Traveling with Baby Survival Guide
I'll be completely honest, I've dealt with a bit of travel anxiety even before we had a baby, but it reached a new high a few weeks ago when we were prepping for 4 flights and 4 states in 6 days with a 10 month old in tow. Luckily, my husband balances my anxiety with his calm demeanor so he prevented me from buying every single thing that Google said baby Lou would need for this trip. Even though we didn't need 2 duffle bags worth of items there were some key tips and products that helped us get through (and even thoroughly enjoy!) our trip without a single tear shed by baby or parents. In hopes of saving you from the black hole of Google, I've compiled a list of all the things I would do again and all the products I couldn't survive without.
*all products are found on Amazon. Click photos to shop products!
Arranging Travel for Baby
The first thing we realized when planning our trip is that airlines don't care about making your life easier. I say this because it took us an hour on Google and several phone calls to Southwest to make sure we were even prepared to bring Lou to the airport. This might differ between airlines, but there was no check box for a non-ticketed baby option (babies under 2 fly free in your lap). Instead once we booked our tickets we had to call Southwest to tell them we would have an infant flying with us. It is very important to also check their requirements for proof of birth. In our case, we were told just to have a photo of his birth certificate on our phone, but I've heard some airlines require a physical copy. When in doubt, it is worth the time you will spend on hold with the airline to make sure you won't have any issues the day-of your trip.
Packing Tips for Baby
I am a classic over-packer, but when you're facing hauling luggage across airports and numerous destinations it is worth being as efficient as possible.
The best thing I did this trip was create a master packing list. We broke it down by clothes, hygiene, nutrition, diaper bag, and gear. The amount you need for each item is obviously dependent on the length of your trip, but here is a sample of what we packed for 6 days in June in New England.
It can honestly be tough to keep all of baby's tiny items organized so we utilized travel Space Bags to keep it all sorted from start to finish. We were go-go-go for the entire trip so it was a huge help to have outfits organized by day time, travel, and bed time. We also sorted his accessories and towels into their own bags.
We all know that airlines place a 50 lbs weight limit for checked bags (a limit I choose to test almost every trip), but they do not weigh baby items! We checked our car seat in a great bag that fits any infant or child car seat then strapped additional items into the car seat. This allowed us to fit the rest of Lou's items in just one carry on.
Many hotels and resorts provide cribs if requested, but we brought our pack n' play because we know that Lou is comfortable sleeping in it so having that piece of home was a huge help. Another option we looked into was baby gear rental. If you are limited on what you can bring then this is an amazing option!
Formula, breast milk, juice, baby food, and medications are exempt for the 3-1-1 liquid rule! We packed a small cooler in a carry-on with a few bags of breastmilk and a few pouches of Once Upon a Farm baby food (one of the only pouch brands we trust). Just be sure to remove to notify TSA of your cooler so it may be screened separately. I love the Kiinde cooler even though I do not use that brand for milk storage bags. It comes with 2 freezer packs plus fits milk bags and food pouches perfectly.
Bonus Tip for Breastfeeding Moms: If the breastmilk is frozen they will not do a test on the milk, extra search of your items, or pat down of you. It took an extra 15 minutes to get through security because my milk was in milk storage bags so they did not want to do a test and accidentally compromise the milk (if milk is in bottles they just do a simple test of if). Save yourself some time freezing if you can, or build in the time for extra steps at security.
Plane Flight Must-Haves
I had no idea what to expect for the plane flights themselves. Road trips are comfortable for me because it was my family's preferred way of travel with four kids and we've already completed two with Lou. Luckily, we went into our flights with a few tips and products.
Take-off can be tough on little ones because of the pressure change and babies aren't able to pop their ears or chew gum to help like we can, but nursing or giving a bottle during take-off and descent will significantly help. I packed my favorite nursing cover in the diaper bag which also came in handy during Lou's nap times so we could provide a level of "black out" even on the plane. This cover also doubles as a car seat and shopping cart cover.
During flights and travel in general, snacks are your friend! When the pilot says you'll be stuck on the tarmac for 30 minutes after landing and baby is over all the toys you packed, you'll be glad to have baby's favorite snack! Lou loves freeze dried fruit (be sure the only ingredient is fruit), Creamies, and Teethers.
In addition to snacks, easy-to-pack toys are necessary to ward off baby boredom on the plane. There is no shortage of small toys available on Amazon, but without a doubt our favorite is Fat Brain's Dimpl. Anytime Lou starts to get cranky I just move the brightly colored silicone "dimples" and it is as though he becomes hypnotized. This toy even saved us last night from a pre-bedtime meltdown on the way home from a family dinner so it lives in our diaper bag permanently.
While a travel stroller is not a must have (you can check a regular stroller or try rental options), but it is a huge help especially if you have a layover! We had a layover for each leg of our trip so our Uppababy Minu stroller was a godsend. You can fold it with one hand and it is light enough that your shoulder will not hate you if you have to lug it around at all. It is small enough to put in the overhead compartment, but we gate checked it and had it pulled up at each stop (just go to the desk when you get to your gate to get the tags). This means you are able to check it for no charge plus your baby will be comfortable cruising around (and even napping!) on layovers.
Hotel Room Living with Baby
Lou has slept in his nursery since he was 4 months old so we were a little unsure about bunking all together in our hotel room, but a couple of products helped us keep Lou right on track with his sleep.
We shopped around for a pack n' play black out cover extensively, but chose this one because it was affordable, packs easily, and effective. It allowed us to move freely through the room without worrying about disrupting our sleeping babe.
Our portable sound machine has come in handy many times before this trip, but it worked perfectly for a flying trip because of its long battery life and small size. We were also able to place the pack n' play where it fit best in the hotel room rather than struggle to get it near an outlet.
Bonus: Road Trip Tips
As I mentioned earlier, I've been road tripping since I was born so it is my preferred way of travel, but adding a baby into the mix definitely made it more interesting than ever before. The idea of being stuck in a car with a small infant might seem intimidating, but it is such an advantage to have your own private space, room to overpack if needed, and the ability to get out of the confined space as much as you and baby want. Here are a couple of items that I will road tripped without:
The most challenging part of packing your car for a road trip with baby is making sure you can access items you will need throughout the ride while staying organized.
Brica Firefly Mirror is a lifesaver not only for road trips, but just driving with baby in general. The remote allows you to switch between upbeat and sleepy time music plus adjust the volume. The mirror and firefly also light up so even a cranky baby will be instantly entertained or calmed.
Lansinoh Manual Pump is a must-have for breastfeeding moms. During each of our two road trips with Lou (and one football game) my manual pump saved the day when my automatic pump's batteries malfunctioned. I actually prefer the manual for road trips because you can quietly pump while your baby sleeps then have a fresh bottle to give them if you do not have the time to stop and nurse.
One last tip, populate a Google map with acceptable gas station and rest stops along your route. The biggest anxiety I have about road trips is the possibility of needing a rest stop, but finding myself with none in sight or the only option being right out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It is without a doubt worth it to take the time to do your research before you hit the road.
Traveling can be stressful enough, but it might seem overwhelming when you add in the many needs and unpredictability of a baby. Fortunately, with some pre-planning and useful products you too can survive and enjoy traveling with your baby! If you try and love any of the products I shared post a picture on your Instagram and tag me at @breadandkaleenthusiast!
P.S. comment below with your must-haves for traveling with baby!