13 Tips for Successful Baby Travel
Over the past few years, we’ve learned a lot about what makes or breaks a trip with a baby. We’ve also learned that traveling with one baby is very different than traveling with two (shocking, I know).
Let’s just say, I’ve gained a huge respect for those brave families who travel with 3 or 4 little ones.
To you, I tip my hat!
Last week, I received a message from a nervous mother who was about to take her infant on a flight for the first time. I vividly remember feeling the same anxiety before our first flight with baby.
In preparation for her trip, she asked me to share my most useful baby travel tips.
I sent her the link to our other blog, Tips for Baby Travel, and later realized we had not written a detailed “baby travel tips” post on this travel blog. We often get asked about traveling with a baby, so I thought it was about time to write a post dedicated to baby travel.
If you do have little ones, or plan to start a family soon, you’ll find these baby travel tips useful for planning your next trip.
1. Book rooms with separate sleeping areas
This is arguably the most important thing to consider when traveling with a baby.
Consider this, if everyone is piled into one room you’ll likely have to go to sleep when your baby goes to sleep. If you want to watch a movie or have a conversation while your baby sleeps, it’s best to find accommodations that have separate sleeping areas.
We look for accommodations that offer one or two bedroom suites, instead of the standard hotel room with one or two beds. You will pay a little more for this convenience, but a good night’s sleep is worth it.
Lately, we’ve turned to short-term apartment rentals because they are typically cheaper than hotels and offer the comforts of home.
We typically use VRBO and AirBnb. We also like Hotels.com, Agoda.com and Expedia.com because you can book 1 or 2 bedrooms.
We like programs that offer additional benefits, like one free night for every 10 nights we book, or points towards future bookings.
Sometimes apartment rentals are located far from the city center. To save on transportation expenses, consider staying at centrally located apartments (even if it costs a little more). Also – search for fully stocked kitchens and in-suite laundry.
If you’re traveling with a baby stroller, get a travel stroller that is lightweight and look for accommodations that have an elevator or are located on the ground floor. Carrying your awkward stroller up several flights of stairs is not fun, especially in hot, tropical environments.
We like the Diono Traverze and the Maxi-Cosi Lara.
2. Prepare for the climate
Sounds simple right? When you travel to a cold destination, bring warm clothes. When you travel to a hot destination, bring shorts and T-shirts.
It is that simple, BUT… think about what you will need when you travel from a cold climate to a warm climate, or vice versa.
When we took Braydon on his first trip to California it was during winter in Canada. Most of his 3-6 month old clothing was designed for cold weather. When we went to purchase summer clothes we had limited choice and the clothes we did find were outrageously expensive because they were out of season.
Do you have the right size baby clothing for the climate? Do you have proper shoes?
Do you have a sun protecting swim suit? What about a sun hat? We use this sun hat and love it because it has a strap and protects his neck.
As a season comes to an end, pick up a few items for your baby on sale in a bigger size. You’ll save yourself a lot of money and have some new cute clothes for vacation photos.
3. Bring enough baby food and/or formula
Formula and baby food varies from country to country.
I breastfed both my boys, so we did not have to worry about baby formula. However, I’ve learned from friends that once a baby finds a formula he/she likes, it’s typically the only one they will eat.
Remember to bring enough baby formula for the length of your trip.
Same goes for baby food. Yes, most destinations have baby food and formula available, but what if they don’t have the products and brands your baby likes?
Our first son Braydon is a very picky eater. On a trip to Europe, we packed what seemed like enough of his hot cereal for the three weeks we would be away. Unfortunately, we ran out after two weeks. We found similar cereals but he did not like them and pushed it away. We sampled over 5 different types, which was an expensive and frustrating experience.
The lesson learned – bring more than you think you need.
Note – some foods are not allowed to cross borders, especially fruits and meats. Check with border security ahead of time to determine what foods are allowed.
4. Pack a baby bath tub chair
This baby travel item gets mixed reviews and raises some eyebrows.
We try to stick with our bedtime routine when we travel. For us, this involves a bath every night before reading books. Holding a slippery baby in the bath (or shower) is not an easy task, so we use a baby bath tub chair.
