, it’s all about being prepared and having the right gear. I’d say traveling with a three or four month old is actually much easier than traveling with an older infant. Here are my best tips when traveling with an infant:
- Give yourself plenty of time. You never know what is going to happen, so give yourself plenty of time. If you don’t, you might end up running and stressing out. In our case, we arrived at the airport with almost 3.5 hours of around to catch a flight, and thank goodness we did because they couldn’t find my reservation and ended up taking over an hour at the counter. Also, for international flights, you will most likely not be able to check in online if you are traveling with an infant- something to keep in mind.
- Use a baby carrier. Using a baby carrier gives you free hands, and you know those are needed at airports! When my daughter was three months old, we used the Nesting Days Carrier which I absolutely loved because since you wear it, they can’t really make you take it off. (They did make me take the baby out in one airport, but that was easier than taking off the whole wrap). When my daughter was older (we traveled to South America in November, when she was 8 months) I used the Ergo 360 which I absolutely love!
- Pick an airline that will let you pre-board with baby. Now, I think I have never flown airlines that don’t let families pre-board, but I have heard from friends that those DO exist. I would say, it’s better to pick the airline that you know will treat you well.
- Bring plenty of snacks. Not only for the kids, but also for yourself! One of our flights was at 10 pm, and even though we were at the airport much earlier there was NOTHING open, except for one fast food place.
- Request a bassinet. Most airplanes have bassinets for babies, but you have to request it and it is on a first come-first serve basis. When you request it they will ask yo for your baby’s height/weight to determine if your baby will fit. Bassinets are great if you can get your baby to sleep in them! If your baby doesn’t want to, you can use it to put your stuff. Bassinets are only put in after the plane has taken off, and then they are removed before landing.
- Breastfeed away! Take off and landings are always difficult because of pressure. One of the best things you can do is put your baby to your breast. The sucking will help baby with the pressure. If you don’t breastfeed, make sure the baby is sucking something like a pacifier or a bottle, during landings and takeoffs.
- Transfers: When looking for flights, I recommend finding transfers that are not too long/not too short. Too short will mean you’re cutting it close for your next flight (and you never know if your first flight will be delayed) and too long means you’re stranded in the airport with your baby. When possible, and if in budget, I definitely recommend booking direct flights.
- Anything needing refrigeration: A note, most airlines won’t be able to hold anything for you in their refrigerated spaces. If you need something to stay cool, make sure you have some insulated bags and ask the flight attendant for some ice when you arrive. That should solve the problem. Also note, I have had ice packs taken away from me at international airports (it was the wrong call, but it did happen) so be prepared for that as well.
- Make sure to check your airline policies about checking strollers, car seats, etc. We were lucky and didn’t need to pack a stroller when we have traveled internationally, but different airlines have different policies. For example, one year an Air France flight would let me check in a stroller, but it wouldn’t be available for the transfer (kind of pointless, IMHO) so I couldn’t count on the stroller for the airport transfer to my next flight.
- Pack extra clothes for yourself! Poop explosions (or vomit) might happen. So, make sure you have a change of clothes for yourself too, not only the baby! Also, pack extra diapers. Pack ziplock bags so that you can put the dirty clothes away in a contained way.
- Make sure baby clothes is easy to put on/take off. I prefer the pjs that open (and snap) in the front and that don’t need to be put on over the head. Nothing that makes your baby fussy (my daughter hated anything that covered her eyes, for example).
- Teething baby? If you have a baby that is teething, pack some Tylenol and teething rings.
- Keep your baby’s milk and any food easy to access for TSA. The security points at airports can be stressful. Families have a lot of things and everything has to go through the machine. Keep your baby’s liquids and food in one easy to access separate bag and let the TSA agent know.
- Dress appropriately so you can breeze through TSA! Be mindful of how you dress. I try to avoid anything that has metal (For example, I wore a nursing top with plastic hooks) and sneakers that didn’t have anything that would set the metal detector off. Also, sometimes they mess with your hair bun (you’ve been warned!). I avoid all jewelry, and belts, accessories, etc. that would mean I have to take off extra stuff to put through the machine. Same for your spouse, make sure belts, hooks, watches, etc. have been removed BEFORE you’re at the checkpoint. This will allow you to go through the line quickly.
- Think about where you want to sit on the plane and try to book the best seats for you. Depending on the plane, the diaper changing tables may be in the front or in the middle. Try to find out where those are (they can probably tell you) and also, note that if you request a bassinet you will be seating in the front, with no seats in front of you (more legroom, but that means you won’t be able to put anything in the seat in front of you, you will have to secure everything until you’ve taken off and are in flight, and stow everything before landing).
- If your baby cries… every parent’s worse nightmare, right? Take a deep breath and hope for the best! If your baby is crying, breastfeeding can help calm baby down. Or, try walking around (if you can). Try distracting the baby. Even put on some cartoons! Anything is better than baby screaming its head off! Don’t worry the other passengers will survive. Babies are people too! Don’t let that deter you from flying!
- Have your baby’s “musts” with you. When I travel, I pack my “musts” bag and I put the rest of the stuff in the overhead compartment. My bag includes: my Skip Hop changing pad (with about 4 diapers and wipes), pacifiers, one change of clothes for baby. Everything else (clothing for parents, and extra diapers or wipes for example) goes up in the overhead compartment). It’s just easier to have her stuff close to me and the rest of the stuff on top. If you take out too much stuff, then you have to worry about packing everything up before you start to land (especially in you’re by the bassinet).
- Don’t rush getting off the plane. Many people will be rushing (and may be trying to trample over you) to get out of the plane. If you are not in a rush (remember what I said about those transfers?) then let the other people go. Take your time. Make sure you have everything. When you get off the plane, you can freshen yourself up (and baby) before getting out of the airport.
- Avoid toys that make noise. Why bring unnecessary noise? Leave those at home.
- Travel at best times for you and your baby. Overnight trips are great for us, because baby slept. I always book a late flight. Early flight also mean less traffic to get to airport, shorter waiting in security lines. Think about arrival times, jet lag, transfer times.
You CAN DO THIS! There’s a whole world out there and just because you have a baby that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t travel!
What tips would you add? Leave them below!