While I LOVE traveling, I was very nervous to travel with a baby! Thomas never slept anywhere outside our home before we traveled, so I was a bit anxious about all of our potential trips. The first thing I thought to do was turn to my go-to experts for travel and baby sleep. They helped answer allllll of my questions about logistics and how to help Thomas adapt to a new environment, and I once I talked with them, I felt so much better.
Before we dive in, let me introduce our travel and sleep experts!
Our travel expert is travel agent Heather with Heather Christopher Travel. We used her for our honeymoon, an anniversary trip to Ireland and our babymoon to Primland. We do NOT book any big trips without consulting her.
Our sleep expert is Molly from Sleep Shore. She completely changed our lives for the better when she helped us create a sleep schedule for our sweet baby Thomas, who was a TERRIBLE sleeper for the first four months of his life.
Both of these women are experts in their field and Tommy and I are so grateful they are in our lives! AND, lucky you, they’re here to share their expertise AND a promo codes so you can hire them too. (Listed at the bottom of the post).
Okay, let’s get to some tips for traveling with a baby by car or by plane.
Tips for Traveling with a Baby
1. Prioritize what you pack and rent equipment at your destination
I asked Heather and Molly how to pack everything I needed to take with me! I didn’t even know that renting baby equipment was a thing!
Pack what your baby (and you) are picky about and based on the length of your trip. What can you live without for a quick 48-72 hour trip versus 5+ days? We only bring two or three small favorite toys/books. There’s so much going on around us in a new destination that it’s entertainment in itself.
Pack your pump, your baby’s favorite bottles, pacifiers, blanket(s), and swaddles, but if you can borrow or rent a crib and high chair from the accommodation you’re staying at, do so! If a sound machine is key to your baby’s sleep, get a small portable one. Otherwise, BabyQuip is your new best friend! (You may be 100% freaked out about renting baby gear, but we’ve been happy with it!)
For the plane, breastmilk and formula are allowed in “reasonable” quantities. There are no exacts on how much you can bring through security. If you want to keep breast milk packed in a cooler, that’s allowed. Ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs are allowed through security. Just inform the TSA officer as you come up to the security belt.
Another tip: TSA is extremely responsive on Instagram + Twitter if you are struggling to find the answer to your question on their informative website. I know we all want to ask our friends, but rules change frequently in travel and these are the resources I use as a travel professional.
Rent anything that you can! BabyQuip or simply google Baby Equipment Rental in whatever location you are traveling to. You can also ship anything small to your destination from Amazon, I recommend doing this for your diapers, wipes, blackout shades, and any other items that you won’t need in transit!
2. Gate check your stroller and wear your baby
Okay, what should I take on the plane vs. check?
I’d check any luggage to keep my hands free for the stroller and baby. I highly suggest wearing your baby as much as possible in an airport so your hands stay free and so you can use the stroller to help carry your extra bags (e.g. cooler, diaper bag, etc.)
I would gate-check your stroller and car seat. If you don’t want to check your carseat base, you have a few options to purchase items that make it easier to take the seat + base together – linked in my Amazon store.
Lap infants are allowed a diaper bag to carry on (double check your airline – this may vary), along with a car seat and stroller to be checked without counting towards your baggage allowance, as the ticketed passenger.
In your carry-on, I’d pack two sets of extra clothes for the babe, an extra shirt for you, 2xs the diapers you would normally need, 2x the formula/breastmilk you would normally need, a blanket, benadryl, and tylenol, just in case (assuming your pediatrician has okayed those).
Cybex Libelle Stroller – I bought this on a whim and am SO glad I did. It packs up SO small and it’s much easier to use on the go now that he’s big enough for it. We even put it in the overhead bin while flying with Thomas! It was great to deplane and just GO, rather than waiting for planeside checked items to come up.
3. Know the car seat rules for planes
How do I deal with the car seat when flying? Do I bring the car seat AND the base?
If you choose to purchase your under-2 child a seat, then you may bring your FAA approved car seat onboard. Plan to stow the base in an overhead bin, gate check or check it with your luggage.
Alternatively, if your child is going to be in your lap, you must check your car seat (whether you gate check/check at the ticket counter) or plan to rent one through your car rental provider for use upon arrival.
4. Leverage family bathrooms
How should I plan to nurse? Thomas won’t nurse if he’s distracted all, even at home. I have to nurse in his nursery since downstairs he’s too distracted by Tommy and his toys. How on earth will I get him to nurse on the plane or in the airport?
Traveling can be distracting for babies and children. If you need your baby to focus on feeding, try bringing them into a family bathroom where there won’t be a lot of people or loud noises. When you are on the plane, try to put a swaddle blanket over you while your baby is feeding to drown out some of the distractions. Try a bottle if he won’t nurse. And just offer feeding more often.
5. Set the room up as close to your home environment as you can
I have so so many questions here since Thomas is now a CHAMPION sleeper, but he was NOT for the first four months of his life. Thomas not sleeping is what I am the MOST anxious about! Should I bring a baby monitor? Is there a travel one? What if his room isn’t pitch black?
