Traveling with a Baby/Toddler

Arthur just turned 15 months and we already have 5 (!) roundtrip flights under our belt, so I thought I would share a few things we’ve learned about traveling with a baby. First off, I will say that it does seem like there’s a sweet spot for traveling with an infant who doesn’t need to be as hands on yet before they turn into a wiggly toddler (for us that was 4-11 months). I’ll try to do an update in a year or two on how to manage a toddler on the plane.

Fyi, there are a lot more “basic” tips but I tried not to put things you hear over and over. You can find those elsewhere, most of them I would agree with!

One thing I will not address here, because we’ve tried multiple ways and I think whatever combination you choose is doable, is what stuff to bring and what to check or what to carry through the airport (ie stroller, baby carrier, car seat, carry on bags, etc.). Feel free to message me if you want help thinking that through more, or maybe I’ll write another post on it one day!

Tips for flying – Before Boarding

  • If at all possible, get a direct flight. You will not regret it. We are fortunate that our family is a 2-hour nonstop flight away. It couldn’t be easier! That’s helped us be willing to travel more often, and even on our longer flights, we are more comfortable with traveling in general so it’s not as overwhelming.
  • Secondary to getting a direct flight, try to time your travel times with your baby’s schedule. Some people may vary on what they prefer, but I like to time the flight so Arthur will be sleeping on the plane, rather than trying to catch a nap before or after.
  • Allow extra time for check in, or see if you can call ahead. Most airlines we’ve flown won’t let you check in online if you have a lap infant, so you have to do it in person at the counter. This is the worst part of flying with an infant, in our experience. Sometimes they don’t reserve your seats together, even if you paid to choose your own seats in advance. I could say worse things about this, but just be wary of this process.

  • If you’re traveling by yourself or just having a rough go, look for another family or a flight attendant – usually they will sympathize with you and be more than happy to help!!
  • If you have the option to check an extra bag (like a pack n play) for free, take advantage! Otherwise, using gate check is free (some airlines let you have 1 item, some let you have 2, so check with them for their policy).

  • Let your little one crawl, walk, or otherwise get wiggles before boarding. Bring a blanket if you are worried about germs. Some people don’t like the idea of airport germs, but personally we’re much more concerned about having Arthur be content on the plane.
  • Wait to board until the last minute. Some people like to have time to get settled in, but we’re of the mindset that every minute on that plane is time our active boy can’t be moving and is on the way to becoming restless. Either way, do use the restroom, change a diaper, refill your water bottle, etc. before getting on the plane since it will be harder to do any of that once you’re at your seat.

Tips for Flying – On the plane

  • Pray you’re seated around people who like children. Ha! Even if they don’t look like a “kid person”, you might be surprised. Every person we’ve sat next to so far has been a parent or interested in Arthur, so don’t be deathly afraid that everyone on the plane will hate you. Your baby will pick up your mood and attitude.

  • Surely you’ve heard the advice to give your little one a bottle, sucker (for older child), or nurse them during takeoff and landing because sucking helps reduce ear pressure. I recommend combining that trick with using a nursing cover or blanket to help baby fall and stay asleep. Mom or dad can use it – baby will fall asleep faster/sleep longer if it’s dark! If your baby won’t fall asleep while nursing or taking a bottle, try to set up a dark environment afterwards.
    If you have an infant (and you’re worried they’re going to cry the whole time), don’t hesitate to break it out as soon as you get on the plane… but if you can time it with takeoff, all the better. We’ve done this on every flight so far that now Arthur knows as soon as the plane starts to taxi, it’s time to go night night. Hallelujah!

  • As for toys, bring one or two things (a teether for a baby, snacks for a toddler), but they really don’t need too many things at this age. Everything is interesting! I brought along a mess-free coloring book and reusable sticker pad, but the strangers, seat buckle, and safety pamphlet were still all Arthur needed for entertainment at 15 months.
  • If you can remember, throw in a plastic bag to use for trash at your seat. Sometimes there’s nowhere to put trash in the seat pocket in front of you, or you might need to stash a dirty diaper.

  • Remember the plane will land! For longer flights, remember you aren’t doomed to entertain a baby on an airplane for the rest of eternity. It will end and you’ll get to your destination, even if it’s miserable for a few hours. We thought Arthur (10.5 months) was fairly loud and obnoxious during our return flight from France, and when it was over, everyone told us how well he did and they didn’t hear him cry at all. If you’re thinking it’s not going well, it’s probably all in your head. And if not, oh well – everyone else will get off the plane and go on their own way at the end and it will all be over.

Tips for sleep

  • Once you arrive at your destination, talk to your baby and tell him about his day – he has gone through a lot and seen so many new things and people! Talking to him will help him calm down and process the day.
  • Show baby the new surroundings before bedtime – don’t just expect him to be able to go right to sleep in a new place. He has to see where he is and have time to adjust.

  • Don’t expect your little one to be able to go to sleep exactly at the normal bedtime. Follow his cues. If he needs to get more energy out (he’s probably been cooped up most of the day), push bedtime back instead of forcing it.
  • You might need to hold, rock, or sing to baby to get him to go to sleep and that’s ok! Just roll with it. They’re in a new place and it’s harder for their little bodies to adjust. It doesn’t mean you’re starting a bad habit, just providing extra support and helping them get better sleep.

Product recommendations

  • Guava Lotus travel crib – This is the most recommended pack n play for travel, and we wholeheartedly agree! It’s lightweight, easy to assemble, and carries like a backpack. You can gate check it or carry it on board. I wouldn’t recommend checking it if you would have no other option at your destination, just in case it gets lost. Bonus: you get to call it “Guava lotus” instead of saying “pack n play,” which makes you feel more like a cool person and less like a mom.

  • Zoe travel stroller – Whit pushed back at first when I recommended we buy this for our trip to France, but once we got there he said over and over again how glad he was to have it! This little stroller folds down to the size of a backpack, so it easily fits in your car or the overhead bin. We’ve even pushed it down the aisle of the airplane! It opens and folds easily with one hand (opening it requires a little skill but it’s possible to open it while holding a baby). It reclines completely flat with a huge canopy, and Arthur sleeps in it even though he NEVER sleeps in our Uppababy stroller. We bought ours used so that helped save some money!

  • Nuna Pipa infant car seat – We haven’t needed to travel with this as much as I anticipated (we’ve been fortunate to be able to borrow a car seat when visiting family), but it’s a breeze. There’s no base required so you don’t have to deal with lugging the extra weight around. Installing it without the base can be a little frustrating for perfectionists but it’s not terrible. We bought this bag for use on the plane (I’d recommend gate checking it unless you have to check it – you wouldn’t want to risk losing its integrity from possible damage due to poor handling.)

  • Uppababy Vista V2 Stroller & Bassinet – We only traveled with this once before Arthur outgrew it, but it was such a lifesaver to have a stroller and bassinet all in one, and not have to try to buy or borrow a pack n play, especially when he was still so little (I was used to waking up in the middle of the night and being able to look over at him at eye level). The bassinet is safe for overnight sleep, so we had a bed and stroller all in one, which was so easy. We bought this bag for it and and checked it at the gate. If you buy the bag, make sure to register it as Uppababy will replace your stroller if it gets damaged by an airline.

One last thing I’ll add – it gets easier the more you do it!! I was so anxious before our first couple of trips, trying to make sure I had thought of everything, purchased the right products (which does make a difference), and didn’t pack too much. I hardly thought about our most recent trip at all, because it’s become routine. So go for it, and keep doing it! Start these travel babies young!

What tips would you add from your own experience, or what tips would you want to try?

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