Travel tips to make life a little easier
Imagine this… you’ve just boarded a plane for a long-haul International flight. You take your seat, your bags are ‘safely stowed’ in the overhead lockers, you’ve got a bag of Peanut M&Ms at the ready for the inevitable trashy reality TV binge-watching that’s about to take place… and then, a family with a baby take their seats in front of you.
What’s your gut reaction?
“Oh great, here we go. This flight is going to be torture!”
“Cute. As long as it doesn’t cry for the next 14 hours.”
You may be more forgiving, especially if you’ve got children of your own! But the cliché response to babies on planes does exist. It’s no wonder many first-time parents get nervous about travelling with their baby. No one wants to be those people with the crying baby!
Life doesn’t stop when you have a bub and nor should it. That includes travel – for whatever the reason may be; visiting family or perhaps work commitments (yours or your partner’s) but hopefully just for leisure.
In fact, some recommend travel as the ultimate way to get out of the baby haze, which can be extra hard when you feel like you’re stuck on a merry-go-round of nappy changes, feeds, shushing, rocking, patting and anxiously waiting for your baby to sleep. All while being at home, often alone for hours at time. The thought of bub missing their scheduled morning nap thanks to an unexpected visitor can be enough to send you into a mild panic. You come to rely so heavily on the familiarity and routine of home, sometimes you don’t want to leave (I know, I’ve been there!).
However, when it comes to travel, you, your partner and your baby are forced out of routine in different settings. In a strangely contradictory way, this can help you to relax and see that your bub is very adaptable, and so are you.
Check out this great story with Zoe Foster-Blake on why she thinks all parents should travel with their baby.
Of course, luxurious international holidays Foster-Blake style aren’t possible for all new parents. But it’s important remember that life doesn’t need to go on-hold now that you’ve got a bub. Yes, there will be changes to how you travel, but ultimately, you’re going to be a happier, healthier Mumma and family if you can get out-and-about, travel or in the very least enjoy a long-weekend away together.
In this post, I’m going to share some of my top tips for travelling with a baby – mostly on planes but for any travel, including long road-trips.
What to pack for the journey:
All the obvious, essential items that you use day to day:
- Nappies – (don’t go overboard, you can buy these pretty much anywhere and they take up loads of space in your luggage). General rule, pack one per hour of travel including airport time and buy what you need once you get to your destination.
- Baby wipes and change mat – there are no two ways about it; changing bub while on the go can be a real hassle. Juggling a nappy bag, wipes, change mat, a wriggly baby and a dirty bottom is a challenge at the best of times, let alone in a cramped aeroplane toilet! A nappy wallet is a great solution because it holds only the essentials, slides easily under your arm and will help make mid-flight changes that little bit easier. Our friends over at Mum’s Grapevine have done a round-up on some of the best nappy wallets/clutches on the market right now if you want to find the perfect travel solution.
- Changes of clothes for bub – allow for a few changes depending on the length of your flight/drive. Prepare for a poo-explosion or two just to be safe!
- Change of clothes for yourself – for that one time when the poonami makes its way through the baby’s clothes and onto yours.
- Bottles, formula and/or expressed milk. Airport security make allowances for parents travelling with babies so you can carry more than 100ml containers of liquid – this applies to empty containers such bottles as well as expressed breast milk, sterilised baby water, baby juice, baby food & yoghurt pouches in liquid, gel or paste form and baby formula powder.
- A familiar blanket and/or wrap – airlines have blankets but a familiar, soft one from home will be far nicer for bub. Planes can get cool so this is a must if you want your bubba to have a comfortable sleep (which you do!)
- Toys and/or books – depending on how old bub is as to what’s going to be most appropriate here. Buy a couple of small new toys and books and only pull them out on the plane, one by one as needed. Hopefully, the novelty factor will be enough to distract them for that little bit longer!
- Food – if your baby is on solids, pack what they know and love. Pouches are perfect for travel; even if you’re normally a make-it-from-scratch kind-of Mumma, you can’t beat the convenience! Rice cake biscuits, rusks etc. are awesome too, even if only to provide a brief distraction.
- Zip lock bags + plastic bags – in the event of wet and soiled clothes or dirty nappies when you need to change on the run.
- Some baby Panadol or Nurofen – better safe than sorry when you stuck on a plane for hours on end.
That’s it! Don’t go crazy and give yourself so much that it weighs you down or so that you find yourself rummaging through an overstuffed and disorganised bag. Less is more anytime you travel, but especially so when you’ve got a baby in tow.
Most airlines will make an allowance for your pram to be included in checked baggage. My advice would be to think about whether you really need it though. For two reasons.
- It will get knocked and thrown around by baggage handlers. If you do need one, best to take an el-cheapo on your travels and leave the Bugaboo at home. Depending on your destination, you may be able to hire one or buy a cheap one there.
- It may be more of a hassle than it’s worth. Carting it through airports and in and out of taxis/public transport could be annoying and just another thing to keep track of.
