Can You Travel with a Baby?

By Nomadic Matt | Published December 13th, 2010

baby sleeping on a planeThis is a guest post by Corinne McDermott of Have Baby Will Travel.

Whether you’re newly welcomed a new life into this world, or your bump resembles a watermelon, if you’ve always loved travel you may be thinking, “Can you travel with a baby?” Of course, you can travel with a baby but once part of the parent club, the question seems to become “should you travel with a baby?”

“It’s too dangerous!” “It’s irresponsible!” and “It’ll be too difficult!” are few exclamations you’ll have thrown your way. And then there’s my particular favorite, “It’s very selfish. Babies need routine, they don’t want to be traipsing all over the globe.”

As a new parent, chances are you’re not going to be choosing a war zone as your destination, and you’ll hopefully decide on a place with good access to health care. Small babies are more susceptible to illness, but when they’re really little you have more control over what and who they come in contact with.

And is traveling with baby difficult? Yes but so is travel without a baby sometimes, and we still love doing that. There is definitely more work involved than tossing a handful of diapers into your backpack, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Babies need things, and you’ll need to carry those things. Babies need to eat, and you’ll need to have food. Babies need to sleep, and you’ll need to ensure a safe place for that. Hostels might be great for single travelers but aren’t always the best for babies. You’ll need to adjust your pace – trying to cram as much into your days as possible will make you all cranky and tired.  You’ll need to adjust your expectations – your life has changed, if you think the way you travel won’t you’ll likely be disappointed.

mother and daughter

Before my daughter arrived, I was certain I had this motherhood thing down pat. I’d read the books, I’d done the research, I was ready. But from the moment she arrived I was completely thrown for a loop and didn’t feel anywhere close to normal for almost 9 months. In hindsight, she was the kind of easy, adaptable baby that would have been a dream tiny traveler. However, I wasn’t ready to make that leap until she was nearly one. The occasional “smug daddy” or “sancti-mommy” would tut-tut about how they simply popped their babe in a sling and off they went to hike the Inca Trail/trek Rwandan gorillas/summit Mt. Everest and the baby just fit into their life and that was that. Well *that* was not my experience, nor anyone else’s I know.

I can attest that babies like routines so it is important to create new ones when you travel. I think the occasional break from the norm ultimately makes infants more adaptable anyway. Babies just want to be with their parents, if it makes mama and dada happy to have a change of scenery, so be it. Here are a few key tips to get you started:

Breastfeed. The best food for baby is also the easiest to “prepare” when you’re on the road. Breastfeeding not only eliminates the lugging of bottles, nipples, sterilizing, equipment, formula, etc., but baby will also be getting valuable anti-bodies that will protect against illness when you’re away from home.

Bring A Sling. Or A Baby Carrier. Slings can help you carry the baby, but they can also substitute as a blanket, change pad, or nursing cover. If slings aren’t your thing, many lightweight cloth baby carriers offer excellent support, keep your hands free, and don’t take up too much room when stored.

Bring A Stroller. When you’re traveling, a stroller is not just a stroller, it is a highchair, a bed, and an all-around stuff-lugger.  The type of travel you prefer will dictate whether a lightweight or an all-terrain stroller would be more appropriate, but don’t cheap out here. Good strollers are easy to push and most are easy to fold up when needed. In warmer climes, slings and carriers can become uncomfortable, so a stroller can offer some shade as well.

strolling with the baby on travels

Pack Or Buy Wipes. Lots of them. Diaper wipes are a traveling parent’s best friend. Not only do they serve their intended purpose, they mop up spit up, sticky hands and faces, serve as toilet paper (don’t flush!), and can clean any number of gross surfaces that you or baby may need to touch. Diaper wipes and hand sanitizer (for you) can make sometimes icky public bathroom scenarios a little more bearable.

Don’t over-schedule. If you try to cram too much into your days and into your trip, you’ll all end up feeling exhausted and frazzled. Use your destination’s local parenting websites to find parks and other baby-friendly outings that will be easy and comfortable for everyone. That climbable monument/jungle trek/coral reef has been there for a long time already, and will still be there when your child is old enough to enjoy it with you.

My children are living proof that starting travel at an early age makes them easier and easier to travel with, and instils an early love of travel. And as they grow up, we’re looking forward to taking more adventurous trips with them. For us it’s not “Are we there, yet?” it’s “When are we going?”

Corinne McDermott is the founder of Have Baby Will Travel – your guide to family travel with babies, toddlers and young children.  Connect with her at www.havebabywilltravel.com or www.twitter.com/hvbabywilltrvl

comments 15 Comments

Good post. We started traveling with our little guy at 2 months and it’s been working great.
Btw: We bought all baby stuff locally so we didn’t need to schlepping massive amounts of stuff around. Let’s face it, the world is smaller, less scary and less underdeveloped than people think. ;)

I was afraid we weren’t going to get back in the country after my wife, our twin 21 month old girls, and I were questioned at customs for only having two carry on bags for a two week trip to Singapore and Malaysia.

The best advice (as Per says above) is to buy things locally. We brought enough diapers and wipes to get us to there but then bought want we needed on arrival.

For an earlier trip with then girls were 5 months old, we used Baby Bjorn front carriers and highly recommend them. They were perfect for walking the hills of San Francisco. I wouldn’t bother with a stroller.

I traveled with my sister and 1.5 year old niece to Amsterdam a few years back. We took our time, traveled slow and had a wonderful time with some great memories. We rented bikes for the week and she loved cruising around in her front seat.

