Travels with Baby - The Basics!
When @LittleMrGray had just turned 4-months old, I geared up for our first trip, and it was not a close destination in anyway. We were headed on a 6-hour flight from New York to LA and it was time to take the 'first-time-mom-fear-of-flying' that so many other mothers tried to implicate on me (insert eye roll here) head on.
I promise that traveling with your Petite Plus One is nothing to be afraid of but there is a lot of prep involved leading up to the expedition, and rightfully so! That said, because there's so much to cover here, I'm breaking up this series into several posts to get you all the way covered! You'll want to bookmark these posts and make use of the handy checklist included for your use at the end as you get ready for your first, or next, trip locally and abroad! (You're welcome!)
Please note that your needs for everything covered in the series greatly depends on several variables all including but not limited to:
- Traveling alone or accompanied with help
- Length of flight
- Duration of stay
- Layover (if any)
- Special needs of baby
While the frequent jetsetter in me, pre-baby, was highly skilled in packing a suitcase up to an hour before I had to be at the airport; travels with baby is a different type of game! It's best to prepare ahead than to leave things for last minute, and play your chances on that statement if you'd like to because you will learn the hard way if you risk it!
In The Suitcase
Whether it's a suitcase or piece of luggage you're carrying on or checking in there are a few things to consider when packing for your little one. Always pack weather appropriate clothes (that's obvious) but also pack layering items in the event that it gets chilly, or too hot, you can accommodate your child. Essentially when packing for @LittleMrGray, especially with him being a baby, my rule of thumb is I pack twice the amount of days in terms of clothes. So if we are going away for 10 days, then I'll pack 20 outfits. Some may say that's excessive, but I rather be with than to be without! Also, under different circumstances you never know whether time will allow for you to launder, or if you may have to extend your trip several days. When solo, you can wing it however. When with child, you need to plan ahead even if scenarios A-Z never take place.
With clothing, especially for babies - remember that there are some basics you shouldn't do without. They are: onesies/body suits, pajamas, and socks.
Aside from clothing, below are the rest of essentials to consider packing when traveling with baby:
- Diapers - It's essential that you pack enough diapers for the length of your journey. If you choose not to pack for purposes of bulk, then at least pack a decent stash to hold you down until you can get to a local drugstore that will carry the diapers you use.
- Diapering Essentials & Diapering Toiletries - Bring your own! Yes - I will encourage you to carry travel-sized versions below in your diaper bag, but if you're like me, you will have decent sized amounts in your suitcase as well (depending on the length of your trip). While it's easy to purchase diapers at different destinations (if that's the game you play, I rather not), it may not always be as smooth finding your particularly preferred diapering essentials and toiletries. For example, a CVS in Wyoming, may not carry that special organic diaper balm you have been using on your baby's tush, and they may not carry your preferred brand of other items such as diaper wipes.
- Body Toiletries (Bath, Skin, Hair) - Also, BYO! Skin cream, hair shampoo (and brushes), body oils, body washes and soaps...all of these you want to pack. A lot of companies make travel-friendly sized portions of these items, if not it's always great to purchase travel-sized containers for light packing. If you can't find everything you need in travel size or are in a rush, Cetaphil Baby makes an awesome and convenient travel-friendly Mommy & Me Kit, $17, Amazon.
- Toys - Lovies/security blankets, teething toys, plastic toys, plush toy - it's always great to pack 3-4 of your little one's favorite toys for comfort and entertainment during the trip.
- Formula - For formula feeding moms, packing enough formula is one of the first things to make sure you take care of when preparing your baby's suitcase. This is one thing that I don't suggest waiting to purchase until you arrive at your destination as this is your baby's food. For those babies who have begun solids, you can choose if you'd like to pack organic food pouches into your suitcase as an option.
In The Diaper Bag (And Or Carry-On Bag)
Items in your diaper bag are just as important, if not more than those in your suitcase, because these are the key items that will ensure that your transport will go smoothly. For traveling, in your diaper bag I recommend packing:
- Two to Three Outfit Changes, Including One Shirt Change for Yourself - You simply never know when baby will have an accident on themselves or on you; or blow out, or will simply need additional or lesser clothes
- Medication - Airports and airplanes are packed with grade-A germs, and I have seen babies literally fall sick from flights, and making their parents trip end in a completely different fate. I strongly recommend traveling with infant acetaminophen, infant cough syrup, infant allergy medicine/antihistamine, infant gas relief drops. I love the entire Little Remedies line!
- Toys - Just as noted above, I like to also pack some toys into my diaper bag for quick access - a security blanket toy, a teether, and a rattle or other cognitive toy at this stage for @LittleMrGray to play with.
- Travel Sized Hand Sanitizer - I usually buy these in bulk because I will always have one in various places! For this purpose I specifically love Babyganics Germinator Alcohol-Free Sanitizer, $4, Amazon; which is much more gentle and hands and free of those fumy smells.
