We’re still relatively new parents, but if there’s one thing we can speak to on an expert level it is baby travel. In our daughter’s 9 months of life, she has already been on a few dozen flights and has rode along in her carseat for thousands of miles on the highway. From the most rural of reservations to the most crowded of cities, she has seen a lot. Travel is a part of our work, and she always comes with us because she is exclusively breastfed (and even if she weren’t, we’d miss her too much to leave her behind). While we absolutely love having her with us, there’s no doubt that traveling with a baby adds extra challenges to our trips. Here are some tips for making your travels with baby as smooth and simple as possible.
Adjust your mentality: BABY COMES FIRST - This is the most important tip. If you approach baby travel with the expectation that it will be the same as an adult-only trip, you will set yourself up for stress. If you get annoyed every time baby needs to stop to eat, needs a change, or wants a break from the carseat, you will be annoyed all the time. However, if you approach the whole thing with the mentality that baby comes first and you are happy to accommodate their needs, everything will be just fine.
Factor in extra time for everything - Get to the airport extra early, plan for stops on long roadtrips, and don’t be surprised when a drive that normally takes 4 hours actually takes 6 or 7. Schedule your travel days with cushion time built in. Then, you will be able to stay on track, and will feel less rushed.
Don’t go unless baby is ready. We didn’t start any airline travel with our baby until she was about 3 months old. We gave her some time to develop an immune system and to become accustomed to other people. You (and only you, as parents) will know when it’s safe for your little one to start seeing the world. The good thing about travel after this point is that exposure to different environments helps to continue the process of establishing strong immunity, and will make baby less likely to develop ailments in the future like frequent colds or seasonal allergies. It’s important to be sanitary but not overly germaphobic.
Take care of your personal wellness - You need to be more alert, attentive, and energetic than ever as a parent, especially while handling all the logistics of baby travel. Be sure to eat real food that will not make you feel sluggish, stop for movement breaks, and take time to breathe and meditate. As with any other type of travel, this means avoiding fast food and coming prepared with healthy snacks from home or from the grocery store.
Have smudge accessible for the trip. Starting off with a family smudge always helps set a healthy tone and will ensure a safe journey.
Designate roles for each parent - When we travel, our method is pretty simple. Dad is responsible for the stroller, carseat, luggage, and most of the driving. Mom is responsible for baby’s clothes, toys, diapers, other necessities, and of course, feeding. When we know exactly what we’re responsible for, we don’t argue or fuss about who needs to be doing what.
Be as minimal as possible. You don’t need to pack baby’s entire nursery! You will find that while you are on the road, the fewer belongings you have to keep track of, the more organized you will stay and the better you will feel. Until Alo was 6 months old, we never even brought a stroller with us anywhere (just the baby carrier) and we would wear her around. She’s too heavy now, so we do bring a stroller (we love our Mountain Buggy Nano), but most babies can be in a baby carrier until toddler years. Everything will depend on where you’re going and what you’ll be doing while there.
Nurse/feed during take-off and landing (alleviates ear pain and helps baby fall asleep). Our baby loves the white noise sound of the airplane. I am always surprised at how quickly she falls asleep as soon as the plane starts moving.
Baby can travel for free until two years old. Take advantage! This saves hundreds of dollars. Be sure to book your ticket with a “lap infant.”
Don’t be nervous - baby feeds off your energy. If you keep yourself calm and relaxed, baby will follow.
Ask to be seated together as a family during check-in. Most airlines will happily accommodate this request and move other passengers around.
You can check a stroller and carseat for free.
Not all airplanes have changing tables in the bathroom; those tiny bathrooms are uncomfortable places to change a baby anyway; and flight attendants are technically not supposed to allow you to change baby’s diaper on your lap. So, be sure to change your baby right before getting on the plane.
If you fly a lot, buy a cheap, lightweight carseat that you use exclusively for airline travel. We found one for $80 and it has been more than worth it. We keep our bulkier, expensive carseat in the vehicle at home because we don’t want it to get damaged, and it’s really heavy.
Focus on the advantages rather than the extra hassle - Often, airlines will accomodate your needs, allowing you to cut lines during security and boarding. Most airports now have family restrooms where you can chill out and nurse/change baby in privacy. Take advantage.
Often, highway rest stops are dirty and unsanitary. We always prefer changing baby in the car. Bring extra blankets or changing mats to set up a changing station in the backseat or tailgate.
Find music that your baby enjoys.
Plan scenic stops. We already know that you’re going to be stopping extra times, so you may as well make it fun. Look for parks, sights, and other outdoor areas along the way.
Introduce baby to new places, plants and animals with intention. For example, when we brought Alo to the ocean for the first time, we made sure to talk to her about what she was seeing, sing to her while we were there, and make an offering/prayer to the water. This is great for increasing their worldview and brain capacity. Its a proper spiritual introduction to all living things.