7 Travel Tips For First-Time Parents

Traveling with your baby as a new parent can be daunting, especially on a plane where space is limited and tolerance is low. With a few simple tips and tricks, you’ll become a master at parenting above the clouds.

Feat_travel as a new parent

When I became a mother for the first time, the distance from my parents felt farther away than ever. I knew how fortunate I was to have a close relationship with my grandparents growing up and wanted my kids feel close to theirs, too, only I lived in California and my folks lived in Ohio. Traveling by plane (often as a solo parent) became a necessary means to a meaningful end.


Learning from (explosive) experiences


Hands-on experience is the best teacher, and I quickly learned what to do (and not to do) after my first few cross-country flights with my son Noah, which were at turns nerve-wracking, relieving, discombobulating, and surprisingly okay. Here are seven tips that helped me survive traveling with first one, then two little boys:


1. Bring a change of clothes for your baby (and plenty of wipes)


Maybe it was the cabin pressure or purely coincidental, but Noah had the distinct talent of pooping shortly after we arrived in the plane cabin — not the type that’s neat and tidy, but the explosive kind that oozed past his diapers and all the way up his back. I needed to wash him off pronto and get him out of his soiled clothes. Packing a fresh change of clothes, wet wipes, along with a bag to store the soiled ones, became essential on-board items. 


2. Even if you don’t have to pay for a seat for your baby, consider making the splurge


I thought it was a great deal, getting to travel with my child on my lap before Noah was two years old — one less plane ticket to pay! But having an empty seat next to you instead of a space-deprived stranger is a godsend if you can finagle it, giving both of you extra wiggle room. Plus, it enables you to place your child’s carseat on that chair, giving you a much-needed break if your baby falls asleep. 


3. Less is more, so just bring the basics


Traveling is so much easier when you have less to lug around, especially since you’re already carrying your little one. While it seems like there’s so much we absolutely need to bring with us, stick to the essentials. Not only will getting from one place to the other be less stressful, you’ll discover what your baby needs most is you. If you do forget something, you can borrow or purchase it upon arrival. No biggie.


Baby basics include:

  • A sling or baby carrier for simple, hands-free mobility (and comfort for your baby)
  • A lightweight, portable stroller (that ideally holds up to uneven surfaces in the event you’re off-roading)
  • Essential creams, medications
  • Diapers, wipes
  • Washable clothes that are simple to put on and take off
  • Car seat (if you don’t have access to one wherever you’re going)
  • Bottles (if you’re not breastfeeding or share feeding duties)
  • Small, portable teething toys
  • A soft blankie


 4Arrive early to reduce stress


Give yourself ample time to get to the airport and through security, gather your things and get situated. The more relaxed you are, the better off you and your baby will be. Getting to the gate is hard enough without the added stress of time pressure. Plus, you’ll be better equipped to care for your little one if you’re not already frazzled and exhausted.


5. Keep travel plans minimal and flexible


Even if your child is mellow and easygoing, he’ll be out of his element and away from his normal schedule, which can prove stressful. Loud, crowded places might be to be too much for his sensitive system, as is running from one place to another, so if possible, keep overstimulating adventures to a minimum. The sounds of nature are especially soothing, so focus on hikes in the woods, hangouts at the park, or a visit to the lake or beach.


6. Your breast friend is there for you


The best food, most soothing relief, and even cure for painful ear pressure is something you take with you wherever you go. If you’re able to, nurse whenever possible (albeit discreetly) to not only assuage your child’s hunger, but also calm him down and reduce painful ear pressure during take-off and landing. Your breasts are your greatest asset while traveling with nursing children — a built-in resource for food and comfort. 


 7. Remember, this too shall pass


Sometimes shit happens (all the way up the back, in fact). Sometimes he’ll cry and throw up or do both at the same time. There are some things (many, in fact) that are just beyond our control, no matter how well-prepared we are. If your baby cries despite all attempts to soothe him (as it did with me on the one and only time I was seated in first class with Noah), do the best you can to console him, whether standing up and bouncing, walking up and down the aisle, letting him suck on your finger or pacifier, or nursing him even if it’s not feeding time. Kindly apologize to neighbors, even if they give you a less-than-cordial death stare. You owe them no explanation. Anyone who’s a parent and has flown with a child has been there and can empathize. Remind yourself (even if you don’t believe it at the time): This stage will pass. Before you know it, you’ll have someone to help carry baggage and will be able to watch a movie together, a seat completely to yourself. Really and truly. 


The travel essentials checklist for every new parent


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