Top 30 Tips For Travelling With a Baby

2 October 2019

So many of you have messaged me to write about this topic. We have done a fair bit of travelling with Aiza so I’m all too happy to share what worked and didn’t work for us. However, I’m no expert. I’ve legit had this kid for only a year and we learn heaps each time we venture out. So please take this post as a guide and not a mandate.
We travel locally with Aiza by car. With our own vehicle, it’s relatively easy to travel as I can obviously over-pack. We are prepared for any eventuality. However, it’s altogether another ball game when it’s 5 weeks of full-time exploration with a baby, via public transport, might I add. You can’t pack your house with you so improvisation is a necessity. We explored 25 European cities in 8 countries with Aiza as 8 months old in May/June 2019.
Recently we made an impromptu trip to India in the summer heat. Aiza celebrated her first birthday during this trip. She has so far clocked 10 countries on her passport. This kid is going places!

As parents, we have learned a lot in this one year. Travelling speeds up learning many-fold.

Here are my top travel tips with babies-
1. Babies are more resilient than we think they are. They are not fragile lil creatures. They adapt well. Just take the plunge, they will surprise you in ways you did not imagine. You will come back thankful for this one on one time with your partner and baby. No routine, no work commitments, no household chores, just being with each other 24/7 and exploring..bliss.

2. Babies love being out and about. At least Aiza does. Even at home, she loves outdoors. Babies love to see other people, interact with them, get pampered and be the centre of attraction. It's learning-on-the-go for them too.

3. Luggage Essentials- Even though you might be tempted to take your entire house with you in your luggage, evaluate what you’ll really need. Here’s what I took for our Europe trip that was actually used- her sleeping bag, some old and new toys, 4 sets of clothes, her white noise machine so she can sleep through while we pack or do other stuff (you can use phone apps/YouTube for this purpose too), some travel friendly baby food, her Mustela gel cleanser and Savar body lotion (I did not use any other soap on her), hair comb, spare hair ties, UV hat (sun hat), a warm merino wool cap and a little container with coconut oil for moisturising. I am planning to write more about these essentials soon. Expect a blog on this.

4. Here’s what I took with me that we did not use- her books (because all of us were so tired in the evening, we just slept), Weleda teething powder (fortunately she did not start teething till we were on our flight back). I bought a Munchkin Miracle 360 trainer cup for her that we did not need to use as she fed on the breast. I was concerned she would be too distracted to feed and I might need to express but she proved me wrong. That cup is a great option if your baby likes to self-feed. It's spill-proof.

I also carried a swaddle and a few extra Muslin clothes, which we did not reach for at all. She used to nap while swaddled before our Europe trip but dropped the habit completely during travels. Too tired to care maybe?

5. Pack less. Like seriously pack less. The less stuff you carry, the easier your life, the more you’ll enjoy. More so, if you are relying on public transport. My best advice is to take out everything that you think you’ll need, days before your trip, on a table/spare bed. Revisit the pile again and again. Think long and hard and keep removing stuff from it. My mantra is 'If in doubt, take it out'. If you aren't sure you'll be wearing that jumpsuit, you won't wear that jumpsuit. Take my word for it. You won't even miss it.
We don’t need as much stuff as we convince ourselves and babies actually don’t need a lot. I will do a post next on what’s in our travel bag and diaper bag so you can get a peek on what actually made the cut.

6. Say goodbye to sleep and feed routines. Every time we come back home from travels, Aiza’s food and sleep routine change for the better. Babies love routine and after being on the go for several weeks, even she appreciates sleeping on her own bed with all the available space. She even eats better when we are back home.

After our trip to India in the summer heat, where Aiza hardly ate anything and lost some weight even, she came back home and literally made up for all the missed food. She cherished eating clean food in the peace and quiet of our home. So if anything, I'd encourage you to travel so baby becomes more resilient and forms better habits.

Before our Europe trip with 8-month-old Aiza, she would never sleep in a room with light and people talking over her. After napping on the go in trains for over 5 weeks, she sleeps in any light now. Doesn’t even need white noise anymore.

