Searching for baby travel tips because you want to travel with your little one?
Before Dylan was born I did extensive research into travel with babies and found loads of ‘advice’ to stay at home because the baby wouldn’t remember the trip and the parents will be miserable.
Wait a few years, they said; it’ll be much more enjoyable, the baby won’t remember anything anyway…blah, blah, blah.
The thing is, they weren’t us. And as I now know, theirs was just parenting advice in a travel wrapper.
Some people could imagine nothing worse than traveling with a baby, but for us, it was a natural progression. We were extensive travellers before kids; we didn’t see why that should change.
And yeah, the baby might not remember it, but we would, and I’m pretty sure he will love seeing photos of his baby self in interesting places when he is older (update – he totally does).
Besides, both sets of grandparents lived in different countries to us, so we had little choice on international travel.
We knew our travel style would have to change slightly – from hostels to apartments – (we still consider ourselves budget travellers as apartments work out cheaper than hostels when you travel slower and stay longer as we do now with Dylan) and no more all-nighters attempting salsa in Colombian nightclubs.
However, as I look back at the time we have spent travelling with our son I can honestly say we have never felt that we missed out on anything because we had a baby with us.
We still got to experience Carnaval in Mexico, we still eat out and have a casual drink now and then.
But mainly day to day life in a new place is what brings us the most joy.
That first year of your baby’s life is difficult for parents, but having an interesting change of scenery definitely helped me with adjusting to parenthood and the opportunities it brings.
If you would like to make the most of your maternity leave and travel with your baby here is a list of my top tips for travel with your baby to make your life a little easier.
11 Practical Tips for Travelling with Your Baby
1. Apply early for travel documents
My absolute number one baby travel tip is to apply early for birth certificates, and citizenship or passports early on and don’t assume international travel will be possible right away.
We applied for all our son’s travel documents as soon as his birth certificate arrived. Even with the efficiency of the NSW Birth, Deaths and Marriages department his birth certificate took nearly a month to arrive.
We then had to apply for citizenship (as he was born in a country different to the one he is a citizen of) and passport.
We had flights booked for November and were scrambling to get all the documents ready in time. If we had waited until we had settled into a routine of life with a newborn to fill in all the required documents we wouldn’t have made our timeline, which leads to tip number 2.
2. Wait until you are settled in motherhood before departing
I whole-heartedly believe the ideal age to begin travelling with your baby if they and you are well and healthy is no earlier than four months old.
As a first-time Mum, I would panic over every high temperature, rash or funny looking poo.
Dylan was born in Australia where healthcare is second to none and I am so glad we spent those early months in a place where we had a GP within a five-minute walk and a 24-hour free healthcare service we could call with any queries.
Spending those early months in a supportive environment is truly the most important thing for the whole family’s health and sanity.
By the time we left Australia, I was confident in taking my son’s temperature and comfortable with giving him the correct pain relief.
As a travelling parent you take on a much higher level of responsibility for your child’s health, and so it pays to have had a bit of experience with it first.
I used the early months of Dylan’s life to try out which nappies and baby products worked best for us, so I could stock up before we departed.
This list of free samples in Australia was immensely helpful for trying free baby products without the large price tag.
I am pro-vaccination. Part of our travel planning included working around the immunisation schedule for Australia.
By planning to leave a couple of weeks after Dylan’s four-month shots we gave ourselves time to deal with any fever or reactions that occurred before boarding a 24-hour flight. We then planned to be in Ireland where the same vaccinations were available for his six-month shots. It gave us huge peace of mind.
4. Book a hotel with a restaurant
For short trips, we always pick a hotel with a restaurant, because there will be times when you just can’t face bundling the baby up to go out.
We were so grateful for the restaurant at our hotel in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
It was freezing cold outside and Dylan had just fallen asleep so we put him in the stroller and went downstairs to the restaurant to eat dinner.
He didn’t wake up until dessert. That may have been the last time my husband and I were able to eat simultaneously!
5. Bring the right gear
We brought a stroller and a sling. Each has its benefits.
We love our lie-flat stroller as it acts as a bed as well as a seat and transport device. Dylan sleeps for hours in it as opposed to a maximum of 30 mins when asleep in the ERGObaby carrier.
Plus it is super portable and small enough to be taken to the airline gate, rather than needing to be checked in. It cost less than $100.
