Oct 122014
A straw: Our go-to plaything!

What are the secrets to successful travel with baby?

People keep asking, “What tips do you have for travel with a baby?” ever since we got back from our Puerto Rico adventure and a subsequent two-week U.S. road trip.

I’d been replying with long emails and extended phone conversations, when it suddenly occurred to me: Why not compile all the advice into one super-useful article on how to transport, feed, pack for, and entertain a baby while away from home? Here it is, chums. From now on if you ask me, I’m sending you this link! I hope it’s useful enough that you’ll share it, too.

With these tips, we're ready to see the world!

These tips will make it easy to see the world.

Part A: Transporting the Baby

Q1: Should I take the baby’s car seat on our trip? How do I carry it around? 

A1: If your baby still fits in a standard “bucket seat” (click for the car seat we like) which they usually do until one year, definitely take it, plus a light wheelie base that makes it into a stroller. People ask about renting a car seat at your destination, but there are two problems with that: First, you don’t know what condition the seat will be in, and second, if you’re picking it up at your destination, you won’t have safe transport in the taxi from home TO the airport. Just take your carseat and the wheelie base rather than renting one. (You don’t need the base that sits in the car, since most carseats just strap into a car with a seatbelt.)

Our baby modeling his carseat plus wheelie base travel system at the airport.

Our baby modeling his carseat plus wheelie base travel system at the airport.

Q2: What do I do at the airport with the carseat and wheelie base, then? 

A2: It is free to gate check a carseat and stroller base on a plane. Get your tickets, go through security, and go to your departure gate. Tell them you’ll be gate checking the seat and base, and they will give you labels to put on the items for when you leave them by the door of the plane. But wait — there’s a secret! At this point, ask the agent politely: “If the plane isn’t full, could you let me know so I can bring the carseat on?” This has worked about 50% of the time for us, meaning that, without shelling out hundreds of dollars for a ticket for the baby, we still got a whole free seat for Devi to chill in his carseat next to us. (Side tip: Nurse or feed the baby as the plane goes up and descends so his or her little ear-sies will be comfortable with the pressure change.)

Bring your own carseat if your baby is under 1. It's easier than you think!

Bring your own carseat for travel with baby. It’s easier than you think!

Q3: Aren’t you afraid the airline will damage your stroller base?

A3: We have a cheap secondhand wheelie base that is great for travel because I won’t be heartbroken if it gets damaged, but you’re right that it would be mighty inconvenient if a wheel was broken when we got to our destination. That said, I think people worry about that more than it actually happens. We’ve had no issues with property damage on any of our flights so far. One very inexpensive item you can get for extra peace of mind is a protective bag that fits a car seat or stroller. (Click to see the bag we like.)

Fluffy sunset clouds from the plane, happy because our baby got his own seat for free!

Fluffy sunset clouds from the plane, happy because our baby got his own seat for free!

Part B: Feeding the Baby

Q4: What should I bring to feed my little cherub during travel

A4: If you’re nursing, easy: Just pack a cloth nursing cover! If your baby is on solids, bring a plastic or silicone bib that just needs to be wiped off instead of laundered. (Click here for photos of Devi covered in food in Puerto Rico, but protected by the bib!) Bring baby wipes (the kind that are both diaper wipes and face wipes) to wipe down tables and restaurant high chairs before using them. Finally, bring a backup high chair.

Travel highchairs like The Lobster hook to a table.

Travel highchairs like phil&teds seat called “The Lobster” hook to a table.

Q5: Huh? What’s a backup high chair? 

A5: Though most restaurants have wooden highchairs that are just fine, one in ten times a place either doesn’t have a high chair, or has one that is so rickety that you refuse to use it. For these moments, I suggest packing one of two types of travel high chairs. The first kind is a soft seat that hooks securely onto a table, such as The Lobster from phil&teds (yes, that’s the correct spelling for the company name). The photo above shows The Lobster in action. It’s very cute! The second option for a travel highchair is a cloth strip that essentially ties the child to a regular adult chair. See the photo below for what this looks like.

Gleefully eating spaghetti using a fabric travel highchair.

Gleefully eating spaghetti using a fabric travel highchair.

Q6: What foods should I feed my baby during travel?

A6: We’ve had great success with just giving Devi small chunks of our adult food that are appropriate for him (ex: sweet potato, soft bread, fruit, avocado, low-mercury fish, etc.). We’ve never really had to order or pack any special food for the baby, and he’s now almost 11 months old. For water, we pack a travel sippy cup, or tip our water glasses into the little guy’s mouth.

Another view of The Lobster and the messes babies make eating solids.

Another view of The Lobster and the messes babies make eating solids.

Part C: What to Pack

Q7: Should I pack diapers and wipes, or buy them at my destination

A7: I highly recommend just packing a bunch of diapers, wipes, and other essentials (like formula, if you use it) instead of buying it at your destination. Here’s why: I don’t have time to go to the store at home, much less when I’m on vacation wanting to see the sights. You’ll save time and stress by just bringing your diapers. They squish down pretty small, anyway.

Scoping out fancy jams during travel in Vermont. (The front backpack carrier is a must-pack item!)

Scoping out fancy jams during travel in Vermont. (The front backpack carrier is a must-pack item!)

Q8: So what else should I pack for travel

A8: There are long lists online of what to pack for travel with baby, but really there are only a few essentials: Diapers, wipes, clothes appropriate for the climate (and layers to keep baby warm on the plane), the transport and feeding items mentioned above, a travel crib, a front backpack carrier to schlepp the baby around, medication, and necessary travel documents.

Flying is fun! (Photographed in Ohio after successful travel there.)

