Traveling with a Baby or Toddler
Many people fear the idea of traveling with an infant, especially by plane. We get you, things have changed a lot in the way we travel with our daughter but small kids are still very adaptable (as long as you’re flexible). The more you travel with your baby, the easier it gets!
Here are some essential tips from our travel experience so far:
Traveling by plane
Hopping onto a plane with your child? Sure! You shouldn’t miss out on the “children under 2 fly for free” airline policy. By the time they turn two traveling by plane gets more expensive so you should take every opportunity you get as long as they fly for free.
Baby food & beverages
Airlines allow you to carry the amount of food necessary for the duration of your flight. What about liquids? You can basically pack anything and as much as you want. We always fill up all bottles with water (with two bottles we’re good for at least 7-8 hours). Additionally, we also carry a large bottle of water (1.5l) in case “our baby gets very thirsty on the plane” which we use 😉 No one at the security desk has ever asked us or commented about the extra bottle of water.
Besides the formula, we also carry some fruit pouches (our go-to if we’re on the road) and cookies. When she gets older, we will probably need to pack more snacks but right now we keep it simple to mostly formula for the duration of the flight.
Note: We also pack her silicone bib to avoid any unnecessary cloth changes.
Don’t try anything new just because it will look so good on your baby. Dress your child in some of her most comfortable clothes which can easily be changed. And pack a pair of extra clothes: I remember Zoe had a blowout right before boarding her first flight 💩 – she was only two months old – and I had to quickly change her entire outfit. Also pack an extra shirt for yourself, you never know 😉
Checked baby gear (and stroller)
Apart of the stroller (more on that later), airlines allow you to check two extra pieces for your baby. This can be a crib, baby carrier (for hiking), car seat, etc. Once you’ve landed, you’ll find them at the “special luggage” belt. Side note: last time we went on a hiking trip to the Alps, we even stuffed our Thule baby carrier with quite some clothes as we exceeded the allowed weight of our checked luggage.
Now, what about the stroller? You can take your stroller until you board the plane. Most strollers don’t fit in the overhead cabin so in that case a crew member will take yours down to the airplane hold. That also means that you’ll have to wait for your stroller until you pick up your luggage. After our first flight with Zoe, we got our stroller back broken so for our next flight we decided to buy this compact model which can be stored in the overhead bin. It literally takes us a few seconds to set it up and from the moment we’re out of the plane, we can put her back in the stroller and sometimes she evens does a quick nap while we’re heading towards the baggage carousels.
Note: a baby carrier comes in handy if your stroller has to be checked.
At the airport
When traveling kids-free, we never arrived too early at the airport but now we schedule in extra time. Let’s face reality, traveling with an infant takes significantly more time. You’re carrying more equipment (plus a baby!), you’ll need to fold and unfold the stroller when passing security control, you’ll have to sit down a few times to feed your baby or vist the restroom, etc.
We’ve also noticed that the older Zoe gets, the more play time she needs, even at the airport. Once we’re on the plane, we know it’s more difficult for her (and us) to move around so we let her burn off some energy before boarding.
Note: Don’t arrive too early either because the earlier you get there, the longer you’ll need to keep them entertained, etc. It’s all about finding the right balance for you.
Use the airport restroom
So far we’ve never had to use the airplane toilets to change a diaper – we’ve been lucky indeed! Anyway, we change her for the last time right before boarding using one of the baby changing rooms near our gate. They are spacious and most of them have some convenient facilities you won’t find once you’re on board!
Family priority boarding: pro’s and cons
I know that many parents will advise you to take advantage of the family priority boarding. So did we the first time we took a flight with Zoe. I agree that boarding an empty plane is very convenient but for us the time we’re seated while the rest of the passengers are still boarding is just too long to keep Zoe entertained. For us it’s easier to keep her active and happy outside than at the plane where we’re no longer free to move.
At your destination
You made it to your final destination, great! Same as for flying, the pace of your trip will change. Here are some tips that have worked for us:
Be flexible & patient
We all want to travel to explore new places, meet up with family and friends we haven’t seen in a while but your kid will need some time to adjust. Even some small changes can disrupt your baby’s routine.
When we traveled to Belgium in summer, we put Zoe down to bed at 9:30pm which had been her normal bedtime for the previous months. What happened is that she consistently fought sleep and we couldn’t manage to get her to bed until 10:30pm. We live in Spain where sun sets around 9:30pm in July whereas in Belgium sunset is around 10:30pm. Only one hour of difference but it affected her night routine quite a lot. After some days of initial struggle, we shifted her schedule.
It can take a few days (or even more) to adapt to this new routine but there’s a lot to process for your little one. A different sleep environment can make them awake in the middle of the night not understanding where they are. I know it’s easy to say but be patient; eventually they will get used to the new situation.
Be realistic and adjust the pace of your trip
Our life has changed since our daughter was born and so have our travels. You need to be realistic and accept that you can’t cram as much as you’d like to into your days. You can try but you’ll end up with a cranky and overtired baby.
After one or two days being out on the road, we know we need to schedule in a rest day. During our active days Zoe easily falls asleep in the car, the stroller or even the backpack but the quality (and duration) of her naps aren’t the same and she ends up very tired. The rest days are all about allowing her some time to get some good naps (in the crib) and lots of play time.
Even during our most active days, we still need to stop every now and then to give her some play time. We always carry a large sarong with us and whenever we get the opportunity, we take a break.
A family room with more space is worth the extra money
At five months old Zoe started to sleep in her own room and our night sleep has significantly improved since then. However, when we’re on the road sometimes there’s no other option but sharing the same room. That’s fine for a couple of nights but for a longer period we look for alternatives where Zoe has her own room.
One time in Italy we stayed at a tiny, one-bedroom apartment where we barely had space to move around or unpack. It was pouring rain so Zoe’s play area – and our living area – was so limited we all ended up hating that apartment 😉 We promised ourselves we wouldn’t let that happen again and ever since we look for places to stay that have an extra room or a large open area. It’s worth the extra money!
Just do it!
If you’re ever doubting whether or not you want to travel as a family, just do it! You’ll never know how it feels for you unless you give yourself the opportunity. Sure there are moments when we’ve thought we better should’ve stayed home but we’ve got so many priceless moments in return. The effort definitely pays off! Shoot us a message if you have any questions, we’ll be happy to help you.