As avid travellers, my wife and I knew we would eventually travel with baby Scarlett. Some people prefer to wait six months to a year before travelling with their baby, but we decided to do it at four months.
We weren’t intimidated by the challenge of travelling with a baby, but I do admit I was a bit nervous about the flight since this was a new experience for us. I’m happy to report that the flight and trip we took ended up being great and I’m here now to share some tips for parents who want to travel with their newborn for the first time.
Before you depart
The planning stage is arguably the hardest part about travelling since there are so many unknowns. That being said, this is also the easiest part of your travels since you have some control over your decisions. Here are tips that I have for parents travelling with a baby for the first time.
• Check with your family doctor to see if it’s okay to travel. You can travel whenever you want with your baby, but your doctor can advise you about anything that you may not have thought of such as vaccines.
• Try to choose a close location for your first flight. My wife and I went to Philadelphia since it was only a 90-minute flight and in the same timezone. You may not have a choice, but taking a short flight first can mentally prepare you for a long haul flight later.
• Although not mandatory, an umbrella stroller can be quite handy when travelling. They won’t be as sturdy as your regular stroller, but since they fold up, it can be easy to transport as you travel around.
• Be smart about what you pack for your baby. Despite what you may have heard, your baby won’t need 4 outfits a day (even if he/she spits up a lot). There’s also no need to bring a week’s worth of diapers if you know you can buy some when you land.
• Speaking of packing, you also need to be smart about what you pack for yourself. The last thing you want to do is overpack since you’ll already be carrying so much baby stuff.
• Check with your hotel to see if a crib is available. Every major hotel will have them available, but you’ll want to reserve one anyways to ensure you get one.
• Check to see if you need your car seat. We were able to travel without one since we able to take trains from the airport, but in many cities, it’s mandatory for children to be in a car seat while in cars. The problem is, finding a cab or Uber with a car seat designed for kids under the age of 12 months can be very difficult.
• Airlines will always try to seat parents with babies together, but it’s still in your best interest to reserve your seats in advance even if you have to pay for it. The window seat will give you slightly more privacy, but choose whatever you think is best for your family.
At the airport and on the plane
This is where things get real. When the day finally arrives to fly out, you may feel a bit anxious, but I assure that things aren’t nearly as intimidating as they seem.
• Arrive even earlier than you normally would to the airport. You’ll get access to some priority lines, but you’ll still be carrying way more stuff than you normally do. Arriving early is always better than late
• If you’re travelling for more than a week, long-term parking may save you money, but keep in mind that when you return it a may be a journey to get your car. It may be worth it to just pay the premium for onsite parking.
• When it comes to boarding, remember that you get to board early with your child. First class passengers still get on first, but you do get priority boarding.
• Speak with a flight attendant after you’re seated. They’ll give you the breakdown about safety procedures with a child and advise you on which washroom is best for changing your baby. Also note that when taking off, you should hold your baby in a burping position.
When you’ve reached your destination
You’ve survived the flight and now it’s time for some fun. Before you hit the ground running, there are a few things you’ll want to consider.
• Set up a diaper station as soon as you arrive in your room. We put a changing pad on top of a few towels to make things as comfortable as possible for the baby.
• If you need baby supplies, now is the time to pick them up. Diapers and formula can be picked up at just about any pharmacy
• It’s best to have low expectations when travelling with your baby. We decided that we would only try to see 2 – 3 attractions a day which were in close proximity. If we didn’t get to see everything, we would not be disappointed.
• Being flexible is also key. Your schedule really revolves around the baby now so if he or she needs a feeding, you’ll need to stop and take a break. You likely also want to wait in long lines to get into attractions.
• Switch between the stroller and carrying your baby. Every baby is different, but we found a mix of the stroller and carrying our baby to be effective when travelling.
• If you’re crossing time zones, there might not be much you can do about the baby’s sleeping schedule. Some people try to adjust in advance, but that may not work.
• I normally hate hop on, hop off buses, but with a child, they can be incredibly convenient. These buses will take you to all the major attractions so you don’t need to worry about transportation.
Hopefully, after reading my list of tips, you’ll feel better about travelling with a baby for the first time. You’ll likely still feel nervous, but trust me, things do get better.