With all my family living in a different state, I travel frequently to visit them. And now with a six month old, it is especially important to stay connected with family. Although I consider myself a bit of a travel pro, I admittedly was nervous about traveling with my infant for the first time. With our first plane trip together, I spent a lot of time researching to prepare, including talking to other mothers who travel with their infants. Here are some of my best tips to offer fellow traveling parents:
Planning Your Trip
There’s a lot to consider when planning your trip.
Do you plan to have your infant sit on your lap (free up to two years old) or will you purchase a reduced fare seat for your infant?
Having your infant sit on your lap is a great way to save money. Just be aware that you will need extra time to check in at the airport, as you will need to get a special boarding pass for your infant. Purchasing a seat for your child may be an expense, but it allows you the option to keep your infant in his or her car seat. On a long ride, that comfort can be critical for you and baby.
Will you have access to baby gear, such as a crib, car seat, stroller, etc. when you arrive at your destination?
Traveling as light as possible is a rule you still want to follow. Try to store baby gear basics at places you frequently travel. My family keeps a play yard, activity gym, baby bathtub, and stroller for my baby so I don’t have to travel with those things. These are used items from other babies in my family, so ask relatives for donations to help when you travel. There are also companies such as BabysAway.com that offer baby gear to rent when you are traveling. This too can be a great option to help you carry less.
Does your destination have convenient locations to purchase baby essentials such as formula, diapers, medicine, etc. or will it be easier to pack them in your luggage?
Baby essentials can quickly fill up your luggage and may not be worth it. If it’s quick and easy to stop by a store to purchase these at your destination, then I highly recommend it. For a new destination, a quick Internet search can show you what’s available. If you are visiting friends or family, ask them to purchase these items ahead of time so they are ready when you arrive.
Pack enough of these items to have on hand in case you can’t make it to the store right away. Of course, if your destination does not make it convenient, make sure you pack everything your baby would need, even in an emergency (first aid kit, medicine, etc.).
Packing Your Luggage
If you have never packed luggage for a baby (yes, a baby will have his or her OWN luggage!), you will quickly see how much you have to take with you. Make a checklist of items you will need. I created essential categories to help me think through everything: feeding, changing, clothing, bathing, transportation, and playtime.
Routines are everything for a baby. Think of items that may help maintain some of your baby’s routines and can recreate the environment he or she has grown accustomed to at home. For example, if your baby likes to listen to music to fall asleep, then pack a small sound machine. Take your baby’s favorite toy and book.
Checked Bags + Carry-ons
Whenever possible, check your luggage. The last thing you want to do is haul luggage AND a baby. There may be a fee associated with it, but having your hands available to attend to your infant is so crucial. I also recommend that any luggage have wheels for easy transportation.
You will need to have one carry-on bag, and what you decide to pack in it will be critical for your traveling experience. Pack your carry-on bag in preparation for any unexpected delays, like a five-hour or overnight flight delay. Make sure your carry-on has enough food, diapers, bottles, etc. to last a full day at the airport. Anticipate your child’s needs by packing a small toy to entertain a fussy baby and a backup outfit in case he or she has an accident.
Airlines may differ a bit, but almost all of them allow you two carry-on items. When traveling with an infant, you can additionally check a car seat and stroller at the gate. Place them inside a bag to prevent getting dirty, wet, or scratched during storage.
Traveling with an infant will require extra time—both in getting ready to leave your house and to get to your gate at the airport.
A birth certificate is required when traveling with an infant. Make sure you have it on hand when checking in. A lap-traveling infant requires his or her own boarding pass that must be printed out at the airport, so make time for that.
According to TSA, infants must be taken out of their baby carriers before going through the X-ray machine. Strollers and carriers go through the x-ray machine if you did not check them.
When carrying water for formula and/or breast milk, prepare for additional inspection at security. There are no specific limits on how many ounces of liquid you can carry, but security may check to verify that it is a reasonable amount based on your travel days. Security may also run the liquids through a test to confirm it is safe.
On the Plane
One of the best tips I received from another traveling mom was to choose a seat (if that is an option for you) next to a fellow parent. Your baby may get fussy and cry during the flight, and the attitude of the person sitting next to you can make a big difference in getting through those challenges.
The change in air pressure during take off and landing can be unpleasant for a child. It is recommended to have him or her sucking on a pacifier, bottle, or nursing during that time to ease any discomfort. I set aside some milk to bottle feed my baby during these times and it worked just fine.
Keep your baby entertained and feeling secure! I had a handful of small toys that my baby enjoys playing with. I also had a couple of blankets to spread on a seat for her to sit and lay down on (I was lucky that there was an empty seat next to me). Reading to her also helped to keep her calm. I made sure I attended to all her needs and even rocked her in my arms to fall asleep. Patience to any challenges helped to keep everything under control.
Traveling with an infant can be stressful, but with good planning can be quite enjoyable. My first experience with my baby went so well that I’m excited for visiting family again during the holidays. Mariana was the star of the flight because of her good behavior and I can see her becoming a traveling pro herself in no time!
What tips do you have for traveling with an infant? Share them in the comments below.