Consider carrying bub in a baby carrier. This will leave you hands free and able to juggle travel documents, suitcases and carry-on, which will make the whole travelling process much smoother both at the airport and on your holiday.
Give yourself loads of time. Running through the terminal at the last minute in a state of panic is never much fun but even less so with a baby. Plan to arrive well ahead of time, giving you and bub the chance to get to the gate early without the stress (and to grab a decent flat white to enjoy before you’re subjected to aeroplane coffee!).
Take advantage of the priority boarding. Most airlines will call families with babies and small children through to board the plane first – do it! It will take the pressure of finding your seat, storing luggage and taking baby out of their carrier with masses of other passengers around you.
In flight tips
Some babies and small children really feel the effects of altitude on their little ears during take-off and landing. Many Mummas swear by feeding during this time, whether by bottle or breast, in order to stimulate the swallowing reflex which can help relieve the pressure. Don’t stress if you can’t or the timing is out, just something to consider.
Check with your airline to see if they have bassinets. Most do and some will let you book one, others it’s a first-come first-served basis. Worth requesting at the time of booking either way. This will be a life-save on a long-haul flight so that you don’t have to nurse them the whole way.
If you have the option, which seat is better? I’d say go for the aisle – the last thing you want to do is be asking a stranger to move each time you get up. Especially as you’ll likely need to get up more frequently with bub, whether for changes or a distracting walk. Other people swear by the window, but my guess is any novelty factor provided the view (if there even is one?!) will wear off after about 2 minutes!
Each airline has a different policy regarding how old a baby needs to be before they’re allowed to fly. Some are from as young as 2 days while others 2 months or more.
Unless necessary, it’s probably best to wait at least until your bub is vaccinated. Keep in mind that there may be some recommended vaccinations depending on the country you’re travelling to – see below for health and basic first aid tips.
This is an entirely personal decision, so do what’s best for your family. Don’t forget, no matter how young they are, your baby will need a passport if you’re travelling overseas!
Long car rides
Travelling long distances by car can be just as stressful as air travel. Even though you have far more control over break stops and you’re away from the judgey stares of strangers, it can still be super stressful!
Here are a few tips to help:
- Be mindful of how long your baby is sleep for in their car seats, especially if they’re very young. Although uncommon, little babies have less control over the neck and heads and the natural curve of car seat can make it easier for their head to roll forward, blocking the airway. Again, not to freak you out! It’s just something to consider – it may mean more breaks and if possible, you or your partner sitting in the back seat with them. The point is, not to drive for hours while baby is asleep without checking in on them frequently.
- If you don’t have one already, consider a shade or sun blocker for baby’s window
- Bring plenty of distractions including music, books and toys.
- Take turns driving and watching bub. Your trip may be made longer thanks to more frequent stops so it’s even more important that you stay fresh. Rest when you need to.
- Cool the car down before putting baby in on hot days.
Basic First Aid + Health + Vaccinations
When you’re travelling overseas, you may not know exactly what’ll be available in terms of medication and medical assistance. If you’re travelling with a baby, it makes sense to take some basic medication such as Infant Panadol and/or Nurofen in your nappy bag.
That way you know exactly what the product is and you’re not trying to decipher the differences between brands you’re not familiar with (at a time when bub is distressed meaning you’ll likely be a little bit too). Be prepared and take what you know and have used before.
If you’re travelling internationally, take the time to research hospitals and/or medical centres where you’ll be staying. Just to be on the safe side. Don’t forget travel insurance too – a simple trip to the Dr. for something like an ear infection could be super costly in some countries.
Don’t forget to check with your GP if there are any specific vaccinations needed for the places you’re travelling to. There may be age restrictions on some vaccinations so do your homework before making solid plans.
Finally, consider taking Baby and Child First Aid training before you travel. Imagine the peace of mind you’d have knowing that in the event of emergency, you’d be able to provide potentially lifesaving first aid? Especially if you’re in a country where English is a second language?
Our Birth Beat Baby & Child Online First Aid Course is a comprehensive online program that gives you essential knowledge to provide first-response care for things like: burns, stings, broken bones, head injuries, choking and drowning. All modules are accessible in our online portal, delivered by yours truly – a Registered Nurse and Midwife with many years of experience in emergency departments, neonatal intensive care and emergency retrieval teams. Just a few hours before you travel is all it takes to feel prepared and informed – I urge all parents to consider baby and child specific first aid training, but especially so if you’re travelling.
Embrace the mess and uncertainty
As hard as it might seem at first, travelling with a baby is a great way to practice letting go and enjoy the little things. Sure, it may not go exactly to plan. You might not get that luxurious sleep-in you hoped for or a long, leisurely dinner by the pool. But you’ll get time together as family, away from the routine of your day-to-day life – which may be just what you need as a new mum.
Try and be mindful about what really matters and what doesn’t. Things like delays, bub crying on the plane or missing their 10 am nap, aren’t all that important in the scheme of things. Parenthood is all about learning as you go, making mistakes and remembering what works and what doesn’t for next time.
If you’re planning on travelling or if this post has inspired you to book a little family get away, happy travels!