Traveling with infants can be easy. The baby years are actually among the best to travel with your child, mainly because they are so darn portable when they're so young. They can't walk yet, so they won't try to scamper down the aisle when the "fasten seatbelt" sign is on and they can't talk, so you won't hear, "Are we there yet?!" a million times from the back seat.
Here are a few reasons why it's so great to travel with infants:
- Babies have no agendas. Unless you're balancing the needs of a baby with the needs of an older sibling (and that's an entirely different article), you can pop your baby in a sling or Snugli, and you have an entire afternoon to wile away at the museum. No arguments from the peanut gallery (pun intended).
- Babies sleep a lot. They'll nap in a stroller while you sip lattes at a sidewalk cafe, stroll through the countryside or shop for souvenirs.
- Babies don't need much to be content. They just want to be with you, even if you're doing some vacation activity they'll find hugely boring in a few years.
Of course, traveling with an infant is not all sunshine and rainbows. Babies cry on planes, need to have diapers changed in strange places and might not like having their routines disrupted if they're accustomed to a regular eating and sleeping schedule at home. But, there are plenty of things you can do to help ease the way and keep everyone smiling.
Here is a collection of some basic tips and clever expert insight from experienced moms to keep in mind for your next trip:
Before You Go
Bring baby to the doctor before the trip. Infants are more vulnerable to germs than adults and vacations are often filled with them. Before you head to the airport or check in to your hotel, stop by your pediatrician's office and have her complete a standard check-up. Baby will be a lot happier during the getaway when healthy. Plus, if you're traveling outside of the country, it is important to have baby's vaccines all up-to-date.
Overpack your diaper bag. Colleen Lanin, a mom of two and founder of TravelMamas.com, suggests being extra prepared for delays during air travel. "Pack twice as many bottles, diapers, wipes, food and formula as you think you will need so you are ready for that unexpected three-hour wait on the tarmac." While extra clothes for baby are a given, don't forget a spare change of clothes for you, says Shelly Rivoli, author of "Travels with Baby" (TWB Books) and TravelswithBaby.com. "We're too often the target of the mid-flight blow-out, spit-up, and other delights."
Spread all of baby's belongings/necessities among all your checked luggage. "That way, if a bag is lost, it's not that one," explains Corinne McDermott, founder of HaveBabyWillTravel.com. But remember, you can buy diapers and formula almost anywhere, so don't panic if you find yourself without some of your necessities for a little while.
Pack blue painter's tape. Nope, not for home improvement projects. Ingenious mom of three Debbie Dubrow, who writes about family travel at DeliciousBaby.com, says you can use the easily removable tape for baby-proofing (cover electrical outlets, and tape down any dangling electrical cords) or making a removable "road" for baby to push toy cars on.
Bring binder clips. This handy office supply can be used to clip extra blankets onto strollers for extra shade protection and napping insurance, says Rivoli. "I've used them to clip an airline blanket to a seat back to create a canopy to keep the neighboring reading lights and turbulent air off my distractible daughter."
Dress your baby in overalls. "The straps create the perfect place to loop a link toy, which will help keep him busy while you're standing in line, sitting at the gate and even on the changing table -- without risk of it falling on the (yucky) ground," says Rivoli. Another way to keep a baby entertained or distracted while you're waiting for a flight is to hand over a usually "forbidden" item, suggests McDermott. "Mommy's cell phone or daddy's fancy watch can help you out of a myriad of messes -- supervise closely of course."
In the Air
The three-ounce rule. When it comes to airplane security, no one passes through with any liquid of more than three ounces, unless you have an infant. TSA restrictions are waived for milk/breastmilk in containers larger than 3 ounces. Additional screening in required, but you will be able to feed your little one on a cross-country flight. To make travel even easier, bring empty bottles (or just filled with formula) through security, then purchase bottled water on the concourse. The three-ounce rule, however, still exists on medicines, lotions or anything else you may typically carry with you for your baby. Diaper creams, lotions or other items are available in travel sizes, and if you have a liquid medication you must carry, pour it into three-ounce containers.
Give baby a bottle or pacifier during take-off and landing. The changes in air pressure during take-off and landing can cause pressure in baby's ears. As adults we know how to handle the feeling, but baby doesn't. Let the little one suck on a bottle or pacifier during these times. Both will help baby to swallow continuously, which helps to clear the ears. A bottle or pacifier will also help keep baby quiet during the flight so as not to disrupt the other passengers'flight.
Bring earplugs or other treats for your fellow flyers. Baby is bound to get fussy during a long flight. Keep the peace with your other passengers by offering them earplugs to drown out the sound of crying. If they don't accept, offer to buy their drink or snack when the flight attendant comes around. The gesture will say you're sorry for any discomfort you may have caused them during the flight.
Buy an airplane seat for baby. It's true that children younger than 2 years can be "lap babies" on airplanes for free, but it's much safer to have your child strapped into his or her car seat during take-off, landing and turbulence than in your arms. According to the FAA, most car seats are just as safe in airplanes as they are in motor vehicles. Plus, having baby in her own seat allows mom to spread out in her own -- hands are fully free to read a book!
Book flights with as few connections as possible. If you do need to book a flight with a layover, choose one with a relatively long stop to avoid having to run through the airport with your child and all your baby gear, suggests Lanin. Research your layovers at airport web sites to find out if there's a toddler play area with playthings or climbing areas that might interest your crawler. See our article on the best ways to keep your kids busy at the airport.
Keep your stroller with you until you board. Maneuvering through a crowded airport loaded with bags and your innocent one is tough enough, so bring your stroller and use it to hold everything, just as you would on any outing with baby. It'll come in handy when there are delays and you need to rock your baby to sleep. Airlines will allow you to gate check your stroller, so you'll have it up to until you depart and immediately upon landing. If you choose to use a baby sling, remember you will have to remove the sling and run it through security and carry your infant through the security check.
Let everyone else off the plane first. Sure, if your baby is crying, and people are giving you the stink eye, you might want to get the heck off the flight. But you'll likely have pacifiers, toys, burp cloths and more to gather, and you don't want to rush and leave anything behind, says Dubrow. "Plus, if you've gate-checked a stroller, it won't be available immediately anyway," she says, so you might as well wait in your seat instead of juggling baby and gear on the jetway or outside at the foot of airplane steps.
On the Ground
Designate a diaper-changing station at your destination. Bring a box of wipes, put a disposable changing pad on top of a towel, and stack a bunch of diapers in one area. "That way, you don't need to chase down the diaper bag and unpack it for each change, and you do not need to replenish the bag's contents constantly," says Lenin.
Don't begrudge the baby's naps. It's tempting to "go, go, go" on vacation, sightseeing as much as possible to pack it all in. But it is important to rest almost as much as your baby does. "Use the time the baby sleeps to nap yourself," says McDermott. And if you can't rest while baby does, try traveling during that time. A long car ride or busy flight can be a lot easier if baby can sleep straight through it!
Consider booking a condo. Standard hotel rooms might be OK for a night or two, but if you're vacationing for a week, a condominium or vacation home rental is key. You'll have a full kitchen for mealtime and storing snacks and drinks, a washer/dryer for the inevitable baby laundry you'll have to do and separate bedrooms for parents and baby (if you're accustomed to sleeping apart at home). Don't forget to ask about cribs or pack-and-plays, too!
How young is too young? Read our story for tips for traveling with young ones.
Visit our Traveling with Infants & Toddlers Forum for further discussions and advice.
This article has been updated as of December 23, 2013.