- Diapers - Whatever you have in your diaper bag...double that for the airport and in-flight journey. I keep the amazing and compact Skip Hop Pronto Signature Portable Changing Mat Station, $30 - Amazon, in my bag at all times! It comes with a changing pad, wipes clutch, various zip pockets and a large mesh pocket. It also has handles which make carrying a dream. This is awesome because I can just take it out of my diaper bag to wherever I'm changing a diaper without having to tote the entire diaper bag. As far as diapers go, I specifically like to keep overnight diapers in my diaper bag (around ten at a time when traveling. I personally, will only put Grayson in an overnight diaper when we are airport bound and I learned the hard way as to why I had to do this. Quick story: On my first flight out, I made the rookie mistake of leaving the house with him in a regular diaper keeping in mind that I would have enough time for a pre-boarding diaper change. Well due to unforseen circumstances (aka NYC rush-hour traffic), I wasn't able to make the planned diaper change and had to make a massive dash to the gate. This led to Grayson, having - at that point, an overly wet diaper and leaking through to his clothes. He was livid and uncomfortable and had a full 25-minute meltdown that lasted from the moment we boarded the plane, all the way through taxing and into our ascend. He finally calmed down once we made it into the air. But until that point, it was countless shh'ing, soothing, stripping down, finding all types of comfort, and finally I managed to change his diaper through the screams in a rush to get him dry, prior to sitting down for takeoff. All of that, but nope, he was still heavily annoyed. So from there on out - lesson learned. Every time we leave the house he is in an overnight diaper, just in case should the occasion arise again where I can't change his diaper in the normal 3-hour interval that I normally like to. Aside from the Skip Hop diaper clutch mentioned above, some essentials I carry for in-flight are:
- Breast Milk/Formula - This one is super important. Whether you're nursing or formula feeding, please keep a good and substantial amount of either in your diaper bag, or whatever bag will be kept close and put under the seat in front of you! I will also add, that unless you're planning to nurse on your flight or at any moment during the journey - that you should have at least two ready-made bottles...same rule for formula feeders.
- Muslin Swaddle Blanket - This is one item that I always like to keep in my diaper bag, traveling or not. I keep a muslin blanket in my diaper bag for the many multiple uses that it is good for. Whether you need it as a cover for a quick nap spot, or as a wrap for baby, or some quick swaddle action, these never fail, and when folded tightly they don't take up much room. I love the classic muslin blankets from Aden and Anais.
- Feeding Essentials - Burping and regular bibs, spare paper towels, utensils (if feeding solids), solid foods in pouches, travel dishes; all of these are a go as needed.
- Assorted Wipes - Aside from baby wipes, I keep travel packs of toy/high-chair wipes, as well as pacifier wipes which come in handy for our Wubbanubs! Check out the Babyganics Toy, Table & High-Chair Wipes (4-pack), $24 - Amazon; and the Munchkin Arm & Hammer Pacifier Wipes, $3.32 - Amazon.
- Travel-Sized Lysol Spray - Keep this close and ready to go! I immediately spray down EVERYTHING before I even touch my seat on an airplane! Lysol To Go, $4.43 - Amazon.
Aside from making sure that the airline has amended your child to your airline ticket, it's important you familiarize yourself with the airline's policy regarding infant travel. Find out what you can check in curbside and at the gate, and also what you can check in for free! Also look into priority boarding privileges for you and your party, and special seating arrangements if desired.
Making Baby Comfortable
Depending on your destination, airline and aircraft; sometimes you will be able to reserve an in-flight bassinet for your baby. These are always available on a first-come, first-serve basis so you will have to contact your airline and inquire and continue to follow up with them as you get closer to your travel date.
I like to aim to arrive at least one full hour prior to my usual arrival as if I were traveling solo. So if I'm traveling on a domestic flight where the requirement is to arrive an hour prior to takeoff, then I will arrive two hours prior to. Why? Well for one, I like to plan for unexpected scenarios, and two - the extra hour will normally allow for time to feed baby, change baby, settle baby at the gate, etc.
Bring Your Own Car Seat
You should never rent a car seat at any destination that you're traveling to. No car rental company will ever be able to tell you that car seat's full history, including accident history, owner history, and expiration dates. It is vital that if you cannot travel with your own car seat, that you have the ability to purchase your own or have one waiting for you upon arrival.
Remember, Baby Gets Same Carry-On Allowance As You (In Most Cases)
Most of the time, your baby (in-lap infant or not) will be allowed the same carry-on allowance as you so use this to your benefit!
Learn what documentation you will need for traveling with your baby. In most cases, local U.S. flights will not require anything, but I still travel with my son's immunization records just in case I need to present them to anyone at any point during my trip.
As you make your way to and through security, feel free to ask any security agents for assistance. I've found them to be super helpful and considerate when I've traveled with Gray. Also, know that they will normally ask to inspect your bag, stroller and even formula. However, carrying on ready-made formula, or bottles of expressed milk, however many you may feel you need for your trip is absolutely fine! Another good thing is to introduce yourself to the gate staff upon arrival and also to your cabin crew; this way your new "buddies" will be more inclined to lend their new familiar face a hand, should you need it!
A good thing to do if you can, is wait to feed your baby until you've begun taking off. As their ears are so sensitive, the ascend and descend from the air can cause painful ear popping that will usually lead to a screaming outburst. So best to feed baby before leaving the house, this way they are hungry at take off, and then they can usually go down for a nap, resume any other scheduled feedings and also feed as you're landing. Since Grayson has a preference for warmed bottles, we have an amazing travel bottle warmer from Tommee Tippee ($12) that we LOVE, where all we do is stop at the first coffee shop we see past airport security, and ask them to fill it with hot water. This is then perfect for once we are seated and settled, and ready to warm a bottle!
Should you be concerned about possible damage to your checked-in stroller or car seat, then I strongly recommend these amazing travel bags and covers for your car seats and strollers from Emmzoe - they're $60 each and offer superior protection to your items. Plus they're roomy enough that after you've stashed your stroller or car seat in them, feel free to add anything else into it! It's a free checked item, so make use of it, chances are that the security agents won't inspect it that hard to see if you've tossed in an extra jacket or not!
Lastly, questions on the best travel strollers? Check out our post here!