Before we started a family, my husband and I shared a passion for adventure travel, and made a concerted effort to plan an annual trip. That didn’t change when we had our baby girl. We had the goal of travelling abroad with our daughter in her first year of life, and though we knew it would be challenging, in the Winter of 2014 we set off for 70 days in the South Pacific when Maya was just ten months old.
We couldn’t have imagined just how challenging it would be. The trip pushed us to our extremes – from incredible joy-filled moments to utter exhaustion and frustration – often within the same minute. Was it worth it? Yes. Did we learn a ton? Absolutely.
That’s why I decided to put this post together for you. Whether it’s adventure travel that’s calling your name or a week of relaxation in Mexico (heck, bring the grandparents along for some built-in babysitting!), I hope these tips and insights will come in handy. I have alphabetized the categories to make it easier for you to find information.
Don’t miss my other post in this series, Essential Gear for Adventure Travel with a Baby.
This is a condensed list! For all the tips, download the e-guide or sign up for the newsletter to receive a free copy!
Consider what your needs are and how long you are travelling for when you are booking your accommodations. Your arrangement will affect you, so take some time to weigh your options and figure out what will work best for your family.
Depending on your needs, ask to check in early or check out late if it’ll make things easier for you. Many proprietors will be more than happy to accommodate you. It will help you a great deal to get settled in as soon as possible and have somewhere for the baby to nap before hitting the road again.
There may be activities you’d like to do as a family, but when it’s only something the adults can do I recommend splitting up or taking turns. Doing everything together isn’t always the most efficient way of travelling, and you risk not having the opportunity to truly enjoy the places you are visiting. Each parent will need some baby-free time along the way to recharge their batteries!
Airports and Airplanes
If you can, talk to an airline representative upon arrival at the airport before getting in line. Often they will expedite you through the process because you’ve got a baby with you.
Carry your baby through the airport in a soft-structured baby carrier to leave your hands free for carrying luggage and holding passports and plane tickets. Often security will let you wear it right through the sensor, which comes in particularly handy if your baby is sleeping.
Some airlines offer bassinets to babies under a particular age and weight. Even if your baby isn’t eligible for the bassinet, ask about snagging seats in the bassinet section, which offers a lot more leg room (you’ll have to ask at the counter when you check in).
You likely aren’t booking a seat for your baby, but you might be able to snag an extra seat using one of two methods. Find out what they are by downloading the e-guide or sign up for the newsletter to receive a free copy!
Bring more clothes than you think you’ll need, particularly t-shirts and pants/shorts. Baby clothes weigh nothing and take up little space. They are also quickly dirtied during playtime or mealtime. The last thing you want to be doing every other day while you’re travelling is laundry.
For dirty clothes I brought along a Large Bummis Organic Wet Bag to store them in until we could do a wash.
Cloth or disposable!? It’s up to you. But, something to keep in mind is access to laundry or water for hand-washing if you’re carrying cloth. Some places don’t have a lot fresh water for washing, and may prefer you use disposables. My personal choice was to use disposables. We found them everywhere in stores, and though it meant adding garbage everywhere we went, it was a heck of a lot easier. I can’t imagine the amount of time I would have spent washing cloth diapers when I could have been out exploring.
Ditch the bulky diaper bag and bring along a small kit in a bag (my pick was the Lug Puddle Jumper) you can use for all your sundry travel items. For diapering, I brought a small Bummis Organic Wet Bag and kept it stocked with a change pad, a few diapers, wipes and bum cream.
Keep a stash of plastic bags on hand for disposing of dirty diapers. Normally we bring our own bags when shopping, but occasionally we asked for plastic so that we could have some on hand.
Here’s something we didn’t do, but I wish I had even though thankfully nothing went wrong on the medical front: take a baby/infant first aid class prior to setting off on your trip. You can’t guarantee which emergency medical services will be available to you should something happen.
Of course you can travel with a baby of any stage and age, I highly recommend travelling when your infant can self-feed and is done with purees. Being able to offer chunks of food or having him or her eat the same things you are makes things much easier.
If you are able to breastfeed, extend this through the period you will be travelling. Nothing could be more convenient and comforting when you’re on the move.
Always re-stock on food and baby products when you have the chance. Don’t assume you can get it later, or that every store carries the same items.
The squeeze packs of fruit and veggies come in particularly handy when you’re travelling. They make great snacks, but they also ensure your baby gets the fruits and veggies they need when they aren’t available or convenient while you’re on the move. Refrigerate a squeeze pack for a nice, cold treat in a hot climate.
Depending on where you are going, you may need to get additional immunizations for your baby, and/or ask if their routine childhood shots can be adjusted. We were able to get our daughter her Measles shot prior to leaving even though she was not yet the recommended age.
In some cases your clinic may refuse to give certain shots early, whether the first dose or boosters. This was the case for us. We sought out a travel clinic in New Zealand prior to our trip and had them do our daughter’s one year shots, as well as Hepatitis A. It wasn’t cheap, but for us it was worth having her protected as much as possible.
Breastfeeding mothers: If you are still nursing your baby, you may be limited as to which immunizations you can get or in which format (oral or needle). Allow for extra time prior to leaving in case your clinic needs to get approval to give you certain shots. In Alberta, my clinic had to get direct approval from the Minister of Health in order to give me a typhoid vaccine!
This is a tricky one with babies, but my experience is to let them sleep when they want to, and graze on snacks throughout the day until they naturally fall into a rhythm and routine again. Try to move their bedtime incrementally earlier or later as you need to and gradually they will adjust. Unfortunately they just can’t sleep and eat on demand!