When my fiance and I first started talking about wanting to try for a baby one of the first thoughts that came to mind was: I want to have fun experiences still! What I meant by that was that I didn’t want to feel trapped or stuck because we had a baby but rather that I wanted our baby to fuel our wanderlust and for our family to make memories together. My daughter turned fourteen months old recently and in less than a year and a half Earthside, she has taken several planes, trains, buses, and boats and has traveled to 3 foreign countries. We also recently purchased an RV, but since we haven’t had the chance to take any trips in it yet, stay tuned for that post!
When my daughter was six months old we decided to start planning a three-country, two-week vacation. We wanted to visit England, Scotland, and Ireland (a lifelong dream of mine) but I was super anxious to take such a long plane ride with what would be, at the time of leaving, a nine-month-old. Since it was also my first time leaving the country (and my first time on a plane in ten years) the anxiety was kicked into high gear. So, I turned to Google. I searched for blog posts and articles written by moms for tips and tricks on how to travel with an infant, hoping that someone had already figured out the secret formula to make the whole process a breeze. I was sorely disappointed. Truthfully, I do not think there is a one size fits all approach. Every baby, every family, every budget, and every trip are all so different from each other. What worked for us, may not work for you. Even so, I learned a lot on our first big trip and have learned even more since.
This is why I present to you now: Tips I have learned for traveling with an infant!
Tip #1: Understand That Infants Can’t Pack Light
Being a baby is hard. They require a lot of things from special food to cribs, toys, etc. to function day to day. And unlike adults, they are not capable of going without some of these things for a long trip. One thing I had to get over very quickly was the idea that we would be packing light for this trip. Most babies can’t handle the bare minimum supplies even on a good day. Throw in a change of routine, long hours sitting still, and whatever else and it can be a very overwhelming experience. Point blank: they need their stuff. The good thing? If you are traveling by train or plane, most companies will allow a certain number of baby items for no extra charge. Airlines will usually allow a car seat, a stroller, any baby food, and a bag for the baby for free which does help reduce the cost. It also helps to know that you can check things at the gate of the plane! Meaning, you do not have to worry about carrying the baby all around the airport. You can wheel them around until the moment it is time to board the plane. A lot of parents stress out over trying to pack as lightly as possible and while you shouldn’t be bringing every item in your home, a lot of the time it helps reduce stress to understand that most trips aren’t a one backpack kind of thing.
Tip #2: Take Advantage of any Priority Boarding
This can be as involved as boarding an airplane first or it can be as simple as sitting in the front of a bus but I highly encourage everyone traveling with a baby to take advantage of priority seating. When we were in the UK, most public transport buses have a designated section for guardians with children or a section for strollers to sit. Use these! They are there for
?}”[p-0+-9*//+ a reason! If you are unsure if your airline offers priority boarding for infants (spoiler alert: most do) just ask at the gate! This will provide you with some extra time to get yourself and the baby situated in your seats and your stuff put away in the overhead compartments without having to worry about the scramble of other people waiting in line behind you.
Tip #3: Pay for the Extra Seat on Long Trips
Boston to London clocks in at about 6 hours of non-stop flight time. One thing I prioritized when booking travel was making sure that my daughter had her own seat both going there and coming back. While my daughter was still (mostly) exclusively breastfeeding at this time and ended up on my lap for the majority of the trip, the fact that we had that extra space for all of our stuff and for her once she fell asleep, was so incredibly helpful! Lap infants are usually free on airlines but an infant in a seat usually comes at a reduced rate. If your budget can squeeze it, I highly recommend it. Especially for babies who are starting to stand and move on their own. (Bonus Tip: If you don’t mind a little risk you can book seats, not including baby, and leave a seat in the middle during seat selection. Once you arrive at the gate, ask the staff if that seat is still available. If it is, you’ve got yourself a seat for the baby. But, be warned, this is not a foolproof method.)
Tip #4: Buy Baby Food at Your Destination
Unless your baby is on a special diet and requires a specific type of food, it will help with packing and with security if you buy your baby food at your location. Especially in airports, TSA can be a real nuisance when it comes to having food in your carry-on. Though airlines usually allow baby food on board, including liquids over the standard regulations, it can still be a huge time suck if they need to search your bag. Barring a few snacks or a bottle for the travel time, buy the rest of the food at your destination. This will also ensure that you are not overpacking.
Tip #5: Enjoy Your Time
This one may sound self-explanatory but I promise it is worth mentioning. Traveling with an infant, toddler, or child can be stressful and chaotic. But do not forget the reason you are doing these things. The purpose of a vacation is to have fun and make memories! Things might happen along the way but try your best to keep your mind on the goal! Understand that even if you have the perfect plan (especially if you have the perfect plan), things may not go the way you saw them going when you booked your trip. And that is okay! I promise! Your little one is going to have fun because they’re there with you! Those are the moments you want to capture when you’re looking back on this trip!