Do not be afraid to travel with a baby!
Nervous, worried, and a little anxious are all positive signs that you are likely a very good parent. If you worry about your child’s well-being, your well-being, and not disturbing the peace around you, then you’re doing it right. Just don’t go overboard with any of those feelings. When traveling with your first baby, always use your best judgement, try to be as calm as possible, do as much planning beforehand as you need (in the beginning it will be a lot; hence, my trying to help with this post), and go with the flow once underway.
Remember that what is easy or hard one month will change quickly. The easy things get harder, and the hard things get easier as time goes on.
As with everything I say, you know your baby, so do what you think is best for them. This is just my random advice I’d give you during a coffee date 🙂
BEFORE TRAVEL >>
- Consult your baby’s doctor on all things travel, vaccine, food and water related. They might want to administer a vaccine before you go just to be on the safe side.
- Bring a record of vaccines and other important health notes for your child with you during your trip.
- Pack early. Practice walking around your house with your baby and luggage to make sure you can handle it all. Revise what you packed.
- Book flights where the flight itself is during nap/bedtime. If you can have your baby sleep on the flight it’s almost like a vacation in itself. There is no guarantee that sleep will happen, but this timing might give you the best chance possible. Parents of active babies/toddlers, wear them out a bit before boarding 🙂
- Utilize the airport lounge. If you get stranded in an airport due to a missed flight, or if you are lucky enough to have access for whatever reason, take advantage of a lounge. Better food (and drinks!), bigger bathrooms (some have showers), and usually a play area for kids is worth the cost if you’ll be hanging around the airport for a long while.
Post – Paris, 2014
- Wear your baby. This is my preference because my baby hates being in the stroller in new or crowded places. Also, getting through security, on and off airport shuttles/terminal trains/etc, up and down stairs to the airplane all seems easier if you don’t have to take baby in and out of the stroller. Wearing baby gives freedom of both arms and hands, which is vital.
- The Baby Bjorn Miracle is super easy and quick to get on/off and has two clips at each shoulder for quick removal of baby – good for security and getting in and out of the plane seat. I’m a big fan of the Bjorn for a young baby. The Ergobaby Travel Carrier is great because it folds up into itself and is the size of a pouch. It is also comfortable to wear (but probably not as comfortable as a regular Ergo, or the Baby Bjorn), and can be used longer for taller/heavier babies/toddlers. It also has a front pocket, and a hood/shade built-in, so there are lots of perks to this carrier. A Moby Wrap -style carrier is also super comfortable, but less travel-friendly in my opinion because of the sheer amount of fabric and wrapping involved; however, looking at all those links, there are SO MANY styles and brands, so look for what you need/want and you’ll be great. I am a BIG fan of baby-wearing, and we have definitely gotten our money’s worth out of every carrier we own.
- Get a great travel stroller. If you’d rather not baby-wear, and just in general of course, get yourself a worthy travel stroller. Light, cheap umbrella strollers are great for obvious reasons, though may not suit a young baby. The Baby Zen Yoyo folds up to tinier than carry-on size, and many other strollers can be folded with one hand and carried/stored very easily. We love our Baby Jogger City Mini because it folds with one hand, is lightweight, but also sturdy enough to go over cobblestones, gravel, inches of snow, etc. Doubles as a luggage cart as well, which is what it is when I’m wearing the baby through the airport 🙂
- Buckle baby in. If baby is sitting on your lap during a flight, flight attendants should (they never did in the States?) provide a baby seatbelt that threads onto yours. I’ve never carried a car seat on the plane before, but I have included more about that below.
- Nurse/bottle feed as soon as the plane starts to accelerate on the runway. The sucking will be good for their ears, as is always said, and the sudden loud white noise usually lulls my boy into sleep pretty quickly. It’s also a positive, or calm, way to start off the experience.
