PSA, mama: just because you’ve had a baby doesn’t mean you need to give up on your travel dreams. Sure, your travel will be less hitting the clubs of Mykonos and more hitting the museums of Athens. And yes, it’s going to require more gear and logistics. But you can still do it. So here’s how – and when – to travel with your baby.
When can your baby travel?
Well, this depends on when you feel like you’re ready, when your baby is ready, and what kind of trip you’re doing. A 16-hour international flight is a very different scenario to a three-hour road trip to your in-laws’. You might also have reasons for needing or wanting to travel soon after your baby’s birth. Perhaps you’re keen to introduce your babe to the family, or your BFF might be getting married abroad (and you simply can’t miss it).
Having said that, while some airlines say kids can fly as young as two days old (WTF), you might not feel confident (especially if you’re a first-time mom) or even physically ready to do so for a few weeks or months. On top of this:
- Your little one’s immune system is still developing, meaning they can easily get sick if exposed to new germs during travel.
- They can’t get vaccinated for certain diseases, which could put them at risk, depending on your destination.
- If your baby was born prematurely or has heart, lung, or respiratory problems, lower cabin air pressure during a flight, for example, might pose problems – it’s wise to speak to your doctor for personalized advice before traveling with your baby.
Ultimately, you’ve got to do what works best for you, so when you start your baby travel adventures is your choice.
How do you travel with your baby?
You can travel with your baby on many forms of transport (though perhaps leave the speed boats and helicopters until later in life). Let’s explore how baby travel works on three of the most common methods of getting around:
On a plane, your baby will either be seated in your lap (and secured using an extension seat belt), in their capsule, or in a bassinet that’s provided onboard, depending on their weight and size. Aside from the usual suitcases and carry on luggage, airlines often allow you to take items like travel prams and cribs on board – so ask your airline for specific information. There are usually change tables onboard should you need them, however, you’ll need to bring your own formula and food for your baby (airlines provide food for adults and kids, but not babies).
If road-tripping, you’ll either be in your own car or a hired option, and your babe will be snuggled into their car seat (do ensure this has been properly fitted for whatever vehicle you’re in). You’ll need to stop at regular intervals – about every couple of hours: when your babe is in their car seat, they’re sitting in a curved position which can block their airway and increase their risk of SIDS. So, be prepared to stop often and for a three-hour drive to take four hours or longer. And when you do stop? You might do a feed (it is OBVIOUSLY not safe to breastfeed while driving), have a play, and change your baby’s diaper (…and pick up a road-trip snack or two for you, mama).
If traveling by train, you’ll need to book a seat for your baby, and they’ll likely sit either in your lap or in their capsule (depending on space). There may be changing facilities onboard, and train staff can help with questions on this and how to heat food, if you’re taking a long trip. And because you can move around the train while it’s in motion (though safely, of course!), you can travel for longer periods than you can in a car.
What essentials should you take?
You’ll need items for sleep, transportation (we’re talking about getting around those museums, mama), care, and identification. However, what you eventually pack can depend on what’s available at your destination.
For example, items your hotel or Airbnb might have, or that you might be able to hire in your destination, include:
- A baby travel bassinet or a baby travel bed
- A car seat
- A high chair
Items that you can pack but also buy in your destination if you need to:
- Clothes (appropriate for the climate of your destination, of course)
- A baby travel carrier
- Your diaper bag essentials: diapers (cloth or disposable, whatever your preference), diaper ointment, portable change mat, diaper disposal bags, wipes, and hand sanitizer
- Bath accessories (washcloths, shampoo, etc.)
- Feeding accessories (bottles, bowls, cutlery, etc, as well as any tools you’ll need to clean them.)
Items that you 100 per cent need to take with you:
- Any medications your baby takes
- Your baby’s passport, if traveling overseas
- Your baby’s birth certificate or a letter permitting travel (if you’re traveling without your partner, or your little one doesn’t share your last name) – just in case.
Your luggage may be checked in or stored out of reach, so it’s a good idea to have a few necessities packed into a smaller bag that can be with you at all times. Think hand sanitizer (#covid), wipes, diapers, spare clothes (for both of you), medications, food, and more. Pack more than you’d usually need in that timeframe, so you’re covered if anything goes wrong. It’s especially handy if your baggage is lost (an actual nightmare), if there’s a delay, or if you’ll be arriving at your destination late, after shops have closed.
How do you prepare for travel?
More or less the same way you’d prepare for travel before baby. You’ll research, book tickets and accommodation, and so on. But, here are a few hot tips for traveling with your baby to put in place before your departure:
- Save emergency numbers for your destination to your phone, find the closest doctor/hospital to your accommodation, and work out how to get pediatric medical attention in your destination should you need it.
- Baby travel and sleep can be dicey, particularly if you’re changing time zones. However, you can try to alleviate any funkiness in the sleep department by transitioning your little one’s sleep routine a few weeks before your trip.
- Consider accessibility throughout the trip. Having to navigate stairs or find elevators can add on extra time, and might influence, for example, what type of pram you bring, as well as how much time you allow for getting around.
- Consider your itinerary and your baby’s routine – don’t attempt a gallery tour during witching hour, for example. Aim to do the bulk of your driving during your baby’s nap times when they’ll be calm and asleep, and tackle that 16th-century church when your little one is most rested.
At the end of the day, traveling with a baby is harder than on your own, with friends, or with your partner. That’s just a fact. But it’s doable, and there’s so much joy to be had. Imagine showing your little one the Eiffel Tower for the first time. So cool! Get out there, mama; go make some precious memories.