Tips for traveling with baby: the planning
My family is definitely the traveling type. From air travel to road trips, we usually travel anywhere from 5-15 times a year. We took our first airline trip when our baby was 4 months old, and took our first road trip when he was not even 3 months. Hopefully the tips and information I’ve compiled for you will help you in your trip planning and hopefully prevent you from losing your sanity. Traveling with babies can be complicated but can also be simplified with good planning. Here’s our advice for the planning stage. Look for our upcoming articles on surviving the airport and flight.
When purchasing your airline ticket
- Buy an extra seat for your infant if you can afford it. Even if you don’t use it for the car seat, you can just have it for extra space for bags or blankets. Some airlines offer a discounted rate for infants under 2, usually a percentage of a full fare ticket.
- Check if your airline has the option of a bassinet on board. These are very helpful. You need to call as far in advance as possible. They usually only have a few available and they get taken quickly.
- Call the airline to see if you can reserve a seat in the bulk head area so that you at least have a little more space. If you tell them you are traveling with a lap child, some airlines will reserve a bulk head seat for you. If the airline won’t reserve it for you in advance, make sure you ask for it at the airport. Some airlines hold on to those seats until just before the flight, so you might get lucky. Just make sure it’s not at an emergency exit (children can’t sit there).
- If you’ve chosen to take your child as a lap child, call the airline to ask if they can seat you next to a vacant seat. Many airlines have the ability to “mark” seats next to the mother as “infant” so that they can keep them open as long as possible. If the flight ends up being full, they may have to use that seat but it would be one of the last they would take.
- After boarding, you can always ask the flight attendants to possibly move other people to accommodate you and your baby in hopes to get a vacant seat. Sometimes asking people to move works but also be prepared for them to say “no” because they paid for and chose that seat!!
- Think about where you want to sit before you just pick a seat.
- Pros – You have a bit more privacy for things such as breastfeeding. You can see out the window which can help with not feeling so claustrophobic. If sleeping, you can rest your head against the wall. Window seats are often the most popular seat so if you need to switch with someone, it’s a good bargaining tool.
- Cons – Hard to get out if you need to go change baby or go to the bathroom, especially if you are traveling alone. It’s possible you may get stuck in there if the other passengers decide to sleep and you need to get out.
Middle seat – Ummmm, can’t think of any benefits to sitting here if you are traveling with an infant.
- Pros – If baby is sleeping, you have a bit more room to let their legs hang off the armrest. My baby always loved it when we sat in the aisle because he loved to people watch and smile at everyone. It provided some entertainment for him and also probably for other passengers. You don’t have to climb over people that are sleeping mid-flight to go to the bathroom to change your baby that just had his 3rd blowout.
- Cons – Less privacy overall and less privacy when breastfeeding. You have to deal with more “stares” from annoyed people close by. You have to worry about little arms and legs getting hit by the beverage cart.
Car Seat, Strollers, etc.
- Lightweight and easily collapsible strollers work best for air travel. Strollers can make your time in the airport a little easier, providing a place for baby to be and also storage for bags. If you have a bigger stroller, such as a BOB, you can still take it through security and check at the gate, but you will want to think ahead about getting through security and if the hassle is worth it, especially if you are traveling alone. If your stroller lays completely flat, a HUGE bonus I found was being able to change their diaper in the stroller when it’s laid back flat. I actually have been in terminals with NO changing station in a bathroom. (epic fail on their part, I know.) If you don’t have an umbrella stroller, ask a friend to borrow theirs.
- Taking your baby carrier is a great idea. My favorite is the ergo. This was my go-to item for long itineraries when traveling. I had the baby in the stroller most of the time, but when it came time for naps, he would ONLY fall asleep in the ergo. One time he was asleep when we boarded. They let me get on the plane, get seated, and he was still in the ergo when we took off. I was even allowed to go through security a few times while baby was asleep in the ergo. Major win!
- Car seats are a legal requirement in the majority of destinations. (I’ve heard from friends that have visited Mexico that they are not required.) A lot of the infant car seats have bases which can be left behind.
- Don’t forget you’ll need to use a car seat if you plan to take any taxis or shuttles as well. If you opt to buy a seat on the plane for your little one, you can bring your airplane-approved car seat on board. If not, the seat can be checked with your luggage without an additional fee.
- When renting a car at your destination, you can also rent a car seat. We did this a few times but found it was cheaper to just buy a car seat for traveling. And taking your own is also much cleaner. One trip at the car rental agency, we went through 5 different car seats before we found one with no gross stuff caked on it. Ewwww.
- Car seat bags are easy to find at places like Babies R Us or Amazon.com. This is a bag that your car seat goes into and usually has a handle for easy carrying. The bag protects your car seat from extra wear and tear. Some airlines offer a plastic bag (no charge) to put the car seat in. More expensive ones have wheels.
- You are allowed one additional bag at no charge for the baby. This applies to carry-ons, not checked luggage. Strollers and car seats are allowed to be checked for free.Or you can just take your stroller with you and check it at the gate.
- Try to pack light. I know this sounds strange when taking your baby with you. The first time we flew, I swear I took everything but the kitchen sink. It was so overwhelming to pack. I found the more simple the better. You can always buy what you forgot. It’s better to just not stress out about taking EVERYTHING.
- I’ve never co-slept with my son except for traveling. When he was really little, often we would get a crib or pack n play from the hotel we were staying at. Most of the time though, he just slept in the bed with us. There are some small travel beds available that fold up and store easily in luggage.
- I heard a sleep expert recommend taking ALL your babies bedding. Don’t even wash it. The familiar smells will help baby adjust to the new surroundings and hopefully help him make the transition more quickly.
- One time when we traveled to Colorado to stay with family, I knew we were going to be sleeping in twin beds so there wouldn’t be much space for the baby in bed with us. I actually posted an ad on craigslist asking for a pack n play to borrow for the week. I was contacted by a lady who had bought one for her granddaughter. She let us borrow it for the whole week at no charge and it was incredibly helpful.
- See our previous posts for tips on Traveling with Breastmilk and Baby food. (Not to scare you, but it’s just good to know before you go)
- If you are breastfeeding with an older baby, it might be a good idea to pump some milk beforehand, as you might have the same problem that we did: a very distracted baby who didn’t want to nurse!
- To make in-flight nursing easier, bring your Boppy cover without the pillow. You can stuff it with coats or complimentary pillows to create a familiar feeding cushion which would otherwise have been far too large to carry.
- More tips on this will be included in our follow-up articles.
- If traveling internationally, your baby will probably need a passport. The photos that are needed have some restrictions, i.e. that the child has both eyes open and lips closed, so make sure you check on the requirements and go get pictures at a time of day when your baby is most likely to be in a good mood and awake! Also call ahead to the passport photo location–not everyone will take baby passport photos due to liability issues. Both parents have to be present, or the absent parent has to give permission in writing. It generally takes 4-6 weeks for the passport to arrive, but you can pay more to expedite it.
- If your baby doesn’t have a passport and you are just traveling domestically, call your airlines to ask what paperwork they require for proof of identity. When I flew with my 4 month old, they required to see his birth certificate. It might be good to take just in case.
- In case of different last names, you can bring along a copy of your marriage certificate and birth certificate as proof. The airlines may ask for it upon check-in and again, “just in case”.
- When traveling internationally and solo with your child, you may also be required to have a letter of consent from the parent not present. Canada is one country that requires this. See their site for more info. Depending on where you are flying to, you will want to research to find out if it is required for you to have this letter. It is also required to be notarized.
I’m sure there’s more great tips that I forgot to include. If you have any to share, please feel free to leave a comment or email us!!