- Prepare with a diversion. Don’t be worried about a fussy baby due to ear issues. I’ve noticed other babies will all get a little fussy around the same time, so you figure out whats going on. Most usually quiet down pretty quickly. Have something to drink or eat, or a toy or something for diversion during take off and landing. You can’t stand up and walk around to calm baby at those times, but you can try to be prepared.
- Most flight attendants will try to be helpful. Icelandair and Etihad have both been exceptional for our family! Without asking, they will offer us kid’s in-flight packages, or baby food/drink, and tried to anticipate our needs during the flight – all in economy class!
- If you can afford another economy seat, buying one for baby and capitalizing on more room is always nice.
That being said, my number one piece of advice: fly business class for overseas travel. If you can – obviously this may not feasible (we’ve only been there once). But a big seat that fully reclines to share with your tiny koala bear and someone waiting on you the entire flight?! I mean seriously, they should really have a “family seating” section that is just like business class but without the dirty looks from solo flyers who can just pop in headphones, grab a few free drinks, and zone out for hours. WHAT A MOTHER WOULDN’T GIVE FOR THAT. Um, and without the price tag, too. But yeah, things don’t work that way. Sad.
- Planes have changing tables in the bathrooms, use them, appreciate them, tight squeeze and all. That’s just a FYI in case you, first time parent, were unaware. Have a wet bag, or a plastic bag, handy in your carry-on/diaper bag (see more below) for anything that gets soiled during flight. Just in case. Things shift during transit so be prepared.
- Pack beforehand. I said this before, but depending on where you are going and how you’re getting around, you need to prepare accordingly. If you are flying into Paris and taking public transit from CDG into the city (by train) and then walking to your accommodations, you don’t want to bring two checked bags, a stroller, a travel crib, carry a diaper bag and two carry-ons, do you? No. You don’t want to be a hot mess tourist when arriving in Paris.
- Pack as light and portable as possible! That’s my advice for traveling anywhere with a baby, but definitely in Europe. Minimalist travel, I call it.
- If you are going to a place where you know there is a store you can get to easily and soon after arrival, plan to buy diapers, wipes, and baby food AT the destination. Save the room in your luggage.
- Fill a smaller bag with vital baby needs, and fit it into the most accessible part of your carry-on (on top, easy to access). Here’s why this is great: On the plane, you take out the smaller bag – filled with baby vitals (dipes, wipes, wet bag, change of clothes), bottles, snacks, pacifier (+clip), toys, whatever – and stow it under the seat in front of you so everything you need is right there. All your other carry-on stuff that would just get in the way can be stowed above and out-of-the-way. During the trip, instead of hauling around a diaper bag everywhere, it’s just a regular handbag. I like the always classic Longchamp Le Pliage bag for this because it folds up tiny, cleans easily, and looks stylish when walking around being a tourist. Roomy enough for your camera, phone, wallet, and scarf as well. Double points if you get to go out to eat at a nice place, just use the nice bag. Or we’ll use a baby backpack that can easily be clipped onto, or stored under, the stroller.
- What to pack in this baby-to-go bag?
- Changing mat
- Change of clothes
- Wet bag
- Bottle (I liked to fill mine with dry powder already measured out before flight – be aware that security might check it)
- Pacifier(s), pacifier clip(s), toy(s), snacks – whatever else depending on your needs.
- Pack a NEW bag/box/can of formula/cereal/välling, etc., plus a measuring spoon in a sealable baggy. We’d usually pack this somewhere in our luggage to be used during the vacation. If it’s in a carry-on make it accessible in case security wants to check it.
- A shawl/scarf/pashmina covers a number of sins: fashion accessory, blanket, nursing cover, stain on your shirt cover… Incorporate it into your travel style!
