When my daughter was seven months old, my husband and I took her across the country on a red-eye, followed by two weeks of road tripping and camping. We purposefully booked a night flight, thinking she’d sleep through the whole thing and we’d arrive at our destination ready to hit the road. Instead, she stayed awake the entire time, refused to fall asleep once we landed, and left us with literal red eyes and terrified of what lay ahead of us. It ended up being an incredible trip, but we’ve learned a thing or two since then, and it has made our subsequent trips much smoother.
Here’s what has helped us travel with a baby in the past:
Let Go of Expectations
Try to stick to any home routines wherever possible, such as bedtimes or mealtimes. Other than that, just go with the flow.
Adjust Ahead of Time
If you’re going somewhere with a significant time difference, begin adjusting a few weeks ahead of time by staying up an hour or two later, or rising an hour or two earlier.
If You’re Flying, Relax.
Have you seen those social media posts about the moms who have packed ‘apology bags’ for the entire flight? Listen, flying with a baby is stressful enough without worrying about annoying your fellow passengers. Babies cry. If you’re stressing out about annoying everyone else, your baby will pick up on that and it’ll only make things worse. Apologize to your aisle mates if you feel the need, and then do what works to soothe your baby.
Bring the Essentials
Rookie mistake: packing everything and the kitchen sink. You need a good reversible stroller, a car seat, a carrier, diapers and wipes, clothes, and a few toys. That’s it. You do not need to pack back-up toys for the backup toys. Babies do not need a lot of stuff. Case in point: on that first trip we took, our daughter only wanted to play with the airplane seat belt. Everything else we brought just ended up being extra stuff to carry.
Check with Your Airline
Most airlines allow you to bring a car seat and a stroller in addition to your carry-on (and indeed, a car seat vs. your lap is the safest way to travel). Go for a car seat and stroller adapter (like the chicco car seat adapter), so you aren’t schlepping your baby, your bags, your car seat, and your stroller all around the airport.
Schedule Travel Around Sleep
Okay, so this did not work for us. But we’ve heard from a lot of parents, and it’s definitely worth a shot. Giving your baby a cozy place to sleep (try an infant stroller insert) is key. Changing baby into their pajamas and giving them their special blanket just might encourage them to drift off…if you’re lucky, for the entire flight.
Plan Feedings For Flight
Holding off on the breast or bottle until take-off or landing will help baby’s ears adjust. Just like a stick of gum helps you, nursing will help your baby.
Don’t Plan Too Much
Whatever you have planned, remember that babies have their own agenda, and sometimes it’s you that needs to adjust. If you cram a ton into your vacation and leave little room for downtime, your baby will be exhausted and things will quickly unravel. Just relax, plan what works, and enjoy yourself. Afterall, that’s what vacation is all about.