My husband and I traveled the world before we decided to have a child. We are obsessed with traveling. So it was obvious we would still travel with her, even as a baby. Traveling with a baby or toddler is a lot different than traveling as a couple: the pace is different, the amount of luggage we pack is different… but it’s even more rewarding since we can discover once again things that we were used to, through her eyes.
After a couple of trips with my baby girl, I listed the best tips I could find to help everyone have an easy and safe trip. And trust me, you can have a pleasant trip!
- When buying flight tickets, choose a minimum of 60-90 minute layover. You don’t want to end up running through the airport to catch your next flight with a tired child. With an hour or more, you will have plenty of time for a diaper change, getting some snacks and just breathe for one minute!
- Call the airline as much in advance as possible if you want a sky-cot. It would be good for you even if you don’t think your child is going to nap since there’s more leg room for your child to play.
- Book a hotel suite with a door between the living area and bedroom. That way, you can still enjoy your grown-up evenings with a child sleeping in the next room.
- Choose a hotel with free breakfast. In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than the morning rush on an empty stomach. Breakfast in pajamas is so much more fun!
- Bring some new toys and books that your child hasn’t played with before. That will keep her occupied for a while.
- Don’t forget your child’s favorite low-mess snacks, especially for the traveling when food options are almost non-existent. You don’t want a grumpy kid on a 10-hour flight.
- Bring your phone or tablet and some movies and games that will entertain your child, even when she’s tired.
- I never travel without a stroller, since my baby girl only naps in it. But every child is different: maybe you won’t bring yours. So if you don’t bring a stroller, pack a baby carrier like the Infantino Flip Front 2 Back. Or bring both! I always do! A child can get tired of the stroller and enjoy the view more from higher.
- Forget hotel cribs: some look very dangerous, and your child is not used to them. You should instead bring a traveling cot like the Babymoov Playtent, and get your child used to it at home before leaving. That kind of cot is safe, it’s very light and don’t take much space in your luggage. This is what my baby girl slept in for a month in Belize, and she liked it. It was familiar surroundings for her, which can be comforting especially when you change hotel room a lot.
- A travel high chair (like My Little Seat Infant Travel High Chair) is a good thing to bring, especially if you doubt the restaurants where you’re going to eat will have any. Eating dinner with a baby on your lap is not that relaxing.
- You don’t have to pack everything for the whole trip. They have children too at your destinations. So they will have the necessities.
- Dress your baby for easy and quick diaper changes. You never know when and where you’ll have a messy diaper to change!
- Be sure you have a boarding pass in your child’s name for every leg of the trip. Even if your child is under two years old and will be seated on you, the airline need to know she’s going to be there since only certain rows have an extra oxygen mask for your child. And you don’t want to get at the gate and be refused to board without her missing boarding pass.
- Gate check your car seat if at all possible. Some luggage gets lost… you don’t want your car seat getting lost when you arrive at your destination and need it.
- If there are two adults traveling with a child, ask the cabin crew to delay one of your meals so that one of you can look after the baby while the other eats.
- Change the diaper at the airport if possible, since some airplanes don’t have changing tables.
- Bring your own rubbish bag on the plane, since you will probably be creating rubbish at a faster rate than the cabin crew can take away.
- If your child is potty trained, bring extra pairs of pants in case of an accident.
- Be careful who you are seated near on the plane: it’s nice to be surrounded by families who are going to be forgiving if your child has a tantrum, but it’s even better to stay away from the little ones who are going to cry the whole trip when yours only wants to nap. Reassess your seat position when everyone has boarded, and if you wish, ask the flight attendant to switch with another passenger since nobody wants children to have a contest of who cries the loudest.
- Feed or nurse when taking-off and landing, this will help a lot with ear pain caused by the cabin air-pressure changes.
- Wash the tray table and arm rests with antibacterial since these are the dirtiest places on the plane (they are often forgotten by the cleaning crew). But let go of the rest: yes, your child will touch a lot of things, and no, you won’t be able to control everything.
During your trip
- Try to stick to your child’s routine as much as possible. This will help your child with the new surroundings… at least one thing won’t have changed for her!
- In your hotel room, designate a changing station, a play space and a ‘kitchen’ space (for baby bottles, food, formula, etc.), so you don’t look everywhere for a diaper/bottle/toy when you need it fast!
- Plan some free time for your child to just relax and play. You never know when you might come across a nice park or a playground for her to enjoy her own activities.
- Find the nearest playground. It will be good for your child to play with other kids, and it’s a good argument for you when you want to convince her to be nice so she can next go play!
- Pubs are good restaurant options: there’s usually a lot of noise, so your child won’t bother anyone, and they generally have a kids menu.
- Remember that she meltdown at home too. So you can expect your child to meltdown just as much.
- Be realistic in your expectations: you won’t do as much, as fast, as clean or as relaxing. But it will be a lot more exciting!
- To avoid losing your child’s favorite toy or sippy cup while she’s in the stroller, use an elastic strap like the Baby Buddy Secure-a-Toy to attach it to the stroller. My baby girl likes to throw things, but her favorite blanket should never be lost!!
- If you want your child to sleep in the stroller but she’s too curious, bring a large blanket and some hanging clips to secure it to the stroller and to avoid being kicked away.
- Bring some duct tape to baby proof your hotel room and cover the electrical outlets.
- When you arrive in your new hotel room, do a quick risk assessment. Check the floor for anything unsafe. And make sure you know what you need to do in the event of a fire.
- Take a picture every day of your child and save it on the locked screen of your cell phone, so in the event that you lose your child (a parent’s biggest fear), you can show people the picture to help you find her again.
- If you’re traveling with another adult, always know whose responsibility it is to look after your child. If you don’t, you might both take your eyes off her at the same time to deal with something else (ordering food, buying tickets, etc.)
- Dress your child in bright clothes, so you can spot her from a short distance.
- Be extra careful where there are lots of children around, like playgrounds and theme parks.
- Make sure your child wears an identity bracelet or band like the ID-Inside Velcro Child ID Bracelet.
- If you want to go a step further, get a child locator, like the Mommy I’m Here CL-103 Child Locator, and get notified if your child is up to 150ft from you.
- You can also attach a small, loud whistle to your child’s jacket. If he gets lost or even for a quick moment get separated from you, he gets to give a good piercing blast.
In the event you lose your child
- Call out her name and shout to everyone who can hear that you’ve lost your child
- Show quickly people the picture of your child on your cell phone (see tip #33)
- If you don’t find your child right away, head to the most dangerous place first (the road, the duck pond, the open gate, etc.) to ensure that she’s not there
- In the worst case scenario, you must seek help and see the consular section of your embassy
I don’t want you to get worried though, traveling with a kid is not more dangerous than it is to bring her to your hometown shopping mall. In fact, it’s even safer, because you are more aware of danger when you’re in an unfamiliar place. The last advice I would give you, and trust me, this is the best one: #44. Trust your instincts. A parent’s instinct is the strongest of all!