- Baby – Winter Clothing Essentials:
- Knit Hat
- Warm jacket
- Onesies (keep back/tummy covered)
- Fleece lined pants/leggings
- Good shoes (either to keep tiny feet warm, or walking feet dry)
- Mittens and gloves…but booties work in a pinch too 🙂
- Baby – Summer Clothing Essentials:
- Swimsuit with lots of skin coverage. We learned this moving to Abu Dhabi and had to buy Porter a wetsuit style suit to cover his skin and protect it from sun.
- Hat with wide brim. Make sure it stays on!
- Age-appropriate baby sunscreen
- Light blanket – multi-use.
- Pack a crib sheet from home and a blanket, which can help baby to feel more comfortable sleeping in a new place
- A travel high-chair can be super handy at times. Get one that folds up, can be cleaned easy, and fits most chairs. Also good for taking to friends without kids’ houses.
You will always benefit from bringing it, and if baby isn’t in it, it doubles as a luggage cart!
We bought this stroller bag for flights and has been perfect for many destinations.
Also useful is a stroller lock. There are dedicated stroller locks, but we just bought a compact bike lock with a coil for much cheaper. It’s always attached to the stroller, but we rarely use it.
- Utilize a crib AT the destination when possible. Pack and plays are heavy and they suck to travel with. Most hotels should say whether they provide a crib (for free usually), and if you’re looking for a place to stay on Airbnb just search for 2+ bedroom apartments and look for kid’s bedrooms. You should be able to find a place with a crib.
- Use your own crib sheet from home. Baby might feel more comfortable with a familiar smell.
I mentioned previously that I might’ve sprung for the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light, but after using it at a hotel, I don’t know if I like how the mattress lies on the floor simply because bending down so low, with a baby, was uncomfortable for me, and my kid climbed out of it easily (he isn’t a climber, either). Just a heads up.
Since the FAA recommends babies travel in car seats on planes, and many people like to bring their’s on board (though I have never seen this, maybe it’s more common within the USA?), here are some helpful links:
We don’t usually travel with a car seat, since we don’t usually drive at our destinations. On the rare occasion that we have rented a car, we will also rent a car seat; however, we did purchase the Cosco Scenera car seat for the interim between our move from Sweden to Abu Dhabi, since our normal car seat is being shipped with our household goods. It has been GREAT. It is light and easy to carry, easy to install, and has great safety ratings and reviews. When we flew with it over to Abu Dhabi, we were unable to bring it on board since Porter didn’t have his own seat, but we gate checked it with our stroller, packed safely in our giant gate check bag (wrapped in padding from our cold-weather stroller insert that we will never need again). It’s not perfectly ideal, but for a temporary solution it worked well. Should it have been damaged, it’s cheap enough to replace without regret.
- Anywhere you go, be prepared for it to NOT be baby-proofed. Just a heads up.
- Pick a central location near public transportation (or with parking if you have a car), and next to a grocery store, that way you have everything you need at your disposal. It will also be easier to get back home for naps/quiet time/etc. if necessary. If you don’t do a central location, just be sure to be near public transit lines and at the very least a convenience store.
- Airbnb.com is my favorite. When you have a baby, and need to prepare bottles, baby food, or just want to put them to sleep in a separate room so you can hang out without disturbing them, it is always nice to be in a home-like setting. Airbnb places are usually a better value than something like a hotel suite, though a suite with a bedroom and kitchen might work out the same way. Look for places with two bedrooms – if you search around you can usually find a family home that might include a crib – we have always found great places! If there is a way to search listings for cribs, I am unaware of it (let me know!), so the secret is to look for 2+ bedrooms.
- Booking.com is my go-to source for hotels. Apartment hotels are wonderful and can sometimes be found for great prices. I would always suggest trying to get a kitchen/ette and at least one bedroom wherever you stay with baby, because it’s just easier to eat and sleep and enjoy the trip. If you stay in a regular hotel room, no worries. It might be a tight fit, and probably wouldn’t matter much with a very young baby, but the more space you can get, the better. For active crawlers and toddlers, many hotels have great play rooms for kids to go expend energy in 🙂
The nutritional needs of your baby changes month to month, as we all know, so you need to take into account their specific needs during all aspects of travel – like during transit, on planes, while being touristy, etc.