When our evening flight to Mexico was delayed by almost three hours in New York’s JFK International Airport we gave ourselves pats on the back for having such a compact stroller. Dylan slept in it until the flight departed. Without the stroller, I’m sure a three-hour flight delay right on bedtime in a brightly lit and buzzing airport terminal would have equalled parenting hell.
On the other hand, using the stroller in Mexico was difficult due to potholes and lack of footpaths in some places so the carrier won there. Plus the ERGObaby carrier is handy to have on the plane with you as you can use it to soothe the baby by walking up and down the aisles.
My friend, Kylie, recently told me about travel blackout blinds. Read more about them here – what a clever idea!
6. Book the bassinet seat on your flight
If your baby is small enough make sure you request the bassinet seat on flights. Don’t assume you will get these automatically.
We have used the bassinet on Etihad, Emirates, Aer Lingus, Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia. Even when Dylan was too big to sleep in the bassinet it was a useful place to store all our excess junk so he could play on the floor underneath (when the seatbelt sign was off, of course) or just stretch out when needed.
7. Limit driving times and distances
If you are driving make sure you limit driving distances and time them with naps. We learnt in Ireland that we can’t do more than 3 hours in one go.
Any more than that and he gets super cranky, but he can sleep for almost 3 hours.
We drove from Cork to Dublin with the baby asleep the whole time, but the next two hours to Belfast were absolute hell.
I tried to navigate the way to our Belfast hotel while Dave sat in the back with the hysterical baby singing his ‘ABC’s’ on repeat. Not fun.
8. Plan your sleeping arrangements before you go
We used a phil&teds Portable Traveller Crib which was great. Co-sleeping works for some people (update: now he is older we do this) and means you don’t need to bring anything but we prefer Dylan to have his own bed.
Don’t assume all hotels have portacots available. Note – on our first trip within Australia we used the Phil and Teds Nest which was adorable and very portable.
We are keeping it as our main bassinet for any future children. It’s a pop-up travel bassinet that comes in its own bag and has a built-in compartment for baby’s clothes. It was very handy for space-saving but Dylan was too big for it by the time we left for our big overseas trip.
9. Make yourself at home
Try to replicate a home environment when you are away.
For shorter trips of a few days, we usually stay in a hotel due to convenience, however, staying in a hotel room means it’s hard for parents to unwind when the baby has gone to bed.
The TV has to be on really low and the lights off. Trust me; I’d rather be at home. For longer trips, we always rent a house through Airbnb or VRBO etc.
A holiday home or vacation rental makes perfect sense when travelling with a little one. We absolutely adored our rental home in Merida, Mexico and our wee apartment in Los Boliches, Spain (see some pics of it here)
Having the bedroom separate from living area may mean you actually get to have a little downtime. Plus, having a kitchen and being able to eat at home when it suits makes for a happy family holiday.
10. Car seats
In the USA we found we had to use a car service to get a baby car seat which was very expensive but we had just come off long flights and when everyone is tired, convenience rules.
In Mexico most taxis don’t have seatbelts in the back we had to improvise. We would usually avoid taxis wherever possible in Mexico and just walk or bus when we needed to get around.
That said, there were times when we had to catch a cab and we asked the driver to drive slow.
In New Zealand taxis often have a car seat –but you must book in advance.
In Sydney, we used Bubs Taxi which was more expensive than a regular taxi but they are reliable and have excellent drivers who arrive with the car seat set up for you and help you with your bags.
If you are renting a car you can bring your car seat from home or rent one from the car seat company.
In Spain, we just use the train system as much as possible so we don’t need to worry about car seats.
Often the cheapest car rental agencies won’t have a great selection of car seats. In that case, search out a baby gear hire service in the area and have them deliver to your car rental agency before you are due to pick up the car.
We did this on the Gold Coast of Australia and still managed to save hundreds going with a cheaper agency and renting the car seat separately. If you are travelling to a touristic area this should be very simple to do.
11. Don’t forget a sarong
A sarong acts as an impromptu everything when travelling with a baby.
Many places in Mexico had highchairs with a missing strap so we would wrap the sarong around Dylan’s belly – which also gave him back support as he was quite small to be using a high chair – and tie it around the back of the chair.
It also acted as a picnic rug, a sun shield, a stroller liner, a breastfeeding cover and, of course, clothing.
I’d love to hear your tips for parents considering a trip with their little ones. What advice would you give?
If you are still undecided about travel with your baby I have written a post about all the wonderful reasons to travel while they are still tiny! You can read it here: 7 Reasons You Should Travel With Babies