You’ve got an upcoming trip and it’s the first time you’re travelling with a newborn or young baby? We bet you’re feeling a little overwhelmed? OK, maybe more than a little overwhelmed? A long haul flight or many hours in the car with your little one can be the stuff nightmares are made of, but it’s ok! Don’t panic. We are here to help! Let us take the stress out of the process. Follow our advice and tips and you might even be able to enjoy the journey?
Travel tips for long drives with a baby
I first travelled when my baby was seven weeks old for six hours by car and then three hours when he was six months old. The three hour drive felt longer than the six hour drive. All this to say, I found it easier the younger he was and the more he slept. Once the babe has longer wake windows it certainly gets harder to entertain them in a car.
#1 If you can, sit in the back with them
This just makes it easier to tend to their needs without having to stop and get out or unsafely reach back. Some kids do better when they can’t see you though, so make sure your presence won’t have your little one crying, wanting to be picked up. If you’re in the back with them you can provide comfort, pass them toys, put the dummy back in, pat them off to sleep etc.
#2 Give them toys for stimulation
Sometimes it’s best to save some toys just for car rides. I used to have a pile of ‘car-only’ toys so that the novelty wouldn’t wear off. It was a year before I had to circulate those ‘car toys’ out for new ones. Little Archer & Co. have these interactive play socks and wristbands that you can secure to the baby. They are perfect for the car as they can’t drop them out of the car seat.
I have also taken the toys off the baby play gym and secured them to the car seat straps over the head rest so that again, the toys can’t be thrown.
#3 Make sure you have a car mirror
This is a must and we recommend you use a car mirror for all car rides while your baby is rear-facing. It’s the only way to safely keep an eye on your little one while driving. On that three hour drive I mentioned, I had gone alone and taken my husband’s car, without realising soon enough, the mirror that sits on the head rest wasn’t in there. It was an absolute nightmare not being able to have the peace of mind to look back and check if my baby was safe. I had to stop several times on the side of the road to check on him.
#4 Schedule stops for long-haul trips
I am sure you aren’t expecting to smash out a 10-hour drive in one go with a baby. But are you aware you may not even be able to drive two hours without having to stop? Make sure you plan enough time to get to your destination so you can take a relaxed approach to the journey ahead. Sure, the baby will need a feed every say three to four hours but sometimes they can just become really fussy being crammed into a car seat for over an hour. If you are going somewhere unfamiliar it can pay to look ahead for rest stops and service stations. You don’t want to be stuck, unsafe on a highway shoulder without reception, unsure of where the next place to stop is.
#5 Sun-proof the back seat
It’s so important to protect your little one from UV rays and the heat of the sun on long drives. Car window shades are a life-saver. They will help keep your baby comfortable by keeping the sun off them, out of their eyes and stop them from heating up.
#6 Pack a separate nappy bag for the car
Don’t be silly and do what I did on our first long drive. I packed a nappy bag for the destination and not for the trip. What a rookie! Although I had a set of nappies, baby wipes and travel change mat in a separate diaper bag, we had to unpack the boot looking for a change of clothes in a suitcase. Pack a nappy bag that you keep in the back seat that is just for the trip and anything you might need so it’s easily accessible and won’t having you stopping for longer than needed. Some things you might want to put in this bag include:
Bags for soiled nappies
Travel change mat
SPARE CHANGE OF CLOTHES or two! It’s almost like they can smell the most inconvenient time for a blow-out?
Bibs to save clothes from spit-ups
If breastfeeding, a breast pump and supplies to pump-on-the-go, like storage bags for the breast milk and ice brick. This was one thing I had packed in the front seat with me actually. Because our seven-week-old was a good sleeper in the car, I couldn’t get him to take big feeds when we stopped so I ended up having to pump while we were driving to relieve the engorgement.
Baby Panadol and Nurofen - when you need it, it’s usually at the worst time to try and buy it so always good to have it ready, on-hand.
