Surviving Holiday Visits With Baby: 11 Essential Tips

The familiar Christmas song goes, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” But when you’re traveling with a baby on a plane or in the car for several hours, during the busiest travel time of the year, you’d probably use a different word than wonderful to describe it.

Traveling, though, may be inevitable. So if you want to survive holiday visits with your baby and actually enjoy this magical time of the year, follow these 11 tips for traveling with a baby.

How to Survive Any Method of Travel

1. Pack the baby travel essentials.

mom holding baby in ergobaby carrier

Bring familiar toys and comfort items, such as a blanket, teddy bear, books, pacifiers, etc., in your diaper bag. Also, pack some surprise toys for when, or before, tears start brewing. If your baby is eating solids, be sure to pack baby food, snacks, and spoons. Other must-have items for traveling with a baby include bibs, burp cloths, bottles, diapers, wipes, disposable changing pads, extra clothes, a car seat, a baby carrier, and a stroller.

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2. Pick the right time to travel.

Whether flying or driving, travel during your baby’s nap time or a time when she is well rested if you think she won’t sleep well while traveling. A sleep-deprived baby is a cranky baby, and you don’t want one of those when you’re stuck on a plane or in a car.

How to Survive an Airplane

3. Book a direct flight.

If you can, get a direct flight. Some parents say they like layovers so their baby can stretch his arms and legs. The only problem with a layover is you might get stuck a lot longer than planned thanks to the high possibility of bad weather this time of year, which could result in you missing your holiday gathering altogether. Plus, do you want to have to get off a plane, drag your luggage around, and find a place to set up camp in an airport only to gather everything up and drag it back onto another plane? My vote is no.

4. Get an aisle seat toward the front.

Where should you sit on a plane with a baby? This one is totally up to your personal preference, but if you’re like me, you prefer an aisle seat toward the front. An aisle seat gives you a little more room, and you don’t have to walk over people to go change a diaper or when you need to walk your baby up and down the aisle to calm her down. And while a seat toward the back gives you better access to the restrooms, the back of the plane is also noisier and means you’ll be waiting longer to get off.

5. Give yourself extra time at the airport.

mom traveling with baby in a stroller

Airports are the busiest during the holidays. Expect to deal with long security lines, searching for an open family restroom, and pushing through crowds to get to your gate. Once at your gate, you’ll likely have to wait in yet another line to get a tag for your stroller. The last thing you want is to feel rushed with a baby. Children can sense stress, and your baby might mirror it. So allow for more time than normal when flying to alleviate stress, a cranky baby, and so you don’t miss your flight. 


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Also, give yourself extra time to board. If you’re traveling alone with your baby, you may want to board when family boarding starts to give yourself plenty of time to get settled. If you’re traveling with your partner, one of you should board the plane first to take your bags and get things situated. The other stays with the baby in the terminal and boards with the last boarding group so your baby doesn’t have to be on the flight for longer than necessary.

How to Survive the Car Ride

6. Map out your stops.

No one likes being in a car for too long, especially babies who are confined to a car seat. Plan to stop every couple hours to get your baby out of his car seat and change his diaper. It’s also smart to plan where you want to stop, like at clean rest areas or gas stations that are right next to restaurants you like. Try to also plan your stops around your baby’s feeding schedule if you’re breastfeeding.

7. Tag team the drive.

While one of you drives, the other person sits in the back with the baby. That way, whenever a problem arises and a bottle needs to be whipped up or a game of peek-a-boo needs to be played, you can avoid a meltdown and the need to make an extra stop. Another tip for traveling with a baby in the car is the person in the back should sleep when the baby sleeps. Then they’re rested and ready to drive when it’s their turn.

How to Survive Dinner at Grandma’s House

8. Blame the pediatrician.

Aunt Nancy wants to feed the baby Christmas pudding, but you’re not ready to give her sugar. If your aunt is the type of person who will say “a little sugar won’t hurt” after you say no, tell her the pediatrician says the baby can’t have any. You could also say it gives your baby diarrhea. That one usually works, too.

9. Use a nursing cover or bring a friend.

mom nursing baby with ergobaby nursing pillow

Will you be breastfeeding during the holidays? Use a nursing cover so you don’t have to leave the party, which will help you keep covered so Grandpa Frank doesn’t feel too uncomfortable. You can also ask your mom, sister, or sister-in-law to come with you when you go into another room to feed. That way you’re not feeling left out, and you can have some nice one-on-one conversations.

10. Make people wash their hands. 

You shouldn’t feel bad telling your family that they need to wash their hands before holding your baby. Anyone who has your baby’s best interests in mind will respect what you ask and do their part to keep your baby from getting sick.

11. Stick to your baby’s normal sleep routine as best as you can.

It’s hard to stick to your baby’s regular nap and bedtime schedule while visiting family. But if you can keep it as routine as you do at home by providing him with the same sleep cues and using a white noise machine to drown out your loud family, it will make your trip a lot more enjoyable. As a last resort, go for a drive. Really, do whatever it takes to get your baby to sleep. A well-rested baby is a happy baby, and a happy holiday is only possible with a happy baby.


What are your tips and tricks for baby travel during the holidays?

Kirsten Metcalf is a writer, editor and mother to a hilarious but very strong-willed toddler and a beautiful baby girl. She started writing short stories in elementary school and years later became a sports reporter and editor. Now, she mainly writes marketing, religious and parenting-related blog posts. Even before she knew she wanted to be a writer, Kirsten knew she wanted to be a mom. She knows being a mom is one of the most rewarding but hardest jobs out there, which is why she loves being able to share parenting knowledge and support to other moms through her writing. When she actually wins negotiations with her toddler, Kirsten likes to reward herself by watching KU basketball, eating cheesecake, or going on a Target run by herself.

November 25, 2019