We have taken Sammi on over a dozen flights in her first 10 months of life! I’ve summarized my tips for seamless travel with a little one below.
1. Expect the Worst
I don’t say this to make you nervous. I say this because when traveling with a little one, the worst can and will happen. It’s much easier for everyone if you keep your expectations low and over prepare. Don’t expect a fairy tale! If you get all flustered when the worst happens, it’s far worse for everyone, including you! So keep your cool and decide that no matter what unpleasantness you encounter, you’re going to be relaxed, happy, and kind instead of stressed out and flustered in the face of challenges while traveling. You’ll be much better off!
2. Keep them Entertained
One of the biggest success factors for traveling with an infant is to avoid boredom at all costs. In your mind, you may be focused on the big things like keeping them fed, napped, and clean. You might think that their ears popping on the plane is the biggest variable to be concerned with. You might be worried about keeping your baby and belongings safe and secure in a public space. These variables are important, but many babies fuss on planes and in cars due to sheer boredom more than anything else. I pack an assortment of toys in a zippered case in my diaper bag to pull from throughout our journey, so she always has something new to play with or focus on! When we do long car rides, I put a bag of them in the seat next to me and I just throw a new one into the car seat anytime she gets fussy. Keeping them in a zippered pouch inside the bag is key, so they don’t fall out on the bathroom or airplane floor while you’re digging around in the bag, rendering them filthy and useless.
3. Don’t Overpack
This one is SO HARD! But so necessary. Here’s a list of what I pack in the diaper bag for a travel day, whether it’s a 10-hour car ride or a 1-hour flight:
8 diapers. This is the magic number because it’s plenty for a long travel day, yet they still fit in the bag without taking up too much space. I put 4 in one of those interior side pouches and 4 at the very bottom of the bag. I never pack all the diapers I’ll need on a trip. I use Amazon Prime, Instacart, or a helpful friend or relative to have a pack of diapers waiting for me when I arrive at my destination. It’s way easier than hauling all those dipes around, and it won’t kill you if you use a different brand or pay slightly more for them while you’re on vacation. Much easier!
10 wipes. Wipes are heavy and bulky, and we kind of overuse them if we’re being honest. Most diapers, even poopy ones, only require 1 wipe to clean up. Throw in a few extra in case of spit up or a major blowout, and 10 wipes to 8 diapers is the correct ratio for one day of travel. I put a full pouch in the baby suitcase to use when we arrive at our destination. PRO TIP: always take the wipes out of the bag when going through security. They’re packed so tightly in there that they show up as a big, dark mass on the scanners and will result in extra bag searching.
3 bottles. And it’s formula most of the time! I pre-measure the amount of powdered formula I’ll need to make a full bottle and pack them dry, because it’s easier to get through security without the liquid. Just add water when you’re ready to feed her. It’s just another variable that will stress you out. I don’t recommend attempting to bring any bottled breastmilk on a trip. Empty your boobs with the pump before traveling and either freeze it or feed it before you go. During the trip, either give formula or just whip the boob out and do it straight from the source. Even if you don’t regularly give formula, it’s a good idea to have some handy. You might find yourself in a situation where you can’t readily nurse, or baby might be too distracted by her environment on a travel day. I know moms worry about impacting their supply by supplementing formula, but doing this once in awhile isn’t going to make a difference. Cut yourself a small break on a travel day!
2 spare outfits inside of a gallon ziploc. It’s good to keep the outfits protected in case a bottle leaks in the bag. And you can use the gallon ziploc to stow a dirty outfit and / or diaper should you need to. I always keep an additional gallon ziploc folded up in the side pouches of my diaper bag and suitcases as well. They are super handy and you never know when you’re going to need to stash something in there! I almost never use the second spare outfit, but it makes me feel better to know it’s there.