7. Think about your sleeping arrangements. We co-sleep so we do not require a separate sleeping arrangement for Aiza when we travel. If your baby sleeps in a cot, it’s best to book accommodation that provides this arrangement. Many Airbnb’s do. This is one of my top 15 Airbnb booking tips that I will be sharing soon. Once you’ve mentioned your infant in the booking, you can message the host and request a baby crib/cot, feeding chair and other essentials. The family-friendly accommodations can provide it. If not, pick another one that does. Additionally, some brands make lightweight, portable cots for travel (mesh material). It’s something to consider if you are willing to carry the load.

8. Breastfeed on take-off and landing. For flying with babies, it’s best to have them breastfeeding /sucking during take-off and landing. This helps with the change of pressure. Easier said than done may I add. I have a distracted child you only feeds for a minute or two, so I have to time that minute as soon as the flight is about to take off the ground. If the baby is sleeping, don’t bother waking them up.

9. If the baby has a cold or blocked nose, they might have an earache during the flight. In that case, feeding the baby on take-off and landing is your only safe bet. A dummy might do the trick too, however, we don’t use it so I can’t be sure. In saying that, Aiza has never really cried on take-off and landing. She is absolutely fine each time and hardly ever breastfeeds. I'm aware there are nasal drops and other products available at pharmacies that can aid if the baby has blocked nose. It's worth a trip to enquire.

10. Another tip an air hostess gave us during our Europe trip- plug a clean wet cotton swab into the ear. It helps with ear pressure in both adults and kids. I haven’t tried it yet, but it comes from an expert so I’ll leave it up to you to try. My husband uses earplugs and he rates them highly. For babies, wet cotton would be safer.

Baby carrier for the win

11. Follow your baby's lead. Let them guide you.

Your babies nap and feed schedules will go out the window. Trust me the minute you step out of your home, it’s no man’s land. How to survive the uncertainty? Follow the baby’s lead. Look for cues. I let Aiza tell me what she needs. Rubbing eyes, yawning? Quickly feed her and put her to sleep. Putting things in mouth, rooting for the boob? Feed her. Hydrate her.
I’ve noticed that baby’s sleep more and eat less while travelling. It must be all the tiredness. So I prioritise sleep as much as I can. Following baby’s cues makes it so much easier to travel and takes all the stress out. It makes your life easy. Put her to sleep even if she got up half an hour ago. Just do it!

12. Which brings me to.. Baby Carriers. What a saviour. Before our Europe trip we hardly ever used a baby carrier. In fact, I bought our 'LilleBaby Complete All Seasons' baby carrier just before our trip from the Facebook marketplace. Worth every cent. Aiza had all her naps in it and we did sightseeing while she slept-in snugly. This carrier model from LilleBaby is all seasons so it worked in European summers too, however, I’d still advise you to be cautious of overheating your baby.

Also, watch your own clothes. As she had all her naps on dad, the husband made sure he wore tee-shirts that were free of embellishments and were 100% cotton.

We’ve never carried our stroller on a long haul and haven’t even felt the need yet. The baby carrier has served us very well for the first year of Aiza’s life. Even after coming back from our trip, she still has her evening nap in carrier. It's a habit that's stuck on.

13. Diapers

We always carry some supply of our favourite diapers but there’s no way we can carry it all. I try to carry our favourites for as many nights as we travel. I know our nappies will last overnight for 12 hours. They've been tried and tested. Hence, I try and carry my stash of night nappies. The day ones are bought at the destination.

Nappy shopping in Dubrovnik

This one is approved by us

14. If your baby is small and light (less than 6 months and 7 kgs), you can request a bassinet seat in the plane. We requested and used it once. Aiza didn’t sleep in it and because you can’t lift the seat armrest between chairs, it was the most uncomfortable breastfeeding experience in those extra-leg space seats. Definitely not my favourite seats on the plane. In fact, I hate them. If your baby would sleep in a bassinet, they are godsend though. You have to request those seats during the booking process so the airline knows beforehand. Still, those seats are first-come, first-serve so turn up to the gate earlier and do let airline staff know that you are after the bassinet seat. Tough luck if there are many babies on the same flight.

