The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with a Baby
Why travel with a baby?
Travel does not have to end when you start having kids! In fact, our international travel journey didn’t begin until after we had Whitney! Before we started traveling full-time we paid off 100k in student debt, this was a big part of our preparation, you can click here to read that blog post. Once we started our long-term travel lifestyle we learned that traveling with a baby was doable and did not take away for our travel experience. Traveling with a baby abroad gives you an instant connection to people you meet. Having a baby on an international trip adds to the fun and entertainment of the trip! It’s so fun seeing little ones in beautiful destinations around the world.
Getting a passport
Passports typically take 4-6 weeks to process so be sure to complete this step with plenty of time in advance. In our experience we’ve always received a passport within 3 weeks but you always want to be safe. You’ll need to apply for the passport either at a passport agency or the post office. Not every post office has a passport service center so be sure to call ahead to find one. You can visit this website for all of the information you need for the passport application.
Traveling with too many things can turn an exciting trip into a nightmare, especially when you have little kids. Packing and unpacking for a family is time consuming and can cause headaches if you’re disorganized or have too many things. We have found that traveling with only the essentials eases every step of the travel process. Minimalist family travel makes for easier airport check-ins, smaller car rentals, easy public transportation, and simple packing and unpacking. It also gives you peace of mind knowing that you haven’t left anything behind! To help you pack I created the perfect packing checklist which you can download for free here.
How to pack for an international trip
We all know that the list of items to have and bring for baby is endless. From diapers to high chairs, books, devices, trinkets, nose suckers, puffs, bibs, and more! While on the road or abroad it’s important to only bring the essentials because it will make your life so much easier! Trust us, you don’t want to have bags and bags of baby things to pack and unpack at each location. One rule of thumb is to pack for 1 week of travel (even if your trip is a month-long). With this rule in mind, you’ll eliminate things that you don’t need. Also ask yourself the question, “Have I used this in the last month?” If yes, then you can consider bringing it with you if no, then don’t pack it. If there is a situation abroad where you need something that you didn’t bring with you there will be stores where you can get what you need when you need it.
Packing cubes have made all of the difference in how we pack for our trips. Packing cubes keep everything organized within a suitcase. We use 1 medium size packing cube for all of the babies clothing, shoes, and accessories. Click here for a fantastic packing cube set on Amazon.
6- 8 outfits (solid colors are best for travel and for photography) Here are some onesies we use from Amazon.
1 dress (for females)
4 leggings or pants
2 jackets (warmer sweater + 1 raincoat)
2 pairs of shoes
* The type of clothing will change depending on the location you’re visiting and the time of year. So be sure to know the weather where you’re heading! You will need a few additional layers if you are traveling somewhere cold!
Bring a small bag of laundry detergent so you can wash baby’s clothes in your sink if you don’t have a washer where you’ll be staying. We’ve done this many times and it means that we can travel with fewer items.
Diaper Bag for travel
Your diaper bag can double as your carry-on backpack during flights. While a traditional diaper bag is nice to have you also just need a good durable backpack that you can use everyday for site-seeing, hiking, etc… A few bags that we have used and recommend.
Ju-Ju-Be makes some fantastic backpack diaper bags called the Ju-ju-be BFF that we’ve used for many hikes as well as on airplane rides.
We’ve also used the Thule Subterra backpack 30L, this one is great if you need laptop storage.
The Tom Bihn Synapse bags also function great as a diaper bag because they have plenty of pockets for organization. We have loved them all!
*When packing your diaper bag you can use a separate smaller bag (I use a small packing cube) for quick access to bottles, formula, diapers, and wipes. This will make it so much easier to grab when you need to take the baby to the bathroom during a flight.
Diapers, Wipes, AND Formula
The baby essentials! Bring enough diapers, wipes, and formula (if you need it) for 5 days. For us, this is usually 30 diapers, 1 large pack of wipes, and 32oz of formula. You can purchase the rest that you need for your trip while you are in the country or location. After you’ve packed your bags you can stuff extra diapers in the extra space if you have some since diapers weigh close to nothing! Wherever you are visiting you can get smaller items if you need them, don’t over pack baby items. Remember to ask yourself if you’ve used it within the last month, if not then don’t pack it!
Teethers and Toys
It’s good to have a few small toys for the airplane and car rides. Our favorite travel toy is a Sophie Giraffe Teether. Your baby can play with things that you find where you’re staying, you don’t need many toys. Spatulas and measuring cups have worked great for us!
