Top Tips for Traveling with a Baby
Looking for tips for traveling with a baby? Whether you are bringing your little one on vacation, to visit loved ones, or like us – moving to a different state, traveling with a baby can be challenging. It’s best to be prepared and flexible. I’m here to take a lot of those worries, anxieties, stress off of your plate. You can see more in my articles on flying with a baby and road-tripping with a baby for more specific tips!
Learn from my mistakes (and my victories!) with these tips for traveling with a baby. As a military family, moving is required. Because of this, we moved from Hawai’i to California when my son was 7 months old. Military moves require you to pack everything you need to live off of while your housing goods are being shipped. Therefore we were traveling with our dog, dog crate, 2 large totes, 3 suitcases, a pack n play, stroller, car seat, car seat base, duffel bag, and diaper bag. Yes, it was as stressful as it sounds.
Not only that, we chose to complicate it a bit more by actually flying to Washington State first and road-tripping down to California. My dad lives in Washington and hadn’t gotten a chance to meet my son yet (thank you, pandemic) and we needed to buy a second car. Made sense to do it all on the same trip and catch a few beautiful views along the way, right?
As you can imagine, we had our hands full. It felt like diving right into the deep end of parenthood. We took all of the unique and challenging situations that you might deal with as a parent and went through them all at once. The experience truly tested my strength and patience. But it also showed me just how resilient and capable I was as a mother. It’s my hope that your travels can help you see your strength as well!
But enough about me, let’s get into my tips for traveling with a baby. After you are done reading, check out my top tips on flying with a baby and road-tripping with a baby.
Car Seat Selection
If possible, choose a car seat that doesn’t require a base. Even if you are driving and don’t need to worry about removing the car seat base, it can be a pain to switch from car to car if your final destination is to see family or friends. When flying, you want to be sure that your car seat and base are FAA approved. Our car seat was FAA approved, but our car seat base was not. We chose to check that and bring it along in our car on our road trip.
This is just a general lesson that I have learned time and time again during our travels. It is one of the most important tips for traveling with a baby. Practice this flexibility by going with the flow and taking things as they come. Blowouts happen, meltdowns, as painful and embarrassing as they can be, happen. Plans might not happen when (or how) you had originally planned. Anytime I had a specific time set to meet someone or leave a destination, it was almost always delayed by 1 to even 3 hours.
With that in mind, try to “plan” to leave early. I don’t know about you but the first part of the day is the easiest. Especially if it’s really early. My baby will usually fall back asleep. Or at least be pretty calm and quiet for a while. Which generally means that he requires less attention. Take advantage of that time.
As I mentioned earlier, having pre-booked airbnbs and hotels put a lot of pressure on us. It required us to travel a specific amount of miles and sometimes be at our destination at a certain time. If I could do it over, I would have had some more flexibility with our schedule.
I would have tried to find hotels along the way that would work and stayed at one of those instead. This allows much more flexibility with your baby’s day. If they are really struggling in the car on your trip, you can spend more time making them happy and less time worrying about reaching a destination.
Making Plans with Others
Anyone outside of your little traveling unit needs to be flexible as well. And they need you to set the expectations properly. Because it’s not their child and they might not have any experience traveling with a child, they may not know how hard it is to stick to a strict schedule on your journey. When making plans, try to give a window of time for plans instead of exact times. Keep them updated during your travels so they can plan appropriately on their end as well.
Top Tips for Traveling with a Baby
Think of the worst possible scenario with your baby and prepare for that. Bring extra clothes, for both you and the baby. Extra breast milk or formula. Plenty of diapers. Medications for baby (Tylenol, Benadryl, Motrin, Orajel, etc.) and medications for adults (ginger chews, Dramamine, Tylenol, etc.).
Be sure that you (and anyone else traveling with you and your baby) know where each of these things is. Make the most important items easy to access. Check out my Flying Essentials for Baby and Road Trip Essentials for Baby for those specific essential items to bring with you. Outside of those items, here are the ones I would not travel without.
Travel Essentials for Babies:
- Extra clothes. Like a LOT of extra clothes.
