Bringing Baby: Tips for Traveling with an Infant

Here are 8 ways to ensure that your family vacation goes smoothly—even with your youngest child in tow.

Mother and toddler son sitting in an airplane using a digital tablet

by NEA Member Benefits

You need a vacation. But now that you have a baby, how is that going to work, exactly? While it may seem daunting at first—Do I buy the baby a seat on an airplane? How many diapers do I pack? What kind of snacks should I bring?—it doesn’t have to be. These tips will help you plan your next trip with baby in tow, and while he or she may not sleep any better, at least you can wake up to the sound of the ocean, the excitement of a new city or back in your hometown surrounded by family during the holidays.

1. Make a packing checklist

Packing for a baby can be overwhelming (not to mention it’s in addition to your own necessities). Make a checklist a few weeks beforehand so you have time to buy anything you might need. Here’s what you should pack:

  • Two outfits per day, plus shoes or booties
  • Enough pajamas for each night plus a few extra
  • Sleep sacks or swaddles, a baby blanket
  • Swimsuit, sunscreen and sun hat (if needed)
  • Bottles and formula
  • Cooler with ice packs
  • Dish soap and bottle brush
  • Breast pump and burp cloths if you’re breastfeeding
  • Pacifiers, baby nail clippers, baby thermometer and medicine
  • Bibs and baby food
  • Some favorite (and small) books and toys
  • Baby carrier, car seat, stroller, and any necessary adapters for attaching
  • Pack ‘n Play (or call and ask if your hotel or vacation rental can provide a crib)
  • Baby’s passport, if traveling internationally

You’ll also want to calculate how many diapers your baby uses per day, and then bring a few extra, along with plenty of wipes, diaper rash cream and a changing pad. To save room in your luggage, consider buying diapers at your destination. But if you do bring them along, you’ll have extra room for any souvenirs on the way back.

2. Feed during takeoff and landing

Infants’ ears can be especially sensitive and being on an airplane can make them pop, which can be quite painful. Think about what you do when your ears are popping to relieve the sensation—you swallow. So, if you give your baby a bottle or breast-feed during takeoff and landing, when popping occurs most frequently, it will them him swallow and keep them comforted during what might be a strange new feeling. But if your baby is asleep, no need to wake them.

3. Bring lots of snacks

If your child eats solids, make sure to pack plenty of healthy snacks for them to munch on. If you’re flying, the airline might provide a few small items but most don’t serve full meals on domestic flights. And note that most TSA agents will allow you to bring things like applesauce and liquid-y baby foods, as long as you show it to them and tell them it’s for your baby. In the car, having snacks on hand will help from having to constantly stop at a rest stop to buy unhealthy food. Snacks such as apple slices or string cheese, which won’t spill all over the seats, are ideal.

4. Bring a change of clothes and plenty of accessible diapers and wipes

There’s almost nothing worse than experiencing a diaper blowout and if it happens in transit without the proper supplies, it could ruin your trip. An extra set of clothing—for baby and you—will come in handy, even if there’s no diaper drama (spills, leaks and other messes do happen). Make sure you have one diaper for each hour you’ll be in transit, plus a few extra in case of delays, and a small pack of wipes that are easily accessible. Plastic bags or a wet bag will also come in handy for any dirty clothes. If your child gets motion sickness, consider putting them in a smock or large bib.

5. Plan around naptime

If you’re driving, plan to leave when baby will be napping or going to sleep for the night. If you’re flying, try to time takeoff around your child’s usual sleep time. This will ensure that your little one will sleep at least part of the travel time. And during the vacation, plan activities and outings around baby’s sleep schedule. Sometimes a long walk or scenic drive will be the perfect thing to help your child fall asleep in a strange place. But if your child needs a crib to fall asleep, decide whether that museum is worth the tantrum that may follow if they don’t get their usual rest.

6. Don’t overschedule

Before you had kids, you may have been the type of traveler who went to two museums, toured a food market and went souvenir shopping all in one day. While it may be tempting to pack a lot in if you have limited time and are visiting a new place, understand that everything takes longer with a child. It’s best not to overplan, especially in the first few days. Always leave room in your itinerary for unexpected delays and where you may previously have done five activities per day, maybe this time try just three. If you’re visiting family for the holidays, inform them of your baby’s schedule. Don’t worry if you must bow out of some activities. Keeping your child happy and healthy is your first priority.

7. Fight jet lag

If you’ll be traversing a few time zones, try shifting your baby’s sleep schedule a little each night in the days leading up to your departure. However, you may also want to consider keeping the same schedule in the new time zone if it’s a short trip and the time difference is only a couple of hours.

8. Stick to the bedtime routine

Being in a new place might make it hard for your little guy or gal to fall asleep at night. To help them feel more comfortable, make sure you perform the bedtime ritual just as you would at home, whether it includes a bath and a story or a lullaby while you rock them in your arms. Bringing a Pack ‘n Play or requesting a travel crib from your hotel will also help with keeping your baby’s routine as consistent as possible.

While traveling with a baby or toddler does add a level of complexity to your plans, these tips and tricks will help you keep your child happy, rested and relaxed so your entire family enjoys the vacation.

Plan your next getaway today