If you have a portable baby monitor at home, bring it! But if not, rent one via BabyQuip or another baby rental company. If your monitor isn’t portable, purchase an inexpensive monitor via Amazon and have it delivered to your destination.
The slumberpod is my #1 recommendation for travel to make his sleeping space pitch black. It will fit in a suitcase, so make it fit! If you really can’t fit it or don’t want to, purchase these wonderful travel black out shades.
6. Know how to adjust naps for timezones, going west to east and east to west.
Traveling with little ones can be HARD. But if you’re factoring in time changes while traveling, that’s a whole other confusing math equation. Anyone else’s brain hurt when thinking about time changes? I get this question a lot so here are my travel tips when changing time zones.
Traveling from West to East
If you’re traveling from west to east and will have a time difference of 3 hours or more, here are my tips.
We will use traveling from California to Boston as our example. That would be 3 hours of time difference but you could also use the same guidance when traveling from Boston to Dublin (a 5 hour time difference) for example.
If your child’s bedtime is usually around 7pm in California, that means when you arrive in Boston, the clock may say 7pm but your child’s body won’t feel like it’s bedtime until 10pm. We are going to use that to our advantage.
- Try to keep your child up until 10pm Boston time (which will feel like 7pm CA time). This shouldn’t be too hard, given how our bodies are wired but it will feel counterintuitive.
- Then you’re going to let them sleep in the next morning as long as they’d like. They may sleep all the way until 10am and get 12 hours or they may be up earlier. Either way is okay.
- Shift bedtime each day accordingly. So if they slept in until 10am, you’re going to have a later bedtime again. If they naturally shifted and woke up earlier, you’ll shift bedtime a little earlier too. Every child will adapt to this differently!
- They will not continue to wake up at 10am everyday while you’re there. This wake up will naturally shift earlier and earlier which is why I suggest taking it slowly. That way they are regulating how much sleep they need/want rather than being forced into a new schedule.
Traveling from East to West
If you are traveling from east to west with a minimum 3 hour time difference, I’ve got you covered!
Again we’ll use the example of traveling from Boston to California but you can use this same framework for longer time differences like Paris to Boston for example.
If your child’s bedtime is usually around 7pm in Boston, that means when you arrive in California, your child will actually feel ready for bedtime as early as 4pm. This means we will need to be stretching them to stay up later.
- Try to keep your child up until what would be their usual bedtime on the clock. So even though they will want to treat 4pm as bedtime, you want to hold off bedtime until as close to 7pm as you can. This will take time and work.
- Then you’re going to keep their room pitch black until 11-12 hours after they go down for the night. If you did bedtime at 7pm, then they need to stay in darkness until 6-7am, even if they start waking at 4am. If they wake earlier, respond how you usually would at home (leaving them, doing a check in, feeding, etc).
- It’s really important to avoid outside stimulation and light until 11-12 hours after your child falls asleep. This is where the adjusting happens!
In both cases above, when you arrive back home, you will adjust back to your local time schedule. Things may be off and wonky for a bit but they will adjust in a matter of days .Get lots of outdoor time, the sunshine will help adjust your child’s circadian rhythm and internal clock.
7. Expect travel day naps to be spotty and use an early bedtime.
How do I help Thomas nap on a plane or in the car? He’s never been good with “on the go” naps. I swear he’s the one baby who doesn’t like to sleep on stroller rides or in the car!
This may be tough! Do your best, bring a travel white noise machine like this one and use it when trying to get your baby to sleep. The bonus about air travel is that the plane is like one big white noise machine! Set your expectations that travel day will be a spotty, off nap day. Use early bedtime as your friend and get back on track with naps when you’ve settled into your destination! [Teri here: We know what “early bedtime” is for Thomas since we’ve worked with Molly on his sleep schedule. If you aren’t sure what that means for your child, I highly suggest working with a sleep coach before a big trip! Use code Teri10 for 10% off any service]
8. Give yourself extra time and low expectations
Any other tips about flying with a baby?
Give yourself lots of time. Arrive very early. You’ll be a 100xs calmer when you don’t feel extra pressure.
Set your expectations so low that way anything over and above will be such a pleasant surprise and experience that you can pat yourself on the back. 😉 We still do this with our 7 and 6 year olds when traveling. Low expectations = less stressed parents!
If you are planning to have your child use any electronics, make sure to download videos, games and anything else onto your phone, iPad or tablet in case WiFi is down or doesn’t support them!
Tips for a car trip with a baby
I reference Busy Toddler on this all the time (same for plane travel). The goal is to survive. Mickey on your iPhone? Yes! New Dollar Tree toys? Yes! Extra milk? Yes! Sitting beside the baby in the back. Yes!
Also, consider adding a night into your trip so you can drive half way then drive the rest the next day!
THANK YOU so much to Heather and Molly for answering all of these questions
Here’s their information and promo codes:
Heather Christopher Travel
Follow Heather on Instagram here.
Molly from Sleep Shore
Use this link with code Teri10 for 10% off a sleep plan. Best decision we ever made.
Follow Molly on Instagram here.
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