Traveling with baby is hard, but it is not impossible. With a few tips, tricks, and the right mindset, anyone can do it.
This is a comprehensive list of tips that we have learned over the years. Most of them are very easy to implement, and they are almost guaranteed to make your life easier as a traveling parent.
The post has been broken down into simple categories so that it’s easy to follow.
34 Practical tips for traveling with baby
Planning your flight and accommodation
1. Babies need passports too
If you are planning to leave the country, make sure you apply for a passport for your baby. The process may take a little while, so make sure you start the process a few months before you plan to travel with your baby.
2. Check if you need a visa
US citizens are very lucky—we can go almost anywhere without a visa. But don’t take this privilege for granted. As you plan your trip, take a minute to do a quick google search and check if you need a visa or not.
3. There may be a fee, even if your baby doesn’t get a seat
This differs from airline to airline but usually, if you are flying with a baby on your lap, there is no fee for domestic flights. Depending on the airline, that may change for international flights. Check with your airline to see what fee they charge for an infant.
4. You could buy a seat for your baby
If you can afford to do so, you could buy a seat for your baby too. You would need to bring a light car seat for your baby to sleep in. There are airplane car seats that are light and narrow so that they can comfortably be carried through the aisles.
Keep in mind, not every car seat can be used on an airplane. There has to be an FAA sticker on it that declares it is approved for use on an airplane.
The pros of bringing a car seat
- You won’t have to hold your baby through the entire flight.
- If your baby is used to sleeping in the car seat, he/she will be able to sleep comfortably on the airplane. This is a great benefit because some babies don’t sleep well on airplanes.
- It’s safer for babies—a baby in a car seat is safer than anyone else on board.
- You’ll have a car seat at your destination. This is wonderful if you are renting a car because the baby car seats in the rental cars are usually terrible.
The cons of bringing a car seat
- It’s expensive. You’ll have to pay for a seat for your baby.
- It’s cumbersome. In the airplane and in the rental car it is great, but moving from place to place is quite cumbersome.
5. Get the bassinet seat for long haul flights
The bassinet seat allows you to attach a bassinet to the wall of the plane in the bulkhead row. Just because you are traveling with a baby does not mean they will automatically put you in that seat—you have to reserve it ahead of time. Book your flight as early as possible and once you do, call and request the bassinet seat. (Keep in mind you may not always get it.)
6. Fly during nap times
For shorter, domestic flights, this strategy is great. Simply book flying times that coincide with your baby’s nap time. This is a good strategy but it may also backfire if your baby is so distracted by the new environment, and cannot sleep.
7. Get two aisle seats in the front
Two aisle seats across from one another offer excellent (and a much-needed) change of scenery for an infant-in-arms. As your baby gets passed from one parent to the other, your baby gets reintroduced to a new environment and new neighbors. This simple strategy can keep your baby entertained for a good stretch.
Another benefit is that if your baby gets a little antsy, it is easier to get up and walk the baby up and down the aisle.
8. Breastfeeding? Get a window seat
If you are breastfeeding, a window seat offers much-needed privacy.
9. Get travel insurance and travel health insurance
Things could happen. Be prepared for any eventuality by getting insurance. Travel insurance typically covers you for flight or booking cancellations. However, not all travel insurance offers health insurance—look for travel insurance that covers everything.
Even if you have health insurance in the USA, you may not be covered once you cross the US border. Check your policy to see if your coverage remains the same worldwide as it does in the USA.
Travel insurance may be cheaper than you think. However, read the fine print before you commit. Plans vary. Some plans may not cover ER visits or medical evacuations or illnesses caused by a pandemic.
10. When booking accommodation, ask for a crib
Whether you are booking into a hotel or an Airbnb, ask if they have a crib or a pack ‘n play. This is not always available but it definitely does not hurt to ask.
Helpful tips for traveling with baby
11. Wear your baby if possible
Strollers have their benefits but for traveling with a baby, babywearing is ideal. If you are wearing your baby, you can move up and down stairs easily, you’re faster, and you can efficiently navigate. Then there are also the added benefits of babywearing in that babies sleep better, they are much better behaved, and you always know what’s going on with your baby because he/she is kissing distance away.
12. Strap your baby to the luggage
These bagriders are obviously not an option for newborn babies, but it’s great for older babies and toddlers.
