What you need to know before traveling with a baby.
Yup! It's time to get on a plane again. This time we are three. We've always loved traveling and getting on the plane was something that I used to do with relative ease. All this up until a few years ago, where my aerophobia got a boost out of nowhere. Call it maternal instincts, name it what you like. It didn't stop me from flying however, cause that would mean what I fear has overtaken me, hence hundreds of hours of 'suffering' in the stratosphere. Currently, I am about to mark a new era of phobias. The fear of flying; and flying with a baby.
They say that half the stress of traveling with a baby is simply getting there. Once you’re at your final destination, it all seems to fall into place. At least, until you have to do it all over again on the return flight. Here are a few pieces of advice I gathered together on how to travel with a baby while keeping your sanity intact.
What's considered a safe age for a baby to travel: minimum 7 days old to travel by plane, ideally three to six months old to minimise the risk of infection -as their immune system is under-developed during the first three months of life. Avoid altitudes above 8,000 ft during the first month. The air around this altitude is thin and can make respiration a bit difficult for the baby.
Choosing your destination airport and the right airlines for you wisely matters. Each airline have their own rules when it comes to traveling with babies. From quick boarding, to offering seats with extra leg room or an in-flight bassinet. Check baggage allowance -especially in case you are carrying a stroller or a car seat along with you- and what are the restrictions on items that you are allowed to bring along on a hand luggage -i.e. expressed or formula milk, canned food etc. Is there a diaper changing table included on the aircraft's WC? Does the baby need a ticket of its own and is there any discount on it? What's the closest medical facility near the airport in case of an emergency? In case your little one has already established some routine, consider booking flights that are scheduled during their nap time. Also, for long-haul flights consider booking an extra seat for your little one no matter if they can travel on your lap for free or a small fee. Alternatively, you can request an extra seat next to you on the plane, or try booking a window and an aisle seat at once -it's likely nobody will book the middle seat.
Regarding flight Check-in and Boarding make sure you choose the right seats for you, whether at the front of the aircraft or at the back ensuring quicker boarding and exiting the plane. Check if the aircraft offers certain seats for families or people with children with extra legroom etc with or without an extra fee. Changes in the cabin pressure or the noise inside the plane could make an infant fussy and irritable. One of the worst nightmares of new parents is a crying baby on board. In order to prevent crying try to keep your baby entertained or Paediatric experts recommend bottle or breastfeeding and using a pacifier to soothe her.
Consider a sling or a baby carrier. Not only they help carry the baby and keep your hands free, but they can also substitute as a blanket, a nursing cover or a changing pad. A stroller on the other hand is a must! It can work as a bed, a chair, an all-around stuff-lugger. Make sure to have an umbrella or a cover for your stroller in warmer countries.
Depending on where you are traveling to, make sure you have a travel insurance. Traveling to your home country won't necessarily require one, but when you travel abroad or to some international destinations it should be a necessity. It can protect you against illness, injury, theft, cancellations, or in case anything goes wrong in general! Make sure to get informed in advance on where the nearest hospital, A&E or a paediatrician are located in case of need.
The secret to better traveling is being flexible! We used to spend hours planning our trips, where to go and what to see. I assume now with the baby we will have to learn to go with the flow. Keep it simple, have food, drinks, entertainment and a lot of patience where possible. Traveling with a baby can be stressful, but it's a new experience for them too! So, stay calm, expect the unexpected, and try to enjoy the time spend with your family as best as you can. It's also important to try and stick to routine as much as possible. If the baby needs an extra nap though, don't prevent it from happening. Stay relaxed!
Also, never over-schedule otherwise you will end up exhausted and disappointed! Try to add some baby-friendly activities on your itinerary so that even your little ones are happy. Try not to plan anything on the first night in case you are flying in the afternoon. Travelling takes a lot out of children and getting into a little holiday routine never hurts. Get settled and purchase all the essentials you will need for your trip. You can make up for the lost activities in the following days. Make your itinerary loose and ensure you will also have plenty of time to relax.
No matter where you are traveling to, you will need a crib and blankets. And while you can request a crib on your hotel or choose an airbnb home that provides one, your baby may still have a hard time falling asleep at a strangers bed. Consider bringing some of your baby's blankets and sheets with you. The familiar scents of home will also help them sleep better in a foreign environment. Also, try to stay on your home time zone if possible to avoid confusion. Also, it's worth checking whether there is a lift or not at your chosen stay.
The essential minimalist baby travel checklist~
When it comes to traveling, packing light is my motto. I hate overpacking or carrying my weight in a luggage when flying abroad. My general approach is that 'There is nothing you could possibly need that can't be purchased at your final destination -and which does not fit in a hand luggage'. Well, I am sure nowadays I will require a little bit more than that, so let's have a look at the essential baby pack-list.
1) enough diapers/wipes for a day or two, nail clippers & a nappy cream; wipes are literally every traveling parent's best friend (!)
2) you can buy bath soap/lotion + anything else you need at your final destination. You can however carry small bottles of each in case you arrive late and you have a dirty baby :)
3) a couple of bags to store soiled clothes
4) dish soap in travel container (to clean pump, bottles, etc.)
5) burp clothes and towels
6) your breast pump or formula equipment with insulated coverings / If your baby is eating solids pop a few well-wrapped jars and sachets of baby food into your luggage
7) a few pacifiers if your baby loves them + a pacifier clip
8) your own pharmacy: first aid kit, rehydration solution, nasal saline spray and aspirator -consider Calpol, a thermometer, or any other prescribed medicine you may have a hard time finding at your final destination
9) blankets & clothing depending on the weather -consider doing laundry at your destination
10) a foldable baby stroller with a separate diaper bag and potentially a sling or a baby carrier
11) a couple of toys or books to keep the baby entertained
12) baby passport and/or visa + a baby-on-board car sign
13) a separate diaper bag with diapering supplies + a changing mat + an extra set of baby and mum clothes in case clothes get soiled
14) hand sanitiser, disinfecting wipes, face masks, 100 SPF and a sun-hat
15) a great amount of patience and your best smile :)