Tips for Traveling with a Baby

Monday 10 August 2015

Vacationing in Canada
A weekend along the Hardanger Fjord
Spotted my boys taking a break from the baby carrier while I walked the walls above Dubrovnik.
Lunch & a diaper change in a park in Copenhagen
One of the things that many parents will lament to non-parents, parents to be and new parents is that travel with a baby is impossible.  (If I had a nickel every time I heard, 'You better travel now because once that baby arrives, it's over.')  While things might look a little different, travel with a baby is doable, even enjoyable.  In Jasper's short 10 months on earth, he's taken 25 (? I've lost count) flights, crossed the Atlantic Ocean six times, taken a city break in Copenhagen and spent nearly two weeks exploring Croatia.  As with any travel, there are high points and low points but we haven't regretted a single trip.

Our three transatlantic trips have come at very different stages and likely the next will present completely new challenges.  By far, the easiest was Jasper's first trip to Canada when he was 10 weeks old.  I remember being more nervous about it but he was still a sleepy newborn and he basically slept the entire flight.  Naps on the go were easier and there was no extra food to lug around.  (So, if you're pondering that trip with a newborn, pull the trigger!)  We've had one terrible, long flight but one out of a couple of dozen is nothing and it was nearly forgotten a day or two into the trip.

While we still have a lot to learn, especially as Jasper grows, we have racked up a few tips for travel in the first year.

+Bulkhead seats on long haul flights have the most room and are often where the baby bassinets can be fitted. Even if your baby refuses to sleep in them (side eye, Jasper) they can be a great spot for your baby to hang out when you eat or need to rest your arms. When your baby is older, you can refuse the bassinet and make a little play place on the floor.

+Neck pillows make great mini-breastfeeding pillows, can prop a baby up or support your arms while holding a sleeping baby.

+Pack enough diapers, wipes & food to generously get you through transit plus one day then, buy what you need at your destination.  The plus one day is important - first, if you get delayed, bumped off a flight, miss a connection, etc. you won't also be worried about keeping your baby clean, fed & happy. If your transit is as scheduled (hooray!) you can relax & sleep without rushing off to track down supplies right away.

+An emergency kit with baby Tylenol, teething supplies, the snot sucker, saline solution, etc can be a lifesaver.  Make sure it's on the plane with you.

+Sometimes having a baby is like having a golden ticket.  There are often express security lines for families and we have been bumped to the front of immigration & airline service centre lines more times than I can count.  (Crying babies get you to the front even quicker.)

+Look for baby rooms in airports.  These are more than just changing facilities.  Some will have play areas.  Some will have cots for sleeping and many times, microwaves for food warming.  (All three of us had a great sleep in Schiphol when we had the entire room practically to ourselves for hours!)

+Pack a few toys for the flight but don't bring them out all at once!  Prepare to walk a lot so an aisle seat is always crucial.  Flight attendants will help but you have to ask for it.  If it's a rough flight, pay no attention to others and do what you need to do to survive.

+Hotels or apartments?  Staying in hotels worked well for us when Jasper was really young.  After about the 6 month mark, he became a lighter sleeper.  Sharing a room now means a lot of extra night wakings, earlier mornings & Joe and I huddled in the bathroom or around a screen trying to silently occupy ourselves from about 8 pm onwards.  Apartments or hotel suites with a separate sleeping space make the evenings much more enjoyable for all of us.

+If you're going to stay in an apartment or house, try to find one with laundry.  It cuts down on your packing in a big way!  Also, ask about baby equipment.  Many rentals will have beds, baths and high chairs available for free!

+White noise is essential.  Hotels are noisy as is that flat in the centre of a busy city.  Everything sounds different and it can be very disruptive to a baby's sleep.  There are a lot of apps (but then you're without your phone) or bring a small machine.  It's a game changer. (We use this one.)

+If you are flying in and out of the same place, look into baby equipment rentals.  You can rent anything from car seats to strollers to beds to buckets of toys to high chairs.  (We used this one in Kelowna & it really cut down on the amount of stuff we had to fly with.) It might feel pricey but if it's going to save you extra baggage costs on flights plus being able to book a smaller rental car, it could very well be worthwhile.

+Everyone knows that a well rested baby is a happy baby and a happy baby makes for happy travels.  Work your schedule to allow for one good nap at your accommodation and do the rest on the go.  If you have a big day with less than stellar naps & a late bedtime, plan your next day to be quieter and make sleep a priority.

+Food pouches are excellent on-the-go meals.  If you follow baby-led weaning, it makes eating out easier because your baby can snack off your plate (and make good use of the breakfast buffet) but having pouches on hand is a good idea just in case they don't share your enthusiasm for curry.

+Dinner time is by far the trickiest time when travelling with a baby, particularly if you're somewhere where dinner is typically eaten quite late.  Babies are often at their crankiest at the end of the day which can make a good restaurant experience challenging at best.  Eat a little earlier (and take dessert to go.)  Restaurants are quieter before peak meal times so you have less people to disrupt and more patient wait staff.  Our biggest lifesaver is researching the best takeaway places near our accommodation.  Sometimes a casual, low-stress meal in your hotel is more enjoyable than a rush before the meltdown meal in a restaurant.  Grab a bottle of wine or a couple of beers for the room, pack a deck of cards, download a movie on the iPad or catch up on some of that sleep you've been missing.

+Even babies who aren't on the move need to stretch their legs.  Grab a coffee and a snack, find a nice park and let the baby out of the carrier or stroller.

+When traveling in Europe, bring a wearable baby carrier.  Old cities are famous for stairs and strollers can be a real hinderance when you're trying to explore.

+When planning your itinerary, remember that visiting a different city every day is challenging for adults let alone an infant.  Give yourself some grace time and don't expect that you'll be able to work a checklist like you used to.

+Most importantly, stay flexible.  Sometimes babies don't cooperate with your plans.  Maybe taking your cranky, loud baby to an art museum isn't going to work so reschedule or divide and conquer (one parent does nap time while the other does a less baby friendly activity and then swap the next day.)

Things we love…
+This PramPack is excellent.  It protects the stroller & car seat and rolls up nice and compact when you aren't using it.
+We love our Ergo 360.  We use it in airports (and check the stroller) and when we're somewhere that isn't stroller friendly.
+When Jasper was younger we loved our Sleepyhead.  He slept in it at home every day but we also packed it in the PramPack when traveling.  He always had a place to sleep and we didn't need a playpen/travel cot.
+These are our new favourite airplane toys.
+High chairs are not very common in much of Europe.  These are small, portable & super handy.  We also like disposable bibs when traveling.
+AirBnB is a favourite for booking apartments and homes. (Use the link for $33 off your next booking.)
+Hotels are pretty good about having blackout blinds but rentals, not so much.  This is super light & compact and fits nearly every window.  (In fact, Joe and I are using it in our room right now for those long, Northern summer days.)


  1. Thank you so much for the PramPack tip. It's great :) Nice to see beautiful Jasper getting bigger and bigger.


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