Baby Travel Tips: Everything You Need to Know About Traveling with an Infant
Traveling with an infant isn't for the faint of heart.
If you plan ahead, traveling with an infant can be a smooth ride after all.Getty Images/Blend Images
Flying with a baby for the first time can be daunting. New parents are not only worried about their family's own experience with a little one in the air, but they're also worried how their baby's behavior will affect those around them. Plus, once you're on the ground, there are other issues to consider. Car travel with an infant isn't always fun, nor is the idea of staying with your baby in a small hotel room.
If you plan your travel strategy in advance, however, your trip can be considerably smoother. U.S. News consulted various family travel experts to get the scoop on the best strategies for traveling with an infant. Read on to learn all the tips and tricks on how to make traveling with your baby as trouble-free as possible.
Plan Travel Around Your Infant's Natural Sleep Cycle
While not always possible, Beth Santos, founder of ShesWanderful.com, says it makes sense to plan your travel around the times your child would normally sleep. This may not work on a long-haul flight, but if you are only flying a few hours and have some flexibility, it makes sense to give this strategy a try. And if you're driving, you should plan your drive to maximize your baby's sleep.
"It's great to sync with a time baby is naturally sleeping, so they don't get too restless on the plane, train or car," she says.
Book a Rental Condo Instead Of a Hotel
If your trip allows you to be flexible with lodging, consider a booking a rental condo with a separate sleeping area for your baby. Santos says having a separate space for your baby will make it easier for him or her to nap – and for you to get a break.
Home rentals also typically offer another benefit: a kitchen. Having a kitchen is helpful since you'll be able to heat up formula or milk and sanitize bottles.
Bring The Right Napping Gear
Your baby will likely have different napping needs as he or she grows, and you should be mindful of this when you travel. A baby carrier is perfect if the infant is small enough to use one, says Santos, but babies a bit larger might need to nap in a stroller. If that's the case, make sure you have a stroller that reclines and provides shade for your sleeping infant.
"That way, you can continue your adventures during the day while baby naps," she says.
Think Through Your Transportation
Santos says you may not need a car seat depending on where you're traveling.
"If you're traveling to a city with public transit or trains, and never plan to take a taxi, you might save yourself some energy by skipping on bringing a car seat," she says.
If you do plan to use cars as a mode of transportation and travel with a car seat, it might help to bring a model that connects to a stroller. That way, you can bring the entire unit and make it easier for your baby to travel along wherever you go.
Splurge for an Extra Plane Seat
Most airlines let infants ages 2 and younger fly as a lap child, saving you the money for a second seat. However, you could live to regret it if you skimp on a seat and wind up with a fussy child who is itching for more space.
Eghe Lenze, founder of TheExpectingMamasNetwork.com, says that extra seat can be a lifesaver since it means more room for you and the family.
Fly in the Middle of the Week
It may be worth it to fly during off-peak travel season or on days where air traffic is less substantial, says Lenze. Fewer flights can mean shorter lines at the airport and less travel stress overall.
"Fly on Tuesday or Wednesday as they are the least busy days to fly and you may be able to get the extra seat without paying extra," she says.
Be Smart About Feeding in the Air
If you're breastfeeding, Lenze also says it can be smart to feed your baby during takeoff and landing because it helps relieve ear pressure.
But that's not the only way to be prepared about feeding in the air: Other tips include making sure you have a few extra sets of clothing in case of a spill or diaper mishap. Also, check to see if the airline you're flying offers family boarding so you can hop on the plane ahead of other passengers, settle in and get comfortable.
Upgrade to Business Class
While paying extra for business class isn't always an option for travelers, travel expert Hilary Stockton of TravelSort.com says this is one area where you should try to splurge if you can.
"Consider using miles or points to fly business or first class rather than economy," she says. "You'll have more space around the seat to keep snacks, comfort items and toys within easy reach, and more privacy to nurse or feed your baby."
Premium cabin bathrooms are also more likely to have a changing table in the lavatory, making your job a little easier.
Check for Hotel Perks
Stockton says to check in advance whether your hotel offers useful items such as strollers, highchairs, diaper pails and objects to babyproof rooms.
"Luxury resorts such as Four Seasons often can provide these items for use during your stay, in addition to a crib," she says.
Remember, any items your hotel or resort has on-site means fewer things you have to haul around during your travels.
Protect Your Baby's Sleep
If you're staying in a hotel, make sure you utilize a "do not disturb" sign during your baby's naps. That way, your child won't wake up if someone knocks on the door. If you don't have a sign to display, ask for one.
Stockton also says it helps if your hotel has effective blackout blinds. Since you may not know this ahead of time, it never hurts to call ahead and ask when you're researching places to stay.
Pack Your Baby's Favorite Things
Susete Pinto, who works as a pediatric sleep consultant for Night Night Baby Consulting, says bringing familiar items from home may make your baby feel more comfortable. A favorite blanket, books, foods or bath toys may even make an infant forget he or she is in unfamiliar territory.
Plus, these items can especially come in handy when you're in the air and your baby wakes up, says Pinto. In this situation, you're in "survival mode," where anything goes.
"Giving in to whatever they need during a flight does not make you a bad parent ... it simply makes you a parent," she says.
Sign Up for TSA Precheck or Global Entry
Signing up for TSA Precheck and/or Global Entry can be a lifesaver at the airport since both can save you from standing in long lines when going through security before your flight, or when re-entering the country when you've been abroad.
If you don't have either of these benefits yet, keep in mind that many major travel credit cards cover the application fees for Global Entry or TSA Precheck.
Book a Hotel or Condo with On-site Laundry Facilities
It can be difficult to pack for your baby when you're spending time away from home, but it always helps to have access to a washer and dryer. Even if you're on a quick trip, baby messes can start to stink fast and you don't want to lug dirty or wet clothing, or cloth diapers around all vacation.
What's more, booking lodging with an on-site washer and dryer means you'll also be able to pack less.
[Read: The Best Family Hotels in the USA.]
Hire a Babysitter
Traveling with an infant can be absolutely exhausting, which is why it makes sense to set up a sitter ahead of time. Some hotels have on-site babysitters you can book for a fee, or you can always organize your own care through a website called Care.com.
If you're traveling to see family, ask them ahead of time if they're willing to watch the baby to give you a break for a few hours. Even a short nap or some quiet reading time can work wonders when you're stressed out from around-the-clock childcare, so take advantage if you can.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
There's a lot of pressure on parents to ensure their baby is on his or her best behavior in the air and on the ground. However, babies can and do cry from time to time, and there's nothing parents can do to prevent or stop it. Pack everything you can to make your baby more comfortable, but don't bring so much baby gear along that you're miserable maneuvering it. Do your best and cut yourself some slack, and you and your baby will no doubt enjoy your trip.
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