Traveling with a baby can seem overwhelming. From trying to feed your baby on the go to getting you baby to sleep in a new environment to trying to time activities around naps, traveling with a baby may seem just too complicated. However, don’t let the fears of traveling with a baby stop you. In our experience, exploring the world with our new curious sidekick has been one of the best parts of parenthood. Although traveling with our baby has never made traveling easier, it certainly always makes it more memorable. In our opinion, the extra planning and effort of traveling with your baby is completely worth it. After taking over a dozen flights and trips with our daughter, here are our top 10 baby travel tips.
Disclaimer: Every baby is different. Below is what has worked for us with our daughter who is 11 months old at the time of writing this.
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Travel Baby Tip #1: Be Flexible
This is our top baby travel tip. Flexibility is key to successfully traveling with a baby. If there was ever a time to go with the flow in life, this is it. We always are flexible with the timing of everything we do traveling with our baby. We always work around her schedule. If she needs to nap, we pivot whatever we are doing to allow her to do that. If she needs to eat, we adjust whatever we are doing so she can do that. Since having our baby, we have intentionally chosen trips that allow us that flexibility.
Other than our flights, the times we need to be places are not set in stone and we remain very adaptable. We come up with a tentative itinerary for what we want to do but then adjust it based on her needs. We do not book any tours when traveling with our baby and rather research areas to act as our own tour guide. This allows us to explore each place at our own pace.
For example, we recently did a campervan road trip around Iceland when our baby was 10 months old. Having a campervan allowed us so much flexibility and time independence. We were able to be our own tour guides and create our own schedule. It further was really nice not to have to unpack and repack our luggage everyday, especially with all the extra things you have with a baby. For more information on our Iceland trip with our baby, please see Iceland with a Baby Itinerary.
Travel Baby Tip #2: Realistic Attitude, Lower Expectations & Under Schedule
When traveling with a baby, bring a realistic attitude. As one of our friends once said, his “super power” is having low expectations. Whatever your expectations are of your trip, lower them and then lower them even more. Everything takes longer and tends to not go exactly the way you expect with a baby. If you have high expectations going into a trip, you likely will be disappointed.
One expectation and reality you need to face is that there is no way you are going to get as much done as you previously did without your baby. Don’t set yourself up for failure thinking that you can do it all. Things that used to take us 10 minutes when it was just the two of us now take 30+ minutes.
A great example of this is getting on the hiking trail. We used to just hop out of the car, throw our gear on and hike. Oh the simple days! Now, we need to feed our daughter, change her diaper/clothes, get her in the carrier and then get ourselves ready before heading out on the trail. It may not sound like that much but the reality is it always takes much longer than we think it will. And we are perfectly okay with that! However, we have learned to schedule plenty of flex-time throughout our days to accommodate for the extra time things take with the baby.
Less Is More
We’d recommend planning half (or less) of what you typically do without your baby. If the day is going well and you get more done than expected, awesome, you can do more. However, allow yourself that flexibility. If you set the expectation to do too many things, you’ll be very disappointed when that doesn’t happen. For example, when we went to Iceland with our Baby (see Iceland with a Baby Itinerary), we made a tentative plan of things we wanted to do and then took each day as it came. We actually under-scheduled so much that at one point, we were over a day ahead of where we thought we would be and this gave us a real sense of accomplishment. However, had we over-planned and been ‘behind’, we would have likely been stressed and frustrated. Instead we were dancing for joy that we were traveling with her very efficiently from our perspective.
Budget More Time For Everything
Similarly, anytime we go for a hike, we budget the entire outing to take twice as long as it would take just the two of us. In reality, it typically does not actually take that long. However, we are much happier when we finish earlier than expected rather than much later than expected. It’s all about perspective. It doesn’t make the hike take any less time or any less effort, but a shift in perspective is really a game changer.
For more baby hiking tips, please see our How to Hike with a Baby guide. Please see our Pictured Rocks/Upper Peninsula of Michigan Guide for details on our first hiking trip with our 5 week old baby. For details on our Hawaii Trip with our 3 month old baby, please see Maui, Hawaii Quick Guide, Haleakala National Park Quick Guide, Big Island, Hawaii Quick Guide, 5 Stops on the Road to Hana and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Quick Guide. More information on our Puerto Rico (coming soon), Mexico and Iceland hiking adventures in those posts too!
