Do you remember the times when you were traveling on your own, and the only thing stressful for you was the fact you might have forgotten to put your mascara in the transparent bag with other liquid products?
Well, you’ll have to embrace a new meaning of ‘stressful’ as you’re about to travel with your little one for the first time. Don’t panic, it doesn’t have to be so dramatic as you’ve probably heard from other parents. It will definitely be more challenging but if you organize yourself and plan everything ahead you will have everything under control.
When it comes to your little one’s safety and the right time to travel, there are different opinions out there; many airlines allow you to travel with your infant when he’s only 2 weeks old but doctors say it’s safer to wait until your baby’s immune system gets stronger so at least until he reaches 3 months old (especially if you’re traveling by plane). At the end of the day it’s up to you; I personally waited until my baby girl was almost 4 months old.
Here are few things you should remember and essentials you should not forget once you decide to travel with a mini version of you.
1. Read the reviews of a hotel/ apartment you want to book
Whether it’s a hotel or an Air B&B apartment, it’s important to find out about real conditions of the place you’re about to book. Beautiful pictures with seemingly perfect description won’t help if others say there’s a mould on the walls.
Most importantly, make sure it’s a baby-friendly place: if they offer a travel cot and a baby bath, if there’s a place to heat up your little one’s food any time you want and if there’s a playroom or a playground.
Also, make sure there’s a short walking distance to the shops, beaches or lake (depending where you’re spending your holidays) – you don’t want to end up taking a bus everywhere you go or walk for over 20 minutes with a screaming child just to use a hotel room toilet.
2. Book the right airplane seats
If you’re traveling by plane, it’s important to know which seats are the best for your needs.
Whether you’re planning to hold your baby on your lap or you’re putting him in a car seat, it’s always good to have an extra seat for an extra space (it’s a life-saver when having all those baby staff around!). Plus, you won’t have to worry about feeling uncomfortable every time you have to stand up and excuse the person sitting next to you just so you could walk around or use the toilet to change your baby.
Some airlines will be happy to kind of block the middle seat for you and your baby (usually on long-haul flights and only if the plane is not full), however, from my experience on short-haul, budget flights, there’s no option like that and you need to buy a separate ticket if you want that extra ‘luxury’. Either way there’s usually a small charge when your baby stays on your lap (at least, that’s the rule with Ryanair, Wizzair and Easyjet); this charge, on certain occasions, might actually be higher than buying an extra ticket itself! So just make sure to contact customer service for support if that happens.
If you have a smaller baby that still doesn’t sit properly, it’s best to take an aisle seat as you may have to stand up a lot to calm your little one down. If she’s bigger and already paying attention to things, the best seat will be by the window as you can distract her with what’s going on outside.
3. Choose the flight that aligns with your babies’ nap time
This is a rule I wish I had thought through when I was traveling with my daughter for the first time!
Never take an infant on a plane in his ‘waking’ hours- you will regret it. Even if the afternoon flight is cheaper than the early morning one, it’s not worth to save those £20 and have a 2 or 3 hour horrific flight of screaming and crying. Usually the best time to travel with your little one is early morning (or whenever your baby would normally be sleeping). If you do that, you can pretend you have the most well-behaved and quiet baby other passengers have ever seen! Other parents will give you the jealous look and you won’t be one of those miserable mothers who’s desperately trying to calm down her child ( while everyone else wishes she was on a different flight!).
4. Make sure you’ve got a travel insurance
This is for obvious reason and it’s a must when you’re traveling with a baby. Also, find out where’s the nearest hospital/ ER at your holiday destination. Hopefully you’ll never have to visit that place but it’s always good to know everything in advance, just in case.
If you’re traveling in Europe (and you’re an EU member yourself), it’s very handy to have an EHIC card- it gives you right to the same health care as citizens of the country you’re visiting. So, if you unexpectedly get sick (or your baby), you will be covered.
5. Don’t travel alone
I know it’s not always an option but it’s not much fun traveling with a little baby on your own, especially if it’s your first time. If you have someone by your side you can divide that stress in two! But if not, don’t be afraid to ask for help, people are generally very kind and helpful.
Also, use the benefits of traveling with kids whenever it’s possible- priority boarding, faster security check lanes and family line at customs- always ask someone if you’re in doubt.
6. Pack as light as possible
I know it’s hard thing to do, being a woman and having an extra little person to worry about (when you still have so many things to pack for yourself) but if you’re only going away for a couple of days/ weeks, there’s really not much you will need.
For yourself take only 2 pair of jeans, 1/2 pair of shoes, couple of T-shirts (you can forget about fancy dresses at this point). Pack as little baby gear as possible- babies don’t need as much as we actually think.
Here’s the list of essentials of what you’ll need for your little one :
a) for the baby changing/ carry-on bag (choose one that has separate space for bottles, nappies and a changing mat; I bought this super practical one on Amazon).
