As a new mom, I have researched countless articles on how to make life easier on the road. I am a yoga teacher who leads retreats around the world and my husband works in private wealth management with clients in over 30 states. Between the two of us, we are constantly traveling.
When we had our daughter in July 2017, we decided we wanted to continue traveling as a family. Travel is a huge part of our livelihood and lifestyle so it was important to us that we continue to see the world. My daughter has been on over 10 flights since she was born and 6 road trips. Here are a few tips I have picked up along the way. A few of them I wish I would have known before getting started.
If you are traveling internationally, you will need a passport for your little one. It's even helpful to have if you are traveling domestically. When you go to get a passport photo, bring a car seat and a white blanket or sheet. You can drape the sheet over the back of the car seat, rather than trying to lift your baby up to a white background. Your babies eyes must be open (no sleeping) and he/she must be wearing a solid color top. Our baby spent the majority of her first few months in a diaper only (she was born in the summer in LA!) so we had to come back with clothes on and when she was more alert. Also, both parents will need to be present at the Post Office in order to get the passport. You will need to take an oath that you are the child's legal guardian and present a valid birth certificate from the state. Biggest tip, WHITE SHEET ON A CARSEAT is the easiest way to capture your babies passport photo.
2. Plan ahead
Take your time packing. Start 3-7 days in advance depending on the length of your trip. When we booked our trip to Bryce Canyon, we didn't realize it was going to be snowing while we were there. I looked up the weather a few days before and had to make a trip to Carters to pick up some warm clothing for our little one. If you give yourself time to order things that you need from Amazon or another provider, then you will be less stressed out. A few essential items I recommend for every traveling parent:
- Plenty of diapers + baby wipes
- Portable changing pad - I like this one
- Disposable changing pads - in case your other one gets dirty
- Plenty of teething toys or toys to play with during the flight
- Some go to reading books
- Extra blanket - either to cover you up while breastfeeding in public or keep you warm during the flight
- Water bottle - most airports have refillable stations and water is essential to make sure you stay hydrated
- Baby nail clippers
- Car seat cover - these are very affordable on amazon but you can also buy a more expensive version if you want to double it as a suitcase
- Air baby canopy
- Nursing pillow - to wrap around your waist as your little one sleeps
- Baby friendly hand sanitizer
- Blanket to cover the floor (if you're placing your baby on the floor in front of you) or over your seat (if your little one is still on your lap) - my daughter is in the phase of 'everything goes in the mouth' including plane seat covers, magazines, whatever she can find - so in order to keep it relatively sanitary, I recommend something to cover the back of your seat and floor in front of your seat - especially if toys fall onto the floor
- Extra onsies
- Comfy shoes - I love these
- Beanie or hat in case it's cold on the flight
- Boba wrap or carrier - I loved the boba when she was little so I could cover her up though airport lines but now that she is older I prefer Ergobaby
- Coconut oil or baby rash cream
- Baby wash + shampoo
- Extra hand towels
- First aid kit
- Portable fan
- Backpack or diaper bag - it's best to have things organized and in separate compartments so you can access items quickly
- Extra bags- this is about the only time I like plastic or disposable bags because you can put dirty diapers and used wipes in there to easily throw out after the flight.
- Portable tub for the hotel room
3. Placement is key
If you can afford to upgrade to first or business class, I would recommend it. We have flown in coach plenty of times but the times we did fly first class, we had a little more room for breastfeeding and sleeping. Regardless, the front row is key. You won't have anyone in front of you leaning back or disrupting your space. While you can't keep any items in front of you for take off and landing, you can keep lots of toys in front of you during the flight. It also ensures you're first off the plane, which could be a big deal if your baby is sleeping. It is helpful to have a seat that is close to the aisle in case you need to get up and walk around in order to calm your little one.
4. Nurse Nurse Nurse
The best thing you can do is nurse during take off and landing, especially during the times when you are gaining in elevation or starting your decent. Your baby will most likely grab at his/her ears to show discomfort if they are not already in tears. Nurse as much as possible and if they fall asleep, even better. I would start nursing as the flight is lifting off and as soon as they announce their initial decent. Those tend to be the tricky spots.
5. TSA Precheck
It's been so helpful to have TSA pre-check for all of our flights. It ensures we don't have to take off our shoes or remove items out of our bags. It also means shorter lines, most of the time. I have also been able to walk through the screen detector with her in the carrier, which makes things a lot easier. There is a little bit of a debate on whether or not those are safe for your baby. We waited until she was about 4 months to walk through. The other times they have to pat you down, which just sucks overall for anyone.
6. Say hello to your neighbors
This has been helpful in order to break the ice. So many people will look concerned the moment you board the aircraft. I have heard of people bringing little love bags filled with ear plugs and snacks to give to those around them during the flight. I think this is a nice gesture but not totally necessary. Just a quick hello, introduction and hopefully those around you will be a little more kind when your baby has a hard time on the flight.
7. The itsy bitsy spider
This is probably my go-to travel tip. Have a few nursery rhymes that you sing to your baby in your back pocket at all times. We sang her the itsy bitsy spider for about 3 hours during a 5 hour flight to Tulum. She also loves 'the wheels on the bus' and a melody I made up for her to soothe her to sleep. Using your hands to create fun hand motions helps to keep them entertained and let's them know you are interacting with them.
8. Breathe through the transitions
Long line? Delayed flight? Mean flight attendant? I have experienced it all and the best thing you can do is breathe through the transitions, take it easy on yourself and those around you. Babies are so sensitive to our energy and if you act as though everything will be okay, then they will remain much more calm. You are their security blanket, so keep your cool even if you experience delays or someone sends you negative energy. You are doing the best you can, and that is enough. It's not always easy traveling with a little one, but remember this is only temporary and you are only in transit for so long. Keep breathing and you will get through it.
9. Take your time
Leave time to transition and get from one destination to the next. Once you arrive at your hotel, leave some time for your baby to get acquainted with the new space. It doesn't have to be a long time, but an extra 10-30 minutes is really helpful. I am stressed out when I feel pressured for time. So arrive early to the airport and take your time getting to your final destination. You will need to grab your car seat out of oversized baggage and install it into the cab or rental car, so you need those extra minutes to get it all done with ease. Also, if you can afford it and are switching time zones, I recommend staying an extra night before and after your trip to accommodate for possible jet lag. We went to a wedding in Costa Rica and this was a game changer to making sure we were well rested for the festivities.
10. Research requirements in advance
Make sure you research any required documents you need to bring with you if you are traveling outside of the country. You may need a passport and a birth certificate as backup documentation. I recommend airing on the side of caution and making sure you have everything you need in advance so you feel prepared and secure.
Last but not least, take care of yourself. Drink plenty of water. Eat good food. Pack your own snacks that help you feel energized. Put together a care kit of essential oils, lotions, products, socks, neck cushion, eye cover, etc. so you are comfortable on the flight. When you are zen, you are better equipped to handle situations calmly.
Traveling with a baby or toddler can be challenging, but know that it is only temporary and the more you do it, the more they get used to it. Clover now receives compliments from all of our flight attendants for being such a good traveler and I think it's because we started her young, came prepared and were centered to manage any upsets that came our way.
Most importantly, download some meditations for the flight for when your baby falls asleep in your lap or you loose it walking through security. Those 5-20 minutes of diving in can help you feel calm, centered, and empowered as a traveling parent.
Any parents have other tips? Would love to hear them in the comments!