Tips for Traveling with a Baby
We have been traveling with Whitney since she was 6 weeks old! I can remember so clearly packing for our first trip with her to Zion National Park and being very anxious about how everything would go, what I should pack, etc... Zion with her was wonderful and she slept almost the entire time! We also took her to Rocky Point, Mexico when she was 8 weeks old and then we left for full-time travel when she was 4 months old. We have loved the experience of being on the road with a baby and have learned so much! We tell everyone now that traveling with a baby is an awesome way to have new experiences. With just a little planning it's absolutely possible! We put together these few tips that we hope will help others who are going on a trip with a little one!
Whitney is currently 16 months old and this is what I have packed for her, all of these items fit into a medium size packing cube; 3 play dresses, 2 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of leggings, 3 shirts, 3 pairs of socks, 1 pair of shoes, 1 swimsuit, and 1 raincoat. I fill the rest of the packing cube with diapers!
I use a backpack style diaper bag from Ju-Ju-Be that I absolutely LOVE. When we travel on a plane I use the diaper bag as my carry-on and fill it with wipes, diapers, small toys, electronics, and snacks for all of us. I can fit so much in this bag! Ju-ju-be has so many options for awesome diaper bags so check them out here!
We have learned over the last year that babies don't need much! Basically they just need you, a few outfits, and some diapers. Anything else that you end up needing you can purchase while you are away. You don't need to take your whole medicine cabinet with you either. We've been able to find medicine and other needs on the go. Even if you have a really short trip planned you don't need to overpack with diapers and wipes because they take up a lot of space if you have too many, just get more when you need them. When Whitney was little we would buy baby formula as we needed it and that worked out great. We always try to have 10-15 diapers with us when we get to a new location which gives us enough time to find a store that has some more. I have a few tiny toys that I carry with us that she loves but other than that we don't pack any toys to bring with us.
There are a few things we take with us as we travel that have made ALL the difference for us and Whitney! When we were planning for our trip we spent a ton of time researching a lot of these items and looking up the pros and cons of everything. We are so happy with all of the choices that we made for baby travel gear.
Carseat - We travel with a Chicco Keyfit baby carseat which fits perfectly inside the mountain buggy nano stroller. This has been a life saver in airports! She sleeps so well in her carseat so it has been like magic to be able to wheel her in the stroller in her carseat. We also considered not bringing the carseat at all because car rental companies will rent them to you however because we are always in a rental vehicle this would have been a major expense to us. For those going on shorter trips you can just rent the carseat when you get there and that could work great for you!
Mountain buggy nano stroller - This stroller has been one of our best investments. It is very light and folds up super small. It comes with a case that you can use when checking it on a plane to keep it secure. Our favorite thing about it is that her carseat fits perfectly inside without any kind of adaptors. We also really like how small and sturdy it is as we are using it in cities and sometimes on dirt trails. We think it is a great stroller and highly recommend it!
Travel crib- We travel with the Phil and Ted travel crib. We've had this from the beginning and love it so much. All of the flights we have been on will check the crib for free! It's light to carry and always fits easily in our rental cars. It's really easy to set up and take down and Whitney has been a great sleeper in the crib. She has been sleeping in it since she was 3 months old.
Ergobaby carrier - We've used the ergo baby carrier since Whitney was 4 months old! We use it on all of our hikes and it has worked really well. We especially love that she can face out and be placed on the front or the back. It is such a great carrier! It's comfortable to wear even for longer hikes! Whitney is quite mobile now and she doesn't like it as much but up until this point (16 months old) it has been perfect for her! Click here to check out carriers from Ergo Baby!
Food and doctors
Baby formula- I only breastfed Whitney for her first few weeks and then we switched over to baby formula. Luckily she has never had any issues with formula and has adapted to new formulas in new places. Everywhere we went I would go into grocery stores and just find the most generic kind of formula! I think that switching regularly helped her to adapt to some new ingredients if there were any. At 1 year old we started switching over to whole milk which we've also been able to find everywhere that we've been with her. I should also mention that we only had 2-3 bottles with us at all times. I always made sure to wash the bottles right after use and then fill them with purified water so they were ready for her next feeding! We lost bottles every once in a while but it's easy to find bottles in different places!
Baby food- As I've mentioned before we have been traveling with Whitney since she was very little. When she started eating solids we looked up foods that she could eat and tried to find them in local grocery stores. We used apple sauce, rice cereal, avocados, and bananas for the first few months. We could find these everywhere! When she was 7-10 months old we were in Hawaii, New Zealand, and Australia and we had no problem finding her baby food everywhere that we went. One of the hardest parts has been not having a high chair for her to eat in. She is a wiggly girl and so holding her in our laps to eat only worked for a little while! We have a really great strap on fabric seat that fits on almost any chair and this has worked great for us. It's even better when the place we are staying provides the high chair! Score!
Check ups and shots - Whitney had her first few appointments in Arizona before we left for full-time travel. We were in Hawaii for her 6 month health appointment and easily found a clinic for her to get a routine check-up and the shots that she needed. Our travel health insurance does not cover check-ups or shots so we always ask for the discounted self paying cost at clinics. I'm always able to find an amazing price because we don't technically have health insurance to cover it. In Hawaii we paid $20 for her check-up and 4 shots. When Whitney turned 1 year we were in Vancouver, Canada and did the same thing. We also didn't have to pay for the shots there because we were not residents but we did pay for the appointment. We aren't concerned about her going to different doctors in the places where we visit. You can find good health care in almost every country in the world so we make sure to do our research and ask the locals who we should go to if we need anything!
