Baby Travel 101: How to Prepare for a Trip with Baby

By Alejandra Tejada
Founder, Totts

First time bringing your infant with you on a vacation? It can be daunting for any first-time parent. While you can’t control every aspect of traveling with an infant, here’s a quick rundown of some of the important things to help make you more confident about heading out there!

What to Know Before and During Booking

While children under 2 don’t need a seat to travel with you on a plane, children do need a ticket. When booking you’ll need to provide general information such as name and birthdate of the child. For international travel, you'll need to get a passport for your infant, some countries may even require a birth certificate. If you are traveling solo internationally with your child (without both parents) you may need a parental letter of consent. It’s important to understand what documents you’ll need before booking a flight to your destination.

At this time you may want to start researching and booking car services if you plan on traveling without a car seat on your flight.

Where to Stay with Infants and Children

Whether you’re flying or driving it’s important to book the right type of home base for the first adventure with your little one.

  • Hotels offer a lot of amenities and conveniences that can make your first time traveling together a bit easier (especially for international destinations), but they can make it hard when you have to share a room with a baby and don’t want to sit in the dark starting at 6 or 7 pm when your child goes to bed.

  • Home rentals provide the comforts of home, but also bring along the same level of chores (who wants to make their bed on vacation?).  If going the home rental route, consider family oriented booking sites that offers family-friendly options.

For a first vacation our recommendation is to enjoy the best of the two worlds by opting for a vacation rental or hotel with home amenities (such as a kitchenette or two rooms). This at least gives you a bit of both while you figure out which type of stay suits your family best.

What to Pack for Baby

Packing for a trip can be just as stressful as the trip itself. Leave yourself at least one week before your flight to begin gathering the items that you’ll need for yourself and your baby. We recommend packing by category to ensure you don’t overlook important items:

Baby gear

What will you need to bring? This answer depends on the trip and your child. While the general list includes stroller, car seat, carrier, pack n play — you may want to bring a noise machine, portable high chair, bottle warmer, travel blackout blinds — anything that will make you feel at home while you’re away. Check with your final destination on what they can provide: you’ll be surprised with how many services you can find at your destination, like baby equipment rentals or family-friendly vacation homes,  that can eliminate the need to bring extra gear.  Remember when bringing a stroller and car seat you may need to buy carrying cases and weather covers for rainy days. Airlines don’t exactly treat luggage with care, so make sure they’re well protected!

Consumables

includes diapers, wipes, lotions, detergent, food and everything in between. These are the things that you want to bring with you that you’ll consume along the way, but not always bring back. While most of these things may be found in your home, you may want to do some shopping to ensure you have the right quantity for the length of your stay. My company Totts, offers customized boxes of consumable supplies delivered to your destination so you don’t have to worry about sourcing or packing these supplies.

Clothing

This is an easy one but the items can certainly multiply! It’s good to have at least two outfits for each day and depending on age two outfits for each night. Packing extra white undershirts is always a good idea. If you have limited luggage or car space, finding laundry services at your destination can significantly cut down on your load.

Navigating TSA and the Airport with Infants

No matter how often you’ve traveled, the first time stepping in the airport with all your baggage and child will most likely make you feel like a deer in the headlights. Don’t let the panic sink in and make sure you budget enough time at the airport so when you’re moving slower than usual (welcome to your new travel life!), you’ll have plenty of time to spare.

At TSA you will be asked to show tickets for all your family members, this includes the infant ticket. Don’t worry, no identification will be needed unless traveling internationally. At the beginning of the screening process let the TSA officer know what gear you’re carrying and any breast milk or food. They can provide specific instructions on how to separate it for extra screening (it’s highly likely they will test liquids — so allow for this extra time). And don’t worry, you don’t need to stick to the 3-1-1 liquid rule for formula, breast milk, purees and juices for infants or toddlers.

For up-to-date information on travel regulations be sure to check the TSA site before flights as these guidelines do tend to change.

A couple of tips:

  • You’ll need to carry your child through a walk-through metal detector, it may be easier to have him or her in a carrier to free your hands to fold up strollers and push items through screening.

  • To keep your breast milk cold — and possibly avoid the liquid check at screening — use frozen bags of breast milk. While ice packs are allowed through security anything that is slushy or partially frozen may go through additional screening.

  • TSA has a special hotline to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. Take advantage of this service by calling up to 72 hrs before travel.

  • If you plan to fly often with your child this may be the time to upgrade to TSA pre-check.  This could come in handy when traveling out of Logan, which can get backed up during peak hours.

  • There are nursing pods at many US airports. Check your departing and/or arriving airport website for more information or download the mamava app which offers nursing pods at Logan.

Flying Advice for Infants and Toddlers

When I talk to parents, this is the biggest fear of travel. Confined spaces with a baby or toddler can produce-anxiety ridden nightmares — but after all that build up, most parents find that travel is not that bad!  You’ll have as many good flights as you have bad, but the important thing to remember is that it’s only a few hours of the hundred you’re spending on vacation — and as all things in life, the flight will too shall pass!

Here are a few tips to get you through it:

  • Many US airlines no longer announce pre-boarding for families of young children. When you arrive at the gate ask if it’s possible to pre-board and most likely they will accommodate your request. Totts wrote a blog post about it on our site, with some helpful links.

  • The general advice is to feed the baby during take off and landing, feeding/sucking in general is a good way to keep babies occupied and calm. Pack plenty of milk and/or snacks to keep your child happy throughout.

  • A nursing cover or swaddle can help you simulate a good sleeping environment in the plane while also keeping overstimulation at bay.

  • While the white noise of the plane does help drown out a few noises, we found that bringing a portable noise machine like the Marpac Hussh can be a lifesaver.

  • If you are still nursing or planning to keep the baby on your lap, an inflatable neck pillow is a great alternative to a boppy and will make the flight more comfortable.

  • Flight attendants, in general, are very helpful when it comes to traveling with kids. If you have any issues don’t hesitate to ask for help — or maybe even to have someone hold your baby if you’re traveling alone and need to use the restroom!

  • You’re child will cry on the plane and THAT IS MORE THAN OK, it’s expected! You’ll find that most people are kind and accommodating. If you do encounter those rare comments or disapproving faces just apologize but go easy on yourself and know that you and your child are doing the best you can in a very difficult situation.

Adjusting to Travel with Children

It’s important to understand that your first vacation with a new member of your family is a change from the way you vacationed before. Allow yourself adjustment days and ease up on your sightseeing schedule. We like to recommend allowing for an adjustment day the day after you arrive at your destination and an adjustment day following the day you get home. Taking it easy allows for the baby to adjust to the new environment, especially when introducing new sleeping arrangements. Over-planning beyond that can create more stress - just list out the things you’d like to do in your destination, and know that you won’t get to all of them.

While at times, it may feel like the vacation you’re taking is more work than fun, and some days may (will!) be difficult, the memories you’ll build as a family will be ones you’ll cherish forever.  Starting early will make you more and more comfortable showing your child that there’s a wonderful world outside Boston as he or she grows up.