Traveling with newborns can be daunting for the most intrepid of travelers, especially if you’re a first-time parent. But with a bit of forward planning, it’s easier than you might think.
Preparation is the key to a successful road trip or flight with a little one. Preparation enables you to create new memories and explore exciting destinations as a family. The earlier you can get your kids accustomed to traveling, the easier it will become. So here’s a guide to traveling with a newborn to get you started.
How soon can they travel?
You can technically travel with a newborn straight away. Although many airlines prefer the baby to be at least a week old. But unless travel is essential, it’s wise to wait until their immune system has had a chance to develop.
Babies born prematurely or with respiratory symptoms, heart or lung problems, may have difficulties with the changes in oxygen levels within the cabin. If this is your situation, speak with your child’s pediatrician before you fly.
Will my baby need a passport?
If you’re flying internationally, your baby will need a passport to travel. You should plan for this well in advance of your trip. Parents or guardians need to apply for this with their baby in person, using the DS-11 form. They require your to bring your baby’s birth certificate and a recent photo.
Your baby needs to be the only person in this photo. Since they won’t be old enough to sit upright unassisted, the U.S. Department of State advises laying them on their back on a white sheet so their head is supported without you needing to hold them.
Will they need their own ticket?
It depends. The majority of airlines don’t require a separate ticket for babies under age two who can sit on your lap. Many also have a special lap belt that attaches to your seat belt to keep them secure during the flight. However, there might be an additional fee for international flights, or you may require a special boarding pass. For peace of mind, consult with the airline you’re flying with before your trip to confirm their policies.
However, you may be thankful for the extra space if you can get them their own seat. And it might make for a more comfortable journey — and safer, in the event of turbulence, especially on longer flights. Car seats don’t count as luggage for most airlines. It is recommended you bring a car seat on the plane, if your baby has their own seat.
Staying comfortable during the flight
You can ask for a travel bassinet for the flight, if your airline has them. Although these aren’t guaranteed and are typically handed out on a first come, first served basis, depending on your baby’s age. You can also check with your airline if a bassinet will be counted towards your luggage, if you bring your own.
Try to time your flights with your baby’s napping schedule to make the process easier. Then you will be able to eat without interruption. And your baby will be calmer as they won’t be as tired.
What to pack when traveling with a newborn
It’s a good idea to pack as light as possible. There’s nothing more exhausting than lugging multiple bags of unnecessary items around through airports, train stations and hotels.
In addition to the usual baby supplies, such as diapers, wipes, cloths, bottles and a first aid kit, you’ll also need to reserve a crib for the hotel if they normally sleep in one at home.
You may also want to pack a plug-in baby monitor and night light to help them adjust to a new room. And, of course, you will want to pack clothes that suit the climate of where you’re traveling. Remember pieces that will suit the temperature at home so they’re comfortable traveling to and from your destination.
For older children, travel light with a RideSafer travel car seat.
Getting through security
TSA checkpoints are notoriously inconsistent between airports. You’ll need to adhere to the 3 oz liquid rule when it comes to traveling with breast milk. But you’ll need to check that there are no additional requirements as often bottles can also be checked. (Seriously, keep each bottle at 3 oz or less or they will check each one. I just watched this happen with a family traveling with a little baby at an airport in Florida.)
Informing your TSA officer can make this process quicker, as they usually allow reasonable amounts. Likewise, if you’re packing formula for the trip or water for mixing separately, let your TSA officer know that you have it.
Keep them entertained while traveling
One way to make sure your travels go smoothly is to keep your baby calm and well rested. Make sure they get plenty of sleep before you set off. Then pack a few things that will keep them entertained during the trip.
Baby-proof mirrors, soft toys, rattles, musical toys and pop-up toys are all great options that will keep them distracted during the journey. Not to mention minimize the chance of you, and other passengers, having to deal with a disgruntled baby.
Prepare for ear pain too. During take-off and the descent before landing, the changes in air pressure can cause discomfort in the ears. It can help to have your baby drink from the breast or bottle, or suck on a pacifier, during these sections of the flight, to prevent ear pain.
Breastfeed, if you can
Being able to feed your baby anytime, anywhere, makes life a lot easier. It also means you won’t need to take bottles and sterilizers with you, which cuts down on your luggage. But if you can’t breastfeed or simply don’t want to on your trip, and you’re flying, most airlines have allowances to bring breastmilk and formula. Ensure you’ve packed a travel sterilizer with you to clean the bottles during the trip.
As you’ll be traveling with a newborn, you’re unlikely to be in any set routine or schedule just yet, so embrace that and take a relaxed approach to feeding. It’s easy for your baby to become dehydrated during traveling though, so make sure they’re drinking enough.
Most importantly, learn how to travel with less stress and enjoy yourself
Getting around on arrival
With a newborn, you actually have more options for getting around than you would have with an older child. From carriers and slings to car seats and prams, there are plenty of options. It’s all about what’s most convenient and comfortable for you. A travel stroller can be really useful not only for giving your arms a break from carrying them but also for storing their essentials.
These strollers can be folded easily and are relatively lightweight. They are easy to travel with without taking up too much space when your baby isn’t in it. Even better is a car seat stroller combination like the Doona Infant Car Seat and Stroller. That way you are ready for walking and any rides in the car.
If you’re renting a car for your trip, make sure you look into car seats provided for rent. Or bring your own to be absolutely sure it’s safe.
Know where to find local services
Anything can happen, so you want to be prepared for all eventualities. This is why it’s a good idea to have the contact details of a local doctor and emergency services on hand at all times, just in case. If your baby develops a fever, gets a bug bite or something similar, it’s good to know you can call an expert for advice.
Final thoughts before you travel with a baby
Traveling with a newborn is a wonderful experience. And it’s a great way to relax and spend quality time with your family during your maternity leave.
Preparation is key though. Consider the destination carefully so you can thoroughly plan, not only for the journey there and back but also getting around once you’ve arrived and carrying out routine tasks as easily as possible for an enjoyable trip.
Guest post: Kate Sheppard is a mum of two and enjoys writing about the ups and the downs of parenting and isn’t afraid to tell it how it is. She’s passionate about all things families, countryside, children’s education and women’s rights. Connect with Kate on Twitter: @KateSheppard90
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