Traveling with a Babies and Young Children

New parents traveling with toddler.

Can you travel with a baby?

Before you had a baby, travel was easy! You could pack up and go any time you had a whim and some time off, with very little hassle. Now that you have a new little one, though, the idea of packing up all the baby gear and heading off on a trip feels daunting. Can you even travel with a baby? How old does a baby need to be before it’s safe to travel? You probably have a million questions, so we’ve got some tips to help make traveling with a baby easier.

When can you go?

Before you make plans to jet off to Grandma’s with your newborn, slow down and talk to your pediatrician. Little ones are still developing their immune systems, so it’s important to get guidance from a healthcare professional before planning a trip. When you do travel with your baby, make sure you wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, and avoid visibly ill travelers, to help keep your little one safe and healthy.

Planning Ahead

In addition to clearing the trip with your healthcare provider, make sure your child’s immunizations are up to date and that you pack all medication and important documents you will need on the trip. Whether your child is an infant, and older baby, or toddler, it’s better to have more than you need than to forget something. While you’re planning your trip, research your accommodations and amenities, making sure you will have everything you need for a successful stay with your little one. Be prepared for travel-related maladies like colds, sore throats, diarrhea, and car sickness, as well as things like mosquito bites and bedbugs. Take preventive measures to avoid these issues, and have remedies on hand just in case. Perhaps most importantly when planning a trip with a child, allow plenty of extra time for packing the car, getting to your destination or to the airport, going through security, checking into your hotel, or eating at a restaurant. When you have plenty of time and you’re well-prepared, the trip will go more smoothly.

What to Pack

Really, when packing to travel with a baby or small child, more is more. Make sure you bring everything your baby will need, from a traveling crib to a stroller to bottles, bibs, diapers, wipes, pacifiers, and plenty of clothes. Bring favorite toys and blankets, pack books, craft supplies and other activities, and bring bedding from home to help your child feel more at ease. Check the weather for your destination and pack accordingly, being prepared for the weather to take an unexpected turn.

Where to Go

Plan trips that are age appropriate and will be interesting to your child. When visiting the grandparents, take time to visit playgrounds. When planning a vacation, consider a beach or some other location with plenty to do and explore outside. Make sure, wherever you go, that you’re keeping a close eye on toddlers and small children who can easily get into dangerous situations, particularly around water.

What to Keep on Hand

You’ve packed all the essentials, but some things need to be easily accessible while you’re traveling. A first aid kit, plenty of water, disposable diapers, and snacks should all be on the list when you’re traveling with a small child. Be prepared to provide entertainment for an older baby or child, whether that means singing songs, playing games, or reading a book. Pro tip: if you have older little ones, audiobooks are a wonderful way to occupy the whole family on a long road trip.

Consistency is Key

The younger the child, the more important it is to keep feeding and sleep schedules consistent when you travel. If you are going to cross time zones during your trip, try to gradually adjust the schedule to the new time zone two or three days before you leave for your trip. Having a consistent routine will help your child feel more secure, and will make for fewer meltdowns.

Anticipate Challenges

Your child may experience some big feelings when the routine changes. Sleeping in a strange bed, being away from home, and missing the normal routine can be hard for kids to manage. Stress, confusion, and fear can all come out in the form of temper tantrums, crying, or otherwise acting out. Some of this can be alleviated by keeping a regular sleeping and eating schedule and bringing familiar items from home. It’s important, though, to allow your child to make some decisions, and to respect their boundaries, avoiding forcing them into any activities or interactions they strongly resist.

Be Patient

Sometimes, you’re going to have to move more slowly than you’d like on a trip with a baby. Children need breaks, naps, and down time, and it’s not easy for them to sit for long stretches in a car or on a plane. Plan for this, building in breaks, helping them “get their wiggles out”, and giving them extra hugs, snuggles, and overall patience.

Accept Assistance

Don’t be shy about asking the flight attendant if there is something special available for a fussy child, like a pack of crayons or a picture book. If you need something from the hotel, ask. If you’re staying with family, don’t try to care for your baby all by yourself, but accept help from well-meaning family members.

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