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.
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.