Now let’s be honest, traveling with a baby is never stress free! On my last flight I smelt like I just ran a marathon before we even boarded the plane, because I was sweating so profusely. Baby Zand has been on 26 flights in her short life, and with every flight I learnt something new. Now I am going to give you all my wisdom so you can be more relaxed when you travel next time!!!
Expect everything that can go wrong to go wrong
If you go in with these low expectations, you will be pleasantly surprised when you get out on the other side relatively unscathed. Definitely expect the biggest poop explosion your child has had to date. There will probably be some vomiting all over you, a tantrum because you brought the wrong lovey, and super sore nipples because you are being used as a pacifier. If you know there will be plenty of disasters, you can plan ahead of time!
Pack double the amount of diapers, wet wipes, food, and changes of clothes
Calculate how much of each you would usually use during the amount of time you are traveling; calculate door to door time, not just the actual flight time. Then double this. Seriously, even if you come home with a few clean diapers and an extra outfit, you will feel so much more relaxed knowing that you don’t have to carry a naked baby through the airport wrapped in an airplane blanket, because you ran out of spare outfits by the time you got on the plane. And when it comes to food, somehow Baby Zand always eats more on the plane because she’s bored. So just bring extra of everything. I just always remember this story of a friend being stuck on a plane on the tarmac for 6 hours!!! I always want to be prepared for that scenario.
Also, you may want to bring an extra top for yourself for the obvious reasons of poop/ vomit/ flying food. If you can, bring an entire outfit. If not, a top will do to make you look and especially feel somehow semi human.
Strollers are useless, use a carrier!
Especially if you have connecting flights, you don’t want to be stuck waiting at the airplane doors for your stroller to come out, so you can run to the next gate. Plus, often you won’t find elevators when you need them, and do you really want to carry baby plus your hand luggage and the stroller down to the tarmac to grab a bus to the plane?! Ah just writing this makes me break out in hives! Here are the 3 stages we went through:
0-2 months : we brought baby Zand in her car seat, but honestly next time I would do a carrier instead. We were lucky, because we were traveling business class, so plenty of space to store the seat. But the down side is that at security scans you need to take your finally sleeping baby out. Most airports allow you to keep baby in the carrier, so huge bonus point!
2-20 months: front baby carrier like the Björn or whatever you have/ choose. How long you can use this for depends on the weight of your child. I found that with 11kg/ 24lbs we had really reached the breaking point of my back! You may reach yours earlier. Advantages of using a carrier: hands free for security, immigration, etc, no elevators needed, easy maneuvering on and off the plane, super easy storage on plane, and baby is usually less fussy when attached to you.
20+ months: we are currently in this stage of using our hiking backpack. I have linked to the one we have below, and one person can lift it on and off in case you travel alone. I love that I can stand in long lines, and walk to far away gates no problem with this. I have my hands free, and it stores in overhead bins. Downside; make sure you practice with this before you fly, since the weight distribution will be something to get used to!
Don't schlep everything around the world - rent instead!!!
Most places you travel to offer services where you can rent baby stuff from cribs to strollers, car seats, and even toys. Google it before you go, and try to order as much stuff as you can. Traveling light is never an option with a baby, but it helps if you can leave these big bulky things at home; especially if you are traveling by yourself without a helpful partner. How are you going to get all that stuff from the car/ taxi to check in and off the baggage claim. No no, make your life easier, try to rent where possible. Often these services will even deliver to where you are staying. No hassle at all! And if you rent a car, you can always get a car seat through the car rental company.
If you really need to bring your own, you can either check in a stroller or car seat for free when traveling with a baby! We have a bugaboo, and their travel bag is amazing but expensive. Upside is you can stuff it full with other stuff like books, extra wet wipes and diapers, toys, blankets, etc.; airlines don’t really care about the weight of your stroller. I have also linked to a cheaper bag below, which we have used before. It's doesn't close very tightly, so I wouldn't throw a few last minute lose items in there!
The iPad is your best friend!
Baby Zand never watches TV. We don’t have one at home. Simple and effective because she spends her days playing, building, painting, and exploring. I love that. But I also have to be realistic here. How do you keep an active toddler restrained for up to 12 hours in a tiny seat or even worse, on your lap?!? The iPad is the answer. Load up some of your favorite child friendly shows, and your child will be in awe. The first few times Baby Zand got bored after 20 minutes (when she was about 9 months old), but that’s still 20 minutes of peaceful quiet! I am telling you, every minute counts on a long distance flight!
Go shopping at the dollar store before you leave
I have a big Mary poppins bag. It can stand by itself with a sturdy bottom and has high sides to hold everything in place. I fill it with cheap toys, crayons, books, anything I don't mind losing/ having poop or vomit all over. There is only so much time baby can watch the iPad until she will get bored. So every few minutes when she is on the verge of a boredom tantrum, I will pull out a new toy. She loves it. Some are a hit, others not so much. I thought she would love the mini puzzle I got of the Cat In The Hat (her favorite book), but instead she was in awe of little blocks that could be strung on a shoe lace. Seriously, you never know what they will love, so grab as much as you can find. And I like to save a few in the suitcase for the return flight.
