A few months back I shared my top tips for traveling while pregnant. This post is a follow up for those who want to continue traveling after their pregnancy and with their baby.
It has been 9 months since my little Karma has entered this world. In this short time, we have traveled extensively in and outside Germany. We have made quite a lot of international trips, crossed continents, visited mountains, beaches, national parks, busy cities and even took her to two music festivals.
Every single time I upload something on Instagram with Karma in a new country, I get contacted by new and would-be moms asking me how I do it. After traveling to India, Poland, Netherlands, Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina with my little one, I have FINALLY decided to share my top tips for traveling with an infant.
I was earlier going to write a post with just a few important points and later create separate posts dedicated to tips for flying with a baby, campervan tips and more. Instead, I have written everything in just one post and create separate sections with sub-points for flying, camping, etc.
Change Your Mindset
The first and the most important thing about traveling with a baby is changing your mindset. Sounds like some wise-ass bullshit? It is more than that.
Someone wrote to me on Instagram yesterday saying that I make traveling with the baby appear easy. Well, it is as simple as you make it.. Or as complicated as you unintentionally make it.
If you think that it will be a lot of work and stress to travel with your baby even before you even try it, then it probably will be. It is simple – everything you do with a baby inside your house, you can also do outside.
You will be surprised to know that babies adapt much better than you can imagine. Maybe they will cry on their first day but they will accept the new surrounding well on their second day.
Tips for Flying with a baby
Flying with a baby can be a total nightmare, but there are things you can do to make it better. This below ten points will give you tips for flying with an infant, how you can make things better and have fun.
Avoid Layovers, Book Direct Flights
Direct flights cost a little extra but if you’re flying alone with your baby, I highly recommend you try your best to look for a direct one. Your peace of mind is worth every penny. This is especially if you’re flying alone with your baby.
In case you’re traveling with your husband or another person, then go ahead and brave an indirect flight.
Call the Airline and Ask for a bassinet. (and thank me later)
Call the airline in advance and ask for a seat with a bassinet. It will make your life very easy. Imagine spending the entire flight with the baby on your lap, versus a flight where the baby has her own place for sleeping and sitting.
The reason why I recommend you call in advance is because many airlines have limited bassinets. Karma had her own bassinet when we flew to and back from India. She spent a lot of time playing and sleeping in it. She wasn’t the only baby on the flight but she was one of the few that had a bassinet.
Bring the Pram to the Airport
Flying with a baby is more than just the actual flying – it is also about moving from point A to B in the airport. For me, the flight was easier than the first hour after landing when I had to go through immigration. Go for an easy to handle pram that collapses easily and folds super small. I have one from Cybex, that I can fold and open with just one hand or foot.
To make your life simple at the airport, fly with a pram (or a buggy). I did that too! I had to call my airline in advance and find their policy about traveling with a pram. I was able to use the pram until the time I boarded my flight.
Baby Carrier or Sling
Baby carrier or sling will save your life when the baby refuses to go in the pram. Sometimes they need to be physically close to you, so wearing them on you will work well. There will be times when the pram will not be available to you and the sling will make things easier.
Even though I had carried Karma’s pram and used it till the time I boarded my flight in Frankfurt, I did not get it when I landed. I had to pick it up from the other checked-in bags. Thank God I had carried the carrier in my cabin bag, else, it wouldn’t have been possible for me to walk 2 – 3 kilometers inside the airport and go through the security and immigration with her on my lap as well as my cabin backpack.
I have a baby carrier from Chicco that can be used for small and big babies. I also bought a sling, but Karma rejected it completely. I know many other babies that prefer slings to carriers. You should try them both at a store, or order both from the internet and return what your baby doesn’t like.
Check-In Early (and also Board your Plane Early)
There is a reason why the airlines always request those who’re flying with a baby to check-in early. It is not just better for them but also better for you when you check-in and board before everyone else does.
It is always good when your baby adjusts to the seat and the plane before other people arrive. When you check-in early, you can always ask for a seat with an empty seat next to you. Reconfirm at this point about the bassinet, baby food or any other requests that you may have.
Protecting Baby’s Ear While Flying
There is so much wrong information on the internet that things can be misleading. Being concerned about Karma’s ears before I was flying to India alone with her, I checked the internet to find out how I can help her avoid ear pain.
Most of the websites mentioned I should breastfeed my baby during the takeoff and landing so that the sucking helps her ears. I wish it was that easy, but it is NOT ALLOWED to feed the baby during those times as per the safety rules.
