Tips for Traveling with a Baby

When lifestyle blogger Elizabeth Glidden invited me to write a guest post on her blog Finding Normal, I was so excited to collaborate with her! Finding Normal is described as “a sane girl’s guide to food, fitness, and well-being in today’s crazy culture.” One thing Elizabeth and I have in common is our love of travel! If you’ve been following along for a little while, you know that I love planning trips and sharing highlights from our getaways. It was so much fun working with Elizabeth to create this post and I’m excited for more collaborations in the future!

In Adina’s short 9 months of life, she has done her fair share of traveling. Michael and I both love to travel and we didn’t want to stop pursuing this passion of taking trips because we now had a baby. When Adina was almost three months old, she took her first international flight and vacation to Aruba. At six months old, we went on another trip to the Caribbean and spent a week in Grand Cayman Island. Over Memorial Day, we took a road trip from NY to Boston and spent a week there visiting friends and family. Throughout the summer, we’ve gone on dozens of weekend getaways to Fire Island and Western, MA.

Before each trip, I remember feeling anxious about what to pack, nervous about how she would be on the plane or in the car, and apprehensive about how she would sleep while we were away from home. While these trips definitely required more planning, to be honest, they were much easier than I expected. Babies change so much in the first year of life, so every trip was a little bit different, but here are a few tips we have learned from our experiences traveling with a baby:

1. PRIORITIZE BABY SLEEP: Plan as best as you can around nap and awake schedules. Book your flight or plan to drive during your baby’s naps/overnight. I know that this isn’t always possible but it’s best when bulk of your flight or road trip coincides with your child’s longer nap (rather than them sleeping while you are traveling to the airport, or partially at home and partially on the road). If you fly around bedtime, it’s likely baby will be asleep shortly after take off. Plus there is less cabin activity and the lights are dimmed at night. Think through where baby will sleep on your trip. If you’re going away for more than a few nights, it is worth it to invest in a high-quality, comfortable travel crib. We’ve used a standard Pack-n-Play, which works fine for a night or two, but for a longer vacation, I’d recommend something like this or this. A high quality travel crib could make all the difference for restful nights of sleep and more enjoyable days!

2. PACK EXTRA DIAPERS + CLOTHES: Adina hadn't had a diaper blow out in weeks (maybe even months!) and somehow on our return flight from Grand Cayman Island, she had one! I don’t know if it was the air pressure or what, but I was glad I had more diapers and wipes than I thought I needed. Also bring more than one spare change of clothes (for baby and parents) - we had multiple outfit changes on the flight. Plane bathrooms actually have good changing tables - I was nervous about that one, but it’s true! All that said, if possible, buy diapers/wipes/formula etc. in the city you’re traveling to in order to save space in your suitcases.

3. FEED BABY AT TAKEOFF + LANDING: This helps with their popped ears, and also helps to distract them so they don’t get nervous or upset from the pressure. Don’t start feeding until take off, sometimes you think it’s about to go but then there’s a last minute delay and baby isn’t hungry anymore.

4. GATE CHECK THE STROLLER + CAR SEAT: All airlines allow you to check your stroller and car seat FOR FREE at the gate. That way, you can easily push the baby in the stroller through the airport all the way until you board! Then, when you deplane, your stroller is right there waiting for you. (I wore Adina in baby wrap/carrier until we got through security and then put her in the stroller the rest of the way to our gate. Security will likely make you take baby out of the stroller - super annoying if they’re already sleeping.) If you have a car seat cover (or even a large plastic bag to put around it) you can also store some extra items in there.

5. PACK SNACKS + EASY FOOD: Some of my go-to travel foods for baby are banana and ripe avocado, since they’re easy to mush. Whether it’s puffs or crackers, bring food you could feed your baby for a while if you need to pass some time. I like to have extra ziplock bags on hand for snacks. Bring along a sippy cup for baby to have some water in between meals.

6. BRING NEW TOYS + ACTIVITIES: This tip is great for car rides as well as flights. The toys don’t need to be fancy - even something simple like putting the lid on and off of dollar store tupperware containers can keep your little one entertained for A WHILE! This helps kill time if your baby is awake and a bit restless. A friend gave me the idea to create little “travel packs” for a toddler or an older child. Don’t show it to your child until you get to the airport and at each leg, introduce a new surprise.

7. ASK FOR A BASSINET ON INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS: Some planes may not have one, but a lot of them do - make sure to ask! Call the airline to reserve a bassinet even if you think your baby is too big for one (that way you get the seats with more leg room.) The row of seats with more leg room is amazing because kids have room to play down there (when the seatbelt sign is turned off, of course!) Alternatively, try to sit in a row with an empty third seat. Michael and I like to reserve the window seat and the aisle seat to increase our chances of having the row to ourselves. If there is someone seated in the middle seat, they happily agree to switch with one of us so we can sit next to each other. We’ve also had good luck with flight attendants offering to shift us to a row with an empty third seat!

8. HAVE EVERYTHING READILY AVAILABLE: Store toys, snacks, diapers, wipes, blanket (which comes in handy on a cold plane), baby food, and formula in a backpack diaper bag that you can put under your seat instead of the overhead bin for easy access.

9. KEEP YOUR ITINERARY SIMPLE: I am used to trips with very full days, packed with lots of sightseeing and reservations at many different restaurants. When traveling with a baby, keep things simple and child friendly. If that means eating dinner at 5 pm, go with it! Go with the flow and don’t be super strict about sticking to a rigid schedule. You can totally maintain a general routines (don’t worry - it won’t ruin your baby’s sleep.) Enjoy the time you’re away and get back to basics when you return.

10. BREATHE: Above everything else: breathe – it will all be okay. If your baby is crying, they’ll stop at some point. Try not to feel bad if things do go as planned. On one of our car rides to Fire Island, we got stuck in bad traffic and Adina was not a happy camper. She was overtired and couldn’t get comfortable in her car seat, which led to a meltdown. Michael and I spent the rest of the car ride singing show tunes to her and we all made it home in one piece. Just do your best!

Life with littles moves quickly and I’m excited to be creating memories that we’ll be able to look back on years from now and smile. What’s your favorite baby travel tip? Any advice as they get bigger? Share with us in the comments below! Or share your own bucket list - I love seeing where others want to visit!