Best Baby travel gear - compact travel stroller, car seat, carriers, and travel crib
Mountain buggy nano stroller - We absolutely recommend traveling with a compact stroller. Having a stroller will save your energy while going through airports and help you travel with ease in cities. The Mountain Buggy Nano stroller is our favorite travel stroller and has been one of our best investments. Why do we love it? It’s very light, folds up easily, fits many car seats without an adaptor, has storage underneath, and can fit in the overhead bin. We’ve been traveling with it for two years and can highly recommend it! Click here to view the Mountain Buggy Nano stroller on Amazon.
Mountain Buggy Protect Car seat - This car seat is one of the lightest and smallest car seats you can find. This car seat also fits perfectly inside the Mountain Buggy Nano stroller so it’s perfect for going through the airport. If you choose to travel without a car seat you can rent one from a car rental agency however, they tend to cost between $8- $16 per day which is pricey. Click here to view the Mountain Buggy Protect Car seat on Amazon.
Baby Carrier - Baby carriers will save your life in airports, on hikes, exploring cities, visiting museums, etc.. We think it is an absolute must for traveling with a baby! There are many baby carriers for travel on the market and we have found three that we really love.
Ergobaby - Cost $140 The Ergobaby carrier is likely the most popular baby carrier on the market and for good reason. These carriers are very light and come in a mesh fabric so they are extremely breathable. We’ve used the Ergobaby for two years and it’s still our go-to carrier. Click here to view the Ergobaby carrier on Amazon.
Contours Journey Carrier - Cost $120 Another great carrier option! This carrier comes in fun designs/colors and looks great in photos (which is a big factor for us). The fabric is thinner and this carrier packs up smaller than the Ergo Baby. I love the extra pocket for keys or a phone on the front of the carrier. Click here to view the Contours Journey Carrier on Amazon.
Mountain Buggy Juno Carrier - Cost $130 This carrier comes with an infant insert that is fantastic for babies under 9 lbs. This carrier has a very thick hip belt which seems to help carry the weight of the baby as they get older, which is important if you’re going on long hikes or trails. Click here to view the Mountain Buggy Juno carrier on Amazon.
Travel crib - We travel with the Phil and Ted travel crib. We've had this from the beginning and love it so much. It's light to carry and always fits easily in our rental cars. It's really easy to set up and take down. Most airlines will check-in your travel cot for free but it’s best to check with your specific airline beforehand to make sure! Click here to view the Phil and Ted travel crib on Amazon.
Formula - Nervous about what your baby is going to eat while traveling? Babies six months and under are the easiest because they can continue their normal milk routine being breastfed or drinking formula. Purchasing baby formula while traveling also shouldn’t be an issue as they sell it everywhere. We have never had any issues with purchasing baby formula. We have also never had any allergic reactions or stomach issues as we have changed formulas from country to country. If you’re extremely nervous about it then take enough formula for the entire trip.
Formula dispenser - This type of container is one that has individual sections for formula portion sizes. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click here to see it on Amazon. We use these containers every single day, it is the best way to quickly make bottles while on the go!
Bottles - We travel with only 2 or 3 baby bottles. We have used parents choice bottles from Walmart and they work great. Also if you lose a bottle you can always replace it quickly wherever you’re at. Most grocery stores will have what you need!
Keep things sanitary - Always wash your bottles after use with dish soap and only use bottled water to refill bottles. There are a few countries in the world where water is safe to drink but many countries have dirty water so be sure to check on that when you arrive!
Baby food- As soon as your baby starts eating solids you’ll want to continue this routine while traveling. Finding baby food in other countries is not difficult, there are babies all over the world! Some foods that we can always find are bananas, avocados, rice cereal, oatmeal, apple sauce, and cheerios. If you’re planning for a trip in a few months from now start giving your baby a variety of foods now so that they can easily adapt when you start traveling. Baby-led weaning is a fantastic eating method for babies who travel because they will quickly adapt to new foods and can feed themselves while traveling.
Baby food for travel days - You’ll want to pack a few ziplock bags with quick access food on days you are flying or driving all day. Here are some good options: applesauce packets, puffs, yogurt melts, rice rusks, and cheerios.
Baby high chair - Babies are messy eaters! It’s can be challenging trying to feed them while holding them (I’ve done this too many times) so we started traveling with a fabric high chair! This high chair buckles onto a regular chair and you can feed them while they are strapped in. It has been a life saver! It also packs up super small. Click here to see the fabric high chair on Amazon! These are so worth getting!
Shots and doctors
Checkups - If you’re traveling during your babies milestone months (3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, etc…) consider having their check-up before leaving on your trip. Doctors tend to be flexible and can still do these check ups even if it’s not on the exact date of their milestone. If you’re traveling long-term you can have your baby’s check-up while in the new country. We have had baby check-ups in Hawaii, New Zealand, and Portugal.
