Planning a baby comes with its share of excitement and questions. As a couple who loves to get away, one of our initial questions was: how will we navigate this new world of baby travel? One of our favorite things to do during our pregnancy was to look up baby travel blogs while documenting our own travels in the first and second trimester. Our girl Raahi is now ten months old and has been on multiple road and flight journeys with us. If you’re just starting, here’s a quick guide on how to travel with a baby, from our experiences:
- Embrace a new mindset
- How to plan
- What to pack
- What to be prepared for
Embrace a new mindset
Recognize this shift in your relationship: The biggest change that we’ve undergone, aside from having a different packing list, is accepting the fact that we don’t simply travel for ourselves. We travel as parents of a human being who is dependent on us.
Prioritize: Think about what is most meaningful to you and take the time to consider how you can fit it around your baby’s schedule. We’ve done that, and also realized that our preferences have to be set aside at times.
Adjust your expectations: We once attempted to eat a romantic outdoor dinner with a cranky three-month-old in a stroller by our side. We had to take turns to keep her distracted, but we survived. This wouldn’t have been possible had we not chosen to change our approach towards travel.
Adopt slow travel: Our baby is small right now, and her needs are different from ours. Accepting this change of pace has made us much more relaxed as travelers. In return, we’ve been rewarded with the joys of watching our babe interact with strangers in India to dancing in our arms while watching a street performance in Rhode Island.
How to plan?
Pick a destination wisely: Traveling with a baby is different from traveling as a couple. You can’t plan lengthy itineraries that will tire both the baby and you out. At this age, the baby doesn’t care or have a preference for where it wants to go. Choose a place you want to visit, but think about the consequences of taking a child there. Think about how far you wish to go, and how many flights you are comfortable taking? You wouldn’t go to a loud bar in LA with a baby, but you can certainly drive along the Pacific Coast or take short hikes by a lake.
Think comfort and convenience above all: Where can you stay that will have a quiet room, a quick breakfast, a pharmacy, or a nearby supermarket? Think of the best and worst-case scenarios. What if you need a doctor? By all means, pick a cabin in the woods as long as you are equipped to handle anything that crops up with a baby.
Keep your baby’s routine in mind: Maybe he/she will sleep on an overnight flight. Maybe the baby will be less cranky on an early flight. How often do you need to stop for feeds during a road trip? Make an estimated plan based on your baby.
Don’t stress out over activities: It may not seem like a lot, but planning a meal can also be an activity with a baby. Find a few things to do, and do them in an easy-going manner. Focus on rest and relaxation, but don’t hesitate to try something new. You want this to be meaningful for the baby and you.
What to pack?
Babies have minimal needs. All they do is eat, sleep, and poop, especially before 6 months of age. This reduces the packing list initially. As parents, it is natural to fret and we all want to be prepared to handle any situation. While packing lists would differ based on the length and type of trip, most parents carry the following when traveling with a baby:
- baby travel system (stroller, car seat)
- baby carrier or sling (optional)
- diapers, wipes
- diaper bag
- clothes (onesies, pants, dresses, etc.) including extras
- changing mat
- socks / mittens
- blankets and swaddles
- diaper cream, vaseline, lotion
- trash bag
- seasonal gear as needed (hat, winter jacket, swimwear, etc.)
- small toys
- milk supplies (pump, bottles, formula) – optional
What to be prepared for?
- Keep buffer times for check-ins, transits, and security checks at airports, more so if you’re traveling alone and carrying baby gear.
- Plan for extra pit stops on a road trip. The baby might need to be fed, or may not nap easily in the car seat. You might also need to up your baby entertainment skills.
- Be prepared to be a little bit more tired than you are used to, so go easy on yourself.
- Plan to breastfeed in public? Carry a nursing cover or a scarf. In most countries, it is legal to breastfeed in public, but check before you travel and think about your own comfort level. Many airports have nursing pods these days as well.
- Carry extra snacks to keep yourself nourished, stay hydrated, and make sure the baby is fed on time as well.
- Take help whenever someone offers support. Managing a baby can get overwhelming and all parents deserve the break.
There is no right age to travel with a baby. Although you may yourself be super tired two weeks after delivering a baby, so plan wisely. Babies adapt and are more resilient than we think. Plan that first trip. Give yourself a chance to experience the ups and downs. It will give you moments you’ll cherish forever as ma and pa. You got this!
Author: Supriya and Bharat are first time parents who live in Boston and love to travel. They document their journeys on Fun Travelog.