Flying is fun! (Photographed in Ohio after successful travel there.)

Q9: What are the necessary documents for travel with a baby?

A9: Technically, you are supposed to have a copy of baby’s birth certificate with you at all times during travel, even domestically. (We forgot to pack this once and were still allowed on the plane, but it was a close call.) For international travel, of course, you do need a cute little baby passport (which we had some complications getting, as you can see from this passport warning article). For plane tickets, “Lap Infants” under two years old are free, but still are issued a ticket.

Yaaay, eating carrots!

Who needs toys when you have carrots?

Part D: Entertaining the Baby

Q10: You didn’t mention toys. Don’t you need to pack toys?

A10: So… go ahead and pack two small, fun toys, but frankly, our baby is a lot more amused by a straw, his own fist, a random carrot (see the photo above) or staring at new people than any toy we’ve ever put in front of him. Pack accordingly. In other words, pack lightly.

Q11: How do I babyproof during travel, given that my wee one is on the move?

A11: Babyproofing during travel consists of one of the following: Watching baby like a hawk (yes, we know you love those electrical cords, but… no), wearing him in a front backpack (this soothes him very well when he’s crying because we won’t let him eat a tissue from the floor), and putting him in the travel crib.

Yay for travel with baby! It's easier than we thought!

Yay for travel with baby! It’s easier than we thought.

There you have my advice on traveling with a baby. The bottom line is that it’s easier than I imagined to see the world with a little one, as long as you keep in mind some basic advice. So, what would YOU add to or revise from this list? Do share.

Click for the next step: How to Travel With a TODDLER!


Tempted to click another article? Do it...

  25 Responses to “How to Travel With a Baby: 11 Tips to Make it Easy!”

  1. Thanks Lillie,
    You give me important information in this post. Really, This article is very helpful for me. I love travel with my baby 😀

  2. Just stumbled across your blog at just the right time. We are leaving for Puerto Rico in a week with our 10 month old. After reading your posts on Puerto Rico I am convinced we will have as great a time as I was hoping for. Thank you for sharing your experiences with all of us.

  3. Awesome post! We have flown twice with kids – once out of Logan in Boston and once out of T. F. Green in Providence. I not only found the prices cheaper using T.F. Green, but they were also a more kid friendly airport. So I think if you are someone who can feel overwhelmed in large, fast paced airports…it can be worth the drive to a smaller airport.

    Also, that picture of your husband, baby, and the map…are those all the places you’ve traveled?!?! Jealous!

    • What a great tip about smaller airports!
      Regarding the map, NO, we haven’t traveled all those places! Sorry for the confusion. It’s a map we encountered in a Vermont maple syrup farm where visitors pin their home town.

  4. Traveling with a baby has always been a stressful event for me and my husband. Even we have cancelled some of our trips. Your tips seem encouraging, we will definitely try them. Thanks!

  5. I love how you put these tips in a fun way. I have not traveled with my little one yet. It makes me nervous but I think I’ll end up doing it. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Great tips. I’ve traveled with both of my children since they were 4 months old. They’re now 7 and 8 and I’m looking forward to more adventures.

  7. Great tips! I love your tip on giving your little one small chunks of adult food when you travel. It’s a huge time saver,

  8. Great tips – and good to get little ones traveling!

  9. Thanks for sharing your insider tips on how to make traveling with a baby stress-free or at least less stressful.

    • You’re welcome! I’m not sure travel can ever be 100% stress-free, but I suppose neither can life! 🙂 It’s all good, though.

  10. Wow, very thorough! Don’t have kids yet, but I don’t want to let it stop my from moving around – especially between two countries! Will be cataloguing this for the future!

  11. Great tips! We’ve travelled a lot with our kids over the years and I agree with them all, and they’re exactly what we do – we even have a totseat 🙂

  12. I know kids under two are free so do they usually sit on their parents’ lap if there is no seat available for them? Really small babies have those bassinette/crib type things I’ve seen on international flights. I’ve actually read that holding your baby unrestrained is actually dangerous during a flight since if there is a lot of turbulence or worst-case scenario, you have to brace for impact, there is no human being strong enough who will be able to hold on to their baby that way. There have been cases of babies shooting out of their parents’ lap during turbulence because they were unrestrained during the flight and sitting on their parents’ lap. I know this is worst-case scenario and plenty of people travel that way but it makes me nervous enough that I think I will be getting my future baby (should I choose to have children) an extra seat. I want me, my baby, and everyone else on the plane to be safe!

    Desi seems to have enjoyed himself during his trip. Looks like he was a much better traveler than I was on my first international trip! Really helpful tips for moms and future moms. 🙂

    • You make an interesting point. In fact we had Devi strapped in 100% of the time, whether he was in a car seat on the seat next to us, or he was in our lap in a front backpack carrier. Rules about infant safety are rather inconsistent on planes. On the first flight, they allowed me to hold and nurse Devi on the ascent and descent. On the second flight, they made me stop nursing and strap him in.

    • I wish I had the funds to purchase tix for all of us. It would be close to $4K to just fly to Europe to see my parents. 🙁

      Anyway… We tried the bassinet with our 5 mos old and 1) she HATED it and had a major meltdown and 2) you have to take baby out and hold it if the fasten seat belt sign comes on. She slept on me for the remaining 8 hours.

      I read that checking a car seat may make it lose its integrity and may render it unsafe in potential accidents. But that’s full of worst case assumptions of course…

      Either way… great tips! Especially packing light when it comes to toys. We way overpacked and the sippy cup was the most entertaining and only “toy” needed.

    • Thanks for these interesting and useful additions!

  13. There’s nothing like getting a free seat beside you for the baby!

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