Let me tell you a little about traveling with a baby. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it is definitely doable.
I’ve breastfed at a French bus stop, pumped on an airplane (while flying alone with baby), left a stroller at baggage claim, had airport security take care of baby while I gathered my things, had a flight attendant make a rattle out of plastic cups because baby was screaming…
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was often told that I would have to give up my wanderlust. I didn’t understand why I would have to choose between my passion and my baby. My solution was simple, I would just have to adapt. I needed to learn how to incorporate my little one into my travels. How hard could that be?? Well, we have now survived several trips (including long-hauls)! I want to share the lessons I’ve learned in hopes of helping other moms-to-be. You don’t have to give up your love for traveling after baby is born!! If I can do it, ANYONE can do it (seriously.)
Properly packing for baby is, in my opinion, the single most important thing when preparing for a trip. You need to make sure that you have more than enough diapers and food for the plane ride and your stay. Here are a few of the most important items (see below for a downloadable baby packing check-list!):
- Infant carrier: This made running around the airport so much easier. I did everything with baby strapped to my chest, which left both of my hands free to do other things. It also cut down on her fussiness because she loves being close to mama.
- Small cooler: Mamas, did you know that you can bring liquids through airport security? I brought water, an ice pack, and breastmilk through security. Tell them it is for baby and they will screen it to make sure it’s safe. Make sure you pack enough breastmilk/formula (and extra) to last you through your flight and the time it takes you to reach your hotel/AirBnB/etc. I packed frozen breastmilk and an icepack to make sure that it lasted as long as possible.
- Umbrella stroller: I have a LARGE stroller at home. I knew that I did not want to navigate an airport or foreign country with that beast. I bought a small umbrella stroller for $15 at Target. I used it to push my diaper bag around the airport, it made a great seat for baby while I stopped for a quick airport meal, and I used it to transport her around during our trip. Also, it’s great because I didn’t care if I damaged or lost it (which I did, of course).
- Documentation: I ended up needing:
- Baby’s passport
- Copy of her birth certificate (airlines may ask for this if your child is flying as a lap infant to prove they are under 2 years old)
- Travel authorization (her dad was meeting us later in the trip…if you are taking baby out of the country alone, you will need a notarized travel authorization form from the other parent)
- Miscellaneous: I found it helpful to have extra onsies for baby in case of a blow-out or food accident, and squeeze bags of puree for easy feeding on-the-go.
Set yourself up before you even enter the doors of the airport. Before I walked in, I had baby strapped to my chest, passports and documentation within reach, the diaper bag on my back, and our carry on in the umbrella stroller. This made checking in and getting around a breeze, no fussing from me or baby.
Bring one foldable playmat, this can be used to let baby safely play on the airport floor, as a changing pad, and as a bed for nap-time (I wanted to travel with as little as possible, so many items I packed were multi-use!)
Make sure you’ve packed plenty of food and entertainment for your little one. High interest toys are great. Pro-mama tip!: If you don’t want to buy new toys, simply take away some of your baby’s current toys a week or two before the trip. When he/she sees them again, it will be like they are brand new!
Priority security and boarding: Most of the time families and people with babies have their own security lines and get to board first. I ALWAYS go through security in the family line. Standing in line with baby for 45 minutes is a no-go for me. Also, it may take you a little longer to go through security due to the screening of baby food/breastmilk/formula. HOWEVER, I do not use the priority boarding, I let baby move around as much as possible before we are confined to a small space on the aircraft. I am often the LAST person to board the plane, which is fine by me…since we will be stuck in there for what feels like an eternity.
ASK FOR HELP IF YOU NEED IT! People are kind and willing to help you. I don’t always have it all together in the airport. Baby and I were both falling apart during check-in for our flight from Paris to Toronto. I was exhausted and she was extremely fussy. She ended up having a screaming fit right as we walked through security. I’m usually very protective of my baby, but I let airport security hold her while I gathered our bags and prepared her food/bottle. It was such a relief!
So far, I always fly with baby as a lap infant because it’s so much cheaper than buying a seat for her (usually 10% of the adult ticket price). IF YOU ARE TRAVELING ALONE WITH AN INFANT AND FLYING LONG-HAUL, ASK FOR A BASSINET! I cannot stress this enough. It will save your life! You have to call the airline and request this ahead of time so that they can seat you in the bulkhead row (for free!)
I opted for a night flight because I knew it would be easier to have her sleeping much of the flight than to have her awake and alert (and needing entertainment). Shortly after takeoff, I asked the flight attendant to set up the bassinet, which I used to store some of her food/toys until it was time for her to go to sleep.
While baby was awake, I made sure to feed her plenty of her favorite purees, rotate toys to keep her interest, walk her up and down the aisle to people watch, and visited the restroom every few hours to change her diaper.
Pro-mama tip: Make sure you have baby breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or sucking on a pacifier during take-off. This will prevent them from experiencing ear pain from the change in pressure.
These tips made for a great flight! Everyone was commenting on how baby never fussed (on a 11 hour flight!)
In my opinion, this was the hardest part of flying with baby. I would avoid layovers if at all possible. However, I’m always trying to get the best deal on flights so I usually get stuck with layovers!
On one of our longer trips, we had a 7 hour layover in Toronto. It wasn’t long enough to leave the airport, so we were pretty much stuck (and I was alone!) All you can really do is keep baby well-fed and entertained. We strolled around the airport for as long as possible, which usually keeps baby calm and quiet. After a while, I found a comfortable spot in one of the terminals and set up shop. I used the play mat to let baby stretch, move around, and play with her toys. When she got sleepy, I used that same play mat and a blanket as her bed.
Written by Christian Brown
M.A. Urban Education: Policy and Administration
Loyola Marymount University.
Photo credit: Instagram/this_fit_mommy