13. Strap the car seat to your luggage
If you are going the car seat route, carrying that car seat around will quickly become a hassle. Solve the hassle by strapping it to your luggage.
14. Be prepared for diaper blowouts
Diaper blowouts happen when your baby poops, and the diaper cannot contain the poop. As a result, you will have baby poop up your baby’s back and legs. It’s not a fun experience, but it happens… often. Be prepared for it by always packing at least one change of clothes for your baby in your carry-on.
15. Take a portable high chair
The problem with traveling with a baby is that not all restaurants have high chairs, particularly if you are traveling abroad. Solve that hassle by being prepared with a small, portable high chair.
16. Breastfeeding while traveling
Hallelujah to breastfeeding because it makes traveling with a baby so much easier! If you are a breastfeeding mom, you don’t have to worry about any of the hassles that go with formula feeding. You can literally feed your baby anytime, anywhere.
17. Formula feeding while traveling
If you cannot breastfeed your baby, the next best thing is baby formula. However, it comes with a few hassles like needing to warm baby’s milk. Make sure that you are booking a hotel or Airbnb where you can warm bottles.
18. Have a plan in the event of illness
Check how you can get in touch with your baby’s pediatrician while you are abroad. Keep in mind that you might be in a different time zone, so check if they have a 24-hour line you can call? Also:
- Check to see where the nearest hospital and urgent care is to where you’ll be staying. Write it down and keep it with your other important documents, and also save it on your phone for easy access.
- Find out what the emergency phone number is in the country you are visiting. For example, in the US it is 911, in the EU, it is 112.
19. Bring cheap entertainment
This is an important hack for traveling with baby. You could go to the Dollar store and pick up a few things that your baby may find entertaining. What you get will depend on your baby’s age.
20. Bring a travel crib
If the hotel or Airbnb you are staying in does not have a crib or pack ‘n play, bring a travel crib. However, get it well before your trip and have your baby sleep in it for a few weeks before you leave. This way, your baby can get used to it. Otherwise, your baby is going to refuse to sleep in it.
How to pack when you're traveling with a baby
21. Travel light
It is exhausting to haul around stuff that you don’t need, unpacking it, then repacking it as you go from place to place. Save yourself the trouble and travel light.
Don’t pack for “what if’s.” All the extras (that you probably won’t need) take up valuable space. Keep in mind that unless you are going to the middle of nowhere, you should be able to pick up incidentals fairly easily.
22. Pack efficiently
Make sure every item of baby’s clothes pairs with another.
Also, check the weather forecast for when you are traveling. If you are traveling with baby for longer than a week, check the average annual temperatures for the time of year you will be traveling. That way, you are only packing what you really need.
23. Consider a backpack diaper bag
Seriously, there are so many benefits to using a backpack diaper bag:
- A backpack diaper bag can double as a carry-on, which means you will have fewer bags to carry;
- You won’t have annoying bag straps sliding off your shoulder every two minutes, and importantly;
- You’ll have free hands, which is a helpful commodity when you are traveling with a baby.
24. Don’t overdo it on the diapers
Diapers are important and you cannot do without it, but you also don’t need a lifetime supply of diapers while you are traveling. Keep track of the diapers your baby goes through per day or calculate it with a diaper calculator. Pack what you need and if you run out, you can always pick up more.
25. Consider your luggage carefully
Will you be wearing your baby or pushing your baby? If your hands are occupied with pushing a stroller, you’ll be better off with a backpack. However, if your plan is babywearing, you could get away with a rolling suitcase.
But there’s more. How will you be getting from place to place? If you are renting a car, you’re probably good with a suitcase that you can easily put in the trunk. If you’ll be catching busses and trains, a backpack would work best for you. Consider where you are going, how you will move, and make sure your luggage fits into your plans.
26. Pack a first-aid kit
It can be hard to find medicine in a different country. If you’re in the US, you know you can go to CVS, Walgreens, etc to get what you need, but if you’re in a foreign country, you don’t know where to go. The added stress of communicating with people whose native language is not the same as yours, and needing to get medicine for a baby, is downright nerve-racking. Avoid that unpleasant scenario by packing a first-aid kit in your carry-on. It should include at least: infant pain reliever and fever reducer, antihistamines, and diarrhea medicine.
Flights and Airports
27. Arrive early at the airport
From personal experience, I cannot emphasize this enough. Unforeseen things happen if you are traveling with a baby, and leaving early seems to solve most of those hassles. These include insane traffic on the way to the airport, a diaper blowout at the airport, a ticketing problem, lost infant tickets, the list goes on.