We used the one pictured above, but it’s no longer available. Here’s another option.
On the surface, the bath tub chair appears to be an awkward travel item; however, it’s actually lightweight, inexpensive and fits easily in our suitcase.
Because it’s made with hard plastic, it provides protection for liquids and breakable items in our luggage. We use it as an anchor and pack around it.
Most importantly, both of our boys loved using this chair. It gave them the freedom to splash and sit calmly in the water without us having to hold them upright. The result was longer, more enjoyable baths.
Note – don’t forget to bring your favorite baby shampoo. We like traveling with Live Clean baby shampoo and wash because we only need to pack one bottle.
5. Embrace nap time. Participate.
Did you ever think you’d get to a place in life where your daily activities revolve around nap times?
Sticking with your baby’s nap routine is essential when you travel, especially if you’re dealing with jet lag. The timing is often not ideal, and it means sacrificing activities and/or sightseeing, but a tired and cranky baby is not fun for anyone.
Why not take a nap with your baby to recharge your batteries, too?
On travel days, we try to schedule our movements during nap time. Being stuck on a plane or in a car seat is not fun for most babies. They want to move around and play. Our boys get irritated and fussy after being strapped in their car seats for more than 30 minutes.
By driving or flying during nap times, the likelihood your baby will sleep is so much greater.
Keep nap times in mind when booking flights and pay the extra money for direct flights – it’s worth every penny to arrive to your destination faster! We use Skyscanner to research flights.
Don’t forget to bring a comfortable pillow.
When we say ‘comfortable pillow’ we mean a regular sized pillow (see above photo). Avoid those small neck travel pillows. Regular sized pillows are often cheaper than travel pillows – sometimes as low as $5 USD.
When traveling with an infant, big pillows are the way to go.
7. Portable baby bed / bassinet
We prefer to bring a portable baby bed when we travel. There’s something about rental cribs that makes me cringe a little – especially with a newborn.
I feel much more comfortable having our baby sleep in a bed that I’m familiar with. There are some pretty sketchy hotel cribs out there and I don’t like relying on hotels to provide a proper crib.
Some hotels charge a fee for the crib, so make sure you confirm before booking.
If you plan to use an apartment rental (see tip #1) you will need to bring your own baby crib or rent one from a local business. Most apartment rentals do not supply a crib or high chair.
There are several good travel size bassinets that you can bring with you. Look for one that is small and lightweight. I like the ones that fit on the bed beside me when I sleep. Also, get one that has a breathable mesh wall.
We used a portable bed until they were 6 months old. Then we switched to a phil and teds travel bed.
7. Bring tablet with shows, games and white noise
Tablets have become an essential travel item for our family. Seriously, I don’t know how we survived before tablets and smartphones. I can’t decide if that’s good or bad.
We bring two tablets when we travel – an iPad and Fire HD.
We use the Fire HD for cartoons and movies because we can download Netflix. We use our iPad for games, music and videos. There’s a lot of fun baby apps to download – our boys love Giggle Bellies, Thomas the Train and nursery rhyme stories.
Don’t forget to bring a portable power charger – it’s a game changer!
Having two tablets means one is typically available for adult usage. It also prevents meltdowns if one tablet should run out of battery power.
Both tablets are loaded with white noise (sounds of rain, waves, etc).
At night or during naps, we turn up the volume and put the tablet beside his crib. The loud white noise is soothing and drowns out other sounds that could potentially disturb him while he sleeps. It works especially well during day time naps, when everyone else is awake and making noise.
Give it a try if your baby has trouble falling asleep.
Related – How to sleep with and infant when traveling
8. Consider purchasing a Weelee
The question of whether or not to bring a car seat is one that most families struggle with. On the one hand, bringing your car seat means you don’t have to worry about a taxi providing one for you (which is often not available, especially in third world countries).
On the other hand, traveling with a car seat really sucks. They’re big, awkward, heavy and annoying.
Most destinations require young children to use a car seat during transportation, at least in North America and Europe. Unless you plan to only travel by bus, you will need a car seat for taxis and/or car rentals.