- Nursing and formula feeding both come with their own challenges while on the road, but both can be overcome with planning. Nursing in Europe hasn’t ever been an issue for me, but I also try to be out-of-the-way and very discreet. Sometimes, though I’ve had to nurse on trains, and of course I nurse on airplanes, and even in parks, so it can be a little to “public” for my liking, but I’ve never had anyone give me a bad look (only nice ones) and no one has ever said anything to me.
- Be sure to ask your doctor’s opinion on using bottled water before travel. Formula/välling bottles can be measured out into the bottle ahead of time and then just add water when ready to serve. We have used bottled water for mixing while at the airport or on a plane – otherwise we’ve used boiled tap water. Do make sure the water you are using is safe where ever you are. I have used the NHS guidelines on sodium and sulfate levels to make sure the bottled water available is appropriate.
- Bring sealed packages of formula from home. Though it is usually widely available (however, sometimes sold at pharmacies which may be closed on Sundays), it’s better to not change it up while traveling.
- Same goes for sealed snack packs. Squeeze packs, finger foods, bars, etc are all good to bring on the plane or while out and about.
- Grocery Store foods that are usually widely available:
- Peelable and mashable fruits and veggies: great for early eaters (bananas, avocados, cooked potatoes and carrots, etc.).
- Plain yogurt.
- Jars of baby food and other baby snacks. Remember, each country is different when it comes to what their babies eat, and when they eat certain foods. Check sugar levels! It’s been really interesting, actually, to see the differences between countries. As always, use your best judgement and feed baby by the guidelines you are aware of.
- Plain Cheerios. Best snack in the world. Put in a spill-free snack container and take everywhere.
- Be aware that your child might not eat at the destination. When we went to France, Porter literally had no interest in any food other than baguettes, I kid you not. We managed to get some bananas and oatmeal down, but baguettes were definitely his main food for 4 days. When in Paris…am I right? When we went back to the States after Sweden, Porter’s first time Stateside, he didn’t drink any kind of milk for a week or two. It happens, just monitor the situation.
- Bring a camera! Take pictures to share with friends and family, and baby when they get older.
- Don’t worry about baby not remembering the trip or destination. The amount of *smiles* people give babies during travels is a very positive, wonderful thing – for everyone!
- Be flexible. Things will not go as planned, baby will cry, flights will be delayed, blowouts happen. Try to just be as prepared as possible, make due where you need to, and try to stay calm. Porter has actually been a much better traveler than me during some difficult moments!
- Don’t worry about missing out just because you are bringing along your baby. You will make time for the important things that you want to see. Take advantage of your baby’s strengths – are they great sleepers at night and/or in a stroller? Go out with them while they sleep! Are they quiet and happy to people watch? Go out to eat as much as you can! Do they fall asleep for long periods of time while you wear them? Wear them always and see everything.
- Bring Grandparents. Way more fun with the old folks! (Extra set of hands/eyes, plus free babysitting 🙂 )
Traveling with a baby opens up so much more of the world! Babies are a universal language and having one with you means you’ll be interacting with tons of people and finding out – even a little bit – how others feed, clothe, carry, raise, and love children. You’ll discover new things about your child and yourself, as well, like what your limits may be – or how brave, strong, or accommodating you are. It is more difficult, because you’re a tribe now, but such is life. As all new parents know 🙂
Whew! I hope I have provided some helpful tips. At least for plane travel and being in Europe 😉
If you are going to any of the destinations I have listed under the Travels tab you can email me and I’ll try to give you more specific tips and suggestions based on the location.
Feel free to leave any tips you have! Spread the knowledge!
*All links included within this post are NOT affiliate links of any kind* They are products and brands that we have loved and found helpful, useful, and beautiful. Just passing along what we like.