If you are not convinced, consider this:
- If you are flying international, you’ll need to park your car at a long-term facility, which is usually not right by the airport. You will need enough time to get from the parking garage to the airport;
- Even if you are packing light, you’ll have baby gear in tow. It will therefore take you a little more time to get around.
- Sometimes there are long check-in or TSA lines. If they are not long, they may move slowly.
- As you go through TSA and security, the process takes way longer if you are traveling with a baby. If you have a stroller, you have to take your baby out of the stroller and collapse it before it can go through an x-ray. If you are wearing your baby, you’ll need to take your baby out, then back in again.
By leaving your house early, you reduce risks. But even if there are no hassles and you end up being early, you have time to regroup, grab a meal, do a diaper change in the terminal, or buy a book that you won’t be able to read.
28. Ask to be put next to an empty seat
If you are on an international flight and you’ve requested (and received) the bulkhead seat, you’ll want to stay where you are. However, if you did not get that seat and you are flying “infant in arms,” the next best thing is to ask that you be put next to an open seat. That way, you have a little more room for your baby. Keep in mind, there may not always be an extra seat available on the flight.
29. Be prepared for security
When you go through customs and security, people with children will often be allowed to go through the shorter lines. This is great, but it’s not offered at every airport.
The protocol for going through security differs from airport to airport. If you have a stroller, they will usually ask you to take your baby out and collapse the stroller before it is taken through the x-ray. If you are wearing your baby, they may ask you to take your baby out before you walk through the metal detector. This is never any fun but you can make the experience easier by being prepared before you get to security.
- If you have liquids, put them in a zip-lock bag and keep them separate for inspection.
- If you have a laptop, separate it ahead of time so that you don’t have to open bags to go find it.
- It is always a great idea to wear slip-on shoes when you go through security.
30. Take advantage of priority boarding, or don’t
When it is time to board, parents with small children usually get priority boarding. This allows you to board first. This is a great perk of traveling with babies but think about it before you take advantage of it.
The benefits of priority boarding when traveling with baby:
- If you board early, you don’t have to pass all the other passengers, which can be a little uncomfortable if the flight is full and you are carrying a baby;
- You get to choose the best spots for your carry-on, instead of merely taking what you get;
- You get to settle in with your baby before most other passengers get on.
While that sounds great, consider that it could take up to 30 minutes for everyone else to board. This means you will have to sit and entertain your baby in a cramped seat for all that time.
Another option could be that you and your partner board separately. One parent could board early to check the stroller, stow the carry-ons, and disinfect the seating area. The other parent could walk around and entertain the baby while everyone else boards ahead of him/her.
31. Check strollers at the airplane gate
If you are traveling with a stroller, be sure to check it at the gate as you board the airplane. This is very convenient because you get to use your stroller right up till the very end. Once the airplane lands and you disembark, be sure to pick it up as you leave.
32. Feed your baby during takeoff and landing
If you have never flown with a baby, this may seem like an insignificant travel tip. If you have flown with babies and children, you’ll understand the meltdown that may occur if you don’t do this. Babies’ ears are sensitive to the changes in air pressure during takeoff and landing. To help ease the problem, you should have your baby sucking. You can either nurse or offer your baby a bottle. Swallowing and sucking will keep their ears from popping. If your baby is not hungry, offer a pacifier (and attach it to a pacifier clip so that it’s always within easy reach.)
You've reached your destination
33. Eat dinner early
By going to restaurants early, you can avoid the rush. This is the ideal situation if you are traveling with a baby. The wait staff are also less stressed and they can comfortably tend to your needs.
34. Consider baby-sitting services
There are many vetted, reputable nanny services around the world. If you need one night with your spouse, you may want to consider one of these services.
We take our 5 children everywhere we go. They literally do everything we do, except when we go to big sporting events. We go to the Rugby World Cup every 4 years and regardless of where in the world it is, we’ve always been able to find great nanny services for the nights we go to the games. (Because we have 5 kids, they usually send over 2 nannies.)
We make it very easy for the nannies. During the day, we do lots of things to get the kids tired. We feed them, bathe them, and give each a melatonin (sleeping) gummy before we leave. We also make sure their tablets are fully charged in case they don’t go to sleep. That way, they give the nannies no problems at all.