- some wipes and nappies
- changing mat
- some extra clothes (in case of small ‘surprises’ )
- dummies+ clippers
- toys/ books (take only those which your child really likes)
- a blanket (useful to cover when your baby falls asleep)
- snacks + baby water bottle
- trash bag (for dirty diapers)
- a lightweight stroller- BabyZen Yoyo is really great for traveling, I borrowed it from a friend on one of my travels and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s so small and compact when folded that fits into overhead compartment on board. It’s also very light and can adapt to many car seats such as Maxi Cosi CabrioFix (you’ll need adapters though).
** If your baby is already bigger and you’re spending a short vacation in a city, you can just take an umbrella stroller (it’s much cheaper but obviously doesn’t have so many features as BabyZen Yoyo does). I normally take my everyday Bugaboo Bee 5 which is a bit bigger than Babyzen Yoyo but it’s still lightweight and compact enough not to give you any headaches. Either way, you can take any pram all the way to the plane and get it back once you land.
- the right car seat- necessary whether you’re taking a plane, car or train. Make sure it’s compatible with your stroller (if you have a younger baby) but also it should fit the seat of a plane, if that’s how you’re traveling. If you’re not taking the car seat on board, you don’t have to worry about the measurements but if you do, always check what are the requirements of the airline you’re flying with. If you have a chance to rent a car with a baby car seat, that’s the best option- you won’t have to drag you own car seat with you all the way from home.
- a baby carrier- great for walks and whenever you need to have your hands free (or simply don’t want to bother with a stroller). I’ve used ErgoBaby 360 for most of my trips (you can read my full review of the product here).
However, when my daughter grew up a bit and got heavier (she was about 11 months old), I started to use a hip baby carrier as I’ve found it more comfortable and easier to use for quick shopping or whenever she refused to stay in her stroller. It’s also great if your toddler is walking already and you don’t need to carry him all the time.
b) for the suitcase:
- clothes- pack only practical clothes such as leggings, long/short sleeved bodysuits, all-in-ones, jumpers, hat etc. (try to avoid skirts or dungarees)
- muslin squares
- some diapers and baby wipes for the first couple of days (you can buy the rest at your destination)
- 2 or 3 baby bottles and an insulated bottle bag – to keep the milk warm for couple of hours
- medicine such as Ibuprofen (might be useful in case of any unwanted fevers/colds) and other supplies such as thermometer, nasal aspirator, diaper cream etc.
- manual or electric breast pump -for nights out (check out my other post about the best eletric pumps here)
- baby sunscreen (if you’re heading to a sunny place)
- small inflatable pool (again if you’re going to a hot place)- splashing water was my baby girls’ favourite activity on the beach
- a stroller rain cover (you can’t predict the weather!)
- pop up beach tent– a must have if you’re planning to spend your holiday at the seaside, lake or anywhere outdoors where you and your child will be exposed to the sunlight. It gives a shade from the sun, protection from UV rays and the wind. And it’s perfect for the nap time- for the both of you! (If you’re already tight on space, you can always ask at the hotel or apartment you chose if they have anything like that to borrow; in some places these tents are available for renting with other beach equipment).
7. Prepare some entertainment for the travel
So, apart from the toys and books, you should charge your phone or a tablet beforehand. Even if you’re not a fan of playing cartoons for your little one, it might be a game changer, especially if you have a very impatient baby (like I do!). Cartoons and songs on YouTube should occupy your child for some reasonable amount of time. If she’s still too little to watch, then you just have to be more creative- even squeezing an empty candy bar can catch her attention for a while.
If you’re traveling by car, it’s best you make enough stops (it’s recommended to take breaks roughly every 3 hours) so your little one’s spine could get some ‘rest’ from sitting in one position for too long.
I’d also suggest downloading any app with a white noise on your phone, especially if you have a younger baby. Sounds like rain, wind or even a tumbling dryer may help your little one to fall asleep in a new place.
8. Breastfeed if you’re able to
For take off and landing it is the best thing you can do as it helps your baby to feel less uncomfortable when the pressure in the cabin changes. In my case, boobs saved my butt on countless occasions, not only on the plane. It’s way more convenient than feeding from the bottle, you can do it anywhere you like and there’s less equipment to carry. Only bonuses!
9. Be prepared for different kind of food abroad
If your baby is already on solids and she’s a fussy eater (like my daughter), make sure you take some food she likes with you. Chances are you won’t find the same brand or type of food wherever you’re heading and that’s a great recipe for the unwanted drama.
However, if you’re traveling around the same continent you live in, you should be able to get anything your little one eats regularly. You can always do your online research, otherwise you can end up with 10 jars of food you could have got in the local store next to your hotel.
10. Be on time
Remember the rule, be on the airport 3 hours before the departure? Remember when you were never actually there so early?
Well, now you have to be or you won’t make it on time! You need to have time for the check- in, the security gates (and they will stop you to check the baby changing bag- that’s a minimum another 15 min of waiting) plus feeding, changing and all the fun staff. So just don’t add up to the stress you’ll be going through. Don’ be late.
And…I believe that’s it. There always has to be a first time to anything so follow my advice, don’t stress out too much and you’ll be just fine!
Can you think of any other travel essentials that we could add to my list?
Let me know in the comments!
Take care and enjoy your holiday:)