When we first started telling people we were expecting, one of the common things we were told was, “I’m not having kids, I want to travel.” As if you could only do one or the other. If people did travel with kids, we were only told horror stories about baby screaming the entire flight, getting breastmilk confiscated by TSA or generally having a really unpleasant and stressful time. Like most complaints, I didn’t really buy it. It can’t be that bad, I thought. And I was right. Don’t be intimidated by traveling with your baby! It definitely requires extra planning, but it’s totally worth it.
Scott and I recently traveled to Charleston, South Carolina with our son Everett – who is ten months but was born early, so he’s technically only six months. At the time he was only five months, so definitely a young baby. We were prepared for him to scream and cry on the flight and for me to revert back to my youth and go off on TSA if they hassled us about breastmilk – but the entire experience was great.
Here are my top 15 tips for traveling with a baby (with logistics you should be aware of).
1. Make a list before the trip. I make a list of everything baby needs, everything mommy needs, everything daddy needs and random stuff you’ll need (phone charger, fan, snacks, etc.). Be sure to include outfits for baby each day, overnight outfits for baby and extra outfits just in case. Seriously, think of anything you could possibly need and print it out. Don’t go overboard – you don’t need an insane amount of stuff.
2. Consider what baby will need (and include it in your list). We brought his Snuggle Me Organic but a lot of hotels and Homeaway/VRBO rentals will have a pack n play or crib for the baby. Call and ask beforehand. Can you buy diapers and wipes at your destination? Most likely, so only bring what you’ll need until you can buy some. Like I said above, bring clothes. Bring a few of baby’s favorite toys. Bring breastmilk ready-made in bottles if you pump. There is no limit for breastmilk – 3.4-ounce rule be damned! I also brought along:
- a fan that attaches to the stroller, to keep Ev cool in the Charleston heat (I use THIS one)
- Ergo 360 to carry him around in
- non-toxic baby sunscreen
- diaper bag <– not even an affiliate link, just the BEST diaper bag ever
- non-toxic sanitizing wipes to wipe down airplane seats and baby’s hands
- extra bottles
3. Breastmilk. This deserves its own category. First – bring as much as you want! We estimated that Everett eats about 25-28 ounces a day, times five days. We didn’t need all of it, but it’s better to have and not need. Calculate how much you will need to bring. I was an exclusive pumper for a variety of reasons, so you will most likely not need that much if your baby is still on the boob. But bring some, because you’re a mom and you deserve some wine!
Second, whatever you store your breastmilk in IS considered a carry-on! For this reason, I stored it in a cooler bag – which went into my actual carry-on bag so I could carry even more stuff. I always bring a giant carry-on bag. You are allowed one carry on purse or backpack and one carry on size approved suitcase. We didn’t even check any of our bags (because I hate checking bags).
Store the milk in a big freezer bag, which is easier to carry than a cooler anyway. We tossed an icepack in there to keep it cold even longer. You are absolutely allowed icepacks, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
4. Instead of waiting in line, ask one of the employees if there’s a line for strollers. They’ll most likely let you surpass the line.
5. Switch baby to a carrier, put all your extra bags in the stroller. Consider only bringing two carry-on bags. This allows you to hol the baby, it frees up your arms and then you don’t have to carry all of your items. While I had the baby strapped to my chest, Scott pushed most of our stuff in the stroller. Ev stayed strapped to me while we went through security, making it easy for me to help pile stuff to go through the scanner.
I only brought my rolling suitcase and a big beach bag that we put the breastmilk in, along with a whole bunch of other stuff.
6. Use a stroller that’s good for traveling. We simply used our Britax stroller. It’s the only stroller we have and I don’t see the need to buy another. It’s versatile. The car seat removes from it and then the stroller itself folds up. This meant that we had a car seat wherever we drove because the Britax can be used with the seat belts in any car. Once you check-in and you’re at your gate, let the flight attendants know you’re traveling with a baby. They’ll give you tags to gate-check your car seat and stroller. Easy peasy.
7. Be really nice to everyone. Let them know you’re traveling with a baby and that you have breastmilk. You catch more bees with honey.
8. Once on the plane – sanitize. Wipe down the seat, armrests, side of the plane, everywhere.
9. Offer the boob or bottle upon landing and takeoff. This helps release pressure in baby’s ears, making them more comfortable.
10. Rent on Homeaway + VRBO, skip the hotels. This makes it SO much easier to travel with the baby. We stayed our first night in a hotel and had to clean the bottles and heat the bottles using the sink. When we had our own space, I was able to make breakfast, store the milk in an actual freezer, easily heat and clean the bottles, etc. We rented a one bedroom and put the baby to bed in the bedroom while we hung out and watched movies.
11. Don’t be afraid to bring your baby out after bedtime! We walked around all day and then headed home around 5 pm to chill for a bit. We’d start Everett’s bedtime routine around 6:30, get him dressed for bed and the put him to sleep in his car seat. We then put the car seat on the stroller, used a car seat cover and used a shusher to block out any noise that could potentially wake him up. We brought along a bottle to give him, just in case. Every night we did this, he stayed sound asleep in his car seat. We even did this in very nice restaurants!
12. Consider eating earlier. Even though it was a total success to bring the baby with us to dinner, because we had to take him out after his bedtime – we were making reservations for 8-9pm. By this time, we were just so beat from exploring all day. It was a lot more fun when we made reservations for around 5 pm, and then we could take advantage of happy hour specials! We’d stay until around 6:30-7 pm and Ev would fall asleep on the walk home. It was perfect!
13. Make reservations in advance. Scope out which restaurants you want to check out and book them. Call and let them know your party of three (or more) includes a baby. On Open Table, you have the option to write a note letting the restaurant know this information. It’s incredibly annoying to be super hungry, not sure where to go, walking around aimlessly with a baby to figure it out and/or waiting on a table because they’re booked. Just avoid all that. Make a rez!
14. Relax. Don’t stress out about traveling with a baby. People love to complain and tell horror stories – when in reality they were probably over-exaggerating anyway. Everyone is generally very nice and more patient if you’re traveling with a baby. We were even upgraded on our flights! If your baby cries on the flight – IT’S OKAY. Babies cry. It happens. Everyone is usually pretty understanding of this fact.
15. Have fun! Traveling with your son or daughter is SO much fun. It’s a great way to bond and make memories as a family. Check out new places, new cuisine, go on an adventure tour (we went on a very cool historic boat ride to Fort Sumter).
Traveling with babies gets a bad rap, but I assure you, it’s really quite easy with some planning. I can’t wait to do it again!