Travel Baby Tip #3: Practice Napping On-The-Go At Home
When you are at home, still have baby ‘practice’ contact naps and napping on the go. It is going to be very hard for your baby to adjust to napping on the go in a new environment if your baby only ever sleeps in one place at home. Since our daughter was about four months, she typically takes all of her naps at home in her crib. However, we still strive to do a couple contact naps, stroller naps and car seat naps every week. This makes it easier for her to nap on the go when we are not at home.
For example, when we were in Mexico when she was 8-months-old, she would nap in her stroller while we explored. This allowed us a ton of flexibility as she was able to rest on the go and we did not need to return to our Airbnb everytime she needed to take a nap (which is good since she takes a lot of naps). If your baby only knows how to sleep in a crib or pack-n-play, you are going to be quite limited in when you can go out and do things. Also, if we need to do any driving while on a trip, we typically try to do it when she needs to take a nap as she tends to fall asleep while driving in the car. This tactic can allow you to get quite far on your journey with a sleeping, content baby.
Travel Baby Tip #4: Practice Sleeping In The Pack-n-Play at Home
Similar to practicing on-the-go naps, practice sleeping in the pack-n-play or whatever baby’s sleeping arrangements will be on your trip. Typically, our daughter sleeps in her crib at home, but we attempt at least a nap a week in the pack-n-play to try to keep her adjusted to it. This makes the pack-n-play not completely foreign to her when we try to get her to sleep in it while traveling in a new environment. If your baby is somewhat familiar with the spot they are sleeping in while traveling, the environment being different might not affect their sleep schedule as much as it would otherwise.
Travel Baby Tip #5: If Your Baby Is Having Trouble Sleeping, Try Not To Sweat It
Also, if you can tell that your baby needs to take a nap or to go to sleep but is resisting it, try not to sweat it. Your baby will sleep eventually. In the moment, it is really easy to get really frustrated and think maybe you should have not taken your trip. In reality, your baby could just have as much trouble sleeping at home. With constant growth (physically and developmentally), babies have some better days, and some worse days, in regards to sleep. It is good for your baby to experience new activities and places. Raising a baby who is flexible will set him/her up for success in the future. Remind yourself of that in moments of frustration.
Travel Baby Tip #6: Use Your Stroller Everywhere Possible
Having our stroller with us everywhere we can while traveling has been a game changer. As mentioned above, our daughter knows how to nap on the go in our carseat/stroller combo travel system, and it makes us a lot more flexible. We call her stroller/carseat combo our “portable nap machine.” We do not have to worry about where/when she is going to take a nap if we have our stroller with us.
This is the carseat canopy cover we use. If we are in a warmer environment, this is the fan portable stroller fan we use to help keep her cool under the canopy. The darkness this cover provides, combined with the movement of pushing our stroller/carseat combo, is the perfect environment for getting our daughter to sleep. Every baby is different but sleeping in a covered stroller has worked well for us. If your baby sleeps better babywearing on the go, you may just want to exclusively do that. Our daughter will sleep in our Ergobaby carrier, but she pretty quickly will wake up if we stop moving or have to bend over (since she was over 3 months old).
Travel Baby Tip #7: Learn to Feed Your Baby Anywhere
Our next baby travel tip is to learn to feed your baby anywhere. If you are nursing, figure out how you can make yourself comfortable nursing your baby anywhere. If good nursing tops make you more comfortable, buy those. If pumping and then bottle feeding your baby in public makes you feel more comfortable, do that. If you are formula feeding, figure out how you can have access to water (or bring it) everywhere you go while traveling. These are some of the nursing tops that Natalie used earlier postpartum. Natalie has gotten very comfortable nursing our daughter virtually anywhere while traveling. We feel very strongly that a mother should be able to nurse her baby anywhere she is comfortable. You are responsible for taking care of your baby, not other people’s thoughts in regards to how you are doing that.
