We took our kiddo on his first flight about 3 months after he was born. We continued to travel several times throughout his first year. It was intimidating to figure out how to get back to traveling with a young baby, but here are some ideas that helped us get back on the road.
- When you’re deciding on where to travel – pick a place where you will visit family or friends. Extra hands for baby watching are always appreciated! In our experience, family and friends were more than happy to give us a few minutes break now and then to snuggle with our new addition. We were able to even do some traveling type things (go to a wedding baby-less, go on a couple hour segway tour, waterski in a lake, etc.) We have definitely come to a conclusion that the ideal adult-to-baby ratio is at least 3-to-1. 😉
- When you’re traveling by plane – less stuff means less stress! We were surprised on our first trips that, if you ask, you can find people at your destination that have many of the baby items you need. For example, on our first trip, which was to TX where Eric’s family lives, they were able to provide a carseat (already installed when they picked us up from the airport), a pack n play for sleeping, and a stroller for any walking we needed to do while there. We were lucky because Eric’s sister has a child and so many of these things were easy to find. *Of course, we made sure that the carseat was not expired. We were able to do something similar on our second trip to Wisconsin where we also have family. Again, all of the essentials were provided for us! We were surprised because the youngest children out there were considerably older than our Kiddo, but they still had many of the items and were happy to let us borrow them. We took another trip to TX in the fall – no family support this time, but we’re of an age that many of our friends either have children or know others who have children. On this trip, we had to bring our own carseat and stroller, but our friends were able to get their hands on a pack n play for us to borrow.
(Random note – we have now also been the random people who have a pack n play in our town for borrowing when friends’ friends come in to town!)
Regardless, if you’re going somewhere where you know people, it never hurts to ask! (Many hotels and some airbnbs also can provide a crib/pack n play.)
On that note, if you don’t need a stroller at your destination- don’t feel like you need it just for the airport! Carry baby in a carrier – it’s much less bulky and is attached to your body – one less thing to worry about!
- If you can’t go to a destination to visit friends or family, bring some with you! We started to explore new places when Kiddo was about 7 months old. We weren’t yet ready to face a long flight with a baby. (We realized too late that the easiest time to travel is when they are smallest and are in the eat, sleep, poop phase. By the time they are awake more and almost crawling, it felt like shorter travel times were better!) So, we decided to start hitting US destinations that we have never been. We each have a goal of visiting all the US states at some point, but neither of us are there yet. First on the list: Arkansas! Della had never visited and Eric had some wonderful childhood memories from there, so off we went. Hot Springs, AR is only a 4 hour drive from where Eric’s mom lives, so she drove up to join us (bringing a pack n play and carseat!!) This meant we had an extra pair of hands and less stuff to travel with. Again, baby carrier to the rescue – we didn’t even need a stroller.
On another trip, we visited Tennessee, Kentucky, (and sort of Mississippi). This time, we brought Della’s parents along with us. We had to bring all the items, but because we had two extra adults flying with us, it wasn’t too bad!
- Schedule direct flights around nap times if possible. As your baby grows and *maybe* starts falling into a schedule, do your best to make sure they sleep on the plane. This is less stressful for everyone. We have literally chosen our destinations based on where we can fly direct (that’s affordable).
- Feed baby on take off and landing. Apparently the sucking motion helps with natural ear popping and can help keep baby calmer and in less pain while the plane goes up and down. We live by this rule, though luckily our Kiddo has not seemed to have trouble with the pressure changes. Della found breast feeding challenging and therefore breastfeeding in the confines of an airline seat almost impossible, so we always used a bottle (but many other women find breastfeeding on the plane easy). We start the bottle shortly after the plane starts taxiing. Kiddo normally falls asleep shortly afterwards. Luckily, for many of our trips, Kiddo slept all the way through and we didn’t actually have to feed on the way down. Note: You can take breastmilk, regular milk, formula, and even small amounts of water through security, but plan for them to pull it off and do an extra testing. It takes a bit longer, so make sure you get to airport early! In order to make it go most smoothly, pull out all food or liquid items that you have for baby and put them all together in one bin. In some cases, TSA officers have told us that they need to remove the lids from the milk and other times not. But, they always have do a separate test of all liquid items. This has always gone smoothly for us though it often does take extra time!
- Bring some toys! For the plane ride itself, if Kiddo does wake up, we have some favorite toys and books along for distraction. We also now carry a variety of snacks for Kiddo to feed himself if necessary (like Cheerios!) Also, if your destination doesn’t have any, you’ll be grateful for the small breaks they’ll provide you. We always pack in packing cubes and have started to take one medium sized cube full of his favorites when we travel.
- Bring a hook-on high chair! If you know you will only be eating at regular restaurants on your trip or that the family member or friend that you’re visiting has a highchair already, you can ignore this one. However, we’ve found that it is invaluable in airbnbs, hotels, at some fast casual restaurants, for picnic lunches, or if we’re visiting friends that don’t have highchairs (or need their own for their own kid!) We have 2 hook-on high chairs, one is called an Inglesina Table Chair. This works great for many restaurants, picnic tables, or counter tops. However, we prefer a very old one that we have (it was Della’s when she was a baby) that hooks on much more easily and also folds up much better. It looks more like this. However, we can’t find any new ones like it! It works much better for tables in peoples’ homes. (If a table has any kind of lip underneath, our other chair simply doesn’t work.)
- Use an old device for a white noise sound machine! Our Kiddo uses a sound machine at home to sleep. It is generally just a good cue for letting him know it’s time for sleep, but we don’t want to lug it with us! So, we’ve started to use Della’s old tablet which we occasionally bring for reading purposes anyway. It is so easy to download white noise apps and then play them all night. You could also use your phone – but we tend to want those even after baby is asleep!
- Invest in a travel stroller that has a reclining seat. This is something we have learned over time. Initially, when traveling to visit family, it was easy to set aside nap times or when baby was really small, he could sleep anywhere (like in a carrier). When we did our first real sightseeing trip when he was a bit older and had more FOMO it became more of a challenge. First, it became hard and annoying to plan our days around napping – impossible really. That first trip we had a very small umbrella stroller. Kiddo would not nap in it really at all. It was very small and light and therefore easy to travel with, but it ultimately was not the best option. For later trips, we got a bigger umbrella stroller. It doesn’t compact nearly as much, but it reclines and is more comfortable for Kiddo so he can easily fall asleep in it. This was a game changer for sightseeing trips because he can nap on the go!
- Find the shortest travel time! You’ll notice that we have talked mostly about flying trips in this post. We found out early on that flying was easier for us than road-tripping even though our kiddo was pretty good in the car and tended to sleep well. The problem was when he woke up! Even if he slept for 3 hours, he was pretty grouchy when he got up and wanted out of the car. Driving anywhere typically takes longer! Of course, flying takes time too, but there is generally a little bit more flexibility. We would find areas in the airport with fewer people and let him crawl around while waiting for planes. He would typically sleep for a few hours on the plane and even if he woke up he wasn’t constrained as much and was able to interact with both of us for entertainment. Also – of course, when they are under two they can fly for free on your lap! We will likely change our mode of travel when he gets a bit older to be much more road trip oriented.
So, there you have it! Some ideas about how to get back to traveling with your new addition! Our travel style has definitely changed and we’re still getting used to that, but it definitely feels good to be back on the road!