Shots- Try to get the routine shots your baby needs before leaving on your trip. If you’re traveling long-term you can often find clinics that can do shots for you while you’re abroad. To find these clinics look on facebook for local mom groups. You can also look for expat communities online, they often have the best local advice for the country you’re visiting. Be sure to document the shots the baby gets so that you have a record when you return to your home country!
It is important to try to maintain somewhat of a sleep schedule while traveling with your baby. A few tips to help you out as you plan for your trip.
Start going on long road trips and training your baby to sleep in the car. Babies are all different and some of them do not like being in a car seat however, they can be trained!
Plan your flights around nap time. It sounds counterintuitive, but your flight will be smoother if your baby is asleep during it! Give them a bottle or nurse them during takeoff to help them quickly fall asleep.
Download a white noise (or pink noise) app on your phone. White noise for babies helps them sleep easily in different environments, this can be a great tool in the car, hotel rooms, public places, or airport.
Let them take naps in their car seat (with supervision). If you can start getting them used to napping in their car seat then they can do this while you’re at the airport, driving, or in a hotel room. We know that many experts say that babies should not nap in their car seat so please be cautious and make sure they are supervised if you choose to let them nap in their car seat.
Plan your travel activities in the morning and early afternoon. Going out earlier in the day means that your baby will be back home for a long afternoon nap. This will help them keep somewhat of a routine and will help them sleep better at night.
Use melatonin to help babies adjust to a new time zone - Using melatonin is an option for babies. It’s recommended by doctors to not use more than 1mg per dose. This is also a great sleep tool for flights if you’re going on an overnight flight. Only use the melatonin during the babies natural sleep time, not only when you want them to sleep. Click here to see melatonin medicine for babies on Amazon.
How to prepare for air travel
Get to the airport early - With kids you need to be at the airport 2-3 hours before your scheduled departure. You never know how long check-in or security lines will be and you need the extra time. It’s also great to get to your gate an hour early and make sure everything is organized in your carry-on for easy access. You’ll also want to prepare bottles and change diapers before boarding the plane!
When you check-in, ask for an extra seat - Most of the time there will be extra seats available on the flight. If there is an extra seat available you can bring your car seat on board or simply have more space for you and the baby. We’ve had very few flights where an extra seat was not available.
Book a baby cot row - There are many flights (especially international flights) that have baby cots built into the airplane. You have to ask for these and book them in advance because they are only near certain rows on the plane.
Bring stickers and small toys - Novelty goes a long way during a flight. Stickers are great to keep a baby entertained. We also love picking up a few cheap things at the dollar store to pull out during a hard moment. New toys or items will keep them occupied longer than something they’ve already seen!
Download a show or app - If you have the Netflix app you can download full episodes to your phone for easy access during the flight. Some babies will watch shows on a device and this is such a great way to keep them entertained! This has been a lifesaver for us during long flights!
Bring bluetooth headphones - You may spend some time rocking your baby to sleep in the back of the plane, bluetooth headphones are a great way to keep you happy and entertained during times like these. We recommend bluetooth headphones because they are cordless and it’s less likely for your baby to pull them out of your ears. Click here to see our favorite bluetooth headphones on Amazon.
Stay positive - There are times when it is hard and frustrating on a flight! It’s a small space and i't’s hard to contain little ones at times. Sometimes babies will cry (or even scream) but it’s alright, don’t worry. People around you often aren’t frustrated, but typically want to help you if they can. People are more empathetic towards your situation than you realize because many of them have been in your shoes before. There are also many people who might even offer to help you! Also remember that the flight will be over soon and your baby will be happy again! Take a deep breath and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.
Walk the isles - We have spent a lot of time walking up and down the isles of a plane with our babies. Walking the isles or standing in the back of the plane is great because it helps them feel less confined and allows them to stretch their legs. You can even let your baby crawl up and down the isles, this will make you a lot of friends! Just be sure to sanitize their tiny hands afterward.
How to document your trip abroad
Our best tip is to document your experiences! Here are a few tips for how to document your trip.
Bring a camera other than your phone camera. Having a decent camera like a DSLR, mirrorless, or GoPro will be better for taking video and capturing beautiful larger sized images.
Take photos during the good and hard moments. Some of our favorite photos are on airplanes or while changing diapers in public. The travel days and challenging moments will be some of your favorite memories from your trip.
Bring a small journal along to write down your favorite moments. You can also keep a note on your phone for journaling!
Traveling with a baby is one of the best and most memorable ways to travel. We have loved traveling with our two daughters and can’t wait for you to experience it with your family. Be sure to let us know how your trip goes, we love hearing from you!
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