Travel Baby Tip #8: Start Small For Your First Trip
For your first time traveling with your baby, start with a short trip not too far from home. This will help you gain some confidence traveling with your baby and help you figure out what you really need. For example, we went on our first trip with our baby to Pictured Rocks/Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which is less than 6 hours from our house, before going on our first big trip to Hawaii . You may want to start even closer to home than that though.
This road-trip helped us test out traveling with our daughter and helped us figure out the things we really needed to pack when exploring with her. We very quickly realized there were a lot of items we did not bring with us on this first trip that we would have liked to have had. We made a list of all these items so that we were more prepared for our next, longer, trip.
Travel Baby Tip #9: Label Mishaps As Plot Twists
One of our most important baby travel tips is having a positive attitude. A positive attitude really goes a long way when traveling with a baby. Labeling mishaps as plot twists help make the unpredictability of a baby part of your adventure. Baby won’t sleep in your hotel? Plot twist. Baby not tolerating the baby carrier on a long hike? Plot twist. Baby has a blow-out on the plane during take-off when you cannot get up to change it? Plot twist. In the moment, these plot twists can be quite stressful. However, with the right attitude, you will get through them and maybe even look back on them fondly. Some of our most comical memories are mishaps that we viewed as plot twists.
Travel Baby Tip #10: Invest In Baby Travel Items
We stick to a budget and borrow many baby items (we lend them out too). All the below items we have found to be worth the small investment and very helpful to have while traveling. We are only recommending the items we have repeatedly used and loved.
Carseat/Stroller Items and Flying:
- Carseat/Stroller Combo Travel System: We love this travel system. We have found it easier to travel with a combo travel system so that we have less items
- Carseat Canopy: We use this to create a dark space for our daughter in her carseat. This helps lull her right to sleep in her carseat, especially if we are pushing her carseat on our stroller or driving.
- Portable Stroller Fan: Great for warm weather stroller rides.
- Basic Gate Check Car Seat Cover & Basic Gate Check Stroller Cover: We use these basic covers because we use our car seat/stroller in the airport. However, if we were carrying our car seat through the airport, we would use the bags this Durable Backpack Gate Check Car Seat Cover & this Durable Gate Check Stroller Bag (we have friends who swear by these but do not personally use).
- Noise Canceling Headphones: Nice to have on the plane to drown out noise for your baby
For more on flying with a baby, please see our Flying with a Baby
- Ergobaby Carrier: You will see us using this literally everywhere. It is so comfortable for both us and our baby. We use it on every hike we go on.
- Baby Rain Suit: This rain suit has worked great for us when the baby is cooperating but the weather is not.
- Swim Zip Sun Hat: We love this sun hat! Our smaller sized one was a hand-me-down from some friends and we just bought it in a bigger size too. We use it traveling and everyday on walks.
For more on hiking with a baby, please see our How to Hike with a Baby guide
- Boppy Breastfeeding Pillow & Boppy Breastfeeding Pillow Cover (can take off and wash after flying on a germy plane)
- Nursing Tops
- Portable Compact Chair to Feed or Sit: We have used this many places traveling. You can really set it up anywhere.
- Circle Rattle
- Very Hungry Caterpillar Rattle/Teether
- Key Teether
- Stack Rings (use the top rings on the go)
- Cactus Teether
- Teething Ring with Attachments
- Knot Teether
You CAN Travel with your Baby
Contrary to popular belief, you really can continue to travel, adventure and explore with your baby. Travel does not have to end when you welcome a baby into your life. Although it requires more planning, patience and time, in our experience, it is completely worth all of it. Traveling certainly looks different than it did before we had our daughter but, in our opinion, it is even more rewarding with more memorable, and unexpected, moments. We have made so many priceless memories with our daughter while traveling that will last a lifetime. We hope these baby travel tips give you confidence that you can travel with your baby too.
We hope this guide helps you plan your next or first trip with your baby. Anything you’d add to our guide? We hope to inspire you to adventure with your baby! Please reach out to us if you find this post helpful and inspiring. Hearing from our readers motivates us to continue to put out more content for you.
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