- The same goes for diapers. Pack more than you think you need to get to your destination. You can always buy more there and that means you can carry a little less than packing for the entire trip.
- Pack n Play for safe sleep. This on-the-go bed and play area will keep your baby safe in unfamiliar places. Especially because they are not likely to be baby-proofed!
- Travel activity chair. This is pretty much a folding camping chair for babies. While it’s a simple concept, it will make a huge difference on your trip.
- Soothing toy. For those moments when you just need a little extra help comforting your baby. This item is now a must-have anytime we leave the house!
- Stroller toy. Or two. Having more than one new toy for your babe will keep them entertained much longer than just one could!
- Sleepsack. If you’ve seen any of my other posts recommending baby products, you know that we swear by this for better sleep.
- App or portable white noise machine. Another must-have for sleeping anywhere new (with new noises!).
- Baby monitor (or if in a pinch, you can start a speakerphone call between two phones. Be sure that you mute the phone you will be listening on that way noise does not come out of the phone that is near the baby)
- Nursing cover. Or not! No one says you have to cover up. I do like having this one around for any situation that I might be uncomfortable breastfeeding. It doubles as a carseat cover too!
- Lightweight stroller. This Nuna one is so easy to travel with!
- Portable travel high chair. Having one of these on hand will make meal time so much easier (and safer!).
- Muslin blankets or burp cloths. I prefer the muslin blankets because they cover so much more surface area! But you can never go wrong with having actual burp cloths on hand.
- Sippy cup. Make sure it’s a good spill-proof one too!
- Spill-proof snack container. Nothing is more annoying than picking up 58 pieces of puffs.
- Baby travel spoon
- Inflatable travel bathtub
- Travel-sized bottles for baby lotion, wash, etc.
- Washcloths. These ones are so soft!
- Medications for baby (Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl, Orajel, etc.)
- Baby thermometer
- Owlet Sock 2. This is worth packing for me (and worth the price if you don’t already have one!). Sleeping in a new situation with my baby causes a little bit of anxiety for me. Having my owlet sock allows me to sleep soundly knowing that my baby is sleeping safely.
- Baby Beach Essentials these are great for any warm weather trip – even if there won’t be a beach involved!
Give them a new toy (or more for longer trips). Pick one they’ve never seen before. They will be interested much longer if it is a toy they haven’t already spent hours playing with and inspecting. Having a new toy or two handy can keep them occupied and keep you stress-free.
Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. You don’t want to have to stress about pulling up leggings or adjusting your shoes while you are already worrying enough while traveling with a baby. This is the perfect opportunity to rock athleisure wear. So pack a cute pair of sweatpants and grab some comfy shoes!
Set aside your general rules. This is a temporary, special situation and therefore requires a new set of rules. Do you normally avoid screen time? This might be the time to reconsider it, just for your journey. Making one exception, one that won’t harm your child, can make all of the difference for your mental health. You could even find age-appropriate educational videos on YouTube.
I try to avoid all screen time for my son, just as a general rule right now (no judgment for anyone who utilizes screen time! This is just an example of rule-bending). But we dealt with a massive meltdown in a place that I was not able to escape or take him out of his car seat. Playing a video on my phone of my dad reading to him saved my sanity. It was either that or nonstop screaming – which was not good for my son, me, or my husband.
Enjoy the Journey
Don’t forget to have fun! Traveling, in general, is stressful, let alone with a baby! Yes, you will have some stressful moments, unless you somehow get incredibly lucky. Finding a way to laugh through those challenging moments. Or sneak in a break for fun can make the wild ride worth every stressful moment. We pulled over during some of the most intense meltdowns on our road trip. These were unexpected stops and ended up giving us some wonderful memories and beautiful views.
My last tip for traveling with a baby is to remember that your baby feeds off of your energy. Do what you can to set yourself up for a less stressful trip, try to remain calm when things do get challenging, and have a laugh if you can! Or you’ll look back on this entire experience and wish you had appreciated it a bit more.
Wishing you safe travels!
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Do you have any other tips for traveling with a baby? Leave a comment below to help others!