How to Prepare to Travel with a Baby

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Especially the first time you do it, it can feel really overwhelming to travel with a baby. There are just so many thing to prepare, and so many things that can go wrong! Travel with an infant can be unpredictable, and it’s tempting to do everything from overpacking to overthinking. And deciding whether you’ll be flying or driving can add in a host of other factors. But traveling with kids doesn’t have to be crazy stressful. Here are some tips for what has helped us as we get ready to travel with a baby.

Get the proper documents for baby

If you’re traveling internationally, the most important step is to get your baby a passport. If you’re applying for a passport in the United States, both parents must be there in person for a passport application for a minor. Some post offices will allow you to schedule an appointment, but they often take weeks or months to find an opening. Others have walk-in hours, but be sure to arrive early. This link has info on everything you need to bring with you.

Typically, if you have 2+ months before departure, a standard application should be fine. If you’re traveling in 6 weeks or less, it’s probably wise to do the expedited application. We’ve received standard application passports back in 2 weeks, but you just never know. This last time, we received an expedited passport back in only a week!

If you’re flying domestically, you don’t need a passport, but it’s always wise to have some form of documentation with you. A birth certificate is usually easiest. You can even store copies of documents digitally for ease.

Even if you’re just driving, I always suggest having some form of documentation. You most likely won’t need it, but it’s an easy thing to have on hand.

Establish a routine with your baby

You’ll notice I said to establish a routine, not a schedule. Your baby doesn’t have to be on a rigid schedule before you take off, but I do recommend having some sort of routine in place before jetting around the world. It will make the adjustment to different time zones and activities and sleeping locations much easier if you have a system in place that is familiar to your baby. Even if it’s as simple as getting in jammies and a swaddle and hearing a song before bed, it can help establish familiarity for baby, which will make everything from airplanes to hotel rooms to museum visits that much easier.

Determine when you can be flexible and when you can’t

Maybe you absolutely can’t budge on bedtime. Or perhaps lengthy dinners are your jam. Or maybe you just can’t give up seeing every museum in a city. Those are all okay and they can all work with a baby! Just figure out where you can be adaptable and where you can’t. Travel demands some measure of flexibility, and traveling with a baby just exacerbates that. That does NOT mean you have to give up everything you previously loved about traveling sans children, but it does mean that you need to do some reflecting on what you can’t give up and what you can.

Look into baby-friendly accommodations

Perhaps this means staying at an Airbnb with an extra room, or maybe it means checking if your hotel has a large closet. Or perhaps it just means checking to make sure your chosen place to stay is okay with a baby there. It’s always best to know beforehand.

Figure out your must-have baby products

Any parent – and many non-parents – know just how MANY baby products there are out there, quite a few of which are utterly useless (there are probably some people who find baby knee pads useful but evidently I am…not that person ;)). But it’s also true that different things work for different babies and different families. It’s worth figuring out what your must-haves are before you leave your home and comfort zone.

Here are our own personal must-have baby products, for travel or otherwise:

  • Diapers, of course. At home, we use cloth diapers, but we always travel with disposables. It’s worth trying a few brands beforehand to figure out which ones contain blowouts the best on your baby. We like either Pampers or Target brand ones on our long and lean kiddos. We typically take enough for a week or so and then plan to buy more if needed.
  • Wipes. We will surely travel with wipes LONG after all our children are potty trained. They are eminently useful. I have weirdly strong feelings about wipes. I loved the OLD Target wipes – does anyone remember the wonderful textured ones they had? Sadly, theirs are now terrible and smear more than anything. The Huggies and Walmart ones come decently close.
  • White noise, forever and always. We have several of our beloved sound machine at home, but we just use white noise apps when we travel.
  • Swaddle or sleep sack. I like the zipper swaddles for ease, and this is my very favorite sleep sack.
  • Some sort of sleeping area. We really love the Kidco Peapod for travel because it’s super lightweight and portable. But if your baby really doesn’t like the Peapod after much effort (1 of our 4 just refused to like it, much as we tried), you could try something like a mini pack n play (what we’ve done) or I’ve heard great things about the Phil & Ted’s Travel Crib. Or if your destination has a crib, even better! Be sure to check with your accommodations – many will provide a baby bed.
  • Baby carrier. Especially when babies are tiny, I love just wearing them close. Mine tend to sleep really well in them, and it tends to keep a bunch of strangers from touching him or her. Our long-time favorite is the Boba carrier.
  • Pacifiers or bottles, depending on whether your baby needs them. Our babies who’ve taken pacis have liked the Soothie ones. This is the only bottle we’ve been able to get our babies to take.
  • Nursing cover, if needed. I don’t often use a cover, especially with a tiny, non-distractible baby. But I do like these stretchy multipurpose covers that can be used for a car seat cover, for a nursing cover, or probably as a baby bed or something crazy, too (don’t try that at home…).
  • Speaking of, a car seat, if needed. We purchased an extra one that we keep specifically for travel so we don’t ruin our normal seat.
  • Stroller. If your baby is old enough, absolutely go with a slim profile umbrella stroller (this thing is almost a 7th member of our family and has been all over the world with us). For smaller babies, we like the snap n go, which easily carries the car seat and has a nice big basket underneath, and is sturdy enough to hold a bag or two, as well.
  • Clothing. But that’s a whole separate packing post! Bottom line: clothing can be washed. You don’t need 2 extra outfits for each day. Take a few extra onesies and a couple extra outfits (especially if it’s cold), but no need to go overboard.

Just do it

Travel with kids is absolutely one of those things where practice makes perfect. Okay, maybe not perfect, but at least better. There’s nothing like just getting out and exploring with a baby to make you feel like you’re a superhero who could do absolutely anything. And 9 times out of 10, you and baby will both love the experience, too.

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