Even if you have potty trained, bring diapers!
Baby Zand has been potty trained for a while now, but currently when we travel she will still wear diapers. Why? Because on one flight we stood in line for the bathroom for 20 minutes. Without a diaper there would have been a major accident. Plus, there is already so much overwhelming stuff happening, I don't need to put that added pressure on her. So we bring diapers, and we also bring the travel potty, and store it underneath the seat in front of us. I pull it out, place it on top of the changing table in the bathroom, and let her go there. If we can use it, perfect, if not, not the end of the world! Not sure how long I will continue this rule...
A little side note to this: changing tables on planes are horrendous! They are so tiny, I don't know what baby fits on them. If possible, I will usually change Baby Zand's diapers on our seat, with my back to other people, in the dark, keeping her entertained with silly faces or the iPad. These are some of my fastest diaper changing moments, which I am very proud of, and it saves me from the nightmare of Baby Zand rolling off the changing table in the tiny bathroom, and dropping into the airplane toilet (although I do always put the lid down).
I love late night flights
When it comes to long distances (6 hours or more!), I love overnight flights. This way I know that Baby Zand is at least tired enough to sleep, and will hopefully sleep for a little bit. Because, what do you do with a child awake for 12 hours on a plane?!?
If you can afford it, book an extra seat
This can be a little bit of a stretch when the holiday is already so expensive, but if at all possible, book an extra seat! This is especially important if you fly solo, because where are you going to pop the baby, when you want to grab a new toy out of your Mary Poppins bag?!? Having that extra seat just helps to maneuver around in that crammed space. If there are two of you traveling with a baby, book a window and an aisle seat, leaving the middle seat between you two free. This way, if the plane is not full, it is unlikely that someone will sit between you two, and you have a free seat for baby! And in case someone does get on board, and aims for that seat between you two, offer them your aisle seat. I am sure they will happily take it, and you two can sit together with the baby.
Nursing - your best friend!
If you are still nursing, give yourself a high five! Being on a plane trying to get a crying Baby Zand to sleep on my lap while the lights are still on, and flight attendants are throwing food trays at us, is the pinnacle of worst nightmares for me. Those are the moments when I miss nursing! When I was still nursing, Bay Zand would fall asleep so easily on the plane, and then every time she would cry, she would just go back to the boob.
A little side note though: pack nipple cream and extra pacifiers. On one 12 hour flight, we lost our 3 pacifiers within the first hour on the plane, and Baby Zand used me as a pacifier for the rest of the flight. All I can say is: sore nipples galore!
Now how this all comes together!
This is how I pack: I bring the carrier or the backpack with the baby, and a carry on small suitcase. In this suitcase I have zip lock bags organized with all the things like extra clothes, extra food, extra diapers, my extra clothes. This is all back up. There will be the travel potty, and on top of that will be the Mary Poppins bag (plastic by the way, so easy to wipe off when we get to our destination!). In the Mary Poppins bag will also be zip lock bags with these things:
the toy bag with all those shiny new toys, books, etc
diapers and wet wipes
a small roll of garbage bags for full diapers, dirty clothes, or anything else that needs to be contained
the liquids: antibacterial gel (because airplanes yuck!), hand moisturizer, baby moisturizer for her dry face and lips, chap stick, travel sized tooth paste and tooth brush
foods like puree pouches, veggie sticks, bread sticks, sandwich, fruit, energy balls or bars, etc (check this post for many more ideas!)
iPad in a child friendly unbreakable case (yes, it's not sexy, but if it saves your screen!) and kids' headphones if you want
one set of extra clothes
stuffed animal for soothing
travel pillow and blanket for baby (see below for a super cool one that comes in a little pouch, and the pouch turns into pillow with blow up insert)
at least 5 pacifiers
tissues and antibacterial wipes (because I always have to clean the seat area!)
passports, tickets, wallet, cards, phone, etc.
baby's water bottle
extra water bottle bought after security check for me and to fill up baby's (actually, on the last trip it was more like 4 extra bottles!)
Ok, I think now you can see why this needs to be a Mary Poppins sized bag! Keep your passport, tickets, and credit card for any last minute purchases either in the pouch of the backpack, or a little over the shoulder handbag when using the carrier. Then when you get on the plane - remember, most airlines board parents with kids under 2 first, so you have some extra time - put baby down on the seat, open your suitcase, take out Mary Poppins bag and shove it underneath the seat in front of you, then put carrier in suitcase, and put it in overhead compartment (the backpack sadly does not fit in the suitcase, and will just have to take up extra space in overhead compartments, but again, you're on the plane first, so who cares?!?).
Last but not least... don't stress!
Yes, there is a ton to prepare for when traveling with a baby, but the most important thing is that you are not stressing out. Baby will pick up on your stress vibrations, and will herself become extremely stressed and fussy. If you relax, she will relax, and the trip will be so much more enjoyable for everyone.
So, now that I have shared all my travel wisdom with you, I would love to know what are some of your tips? Please share them with me below in the comments, because I can always use some new ideas that will make my travel life easier.
All the things I love to travel with: