Traveling with a baby. Practical tips.
Travelling with your baby can be very stressful. It is extremely important to be well prepared and pack properly. Below are some general tips and lists of what you need when you are traveling with a baby and what you should have in your hand luggage on the plane. Good luck!
Top 3 advice
1. Try avoiding travelling at bedtime hours. When we travelled to Montenegro last August, we had to wake Theo (11 months) up at 4am to catch our flight. That week during the holidays, Theo woke up at 4 every morning... I was more exhausted after our holidays than before leaving! It doesn´t happen to all kids of course, but it´s a risk worth avoiding if possible.
2. Choose your own appartment/house or a hotel with 2 separate rooms. I recommend renting your own place if your baby goes to bed at a certain time and sleeps in a travel bed and not the stroller. That way you don´t have to go out at night to eat - you can make your own dinner. It´s also handy to have a separate room where the baby can sleep, so that you don´t have to sit and eat silently in the dark after the little one has gone to sleep!
3. Turn down the expectations. It´s great to be on holidays, also with kids, but it´s not as relaxing as it used to be. Myself, I prefer to be relatively stationary these days when on holidays and rather do day trips. Travelling around and changing hotels all the time is just stressful. If you stay at one place, you can relax more and take it easy one day if the baby (or the parents!) has had a tiresome night or is being whiny. But all kids are different, so do whatever suits you and your baby!
Good advice from an experienced traveler
My friend Rachel Thomas has been kind enough to share her experience of traveling with her baby to Canada:
Letter of permission:
I travelled with then three-month old Emma to Canada for x-mas without my husband. At baggage drop-off I was told that Canadian customs and immigration required a notarized letter of permission from the father proving that I was not illegally "kidnapping" her. Without such a letter I could be rejected at border control and denied entrance into the country. Luckily, a nice policeman at Gardemoen drafted such a letter for me (though he was neither familiar with the requirement nor thrilled about the task). Good thing that my husband came into the airport with me with lots of extra time!
I had to show this letter in Amsterdam also - not just Canadian immigration that was tricky. Best to check it out on the embassy pages for all countries you will travel to (even if just for a stop-over). I travelled to England afterwards, and was sure to have such a letter; of course, no one asked to see it :)
I found that having Emma in the carrier best (stroller would have been awkward at the airports) while she is so little. I had a small wheeled suitcase, diaper bag and a small backpack – used an elastic belt to tie the diaper bag onto the wheeled suitcase. This was fantastic – had one hand free all the time, lots of stuff, easy to move through the airport (up escalators and not heavy). I had way less than the maximum allowable weight, but as I was travelling solo, it was great not to have too much.
In my carryon I had a change of clothes for me, extra diapers, small reusable shopping bags (great for coats and scarves etc) and an extra change for her, as well as a car seat sleeping bag and some blankets (came in handy for going outside during the unplanned stay in snowy Amsterdam). We had the bassinet in the airplane, which was great – glad I had extra blankets so I could “make the bed” (no sheets or blankets from the airline). I tend to pack pretty systematically – using smaller bags inside my suitcase to separate and group things – made it very easy when needing to find something quickly.
In the diaper bag I had a bunch of things besides the usual diapers, wipes and clothes: sterilizer wipes (for soothers, toys, bottles etc), several extra soothers, “first aid” stuff (child paracetamol, zink cream, vitamin D drops, salt drops and nasal aspirator, hand cream, lip stuff, etc), bottles and pumped milk. Emma wouldn’t breast feed during the 16-hour trip, so I was really happy I had so much milk/formula with me* and my manual breast pump proved to be a great mastitis-avoidance tool! I had read that I should bring a diaper for every hour (most were in my carryon) – they say you never know what the pressure can do to their bowels! Emma was fine in the air and hardly used any, but we had an extra 28 hours of travel on the return journey because we got snowed in at Amsterdam – VERY happy to have the extra diapers, blankets and clothes.
In the small backpack I had the essentials (a few diapers, wipes, disposable change mat, set of pjs, and toys) - very easy to have at my feet during the flight and easy to take into the cramped toilets. I also used one of those neck straps (used for keys or name tags) to clip onto her soother while walking through the airport, and later clipped onto her grabber toy and wrapped around her waist so she couldn’t throw it out of the bassinet and onto the super clean airplane floor. Passports etc were in a small inside pocket that was not easy to see (to steal from).
*Liquids – you can take an extra 10x100ml of liquids for the infant. Breast milk and formula are exempt from the 100ml rule (I brought already mixed formula boxes from Naan). You will have to take these out to have them scanned as liquids. Good idea to have at least two bottles with you, as it is hard to find “clean” water to wash them. I brought the medela milk bags – easy for storing the extra formula that didn’t fit in the bottle.
Most of them have “baby care” rooms – lots of quiet space for breast feeding and diaper changing, a toilet etc. The change tables have straps – I strapped her in so I could use the toilet. There were also a ton of people willing to help me, some of whom were just aching to hold the baby. That was nice in the airplane – no idea how I could have managed putting all of my luggage up or using the little toilet if no one was willing to hold her for a second. Lots of time at the airport was a huge help; she tends to have a diaper explosion at the gate :)
A list of what you need
If your baby has begun solid foods:
In your carry-on
Here´s a list of what you should bring onboard the plane. See also the advice from Rachel to the left.
Some more advice if needed
Here´s some more advice for travelling with a baby.
How to entertain your child
And here are 50 ways to entertain a kid on an airplane (probably also for a car ride!) :)