Holiday season always fills my heart with joy, warmth and excitement. I love traveling, so when my son was born, I knew that I wanted my son to be my travel buddy and enjoy the experience of exploring new people, places and culture.
While traveling with little ones can be challenging, a little extra preparation can help parents ensure a safe and comfortable trip and create special memories that last a lifetime. Here are tested tips based on my personal experience, other parents, and some great research by the newmom.me team. Bon Voyage!
A little planning goes a long way
There are three keys to a successful trip — note that the first two happen before you even get to the airport!
Now let's go through them one-by-one.
While booking a flight and a hotel, keep the following tips in mind:
- Time your flight so you’re flying during naptime or other happy time during the day.
- Try to book a nonstop flight. It’s faster and reduces the chance of lost luggage and weather delays.
- If flying internationally with a layover, check with the airline to see if you can check your luggage all the way through to your destination to avoid having to collect it then re-check it while transferring planes — kid(s) and carry-ons in hand.
- Book bulkhead seats — the seats in the first row of each section. These seats often have more legroom, and on some planes the airline can provide a baby bassinet right in front of your seat. Check with your airline when booking to check whether a bassinet is available on your flight and to make sure your child meets the age and size requirements.
- When you're booking for a hotel, look for complimentary breakfast. Being able to feed little ones — and yourself — without having to step out of the hotel can save a lot of time and hassle.
- Book a residential hotel with a kitchen, or at least useful appliances such as a refrigerator and microwave. The fridge is great for breastmilk and snacks, and you can use the microwave to disinfect baby gear (more details in the next section).
- Ask in advance for a crib or a rollaway bed. Some kids love them, and it will give you more space to unwind.
- If you're staying with relatives, mail or order them diaper supplies in advance. You’ll lighten your load enroute and reduce hassle once you reach your destination.
Checked luggage - Packing what you’ll really need — and removing what you won’t — can save a ton of lugging. Here are some essentials for checked luggage:
- Baby wipes
- Baby bottles
- Cleaning supplies
- Microwave steaming sanitizing bags. You can disinfect your breast pump, breast shield accessories, bottles, pacifiers and more in about three minutes. You just need a microwave and water. (Remember the recommendation for booking a hotel with a microwave?)
- Quick clean wipes, perfect for cleaning breastfeeding equipment and other baby accessories. Medela has some nice wipes that can be used without water, which is especially convenient.
- Breast milk removal soap. It's easy to pack and avoids a lot of scrubbing.
- Small garbage bags. These will come handy more than you think — such as when you need somewhere to put that dirty diaper or soiled clothes.
- Baby formula
- If your baby can now have cow's milk then these Shelf-Stable Whole Milk boxes are great as they don't require refrigeration and easy to carry.
- Dry snacks
- Weather-appropriate baby clothes
- Baby’s favorite toys
- Baby’s favorite book(s)
- Small cooler or cooling bag. These are very helpful and come handy when you are traveling with breast milk or baby food for later consumption. Just freeze and pack (thanks again, hotel refrigerator!).
- Breast pump car charger. These are super helpful when you are traveling and need to pump.
- Car window sunshade. Protects from bright glare, which can really help for mobile naps.
- Baby bath essentials
- Prescription medicines
- Baby carrier. It's a great way to keep your baby close and your hands free.
- Pack and play travel cribs. I always found it very helpful when I was traveling with my son as they are compact and helped me create a safe space for my son to play.
Carry-on luggage - The trick is to pack light but tight. One rule of thumb I always follow is to make carry-on luggage self-sufficient, which means that in case of lost luggage I can still manage for a day or two with the essentials for the baby and myself.
- First of all, use your backpack as a carry-on diaper bag, so you don't have to bring an extra piece of luggage.
- Change of clothes for baby. At least two sets. I remember my son had two big poop blowouts in a three hour flight.
- Change clothes for you, at least one set.
- Baby wipes
- Diaper changing pad. Small, lightweight, and helps when there isn’t a clean surface in sight.
- Garbage disposal bags to dispose of dirty diapers or store solid clothes.
- Ready-to-feed formula (pre-mixed liquid). Simply open the bottle and feed.
- Water bottle for making formula, if you're using powder. Now you might think, how will I carry milk through security? According to the TSA’s website, formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby toddler food are considered medically necessary liquids. This also applies to breast milk and formula cooling accessories, such as ice packs, freezer packs, and gel packs, whether or not you are currently carrying any breast milk. Inform the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening process that you are carrying formula, breast milk, toddler drinks and baby toddler food (including puree pouches). Remove these items in a small bag in your carry-on so they can be screened separately from your other belongings. TSA officers may need to test the liquids for explosives or concealed prohibited items, so be sure to arrive early to avoid last-minute stress. You can find the latest regulations at tsa.gov.
- I would also recommend carrying baby food, which can be pouches, homemade finger food like pasta, peas, carrots, baby cereal or anything your baby likes.
- Another must have item I always carried was a quick-clean breast pump and accessory wipes
- Always carry toys or coloring books to keep your baby engaged
- Carry bibs, burping clothes, blanket for baby
- Diaper cream
- Baby medicine
- Sunscreen and hat, if appropriate for your destination
- Nursing cover, if you are breastfeeding
- Baby's passport or birth certificate
- Breast pump. A hand-operated pump gives you the freedom to pump anywhere, and a battery-powered unit is faster and more convenient though larger and heavier.
- Another thing, which I found extremely useful was a baby travel kit, which comes in TSA-approved bags and toiletries.
Your tickets are booked and bags are packed. Now let's discuss how to travel as comfortably as possible.
- Dress yourself in layers and skip shoes with laces
- Dress babies in clothes which are easy to change in and out of (remember those poopy diapers)
- Get to the airport early
- Curbside check-in can save a ton of time. Ask the attendant to check your large bags and tag your stroller so you can keep it while in the airport and give it to the airline at the gate, right before you board the plane (only works for strollers that can fold in half to fit through the security scanners).
- Car seats and strollers often fly free (but make sure to confirm with your airline to avoid a surprise)
- Most airports have “family restrooms” that are private bathrooms with tons of space for you and the baby
- Change diapers before boarding the airplane
- After boarding the airplane, check out the airplane restrooms to figure out which one has the most room and a changing table
- While taking off and landing, nurse or feed the baby or give them a pacifier. The sucking action can neutralize ear pressure changes and calm the baby.
- If you have a long flight and you are pumping, request the flight attendant to store milk in the airplane’s freezer (either formula or breast milk)
- Try to stick to the baby’s normal eating and sleep schedule, especially those much needed naps!
Remember, the key to smooth sailing — and flying — with little ones is preparation and keeping things organized. Safe travels!
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