Welcoming a baby into your family is a big adjustment and, if you love to travel, you may worry that having a baby will bring an end to that. Thankfully, just as other parts of your life will change, your travel style will adapt to include your new addition. There are plenty of tips to help make traveling with an infant a fun experience.
Tips for traveling with a baby
While babies and adults have many of the same basic needs while traveling, it takes a bit more planning to make sure a baby is fed and happy. You'll also want to make sure you plan for the unexpected — diaper blowouts on an airplane, a stroller breaking, leaving a pacifier at a rest stop...just to name a few.
Additionally, babies are still developing their immune systems, so make sure they're up to date on their immunizations and check with your pediatrician before traveling — especially if you're visiting another country.
When it comes to planning a trip, you know your baby best. Try to keep their abilities and interests in mind. Traveling with children is different than traveling with a baby or a toddler. Places like national parks may be a good option for babies, as you can put them in a stroller or carrier and explore. Plus, because you're in the great outdoors, you'll likely be able to find a little extra open space to avoid the crowds.
If your little one is like a sponge soaking in everything going on around them, you may want to consider a bigger city. There's plenty to look at, and you'll likely find plenty of places that are baby-friendly. Even if your baby doesn't exactly know what a shark is, they may still love watching them swim in an aquarium. Or you can visit a children's museum, where you'll find entertainment for all ages.
Regardless of where you decide to go, there are some things you'll have to pack no matter what.
Checklist for traveling with a baby
- Extra clothing for you and baby
- Layers of clothing for unpredictable weather
- Pacifier and clip (plus back-up)
- Comfort toy or blanket
- Extra diapers
- Formula/breast milk/pump
- Baby wipes
- Sanitizing wipes
- Bibs (and extra)
- A first-aid kit with baby-safe medications
- A small toy or two
- Baby soap and shampoo
Car travel with a baby
If you're going on a longer driving trip with your baby, there are some tips that may make it a bit easier on you both. In the weeks leading up to your trip, start practicing in the car with your baby. Traveling with a baby by car will be much easier if they're used to their car seat and you can anticipate their needs. If your little one is used to shorter trips to the park or the grocery store, start practicing longer trips. Head to a zoo or park an hour or two away to help them get used to spending more time in the car.
You may also want to give yourself plenty of extra time when planning your trip. Even a baby with plenty of experience in a car seat can only sit still for so long. Plan on regular breaks for both you and your baby to get out of the car and get some fresh air. Plus, you'll likely need to stop for some diaper changes along the way. If it's possible, you may want to try to plan longer stretches of driving to coincide with your baby's naptime.
You will likely want to pack some toys as well, to keep your baby entertained. These can be as simple as a rattle or their favorite stuffed animal. You may also want to consider getting a toy tether to keep the toys from falling onto the floor of the car.
Plane travel with a baby
Flying with a baby can be even more intimidating than driving, as you have less control over the environment. Between getting through security, making connections and dealing with pressure changes, traveling with an infant on a plane requires even more planning.
The first thing you should do is remember that parents fly with their babies all the time — you can do this. You may want to mentally prepare for a few hiccups, but there are plenty of tips to help the trip go more smoothly.
Most airlines won't require you to buy a ticket for kids under 2 years old. However, this does mean your baby will have to sit on your lap. And of course, before foregoing the ticket, check the airline's policy. If you can swing it, you may want to purchase a second seat so you can use a car seat and give yourself a little more freedom.
Even if they don't need a ticket, your baby will need a passport for international travel, regardless of age. For domestic travel, TSA does not require anyone under the age of 18 to have identification.
Baby formula and breast milk are exempt from TSA's 3-ounce liquid rule. They will need to be screened separately though, so you may want to keep them in their own bag to make it easier to pull out of your carry-on. Pressure changes can be tough on babies' ears, so try to plan feedings for the ascent and descent, as swallowing can help alleviate the pressure.
Public transportation with a baby
Navigating public transportation with a baby has its own unique quirks as well. One way to make your life a little easier is to try and plan your trips outside of peak hours. This will give you a little more space to get in and out with your stroller or baby carrier.
Check out the route online and ensure they are accessible, that way you know you'll have no problem getting the stroller onto the bus or train. It also means there will likely be a section reserved for wheelchairs and strollers, so you'll have a bit more room.
When you are getting on and off public transportation, it's safest to step out first and then pull the stroller out backwards. That way, if it tips, it won't be tipping your little one forward and risking a fall.
And lastly, try and enjoy it. Many little ones will enjoy watching out the window or seeing all the people, so engage with your baby and make it a positive experience for them.
Traveling with an infant can seem a little daunting at first, but with the right preparation and mindset, you'll find it's more than worth it. Just follow these tips before your next trip and you can enjoy being a family that travels together.