We’re big fans of the Clek Weelee and recommend it to all traveling families. It has wheels and a handle for easy transport and it folds up when not in use.
An added bonus is that there’s typically lots of space left over, so we fill it up with other travel items like diapers, blankets and clothing. Car seats are not typically charged a baggage fee, so this is a sneaky way to save a little money and lighten your checked baggage weight.
Related – Should you bring your baby car seat?
9. Bring plenty of Tylenol and/or Advil
Baby teething is frustratingly unpredictable. It seems like every time we travel, a tooth decides to make an unwanted appearance.
Sleeping in an unfamiliar bed is tough enough for a little one, now add the pain of teething to the sleeping experience. It’s not fun for anyone.
Baby Tylenol and/or Advil to the rescue! Even if your baby is not teething, bring two bottles of baby Tylenol and put one in your day bag. You may not need it, but if you do, you’ll be thankful you have it.
We typically bring two bottles of Tylenol (it lasts up to 4 hours) for the daytime and one bottle of Advil for the evenings (it lasts up to 8 hours).
While staying at an all inclusive resort in Mexico, the floor in our hotel room was slippery tile. Our first born is prone to accidents on a good day, so it was no surprise that he slipped and bonked his head on the floor multiple times. Tylenol came in very handy.
Keep in mind, your destination or resort may not have children’s Tylenol or Advil available.
Prepare for the worst, hope for the best!
10. Don’t wait to feed
Before our first flight with baby, I did some online research to get prepared.
I repeatedly read that a good travel tip is to hold off feeding your baby until just before the plane is about to lift off. The idea being that your baby will get sleepy after feeding and will fall asleep soon afterwards. The sucking and swallowing is also good for your baby’s ear pressure as the plane ascends and descends.
In makes sense in theory, but, in my experience, waiting to feed your baby is not a good idea.
When our boy is hungry, we feed him as soon as possible because when he’s hungry, he gets cranky. If we deliberately do not feed him, he gets angry and irritable. When he’s irritable he starts to cry and gets himself worked up, which is not pretty when stuck on an air plane.
We’ve found that the cabin air pressure and the white noise that the plane makes is enough to put him to sleep, so there’s no need to create unnecessary drama by withholding food.
When the aircraft descends, we try to feed him again to help with his ear pressure. If he’s not hungry, we give him some water or a soother.
Every baby is different, so do whatever you need to keep your baby calm. Sleep will happen when your baby is calm and comfortable, so make that your primary focus.
11. Stay cool. Ask for help
Most parents fear the dreaded meltdown while on a flight. I know I did. My anxiety levels rise the moment our boys get cranky and irritable.
I feel bad because I don’t want to disturb others on the plane. But the reality is that even the calmest of children have a breaking point.
I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t worry about what other passengers think. Crying will happen, so expect it and prepare for it.
You will always have angry passengers who hate flying with babies on board. Ignore them. They will give you evil looks even if your baby is an angel.
Smile and take a deep breath when things get tough.
How you react will set the tone for future flights.
If you freak out, there’s a good chance your baby will associate air travel with dad or mom being upset. Our boys continue to get better and better with each flight. Yours will too.
Remember, most passengers are parents and/or grandparents. They have been in your position before and can empathize with you.
Most people are willing to give a hand, so ask for help when you need it. This is not the time to be proud and stubborn.
12. Slow down. Change your mindset
This is probably the most important baby travel tip of all – SLOW DOWN!
Don’t try to replicate the way you used to travel before baby. Things are different now, so try not to squeeze too many activities or sightseeing into one day.
Plan your big activity or adventure in the morning when everyone is fresh and recharged. Break up the day and spend quiet time back at the hotel before you venture out again (see tip #5). Go for a swim, take a bath, roll around on the grass together… you don’t have to fill your days with constant activity.
Give yourself more time on travel days.
It will take longer to clear airport security, plan for it. It will take longer to get ready in the mornings, plan for it. The worst thing you can do is put yourself in a position where you’re constantly feeling rushed.
Why bring unnecessary stress to your vacation? Slow down.
The most enjoyable baby travel experiences we’ve had are the ones where we’ve set proper expectations for each day.