15. If your baby is older than 6 months or weighs more, I suggest approaching the airline staff as soon as you settle in the plane. I tend to move around the plane with Aiza and have a good cheerful conversation with the crew (obviously using Aiza there!) and then I would sneakily ask them to keep a lookout for any spare seats for me. Aiza being an infant has no allotted seat so technically she is to stay on my lap the whole time. I'm sharing because I've had success with this method. I’ve often been awarded an empty row of 3 seats so Aiza could lie down and I could feed her comfortably too. Just be genuinely nice to the airline staff.

A good helpful crew can make your flight experience so much better. We rate Ethiad Airlines highly. They even have a flying nanny on long-haul flights. They can hold your baby if you'd like to enjoy a meal in peace. It's the little things!

16. A bit of common sense but I’ll list it down. Warm clothes for the flight, please. The aircon blasts cold air and trust me you don’t want to deal with a blocked nose. We always have a Merino suit and cap for Aiza for the flight. Oh! And socks too.

17. A suggestion if you can afford? Try booking a flight that coincides with your baby’s night-time sleep. Especially if it’s a long-haul flight. Those flights are expensive though.

18. You aren't going to a remote island with nothing but water around so you don't need to carry an entire household with you. There will be shops where you go. Resist the urge to carry a lot. A capsule wardrobe (google it) for entire family where everything matches with everything is the key. My husband has a saying “I can either explore places or I can make it a fashion show”. It hit me! I carry only stuff I’ll wear again and again. Clothes that are comfortable and feeding friendly (Kmart feeding dresses for the win). Shoes that are light and comfortable (All Birds all the way). Parent's comfort is paramount in having a good travel experience.

19. Use your baby to your advantage - I posted a similar tip in my travelling Europe while pregnant blog here. Use your physical condition to your advantage. I used pregnancy to skip lines, get a seat and order favourable things. Not in a mean way but it’s nice to sit when you are 6 months pregnant.

Once you have a kid, use them. I believe in asking. You don’t get something until you ask. So, go forth, and ask if they’ll let you priority board with kids (it’s often a yes; after the Business Class peeps have boarded). Use kids to skip the ticket line. Sit when someone offers you a seat in public transport. It’s not easy to travel with them, you might as well make good use of them.

20. Travel insurance is a must.

This should have been my first tip but I somehow started with another vibe. Travel insurance is a must. Most times, you’ll pay and nothing will happen. You pay for your peace of mind & also for that one rare time something bad were to happen. Medical expenses overseas can be a financial nightmare so insurance is a small price that should be factored into ticket prices.

21. Pack spares in hand luggage.

We always pack a set of clothes for everyone in our hand luggage. It’s a given for baby, but don’t knock yourself off. Baby poo and vomit can wreck your clothes any minute. It’s a ticking bomb so best be prepared. Even before baby, we always packed a set of clothes in hand luggage because sometimes luggage doesn’t arrive (been there, done that!) and then you have to go out and buy fresh clothes (done that too!) so it’s an ingrained habit now.

22. A great tip to pack light is to do laundry while travelling. We always do. It saves us from carrying too many clothes. Most hotels have laundry services. If they are too dear- hotel soap, bathroom sink and heated towel rail is the answer. My husband is an expert with this. This is also one of the reasons we prefer Airbnb’s to hotels. We try to book ones with washer and dryer facilities.

23. Lower your expectations

You will not be able to explore as much as you did when you travelled single or as a couple, but bet you! you won’t even regret it. Travelling with babies is so rewarding. It’s a whole another experience looking at something from a baby’s perspective. They force you to be in the moment. Everything is awe-worthy. So yeah! lower your expectations. Keep itinerary simple. Do as much as you can. Make good use of sleep times to visit quiet museums etc. Ultimately, your baby is the boss and their mood dictates your experience. Their feeding and naps decide your day. So accept that and move on quickly.

24. Your baby’s eating habits will suffer during travel. Accept it and move on.

The food is new, there are many distractions, there’s no routine, they are confused when to nap and when to eat. Hence, it’s unreasonable to expect a similar feeding schedule and enthusiasm for food. You have to do the best you can and focus on hydration instead. I know of mom’s who don’t travel due to this reason and I also know of some who carry a portable baby food cooker and cook meals in hotel rooms. I’m not in either of those camps. Might I add, no judgement at all if you are! We all travel differently and have different priorities.

