Traveling with a baby made easy
Traveling with little ones can seem like a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be. All you need is a little preparation, insider knowledge and patience.
While most airlines are happy for a baby to fly as early as a week after birth, it’s usually better to wait until your new bundle is about six weeks old. This is mainly to protect them from germs carried by other passengers and to give you both time to settle in after the demands of labor. “Generally, age doesn’t affect an infant’s ability to handle air travel,” says pediatrician Dr. Hoecker. “However, your baby’s doctor might discourage unnecessary air travel shortly after birth.”
Once you’re over the first few weeks though, don’t be afraid to take a trip with your family and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. The first family holiday is a wonderful time to create lots of lasting memories.
So how do you take the plunge like a pro? “My number one insider secret for traveling with a baby is to ask for help,” says mom and travel blogger Megan. “I was flying by myself with my four-month-old son and asked at the counter on check-in whether I could be upgraded to business class. I then spent the five-hour journey home in seat 1A in easy reach of the air hostesses who were more than happy to lend me an extra set of hands when I needed them.”
If you’re not as lucky as Megan, ask to book a front aisle airline seat which will give you greater freedom during the flight and also mean you disembark quicker. If the fight is not full, you can request to have the seat next to you left empty.
You can also try securing a free “meet and assist” on your flight, especially if traveling alone with young ones. This means an airline staff member will meet you as you come off the flight and help you through immigration and with your luggage.
You should also call your airline ahead of time to check whether you can get a seat with a bassinet and what the allowance is for bottled water and/or baby food. Most airlines won’t allow anything in a container over 100ml. If you are breastfeeding make sure you stay well hydrated so you have enough milk during the trip.
“The best advice I can give when it comes to flying with a baby is to wait until the last minute to breastfeed on take-off,” says mom of three and travel writer Kelsey. “Many moms make the mistake of starting the feed as soon as the plane taxis but you can sit on the tarmac for up to an hour. You want your baby to be swallowing as you ascend and descend to take the pressure off their ears so try not to rush it and go early.”
When traveling with a newborn you need your hands free as much as possible. Take celebrity stylist, mom and avid traveler Rachel Zoe’s advice and “get yourself the perfect carrier to tote around your little one”.
Other great must-have travel items include:
- A soft & waterproof change pad to put under your baby during diaper changes
- A warm and soft blanket as planes can be cool and the scent of something familiar will help babies sleep
- A wet bag for diapers and wet clothes
- Diapers, wipes and tissues
- Small bottles of disinfecting hand gel, baby wash, and baby lotion
- A few of your baby’s favorite (but silent!) soft toys
- A board book for some light reading
- Extra clothes such as soft & comfortable tops, bottoms and socks
- A cleanable, easy-fold bib so you don’t have to carry around bulky wet ones
- Lightweight, non-spill food containers
More tips for traveling with baby
- Earlier flights are usually better for babies so try to book a flight in the morning and keep to their usual sleep schedule if you can. If your little one does get a bit jetlagged, remember it should only last two-three days.
- Even a newborn can get heavy when you have to carry them around the airport for hours. The good news is most airlines let you take your stroller to the gate so make sure to ask.
- Take a a travel pillow so your neck does not suffer from nursing during the flight
- Take your own food so you can have your meal when it’s convenient for you. Juggling a food tray and a sleeping baby is harder than wriggling into skinny jeans after Christmas.
- Warm climates are best for babies but if you do go beachside, remember to keep up the sun cream and fluids. Breastmilk naturally becomes more watery in hot climates (it’s clever like that!) and your baby may be up for more feeds so you shouldn’t have to worry about dehydration. If your child is bottle-fed or on solids, give them some extra boiled or bottled water.
- Keep in mind that all children, no matter what age, will need a passport if they are traveling internationally.
- Car travel with a newborn is perfectly safe if you have a car seat installed by a professional. For the latest guidelines check the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines. Make sure to tell any rental companies if you need a car seat.
The main thing to remember when traveling with a baby is to think positively and take it all in your stride because it will be worth it in the end. Now, repeat after us … cocktails, cocktails, cocktails!