Babies are supposed to be held up close to the chest with their head over your shoulder and your hand behind their backs during take off and landing – it is mandatory. Please follow this rule for your baby’s safety.
In my case, the only things that helped were pacifiers and water sippers. No, I took the safety instructions very seriously and did not breastfeed my girl during take-off and landing. (And it isn’t anatomically possible to do so when you’re supposed to hold the baby’s head over your shoulders.)
Karma has Chicco dummies pacifiers and water sipper. She doesn’t ever take dummies but thankfully took it when our flight took off. I’m happy that I sterilized them and carried them in my hand bag before boarding. During landing, she was close to my chest and was sipping water from her sippy.
Change your Baby’s Diaper Before the Flight
Just a few minutes before you have to board the plane, change your baby’s diaper. You will not be able to change the diaper during the takeoff, which sometimes can take 15-20 minutes.
Changing Diapers on the Plane
Ask your flight steward to tell you which toilets have diaper-changing tables. Most planes have small (and pretty useless) diaper tables in their already cramped toilets. There won’t be space for you to carry a diaper bag. (I have a detailed point later in this post about ditching diaper bags).
Carry the basics – diaper, disposable sheet, wipes in a small waist pouch so that you can easily manage the stuff in a small airline toilet. Carry a small toy or something that can keep your baby’s hands occupied during the process so that you can be quick. I normally let Karma play with my long necklace, she loves holding the colorful beads in her hands.
Whatever you do, DO NOT FLUSH THE DIAPER DOWN THE TOILET. Believe it or not, someone did it on an American Airlines flight and people were told to pee in a bag because toilets were sealed off!
If the airplane doesn’t have a diaper table, then be prepared to change the diaper anywhere. Ask the airline staff for their best recommendation. When you absolutely have no choice, then you will have to change it on your tray table.
Breastfeeding on the Plane
Don’t be ashamed to breastfeed on an airplane. It is natural and your baby needs his or her meals. Breastfeeding on an airplane is more discreet because the person in front of you won’t be able to see you unless they turn. The person behind will only be able to see your back. The only people that will be able to see you are the flight stewards. Moreover, you will probably get the seats that are right in front because you’re traveling with a baby.
If you’re regularly breastfeeding your baby, then I highly recommend you invest in at least a couple of comfortable nursing tops and scarves. Wear it on the plane for discreet breastfeeding so that you’re comfortable.
I have said this before and will say this again, make sure you burp your baby after breastfeeding especially on an airplane to avoid the risk of SIDS.
Let Your Baby Charm the People Around You
When your baby is in a good mood, try your best to let him or her charm the people around you. After all, they may have to listen to her cry (or maybe that has already happened). Your baby’s smile will let you earn some brownie points, it will help you move faster in queues and people around you will suddenly become nicer. Your baby won’t be a small baby for more than 12 months, so use their charm well.
Pick Your Destination Mindfully
Pick places where you will feel relaxed. Sometimes big cities can stress you and also your baby. While natural sites like lakes, rivers, mountains, beaches can relax your mind. When you’re relaxed, even your baby will.
When I say pick your destination “mindfully”, I mean pick a place where you can imagine yourself having fun with your baby. There should be enough interesting things for your baby to see around. I don’t mean children dedicated places, but a place that’s not dull for your baby.
Be realistic and don’t expect to reach places that you have to visit at a fixed particular time. If you’re visiting a highly touristy attraction, then most likely the best time to avoid the crowds will be in the early morning. If your baby doesn’t let you leave at that time, then consider skipping that attraction entirely.
Choose Your Method of Traveling Wisely
As per my experience, the easiest way of traveling with a baby is on a train. Babies sleep well on trains because of the swaying motion. Unlike car [or bus], they don’t need to be confined to a seat.
Traveling with a baby in a car is easier than by air. Road trips are easy and fun because you can stop when you want to. The only thing that can get a little difficult on a road trip is the time when your baby gets sick of the seat.
Keep your baby up to date with vaccinations. If you’re leaving for an international trip, check with your baby’s doctor about the necessary vaccinations. Traveling to another country with your baby without vaccination can be life threatening. Please be smart and don’t risk your baby’s life because of some anti vaccination bullshit that exists on the internet.
Ditch Big Diaper Bags
Typical diaper bags are big, bulky and useless. You don’t need them. All you need is a disposable waxy sheet on which your baby can lie down, baby wipes and a few diapers. I was able to fit these things in my small waist pouch!
Ditching the diaper bag may appear to be a counter-productive tip, but it will save time and make it easy for you to move around quickly. Just put the necessities in your own small handbag. Of course, it will work better if you carry a small bag for yourself (hehe).