If you can find a place with a small kitchen it’s very beneficial to have a kitchen, or a least a good sink and microwave to make small meals and food prep.

Scout out a local supermarket to you can stock up or know where to go for quick sundries.

Also I travel with small bag of earplugs I get cheap at Walgreens. It was the first time I flew with a baby (of my own) so I passed the earplugs around to my seatmates and although she was quiet for the most part they were grateful.

Now that my niece is almost four I’m ready to start traveling again with her!

Life Exceptional

The long term benefits to the child must surely mean that travelling with a baby cannot be selfish! Growing up with wide experience of the world and world cultures, learning to depend on yourself and the greaer self confidence it brings are all good things. I would caution that perhaps the child would struggle on the relationship side if you were travelling for to long, as it is virtually impossible to form long term friendships on the road. Still, that is no reason that they can’t travel with you frequently!

Great post, Corinne.
I’ve travelled a bit with my 14 month old but just short trips and air travel. So far so good. I have to agree, they sleep more and are less mobile in the early months. At six months my son slept through the two flights out and the two flights back when I went to Toronto. He was dreamy. He was pretty good to the Caribbean at 10 months as well and that was a long day of flights.
Now I am a bit scared to plan a trip with a child in arms that is 14 months old. We bring our Ergo everywhere and I agree carriers or slings are a life saver for travel. But occupying him on a long flight sounds exhausting. I guess this means if we plan a trip I need to make it worthwhile!

Thanks guys!

the minimalist mom: We’ve flown with my son at 14mos, and just now again at 19mos. It was definitely tiring, but not nearly the Hell I was anticipating. Next trip is a month from now and he’ll be almost 21mos. It’s the most challenging age, for sure. You’ve definitely earned a cocktail when you get where you’re going!

Minimalist Minx

Travel with them now! We travelled to the US and New Zealand from London when my son was 18 months old and yes they were long flights. But now he is 30 months, we feel really prohibited as his flights cost pretty much the same as adults. Price wise I would really recommend travelling with kids before they are two.
Baby number two is on the way and this time I intend to make the most of the first six months when baby only needs breastmilk and travel then. No need to find suitable food (and by that I mean low salt and sugar rather than specialised baby goo) or any issues with sterilizing. Also they are light enough to mean that the sling/baby bjorn is hardly noticeable.
The other thing to be sure to take on the flights is a thick skin. ;0) Even though my son was better behaved and quieter than 95% of the other passengers, we could feel the disapproval of our nearby passengers when we got on. I’d probably have been the same ten years ago, so it didn’t bug me too much. Don’t take offence!

Great tips, agree with all your points. Babies are always fun but to travel with them is something really hard thing. Feeding them is the toughest thing on any day and doing it while traveling is challenge.

Travelling with young kids is not a breeze, but really, you’re travelling! You get to share the experience and joy with your little ones, and show them an interesting part of the world different from the one they’re used to. Feeding, sleeping and trying to keep some sort of routines are all challenges, but not insurmountable by any means.

I’d say travelling with kids, especially very young ones, is more “different” than “difficult” though at times I admit to be more than willing to swap both kids for a couple of very, very large beers.

From a Southeast Asia perspective, I’d say, unless you’re mainly in Singapore, or have your own set of wheels (so transport isn’t an issue) leave the pram at home. The footpaths just are not pram friendly and while it is more uncomfortable for the parent, some kinda baby-carrying backpack is a better deal. What I would pack though is one of those clip on chair things that can be clipped into the table edge — it doubles as a great detention centre!

Stuff like wipes and nappies are cheap and readily available in Asia — a Thai brand, Mama Poko — is excellent. Just pack enough for the flight and a day or two.

Pack tupperware containers in a bunch of sizes (but that fit within each other to save space) for food and stuff.

Another thing is don’t be afraid to ask for help. The number of times restaurant staff have stepped in when we’ve been at absolute wits end and whisked the kids off to the kitchen to keep them occupied… It’s a stereotype I know, but I find Asia incredibly kid friendly (compared to say Australia, where, you walk into a restaurant with a kid and the entire place grimaces!)

peter

Kids are capable of driving you nuts if you haven’t planned ahead to keep them occupied while traveling. Here is how to save both money and sanity while traveling with kids.
http://www.themoneytimes.com/featured/20101121/traveling-kids-made-cheap-id-10142411.html

Really brilliant words: “Babies just want to be with their parents, if it makes mama and dada happy to have a change of scenery, so be it”).

Hey, nice article.

A friend of mine has taken a trip around the Black Sea with her husband and 6-month old daughter. They even made the website dedicated to their journey, with many tips about taking care of the kid during long voyages.

I remember speaking with a small family (mother, father, and 7 month old baby) on my last flight with JetBlue’s AYCJ, and found out that they did it too. I was pretty surprised considering they had to travel with the baby close to 20 times in the valid time period of AYCJ. Props to anyone that have to handle baby stuff while traveling.

We’ve been living overseas for the past five years, and so we’ve had a chance to travel with infants, toddlers, and older children. It’s a lot of trial and error, especially in the beginning, but I love that my kids have their passports full of stamps, and our oldest is a world-savvy traveler now! He can ask for basic things in several languages, and people are always impressed with his behavior on flights.

I’ve found that both the Middle East and SE Asia are great places to take children. We’ve had kitchen staff in restaurants take our babies (blond hair, blue eyes) and parade them around the restaurant like they were little kings and queens, and if we were staying in a hotel, the staff was incredibly accommodating!

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