Between the sleepless nights and the exhausting days, no one deserves a trip away more than new parents. But no matter how dreamy an international destination sounds on paper, no one wants to be that desperate parent with the screaming baby on the flight getting there. While you cannot always avoid a fit from your infant, there is a lot you can do for your baby’s comfort to maximize the chances of sleep.
As is the case with everything to do with parenting, the key to success when traveling with an infant is planning ahead. Make a timeline of preparation for your trip, as some steps may take longer than expected. The first thing you’ll want to act on is applying for a passport and visa–no matter how young your child might be, they still need a passport.
Do Your Research
While traveling by car has its challenges, taking a plane with an infant is a whole new ballgame. For instance, the usual rules enforced about liquids at airport security checkpoints do not apply to breastmilk. That being said, you’ll want to research restrictions and guidelines as they apply to the specific airports you plan to travel to.
The bottom line is communication. Share your concerns with the security officer when you arrive at security check or the airline personnel when boarding the airplane. While you should not depend on others entirely, they are there for you and trained to help your trip go as smoothly as possible.
Take Care of Yourself
When possible, travel with a partner. Take care of your baby in shifts so you are rested and able to fully care for your child. If you are traveling by car, make sure one of you sits in the backseat with your baby.
If you are traveling by plane, do your best to stay present for your little one. Stress and exhaustion leads to short tempers, and that’s the last thing a baby needs when they’ve been taken far away from the comforts of home.
Stick to a Routine
Stick to your baby’s routine as much as possible. This is especially tricky when traveling by plane and dealing with time differences or jetlag. Do your best by keeping feeding times regular. Breastfeeding during takeoff and landing helps deal with the discomfort your baby feels in their ears at those times.
Make your life as easy as possible: organize your baby’s belongings in a tidy manner. See-through Ziplock bags are always great for quick, time-sensitive moves like going to the bathroom to change a diaper.
- Make an itinerary ahead of time
- Apply for your baby’s passport
- Look into a visa and apply for you and your infant when necessary
- Research airport and airplane requirements and specifics
- Reserve your baby a seat
- Arrive everywhere early
- Dress in layers: temperatures tend to fluctuate
What to Bring
- Passports and tickets
- Toys, books, and music to distract and entertain your baby
Headphones for you and noise-canceling ear muffs, depending on how old your baby is
Diaper bag with more diapers than you think you will need, including wipes and a lightweight, portable changing pad
- Bottles of breastmilk (breast pump, if needed) in a small cooler that should not be counted toward your onboard luggage allowance
- Blanket and sleep companion (stuffed animal and a pacifier if your baby is used to one) that has not been washed too recently, as the familiar smell can be relaxing to your child and remind her of home
- First aid kit and any medicines your baby is currently taking
- Car seat for the plane that fits the airplane seat dimensions
- Spare clothes for your baby, in case of a diaper incident or dribbling
- Spare clothes for you, in case the messiness gets on you
- Sweater or any activity-specific accessories you may need upon arrival
- A book or tablet for your own entertainment when your baby is asleep
- Water and snacks for you and your partner
- Neck pillow for you
The bottom line is that your baby’s welfare depends on yours. Do yourself a favor and prepare as well as you can when traveling internationally with your infant. Always take extras of anything you may need—and remember, you’re going to be making memories that will last a lifetime!