Many people told me to carry extra baby clothes, extra diapers, and extra everything. That turned out to be the most useless tip for traveling with an infant. I did carry extra everything but realized how it slowed me down, even though my suitcase had wheels.
Maybe I overdid it but I did carry 20 onesies but used just half of them. The only things I wished I had carried enough were her bibs because she’s a messy eater.
The thing about carrying extra diapers is that it is possible to buy diapers everywhere. Carry enough for a few days but you can always buy more at your next destination.
To be on the safe side, check about the stores and supermarkets, closing days and times. For instance, if you’re traveling in Germany, the supermarkets aren’t open on Sundays so you can’t buy diapers.
But hey, I have visited a lot of countries with Karma and also a few remote locations, I found diapers everywhere. The only place where I didn’t find was inside a music festival, but I was fully prepared for this. Anyway, festivals are a different ball game and I will write a separate post about taking your baby to a music festival.
About Packing Toys
Carry 4-5 baby’s favorite toys that are small, but don’t overdo it. Carry something that your baby can chew on, a toy with music, a soft book that can keep her occupied for long (Karma has one from Fisher Price and Lamaze) and just something small that he or she likes to hold and play with.
Be smart and carry the toys that can be attached on to the car seat, pram, or the bed. It helps if you carry toys that can be washed easily. Be aware that battery-operated toys and extra batteries can sometimes not be checked in.
Be Prepared to Breastfeed Everywhere
Believe it or not, I have breastfed Karma while hiking in the Himalayas, on a train station in Amsterdam, many restaurants all over Europe, and I’m sure more places that I can think of.
Regular breastfeeding is not just good for the baby, but is good for you too. It is the most natural thing and you should not be ashamed of feeding your baby anywhere. It helps if there’s a private spot available so that the baby doesn’t get distracted. Wear a nursing top, poncho or a long scarf to be discreet.
Be Prepared to Change Diapers Everywhere
You may not always find a diaper changing station, so be prepared to change anywhere. As mentioned in my “ditch the diaper bag” point, carry a disposable mat, a few diapers, and wet wipes.
A disposable mat doesn’t need to be disposed of after every single use. We only dispose of the mat when the baby pees or poops in it. This mat will help you set up your diaper changing spot anywhere – even on the ground. You can buy them in bulk. I bought around 100 but I haven’t even used half of them.
A golden rule of traveling with a baby is realizing that they have their own needs and you can’t travel at a crazy fast pace as before.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to visit 10 attractions in a day (even if they’re next to each other), then you will have to relax and take it slow because you have no other option. Pick one or two things to do in a day and do them with a lot of love.
There will be times when you think you’re done and ready to leave on time, the baby will poop or puke right before to make sure you’re late. Accept it with a smile because there’s nothing you can do about it.
Consider Renting a Car
Look for options to rent a car on your travel destination, it will make things very convenient for you. Ask for a car with a baby seat. This way, you will open more possibilities for yourself and will be able to travel at your own pace in your own (rented) car.
Car Travel with Baby OR Tips for Traveling with a baby on a Camper van
Travel Car Seat
Invest in a good and comfortable car seat for your baby. You will have to change it depending on their age. A seat for a newborn baby is different as compared to a 6-month-old. Sounds expensive? Look for a second hand one.
There are many things where you can save money, but your baby’s car seat should not be one of them. Safety and comfort are extremely important and are worth the money.
Pram will save your day – Take it Everywhere
Prams are awesome and will save your life. Babies love to be pushed around in their prams as they gaze around. The best part is that they can also sleep easily in their prams as you take them around.
Get a pram that is foldable and compact so that you can keep it in the boot of your car or travel with it on a bus or airplane. Attach a few of your baby’s favorite toys on the pram, preferably something with music or lights.
Driving Through the Night – Yay or Nay?
Before we started traveling with Karma on our camper van, many people mentioned that we should drive through the night during her normal sleeping hours.
It sounded very easy but it did not work. We tried it many times. Each time she slept but woke up after a while because she wanted to change her position. I do know that she moves around on her bed a lot even though she sleeps through the night.
So, the tip about driving at night during the baby’s sleep time did not work for us. Also, when you drive through the night and reach your destination in the morning – you would at some point need to sleep – right? Considering the best situation that your baby actually sleeps while you drive, how will you sleep after reaching your destination if your baby is awake after sleeping through the drive?
Try to Reach your Camping Spot or Destination before 5 PM.
