Having the ability to travel with babies is a privilege, but it can also be stressful. We love our babies, but they are so high maintenance. They require things that adults and older children do not and are less flexible. Traveling with a baby isn’t going to be a perfect experience, but there are 15 ways to make it a little easier.
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Baby Travel Tips for Air Travel
1. Request to Sit Next to an Empty Seat
Children under age two years old do not require a ticket, but they also don’t get a seat, which means you will spend the entire flight with a lap infant. It is worth giving up your personal space to save money, but there is a possible workaround.
When you check in for the flight, ask if there are any open seats on the flight. If there are, ask to be moved to an empty seat next to yours. Of course, the airline is allowed to refuse, and this won’t work on a full flight, but it doesn’t hurt to ask nicely.
2. Book an Aisle Seat
When you book your flight, an aisle seat is a winner. If your baby cries and requires changing, the aisle seat allows you to get up and move around without inconveniencing the person next to you.
Also, after the take-off the plane, you can walk up and down the aisle to soothe your newborn. This tip is most beneficial if your baby is teething and a pacifier doesn’t work.
3. Check the Stroller at the Gate
At the airport, you will have the opportunity to gate check your stroller and car seat for free when you check-in for your flight. Once you check it in, it is gone until you reach your final destination.
You just bought yourself at least two hours in the airport sans stroller, then a trip through your destination’s airport to the baggage claim without it.
Instead of making your stroller your first checked bag, wait to check the stroller until you get to the gate. It is free there too, and you will get it back faster when you land.
4. Be Careful Opening that Sippy Cup
Sippy cups filled with liquid before you board the airplane will spray everywhere if you open said cup on the plane. Ask me how I know this. Be careful with that one. Therefore, be sure to pack baby wipes in your diaper bag or travel wallet.
5. Check the Minimum Age with Your Airline of Choice
Most airlines will let a baby as young as two weeks old onboard, but that varies. Ensure you check your airline’s policy check-in of choice before you book your itinerary for a due date.
It would be unfortunate for the airline to turn you away with a newborn when you reach the metal detector or TSA pre-check.
6. Utilize Family Boarding
Take advantage! Most airlines will allow families that require extra time to board before most others. So you can get situated without a mob of disgruntled passengers behind you waiting to sit down without having a Delta Sky Club® Medallion status.
Boarding early is particularly important when it comes to Southwest Airlines. Southwest does not assign seats before boarding, unlike American Airlines. Instead, they are on a first come, first serve basis, which results in a cattle call of people avoiding eye contact with each other and jockeying not to have to sit in the dreaded middle seats.
If you have a child age six or under, you get to board during Family Boarding before most other passengers. Do not miss this opportunity!
7. Know the Rules Regarding Breast Milk and Formula
The US allows you to bring breast milk and infant formula in your carry-on bag as long as you declare it at security. However, other countries do not have such a generous policy.
Remember when Alyssa Milano got her breast milk confiscated at London Heathrow, and the internet lost its mind? Thus, moms, please make sure you know the policy of each airport you will visit.
8. Babies Need Identification Too
Babies can fly on domestic flights without identification, but that is not the case for international travel. Even newborns need to prove their identity to enter other countries. So, get to the airport early.
Passports are the best and safest way to go for smooth travel. However, passports can take a while to be processed, so you may need to pay extra to have them rushed after the baby is born.
If you cannot get a passport before travel, a birth certificate will likely work to leave, but confirm the country’s policy to which you are traveling. The official policy is that a passport is required to reenter the country by air.
9. Free Doesn’t Always Mean Free
Small children under age two fly free domestically most of the time. However, airlines can, and some do, charge fees for babies, particularly on international flights.
Therefore, if you’re planning on traveling internationally, check the airline’s policy on fees before deciding which airline will offer you the best adult fare.
Want ideas on how to travel for free, check out these 14 Ways to Travel for Free.
10. Book Nonstop Flights
I like to save on travel more than anyone. Flights with connections are often cheaper. I promise you, the hassle that comes with changing planes with a baby is not worth whatever savings you get by not booking direct.
Don’t torture yourself with your first flight.
Nonstop flights with babies are the number one key to maintaining your sanity. But, do you want to board multiple planes, take off and land with their ears popping numerous times, and add several hours to your trip?
Trust me. You don’t.
Throw money at this and book a direct flight. Some credit cards award travel. So, this tip can pay off in the future!
Tips for Road Trips with a Baby
11. Plan Your Travel Around The Baby’s Schedule
Babies are inflexible. If they aren’t happy, you won’t be either. Now is not the time to push their schedules. When travel planning, plan to travel around when they usually nap and stop when they are awake to eat baby food to avoid being fussy.
If it isn’t possible to stop that often, have an adult sit in the back and attempt to entertain them.
It may seem like a good idea to drive through the night while the baby sleeps since it’s their regular bedtime. However, this tip is excellent if you are confident they will be comfortable enough in the travel car seat to sleep through the night.
If you aren’t sure, get a hotel room. If your baby isn’t well-rested during the trip, especially with jet lag, everything will be ten times harder.
12. Don’t Forget the Car Seat
If you don’t want to bring a car seat and plan to rent a car, rental car companies also provide them. But, again, you need to reserve these in advance. Do not wait until you arrive at the gate. You may be in for a world of hurt.
Pro tip: Uber and other rideshare companies now offer car safety seats in certain vehicles. It is easier than ever to travel with a baby. Make sure they can install the car seats rear-facing instead of front-facing for your little ones.
13. Accept That Your Trip Will Take Longer
If you are used to traveling without a baby, you are probably used to active trips with many things crammed into each day. Unfortunately, that this time it isn’t going to work out when traveling with children.
Babies have a lot of needs and come with extra stuff to lug around. That is OK.
Accept that your trip will take longer, you won’t accomplish as much as you usually would, and things aren’t going to go perfectly. It’s always a good idea to mentally prepare yourself for that ahead of time to set yourself up for success.
A positive attitude is everything when parenting.
Tips for Hotel Stays with a Baby
14. Pack Light
Babies need a lot of stuff. There is only so much you can do here. However, you don’t need twelve-packs of diapers for a weekend stay. Your baby isn’t going to magically start eating three times as much as they do now. So, resist the urge to overpack.
Don’t add unnecessary luggage into the mix. You already have to carry your baby around. So don’t add unnecessary baggage into the mix. However, a baby carrier or sling can be a lifesaver freeing your hands to do other things.
In a real pinch, you can always run to a pharmacy for an item of which you ran out. So make your life easier and pack light.
Pro tip: Do laundry on your trip. If you pack laundry pods, this won’t cost you more than a few dollars and will cut the number of things you need to bring in half.
15. Request a Pack N Play
Your hotel likely has a “Pack N Play” playpen available free of charge. Confirm this before your trip. If they are available, contact the hotel to reserve one. Do not wait until you check in and hope for the best. If they are gone, they are gone.
Final Thoughts – Traveling With a Baby
Traveling with a baby is an adventure. It is also stress-inducing. Take whatever measures you can to make it easier. Give yourself enough allowance when planning your trip. If they were only a few months ago, you have to consider when your baby naps.
I have fond memories of driving our baby son around in a rental car in a neighborhood where I had never been trying to get him to fall asleep after a long day of travel. That was a tough night, but I look back at that time and laugh.
But, don’t forget your baby travel essentials. Don’t miss the opportunity to travel with your kids. Get out there and make memories, especially in their first year.