Advice for Traveling with Baby

Experts weigh in on the best ways to ease traveling with baby.

Whether you’re planning on visiting your far-flung relatives or closing the year with a tropical getaway, if baby’s coming along, this post is for you. Infants and toddlers can travel well – that is, as long as their travel buddies (we’re looking at you, mom and dad) are well prepared. And even if they have a meltdown on the plane or develop a fever in a far-away country, fear not: chances are, you will make it back safe, and your holiday travels can still be merry for everyone.

To help get you on your way, we’ve reached out to the pros to give you the lowdown on traveling with baby. Bookmark their recommendations, then pack up, and make your time away with baby count!

On navigating the airport with baby:
Lisa B., former flight attendant at United and mom of 2
“Check your bags. If you want to avoid the check-in line, you can check in with the skycap at the curbside. Carry on only what you need for you and your little one. Stressing about getting your bags through the security screening and finding overhead bin space, while carrying a baby, is overwhelming. This allows you to go through security with limited items. I like to wear clogs that I can slip off and on without needing to untie and retie them. Limit the items you need to take off like belts. If you are carrying a baby in a soft baby carrier, you can usually go through the screening without needing to take the baby out of the carrier.”

On making the flight with baby as smooth as possible:
Beth Ann Quinn, flight attendant at United
“Parents need to come on the plane with the same baby gears as they would for any outing: change of clothes, diapers, their favorite doll or stuffed animal, and food. Don’t assume that airlines have diapers or food for your baby. And while we don’t have microwaves on the plane, we can almost always put your bottle in hot water to warm it up. I have doubled up those airplane sick bags and put hot water in them for parents to warm up the milk. I’ve noticed a lot of parents keep their babies entertained with books and toys. More and more, I’m seeing them use iPads and tablets. But you have to remember to turn off the sound or use those cute baby headphones, since no one — adults or babies — can listen to anything without headphones. Overall, I think that if the parents are relaxed and not frazzled, the baby picks up on it and is usually pretty calm too. So relax and don’t forget that, no matter what, the flight will end soon.”

On dealing with a possibly sick baby just before you leave:
Mona Amin, DO, pediatrician at Tribeca Pediatrics
“If your baby is sick prior to embarking on your holiday getaway, there is no need to immediately cancel your trip. If your child has been running fevers, especially for more than three days, it would be good for a doctor to take a look at him or her prior to your trip. If your child is having fevers, it would be nice to let those you are visiting know the situation. If there are a lot of small children and your child is febrile (temperature over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), it would be best to not have them in close proximity. Most fevers in children are related to viruses, and as long as your infant remains hydrated (making wet diapers) and fevers come down with tylenol or motrin, this is something that can be managed at home.”

On “gearing up” for your destination:
Henley Vasquez, CEO/Co-Founder at Passported
“For small babies, the Doona is a more high-style version of the old snap n’ go strollers. It goes from car to street and limits the amount of stuff you’ll need to schlep. Note: it doesn’t have a big basket underneath for carrying so be certain you’ve got a good diaper bag. For toddlers or older children in the bigger convertible seats, rent one rather than shipping yours. They’re big and unwieldy, and you can have one provided on the other side either by your car rental company or by the hotel if you’ve used them to book an airport transfer. They’ll know the car services that have good car seats. Of course you need one [stroller], but go with an umbrella rather than bringing the Cadillac-sized version from home. We love the lightweight Maclarens, the UppaBaby G-Luxe (more robust and reclines for younger babes) or the Babyzen Yoyo, which folds into the overhead compartment of the airplane. No more waiting for slow gate check attendants.”

On making your hotel stay not suck:
Sam Jagger — general manager at Mr. C Beverly Hills
“Think of all the things that make your baby comfortable at nighttime, since you really want the baby to sleep. If it’s a bumper pad and noise maker, either make sure to bring it or call and ask the hotel if they have one. In my case, it’s a bulky music maker that attaches to our daughter’s crib but it’s a must to have it! Also, don’t be scared to ask the hotel for anything and everything that would make your stay easier. My wife and I ask for a fridge, microwave for bottles, diaper pail, baby bathtub, baby proofing the room, even a humidifier. You never know what a hotel has or may even be willing to go buy if you have requested it.  Many hotels will even clean and sterilize your bottles for you. Lastly, at check in, it never hurts to ask if there’s an upgrade available, because having a suite so that the baby has his/her separate sleep space is a life saver.” 

On dealing with health emergencies while traveling:
Mona Amin, DO — pediatrician at Tribeca Pediatrics
“Whether you are flying or driving for the holidays, the most important thing is: take a deep breath and enjoy the experience. Traveling with infants can be nerve-wracking, especially in terms of protecting your baby’s health. Wherever you will be going, it’s nice to know a nearby children’s hospital or pediatric urgent care for any emergencies. This is something you can look up before or simply ask family members you may be visiting. Always travel with your and your baby’s health insurance card, especially if traveling within the United States. These emergencies are rare, but it is great to be prepared. If you are traveling internationally, it is good to let you pediatrician know to see if there are any other special precautions or vaccines that are recommended. The CDC website also provides a nice recommendation based on where you will be traveling.”

On traveling with baby AND toddler(s):
Brianne Manz, Mom and Blogger behind Stroller in the City
“Traveling with three small children is no easy task. I remember my first trip alone with all three of my children last year. We decided to go to California for spring break, and because my husband was already there for work, I flew solo from New York to meet him there. It was their longest flight ever, and I was panicked for weeks at just the thought of flying with all three alone, but I have to say it wasn’t as bad as I thought. A few tips for a smooth traveling experience would be to pack each child a bag of snacks and toys. Pick up snacks and even toys that they do not necessarily have all the time. A great resource for it, if you are too busy to purchase stuff, is Tropic Of Candycorn. They sell a pre-packed backpack, filled with games and treats for your little ones. What I did while in flight was to reward them after each hour completed with a new toy, that way they were constantly entertained. Another tip would be to load up your iPads with new movies and games, as this definitely helps pass along the time. And finally, a lightweight stroller is always a must while hustling through a crowded airport with tons of bags and three little ones. I make sure to put my little one in the stroller, while I had my two older ones holding onto each end. And my biggest tip would be not to stress, children will sense it, believe me. Happy travels!”

Photo courtesy of Passported

Charlene Petitjean-Barkulis

Charlene Petitjean-Barkulis

Charlene Petitjean-Barkulis is a French expat, Brooklyn-based writer and mama to Arthur. She’s lived in LA, Berkeley, Baltimore and New York City and earned a degree in journalism from Columbia University. When she isn’t busy chasing after her kiddo or writing about all things health and motherhood, she’s likely to soak in a bubble bath, eat an entire wheel of brie cheese or drink a crisp glass of Sancerre (sometimes, all three at the same time).

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