As adults, our eating habits suffer while travelling. It’s the same with babies. That’s the beauty of travel. There’s no certainty and routine to fall back on. This is what makes one resilient. This is what makes us improvise. Hence, do your best but don’t let feeding take over your holiday joy. Let them chomp on french fries and enjoy a little. It’s not forever. You will all get back to good meals once home. Focus on memories instead.

That said, Aiza travelled to Europe as an 8-month-old and survived on potato wedges (unsalted), bread, yoghurt, fruits, berries, purée pouches and nibbles from our food. She didn't eat a lot. She nursed a lot though. We survived and had a good time.

Breastfeeding anytime and anywhere

25. Airport security allows baby food, breast milk and warm water for formula. Just let them know you are carrying it.

26. That brings me to security check-in procedure. I find this part the most annoying, but I understand it's for security reasons. If your baby is sleeping in the baby carrier or stroller, you will have to take them out of it before passing through the security gates. They will scan the stroller and baby carrier. Mum/dad and baby can pass through the metal detector together. This often wakes up Aiza so I try to not put her to sleep until we are all done with these checks.

27. For our recent trip to India, Aiza was a year old and crawling. As we don’t give her any screentime yet, she definitely needed us to entertain her. Dot stickers from 2 dollar shop came very handy. So did all other types of trash like water bottles and wrappers. Even crunchy snacks would occupy her for long. Google age-appropriate travel activity packs for kids and carry some light-weight items that can help entertain on the long-haul. If you are lucky they'll sleep through, but if it's team no sleep, these can be a lifesaver.

28. Baby travel must-haves- diapers, disposable changing mat, diaper rash cream, baby wipes, a pack of facial tissues, anti-bacterial surface wipes, baby warm hat, sun hat , change of clothes, manual breast pump , feeding cup or bottles or your boobs, feeding cover if breastfeeding, some food/snacks if baby older than 6 months.

29. Baby Car Seat

We always have our friends pick us up from the airport. We arrange to leave our baby seat in their car before leaving for a trip. However, on our way back from India last month, our friend could not make it and we had to try Uber. We had no baby seat on us and upon enquiring with Uber helpline, it was found that no taxi carries the baby seat. They need space in their boot for customer luggage, hence no one carries them. It was then an airport official mentioned that it is not a legal requirement to have the baby in his/her seat while travelling in a taxi. It was a light-bulb moment for me, as rules are pretty strict for private cars when it comes to strapping the baby in. I'm assuming this holds true for some other countries as well. I leave it up to you to enquire.

However, might I add, we booked a taxi in Kotor (Montenegro) to take us to Perast village one early morning. We let them know a night before that we have a baby with us and surprisingly the guy had a very clean baby seat installed in the taxi the next morning. I'm assuming taxi drivers can provide baby safety seats if pre-arranged.

I also know people travel with a baby car seat for use during the flight. It's safer and more familiar for the baby. I haven't used them personally so I cannot say what the rules around them are.

30. Whenever possible, if you can afford it, pay a little extra for convenience.

I'm the worst at this myself. I always want the cheapest deal, be it food, accommodation, flights or any other travel costs. However, my husband is a sensible man and he never forgets to give me a nudge when I'm being unrealistic booking a 5 am flight.

So, I urge you to pay a little extra for that convenient 9 am flight, a seat/class upgrade or just about anything. If you can afford it comfortably that is. We do it now when we travel with Aiza and haven't regretted any such upgrade. It makes the journey so much more enjoyable and hassle-free. I'm all for a little hustle and discomfort (that's my travel style) but I'm learning the merits of this comfortable travel life as well. Less bickering with husband for one!

And that is all. I hope this post is helpful to any mom out there, paranoid about travelling with a baby.

Just do it. It’s going to be so amazing. Travelling with Aiza has been our best trip to date. She connected us to so many people. People on the trains, buses and markets. The whole world out there loves babies. The little ones have the power to attract the best souls. We’ve had the best conversations with locals thanks to Aiza. If you have the attitude of getting on with life and are willing to let go of some control and schedules, you will enjoy this one on one time so much. Being present with your baby all hours of the day, without worrying about household chores is a blessing. Go out and enjoy it!

Aiza with our hotel cook in Istanbul

Happy travelling

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