2 puree pouches. We do a combination of purees and finger foods with Sammi (sue me, BLW purists!). Puree pouches are a great “break glass in case of emergency” food to have on hand. And not only do they provide good nutrition with very little mess, they also provide hydration which is really important for baby when you travel. Since most of us get a little—ahem—backed up when we fly, it’s a good way to ensure baby keeps it all moving smoothly. I like the Gerber ones when flying because they have a better spout design than most, and there’s very little mess. I keep a bib in there too, just in case.
Zippered bag of toys. I covered this in tip #2, but will just reiterate here that it’s better to keep all the toys consolidated in a zippered pouch than floating lose in the bag.
These items, plus my own small, clutch purse and a water bottle for myself all fit into a normal size diaper bag. You really shouldn’t need more than this to get through your travel! Pack everything else for baby in a suitcase.
We use a full size suitcase for Sammi, which is more space than needed. The extra room in the suitcase is great for gifts, or overflow items from mom & dad. We carry her suitcase on and check our own suitcases, for a total of three suitcases for a 3-person family. Use the wheeled suitcases with 4-way wheels if you can, because this way one person can wheel two suitcases, and the other can wheel the stroller and the third suitcase getting through the airport. We bring the car seat / stroller system (ours is Britax), which we gate check. Even though Sammi can face forward in the stroller now, you’ll need the car seat to take baby anywhere once you reach your destination. The travel system is much easier than a separate car seat and stroller. We throw the baby bjorn in the bottom of the stroller and wear her through security, and during the flight (so much better for moments where you need both hands free!). My husband also carries a backpack for his carry-on. This is the perfect amount of bags for us to manage as a family of three!
4. Pack Strategically
Don’t pack like an amateur…pack strategically, like a pro. Pack early. Pack more than once (sounds crazy, but it’s so helpful to go back and edit after the first pack!). Pack using a list. Think of outfits as a capsule wardrobe, not just individual ensembles. Try to only pack items that you’ll use more than once! Pack things that you’ve used with baby before, be it clothes, toys, or devices. You want your travel stuff to be “sure thing” items, not wild cards! Don’t pack like the apocalypse is going to hit, for every possible type of weather or disaster. Check the weather before you go, and pack for what is expected. If baby’s teething, pack the baby ibuprofen and the teething toys. Confer about the activities you’ll engage in with your travel companions in advance, so you can be sure to pack for what you need (and only what you need!). Especially for your first trip, it can be really scary to leave your nest where you have all the stuff you could possibly need. But don’t let your fear of discomfort lead you to overpack, because nothing is worse than being constrained by a mountain of stuff when you’re trying to get away and enjoy yourself! Get strategic about it and override your mom brain with your planning brain.
5. Keep it Simple
I’ll say it again…don’t overpack. You want to keep your journey as simple as possible, and this means the least amount of stuff. We moms get anxious about trips, and anxiety makes you want to overpack. But remind yourself: you’re going to be so much happier and relaxed when you arrive at your destination with the perfect amount of stuff, rather than feeling like a walking yard sale who didn’t use half of what she brought if you overpack.
Keeping with the simplicity theme, I also dress the baby in a long, footed pajama onesie for travel, because I don’t want to be chasing after a stray shoe that fell off halfway down the terminal when we’re racing to make a connecting flight. An outfit with multiple pieces is not simple on a travel day, and this isn’t the Oscars. No one is judging the baby’s fashion choices! I like the Hatley ones best, because the patterns make it feel more like a festive travel suit than jammies, and the fabric is heavy enough for cold weather but breathable enough to keep baby cool and comfy.
The most important principle of traveling with an infant is to be as kind as possible to everyone around you while you’re traveling. If you’re kind, other people are way more likely to want to help you. We all have moments where we get snippy with our kids, our spouses, or airline / TSA employees. But if you radiate kindness, the airport will feel like a much friendlier place, even if you and the baby are exhausted, underfed, and covered in feces by the time you arrive to your destination.
What are your travel hacks for traveling with a baby? Leave a comment and let me know!