Whitney's sleep schedule has changed many times since we started traveling. We have learned that it's good to adjust our expectations as she changes. Up until about 12 months old Whitney would sleep perfectly fine in her carseat whenever we drove anywhere. This was perfect while we were road tripping in New Zealand and Australia. We would plan our long drives for the middle of the afternoon and she would nap as we drove! She also would nap fairly well in her Ergobaby carrier so hiking was not an issue.
Now that Whitney is over a year old she really needs an afternoon nap in a quiet place everyday. We try to make sure do be home during this time and plan go out in the mornings and evenings instead. We have to make sure we are home by 9-10pm to put her down or it is much harder to get her to go to sleep.
Something that we like to tell others is that you just have to do the best you can to help them sleep and that the baby will be just fine in the end. If the baby misses a nap or doesn't sleep in the car it isn't the end of the world (as we have reminded ourselves many times). They will fall asleep eventually! Something that we did that helped Whitney was plan shorter road trips or hikes in the afternoon hours to help her get used to sleeping on the go. We think starting her at a young age helped a lot! This could help others as well! It completely depends on the personality of the baby, however it's good to try before going on a trip. Another idea is having them sleep in different rooms in the house to teach them how to adapt to a new sleep environment.
A note about time zones - When Whitney was very small we had a few major time zone shifts with her. The first was flying to Hawaii from Vancouver. To help her adjust we shifted her naps a few hours before leaving to be closer to the new time zone we would be flying to. She was six months old in Hawaii and was still taking two naps during the day and sleeping 10 hours at night. We did our best to stick with our regular routine and she adjusted great! She had no issues sleeping in the new time zone. We had a not so pleasant experience when we flew from Vancouver to the Azores, Portugal when Whitney was 13 months. This was the biggest time change she experienced and it took her 6 nights to adjust! She was up every night until about 2 or 3 AM wide awake and wanting to play. The best we could do was keep the lights down low and try to help her understand that it was time to sleep. We also tried to adjust her naps to a normal time during the day. It was a really rough week however we planned extra time in the Azores to help all of us adjust to the new time zone! If you are planning a time zone change we would suggest adding a few extra days to help the baby adjust, if not then you'll just be worn out and frustrated! This is especially true as they become toddlers. Smaller babies adjust a bit better because they sleep easier.
We have taken Whitney on 16 flights over the last year and we still get nervous for flights! To be honest it can be really hard at times on airplanes but it is all about having the right expectations. Luckily we haven't had any terrible experiences on flights and overall have had really good luck but it can still be a bit nerve racking boarding a flight with an active baby. Here are a few things we've learned over the last year and a half.
Get to the airport early - Gone are the days when we would arrive 1.5 hours before our flight departure. We now shoot for 2.5- 3 hours before departure. This makes the check-in and security process way less stressful! We also want to be first in line to board the flight so that we don't have to wait in long lines with Whitney. Airlines will typically let families with small children board first but you have to be there and be ready to go or you miss the chance! We also don't mind being to the airport early because we can let Whitney run around, get some food, and sometimes get some work done while we wait for the flight. There are always plenty of things to do in airports like shopping, explore the kids playground, get some food, or get some work done.
Ask for an extra seat - We have had very few flights where we haven't been able to arrange a seat for Whitney. When we check our bags we ask to see if there are any open rows and if they can move us there. If they have an open row then they always move us! At times when we are on a full flight we have asked the flight attendants to let us know if there are any extra seats left and then we ask whoever is sitting by us if they would rather sit there than by us with a baby, they usually move. It never hurts to ask!
Book a baby cot - There are many flights (especially international flights) that have baby cots built into the airplane. You have to ask for these and book them in advance because they are only near certain rows on the plane. This works especially well for smaller babies! Most of them have a weight limit which I think is around 20 lbs. Whitney couldn't use them beyond 7 months old because she was too active and just wanted to play and climb out!
Walk the isles - This is Whitney's favorite part of flights! We spend a lot of time letting her explore and go up and down the isles. We started doing this as soon as she could crawl! It always makes other people on the flight smile and it would help Whitney use some of her energy. The only problem with this is that she loves picking up trash and little things that she finds in the isles so if you do this then you need to watch carefully. Don't worry we also sanitize her hands during and after the flights.
Bring stickers and small toys - When possible we try to grab a few things at a grocery store that Whitney has never seen before. When it gets really rough on the flight or during take off and landing we get something new out. It's all about novelty with little ones! She loves playing with stickers or small toys in packages. This will help occupy them for a little while.
Download a show or app - We have Netflix downloaded on my phone and can download full episodes. This has been such a life saver on flights! She will watch an episode or two of Peppa Pig and it's a great way to calm her down. She also loves looking at photos and videos on our phones.
Stay positive - There are times when it is hard and frustrating on a flight! It is a small space and it is hard to contain little ones at times. Remember that people around you aren't actually frustrated but they want to help you if they can. Also remember that it will end and that the baby will be happy again. It will be alright!
Overall, traveling with a baby is just the best! For us Whitney has kept things interesting and exciting. We also love having her with us because it allows us to meet so many people in the places we travel and make lots of new friends who we may not have talked to otherwise. It is also so fun to watch her make other people happy with her cute personality! When it gets hard then we just remind ourselves that no matter where we have chosen to be that there would be hard moments! Having a baby is hard work but it can be done no matter where you are in the world.