Remember, travel is supposed to be fun. So make it fun!
13. Don’t wait until your baby is older
I can’t tell you how many times I hear new parents say, “We’re going to wait until our baby is older before we travel”. The fear and anxiety behind this statement is often misguided.
Babies are MUCH easier to travel with than toddlers.
When your baby starts to crawl and move around you will need to watch him/her constantly. The best time to travel with a baby is 8 months or younger.
Babies sleep more often than toddlers and they don’t require constant watching because they’re not mobile, yet. Babies under two years old don’t require a seat, so take advantage of not having to pay for that additional airfare while you can. It gets quite expensive to fly when your baby becomes a toddler.
There is no reason to wait until your baby is older – unless there is a health concern.
On that note, make sure your baby is vaccinated and consult with your doctor about the destination you will be visiting. And don’t forget to purchase travel insurance for yourself and the baby.
Traveling with your baby does not have to be overwhelming.
There’s no need to put travel on hold ‘until the baby gets older’. It will take a few trips before you find your grove and learn what works and what doesn’t. But you’ll be so glad you made the extra effort when you see the positive impact travel will have on your children… and you.
Don’t wait for tomorrow.
Right now is the best time to experience the world together, as a family. Embrace the craziness that comes with baby travel. Laugh at that massive pile of luggage you now travel with. Smile at the fact that you’re awake before dawn and in bed just after sunset.
Your baby will only be a baby once, so enjoy these precious moments before they’re gone.
What are your most helpful baby travel tips?
Share your tips and tricks in the comments. Our readers thank you!
Good list, but a baby bath tub seat? Really? Why? On 10+ trips with our 18 mo old I’d never waste precious packing space for such an item. Get in the tub with them, do a little wash down in the sink (bathroom or kitchen if you have one) or give a sponge/washcloth bath.
Traveling Canucks says
You’d be surprised at how little room the bath tub seat actually takes up. We put it in the center of the suitcase and pack around it. It creates a solid barrier for other items too, like liquids, creams, etc.
Both our boys love bath time and they want to stay in the water for a long time, so this item has been a life saver. You can certainly wash your baby in the hotel sink, but we’ve found this chair makes the bath experience much more enjoyable for everyone. It also helps when you have two boys in the tub at the same time. Only so many hands!
Eric Coatney says
I’m not familiar with Weelee, but have used gogobabyz travel mate with great success. We taken our twins to New York, Florida, Hawaii, Oregon and England. It attaches to the carseat. It allowed Mom to wheel the kids to gate while I pushed the luggage. It would keep the kids contained in the airport except for security. If the flight was not full, we could even take the carseat on the plane. If it was full, we’d gate check the car seat. Nice blog! Happy travels!
Thanks Eric. Totally familiar with the gogobaby – its a great product. We’ve never been allowed to bring our car seat on (unless we’ve paid for a seat for our infant). We’ve tried though!
Thanks for stopping by
The white noise tip is one I would have never thought of … excellent post guys!
Thanks Meghan. The white noise is a life saver.
Great tips you two! Sounds like you have made the transition from travel couple to family travel with ease! Congratulations!
Thanks Deb. It’s been a great transition. We also look forward to the boys getting older so we can do more adventure activities with them
Man my baby is so low maintenance…. we always books cheap one bed hotels. He sleeps in our bed and once hes asleep you could herd some elephants through the room and he wouldn’t wake up. Luckily he is also not a picky eater… he eats anything. We ran out of soy baby formula in the Balkins so he just drank adult soy milk. He eats everything we eat, so we are really lucky. He even eats things we dont like… we pick out the mushrooms and give it to him!
Haha, that’s awesome Jade. Yes, our boys are a little pickier for sure and it also doesn’t help that Connor is allergic to dairy and eggs. But, as you know, it’s so awesome watching them explore in a new country.
Stephanie - The Travel Chica says
I like the last one 🙂
Thanks Stephanie. It’s hard when your so overwhelmed with a newborn, but it really is the easiest time to travel.
Lillie - @WorldLillie says
As a new mom (and traveler), I’m lapping up these tips! Thanks!
