Traveling with Baby- A Year in Review
After a year of travels; we figured it may be helpful to share some of our lessons learned and tips for traveling with an infant.
In her first year, Emmylou flew on 15 flights, visited 3 countries (2 continents), went on her first cruise, stayed in countless hotels and slept (well) in dozens of cribs.
To kick it off, here’s Emmylou on her first flight at 4 weeks old…
We pinch ourselves because, so far, we have had great travel experiences with her! Here’s a few of our tried and true travel tips:
Pack baby’s clothes inside of your suitcase using packing cubes. This will limit the amount of pieces of luggage you will have to check or carry through the airport. Read more about what luggage we travel with in this post. Baby’s require a lot of gear for travel too (read our post on baby travel gear here), so this helps to limit the number of luggage pieces you are traveling with.
Wear baby as much as possible (especially under 6 months). This helps keep your hands free and baby calm and happy. They will make you take baby out at security and some international airlines will make you buckle baby into your belt but for the most part baby can stay put for most of the trip (and hopefully sleep).
Also, if you’re wearing baby, you can check the stroller/car seat right away. Some airports will make you do this (airports in Australia have). You can also choose to stroll baby through the airport and gate check those items. We’ve done both ways; just allow extra time at check in or boarding to bag up your stuff.
Let baby play in the airport. I used to judge people who let their infants crawl all over airport floors but now I get it. They have energy and need to use it up before the flight. Bring a blanket you don’t care about, put them in a dark colored outfit to avoid stains and let them crawl, walk, climb or tummy time before boarding. A few germs are well-worth the in-flight nap!
Change baby’s diaper before boarding; the less airplane diaper changes, the better!
Board early (family boarding) and try to get an extra/open seat for baby to play or lay on.
Nurse or feed baby at take off; if they aren’t hungry give them a pacifier. Emmylou never has trouble with altitude/her ears but we’ve been proactive with this.
Let baby explore the plane. Despite the germs (feel free to wipe down the tray table/seats) there is SO much good entertainment for baby right in your seat. Let them play with the safety information card, armrest, tray table, touch screen, window shade…whatever! It will keep them busy and happy for a while. This will also limit the amount of toys you need to bring along; but if you’re wondering what travel toys we love, check out this post! We also bring snacks that are easy and not messy, like puffs or raisins, as entertainment.
Take any and all help from the flight attendants. They know all the travel tricks and just when to use them. If they offer you a cup for baby to play with, take it, an extra pillow for your arm, take it, an extra water bottle, take it! If they are offering it, you most likely WILL need it.
Don’t be afraid to walk/bounce baby up and down the aisles. It helps a fussy baby to get out of the seat and move; plus, there’s usually a sweet someone dying to see your babe (and cheer you both up) somewhere on the plane. Also, a good walk helps put baby to sleep…
Most importantly, always throw an extra ziplock bag filled with a clean outfit and burp or washcloth into your carry on. You never know when you’ll need it and the bag will contain any stinky or dirty items until landing. I also pack an extra shirt for myself; the last thing you want is to have to wear a dirty shirt for the rest of the travel day.
Give yourself extra time, expect for the worst and it will always go better than planned!
When you arrive, unpack your packing cubes and put baby items near a table or desk. We like to travel with an inflatable changing pad to avoid any messes and support baby while you change them. Also, move the trashcan next to the changing station.
Let baby explore the hotel room but under your supervision. Hotel rooms are NOT baby proof so proceed with caution.
Use a sound machine and block baby’s view of you in the room using blankets. Remove the blankets once baby is asleep.
Pull the blinds COMPLETELY shut (unless you want to wake up at dawn). Babies are used to darkened rooms and can sense daylight. This is especially important with time changes/naps.
Use the crib or pack and play as a safe play space for baby while you get ready. Throw in the remote, stacking cups, any laminated pamphlets and a hotel key for entertainment.
Request extra towels (washcloth and bath sizes) for baby. Many hotels forget to add an extra bath towel and washcloths can be taken to meals to wipe down baby.
If your hotel offers breakfast, grab an extra box of cereal for baby to snack on.
Pack a nightlight! Nighttime feedings and diaper changes can be tricky in new places, especially when it is very dark.
