Guest Written By: Elle Sikorski
So long to the days when your biggest travel worry was whether your bag exceeded the allowable weight limit. As new moms, we’ve got a whole new set of concerns when it comes to traveling. In fact, the thought of going anywhere with your infant is one that can send any parent into a panic.
Worried about what to pack, anxious about what the other passengers may think when baby is crying, and most importantly, concerned for the disruption of baby’s schedule are just a few of the many concerns a new mom will have while trip-planning. Call me crazy, but when my son, Benjamin, was just 16 weeks old, he, my husband and I took our first trip to Turks and Caicos.
Two weeks later, Benjamin, my husband and I boarded an international flight to Poland for a week-long visit with family —on the way back it was just Ben and I alone. If my husband were able to come, he would have.
We both felt that it was important for my family to meet Benjamin at this early age. When it comes to travel, I have done my fair share, however, traveling with a baby was a completely new challenge. It was crazy, memorable and fun! So, if you are a new mom and have been avoiding traveling with your baby, I can assure you that is not the nightmare you imagine it will be. Here’s what I learned about traveling with a baby and what I would like to pass on to other jet-setting mamas.
1. Roll baby’s clothes when packing.
First, arrange all the clothes by outfit, then get rolling. Rolling saves you a TON of space in the suitcase. I brought one large suitcase for the both of us (and the diaper bag as my carry-on). If you want to be even more organized, purchase fold-up fabric storage boxes to group each item of clothing in. For example, pajamas in one box and onesies, socks and bibs in the other. Once they are rolled and packed in boxes, place into your suitcase. Voila! There you have a more organized space for both yours’ and baby’s clothes.
2. Pack dark clothes for baby.
Let’s face it… babies are messy eaters. Whether baby spits up his milk, or more of his pureed carrots end up on his shirt than in his belly, outfit changes happen often. That’s why I like to pack darker clothes. If baby has a minor spill, it will be less visible on dark clothing.
3. Airbnb > Hotels.
Pre-baby, my husband and I never really considered renting an apartment or entire home while traveling. We would always just find the best hotel, in the best location, with the intention of spending very little time in our room. Fast forward to today. Airbnb over a hotel any day! We always look for an Airbnb or rented apartment with a washer, dryer and kitchenette. With this added luxury, we are able to enjoy ourselves a little better – and Benjamin too! There’s more space, laundry available (which means packing less clothes), and the option to cook healthy meals.
4. Bring a travel stroller.
Although baby wearing is a wonderful option for strolling around the airport, at some point during your vacation, you will need a stroller. Whether you are out exploring and baby needs to lay down, or you’re tired of wearing baby on your chest, a stroller is a must. When traveling with a baby, I highly recommend using a travel stroller system. You could take your everyday stroller, however, it would probably be quite heavy to lug around. A lightweight travel stroller, on the other hand, will have a compact, one-handed fold and is generally easier to stow out of the way in small rooms or restaurants. There are also many travel strollers systems designed to accommodate infants. These strollers are specifically made with car seat insert options, so that parents don’t have to worry about their little one being too small for the stroller itself.
5. Board early.
Thankfully, most airlines will allow families with small children to board first. Boarding early will give you a few extra minutes to get your baby comfortable while the plane is empty. You’ll also get first dibs at the overhead compartment that’s directly above your seat.
6. Find empty seats on the plane.
If possible, and only after everyone has taken their seats, ask if there are any extra empty seats next to one another. This may seem like a long shot on packed planes, but there’s no harm in asking. You may even get lucky and find an empty bulkhead seat for extra leg room and bassinet space.
7. Feed during take off & landing.
During airline travel, it’s completely normal for your baby to become restless at take off and landing. The pressure on a baby’s little ears can be especially harsh during these changes in altitude. Whether you’re nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, feeding them during take off and landing will ensure comfort, easing any added pressure to their precious ears.
8. Bring baby’s favourite toy.
Bring 1-2 of your baby’s favorite toys to keep them comfortable. The familiarity of a favourite toy when in a rather unfamiliar place can go a long way. For Benjamin, it was his “bearsys.” I brought two in case one happened to get lost during travel.
9. Don’t bring a pack n’ play.
Every place I've ever traveled to has been able to provide a pack n’ play or a portable cot for baby to sleep in. All it takes is an email or phone call ahead of time to reserve one. Don’t lug one with you if you don’t have to! Even Airbnb’s often have them available (just bring a clean fitted sheet).
10. Find a local babysitter.
I obviously didn’t need to do this during my trip to Poland, but it’s something my husband and I have done on other trips we’ve taken with Benjamin. Finding a local babysitter can be a great way to get away for a dinner date sans baby -- if you’re comfortable with it, that is. So, there you have it. I’m living proof that it’s possible to survive traveling with a baby. I hope these ten tips can help make your next journey with baby a little easier and a lot more fun!