Thanks Lillie. Congrats on the LO.
Hats off to you guys. I couldn’t travel with a baby
You could, it just takes a little more planning 🙂
Great tips indeed, very helpful. Thanks a lot.
I have 13 month old son and worst part of our travel is flight journey. Tip #7 always works for us- we generally load our ipad with tons of gummy bear songs.
Findia Group says
Thanks for sharing!!
I agree with all of these. We have been using a white noise app on our tablet for a long time and it’s so helpful!
Amazing tips. Thanks for the help. You both rock, keep it up 🙂
Great tips. There’s no need to stress yourself when traveling with babies, and these tips are just the thing to make traveling easier. Asking for help is not a bad thing, especially if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the travel and baby details. That baby bath tub chair may be tricky for some, but if bath time is a ritual, it should not be missed. Thanks for the tips!
A much better solution for bath time during travel has been the Safety First Inflatable Bath Tub. It takes very little space in suitcase and it’s nice soft for little or wiggly babies. And it’s only $20 at Canadian Tire.
Thanks for the article. I agree to pretty much all you have mentioned. We have been traveling across the globe almost 6 years now with our two babies ( 3 and 2 Now) and we still need those instructions. We have learned those while traveling and enjoyed every bit of it. You are right, do not wait until the kids get older. We have travelled well over 20 countries now and plan on doing more and more.
I flew with my almost 2 year old son, in my lap from Arizona to Belgium and back a couple years ago. There was a little girl about his age that was NOT happy, her parents were trying everything…I gave her some of my my son’s stickers and she calmed down long enough to get tired and fall asleep. A little while later I realized I packed my son’s blanket in the checked bag and it was chilly on the plane…I asked the stewardess if they had any and they didn’t but the same family we gave stickers to, let us borrow one of their daughters blankets….Moral of the story: help each other out. It won’t hurt you.
Thanks for the tips. I also would like to share something: We moved from Europe to a South American Country to live there for a couple of years – with a 8-months old and a 8 year-old. We are traveling quite a lot with them here. For us, the most important things to bring are FOOD and TOYS, e.g. books, Lego, other things to construct something, little dolls or stuffed animals or something else with which they can occupy themselves for a large period of time. Our little daughter (now 3) always takes her bag with these things. And in every restaurant or hotel room, the first thing she does is unpacking this bag and building something. That way, she doesn’t mind changing hotel rooms every 2 or 3 days. By the way: a pool once in a while or a daily ice-cream might also help…..
Traveling Canucks says
Yes, a pool and ice cream do help!
Of course you can have fun with your children when you are on holiday. Obviously the guy must not have kids. Sure, there can be testing times but on the whole I find it a very positive experience, and i’m sure my kids do, too.
Thank you, these are so awesome tips! My husband and I are going to start trying for a baby very soon and my goal is to continue our travels as much as possible!You are amazing!
This is a great list. When we first started traveling with our baby it was such a learning curve. And it seems like once I feel like I’ve got the hang of it, it changes because she is growing older and changing what she uses daily. But something that I always like to tell myself is that even if we forget to pack something, there will surely be a store that we can what we need. And so far throughout our travels in Europe that has held true.
Wander Dad says
Thanks for sharing. Great tips for traveling with baby. Definitely agree on the slowing down tip.
How about clothing? Do you wash it on your travels or do you bring all the clothing the baby needs?
Thank you so much for publishing this information with us! Just I have a question: Can I used the portable bed for my 5-month baby when we are traveling?? Because I really love this portable bed!!
Yes, we would bring it with us. We liked to put it in the clek weelee bag and it would get checked with our luggage. It worked really well.
David Norriss says
I like how you mentioned that you’ll need to rent a crib from a local place if the hotel or apartment you stay at doesn’t have one. I think that if you are going to be traveling a lot then it would be smart to rent a small crib to bring with you. You could easily set it up in each place that you sleep at and then simply return it when you’re done.
Urban Kisaan says
This is an amazing and really helpful blog.I was so scared to take my baby out and it was very difficult to manage. Great tips . I will use these tips.
Robin Williams says
Very informative blog post.