Try your best to reach your camping spot or hotel at least 2 hours before your baby’s bedtime. This way, you can settle her sleep environment, bathe the baby, get food for yourself, etc – before putting him to sleep.
I have intentionally used the word “try” instead of “do”. I understand that the most desired situation may not end up being the actual scenario. Heck, even though we knew that our life’s easier when we find a spot for our van before 5 pm but we did not end up doing it often.
Baby Travel Sleep Options
Sleep is the most important aspect and when it’s nailed, everything falls into place. When your baby is well-rested, he or she won’t be fussy but instead will smile and make you happy.
Try to build a fixed sleep schedule for your baby before you travel. The schedule should have at least two naps during the day and the exact same bedtime each night. If you work hard enough to fix a sleep schedule from day 1, then getting them to sleep while traveling will be much easier.
Build Sleep Association Before the Trip and Bring The Items Along
It helps if you try to build your baby’s sleep association with a few items. This can be a “sleep toy”, a sleeping bag, blanket or even white noise. Carry them all, it will help your baby sleep faster.
Sleeping Spot and Sleep Environment
Create a comfortable sleeping spot and environment before their sleeping time. If you do so, then they may fall asleep on their own when their sleep time approaches. Even not, help them a little by rocking them.
A comfortable sleeping spot doesn’t necessarily have to be a bed, but their pram or car seat or even a picnic mat on the ground can work well.
Ask Your Hotel for a Baby Bed
Even though we did not stay in luxury hotels, our request for a baby bed was always fulfilled. We booked an apartment in Croatia and a homestay in Bosnia through Booking dot com, and to our surprise, they put a baby bed in our room as per our request. It made things very easy for us.
…or carry a camping Baby Bed
Yes, I did tell you to travel light but this point can work if you’re traveling in a car or a van. Nowadays there are plenty of awesome camping beds on the market that can be folded up small. They are very good to use as travel baby beds.
No, we did not feel the need to carry one because our van has two beds. Karma sleeps on the top bed.
Do Everything You Can to Help them Sleep
I’m all in for teaching your baby to fall asleep on their own, but things are a little different when your traveling. You see, you’re taking the baby out of their usual sleeping spot and imitating it somewhere else. Your baby may need some time to adjust. During this time, don’t hesitate to help them by rocking, feeding or holding them.
Normally my little one sleeps on her own on her bed in Germany and doesn’t need a lot of help from me. While traveling, she slept on her own only when we were moving in a car or train or so. At other times, even if I was outside I made sure I held her and rocked her a little during her nap timings. The first day (or even more) weren’t easy but later she slept during her earlier timings.
When your baby’s stomach is full, he or she will sleep better and deeper. Check the next point for food tips on the go.
Baby Food, Snacks and Fluids
If Your Baby is Smaller than 6 Months
If your baby is less than 6 months and is only drinking from the breast, then your life is going to be super easy. If your baby drinks from the bottle, then there is going to be more work for you as you have to sterilize the bottles, prepare the milk and give it to the baby at the right temperature.
If Your Baby is on Solids
If your baby has started solids, then try to carry premade puree bottles or easy to prepare porridges. I carry both – normally I just have to add water and milk to her porridge mix. Always carry snacks that your baby loves, like bananas or baby cookies. You don’t have to carry a lot, just carry enough for the way and the next few days. Most likely you can usually buy these things at your travel destination.
I normally buy Hipp’s food for my little one. She loves the Good Night porridge, Multigrain cereal, and Mixed Veg soup. They’re organic and the quality is excellent.
Moving over to snacks, usually bananas will solve every problem. Carry a few and also buy them fresh at your destination. I also carry Bebivita Baby cookies that Karma loves.
Keep Your Baby Hydrated
When it comes to fluids, please remember it is very important to keep your baby hydrated while traveling, especially when they start eating solids. Before solids, the breast milk takes care of everything and babies normally don’t need water.
Carry a water sipper that your baby is comfortable using. Wash it regularly and keep changing the water. Give the sipper to your baby often.
Pack some Snacks for Yourself
Make sure you PACK A SNACK FOR YOURSELF too. Traveling with a little one requires you to be at your most energetic self, so don’t let yourself stay hungry for long.
The More, the Merrier
Those who know me well will be shocked to see I’m saying this. The thing is, I love traveling solo or just with San. I hate to travel in a group. However, when you travel with a baby, things are so much easier when there are more people.
Consider asking 1 – 2 or your close friends to accompany you if they’re free. When there are more people around to play with your baby or to carry him or her for a while, you will finally be able to relax and enjoy a few minutes of peace.
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