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.
All the obvious, essential items that you use day to day:
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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!