Don’t feel badly if you need to do things you wouldn’t normally do to help baby sleep while traveling…we do not normally co-sleep but have found Emmylou in our bed a few times to squeeze out a few extra minutes of sleep. Traveling with baby is all about managing your fun and enjoyment with baby’s, so don’t stress too much about breaking routines while away. Plan on a readjustment night or two when you get home (to adjust to time or routine changes) but for baby to bounce back to normal in no time.
Touring and Eating Out-
With all of our trips, Emmylou has seen more than a few sights during the first year of her life. (Also, according to my photos, she’s seen the Opera House more than a few times, so hopefully we’ll go somewhere different in her second year of life, haha.)
Believe it or not, day time can be MORE stressful than night when traveling with a baby. Changes in schedule, routine and stimulation can throw everyone for a loop. Here’s how we’ve managed touring around and eating out while traveling:
When going out for the day, be sure to bring the appropriate gear. This may seem obvious, but going out without enough diapers or without baby’s lovie can make or break your day. Somehow we forgot a pacifier a couple times and things got ugly, so be sure one is clipped to baby! Also, consider if the stroller or wearing baby is more conducive for the day ahead. Sometimes it’s worth having both- Emmylou always slept in the ERGO if I was walking around so I would wear her on walks/hikes that coincided with nap times.
When out touring, expect baby to fight naps until the point of exhaustion. With new scenery and stimulation, baby will be less likely to fall asleep. Once they are super tired, they will pass out! Using a car seat cover to block baby’s view can also be helpful to encourage a nap.
Apply sunscreen before leaving and any time you have a meal…this helps you remember to re-apply often and avoid having to rub on sunscreen once baby has fallen asleep in the stroller…
Do not expect normal nap times or length while traveling. Emmylou has a solid routine at home but that pretty much goes out the window when we travel. We try our best to give her opportunities to sleep as we go and don’t worry too much- if they’re tired, they’ll sleep.
Be sure to let baby out to play whenever it’s safe to do so. Babies cannot (and should not) be in car seats, strollers or carried all day long. It’s important to build in opportunities for physical activity for baby. This can be as simple as tummy time while you explore a museum/art gallery or crawling around a park. Physical activity will also help with sleep!
We have also learned not to over plan- this means that there may be some days of the trip that we are going all day but that night we plan to be home early for her to sleep well. Or, if we had a more low-key day and she had a solid nap (in her crib, because she always rests best in her crib) then we can probably push bedtime back and enjoy dinner out. It’s all about balance. And let’s be honest, if baby is relaxed and happy, you will be relaxed and happy!
My best advice is to never plan repeated days of non-stop activity. Try to give yourself and baby a day in between to be more relaxed or closer to “home”. Trust me, this makes your trips much more enjoyable! Babies are flexible but ultimately need more rest than adults.
Here is sweet, little 3 month old Emmylou snoozing as we walked around Sydney.
Lastly, when booking accommodations, try to plan for a separate space to hang out while baby sleeps. This can be a balcony or suite-style room. Being able to enjoy yourself while in the room makes a big difference in your enjoyment of the trip! This was our view from our balcony in Glenelg Beach; we watched the sunset and drank wine while Emmylou slept- now that’s vacation!
Along with touring, eating out is tricky with a baby.
We have found that meals need to be kept fairly quick in order for everyone to enjoy. We also try to incorporate Emmylou (and Bunny, haha) into the dining experience, as much as possible. This really helps keep her entertained and engaged.
Try to go to dinner on the earlier side (unless baby will reliably sleep through a later dinner). The early dinner crowd is smaller, more forgiving to little babies and service tends to be faster! See how empty this restaurant was? When we left, it was packed!
We also vary the style of restaurants we eat at (sit-down or take–away). If there is a good place for her to lay or play nearby, we will carry-out our food or get picnic supplies from a market so we can eat as she enjoys some play time. Sometimes that means she gets ice cream too; it’s vacation, right?!
We have done very few road trips, so we don’t have many good suggestions for that realm of travel, yet.
Hopefully these tips will encourage you that travel is fun and totally manageable with an infant. My best advice is to travel often while baby is little so that you (and they) are comfortable with it.
After a year filled with travel and adventure, the most important thing we’ve learned is that it’s such a joy to explore the world with her!
K, J, EL & P