#7 Familiarise them with some calming music ahead of travelling
This was a huge win for us. We had a baby that developed a healthy set of lungs in the car at around three months old. We found some music - a baby sensory play list - that tended to help calm him down so when he would start to escalate in the car, we would pop this on and it would usually buy us quite a bit of quiet time. White noise, although no fun for you to have to endure, can be really successful at calming down a baby too. Make sure you have these downloaded in case you lose reception. In the same category as this, if you are comfortable with it, is the tip to hang an iPad from the back head rest and play something stimulating or calming to distract the baby.
#8 Introduce a comforter early
Generally a baby will be unhappy in the back seat because they are lacking comfort. It was super handy for us to introduce a comforter early that could help provide reassurance when we couldn’t. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just sleep-safe. I had two in rotation and would sleep with one under my shirt for a night and swap them out. You could sleep with the ‘lovey’ the night before the trip so it’s all ‘stanked-up’ with your milky scent and give to your babe in the car for reassurance.
Baby travel tips for flying
The advantage to flying with a baby is that you’re able to be with your baby during the trip so you can feed as you need, cuddle, bop up and down etc. without having to stop. The only issue? The 50-smething eyes on you when said baby is just being a baby and inevitably starts having a cry.
#1 Ask for a seat with a spare seat next to you
If you don’t ask you won’t receive. It’s worth a shot! Generally, the flight attendants will be very obliging if you have a baby and can accommodate a row with a little more room for you. It makes a world of difference to have that bit of extra space to spread out.
#2 Get the in-flight bassinet
Especially if your little one is good at sleeping alone, then request the bassinet with your ticket. You’ll be able to put them down, even if they aren’t sleeping, just for a stretch and play, and have your hands free for a little bit.
#3 Try to book a flight at a time that suits your routine
If it isn’t a long-haul flight then try to line the flight up with a nap if you think your babe will sleep easily through the flight or perhaps line it up with awake time so your babe will sleep once you arrive and are transferring to your destination. It’s just worth considering because it might make things easier for you. If you’re on an international flight then it’s likely to be more tricky to line it up.
#4 Use the gate-checking option for your stroller or use a baby carrier
If you’re using a stroller to get-around the airport then you can gate-check it at the terminal and it will be available when you get off the flight too. If however, your baby is light enough then baby-wearing with a baby carrier can be a convenient option. It’ll free up your arms and allow you to take stairs etc.
#5 Take advantage of priority boarding
Generally if you have a baby, you can take advantage of priority boarding which means you can board ahead of the onslaught of other passengers. This will give you plenty of time to set-up what you need, pack away carry on luggage and settle in without the pressure of holding up 20 something people. It’s always lovely to start a long flight with a calm environment.
#6 Feed during take-off and landing
Babies’ ears pop with the pressure of take-off and landing too. The best thing to do is feed your baby during these times to encourage swallowing and it will help the baby to release the pressure in their ears.
#7 Let go of worrying what other people are thinking
This was a hard lesson for me. As a new Mum, I had so much anxiety leading up to our first flight with my baby. He wasn’t a particularly settled baby or an easy-to-settle baby for that matter either. But at the end of the day, regardless of what natured baby you have, you have just as much right to travel as the single 20-something guy behind you. You are going to get looks, people may scoff and judge. One thing for certain though, any other Mums or Dads on that flight will be so grateful their children have grown and they are past having to deal with such a situation. And for the rest of your life, you will finally understand how intimidating this situation can be and empathise for other families. Needless to say, the ones judging you are the ones who have never had to do it and for some reason, I found comfort in realising they had no bloody idea what they were talking about! If you can just roll with it and not worry about other people, it will make things easier. And just know, your baby will cry during a flight but it will be ok! You will all survive it.
#8 Pack toys for stimulation
Toys with as much novelty as possible are great, so ones they haven’t seen everyday for the past however long. Unless you have a tried and tested, old faithful toy that you know will engage them. Pack compact toys that won’t take up too much room in your carry-on. These interactive socks and wristbands are great for this. You can secure them to the baby so they won’t be thrown around and are very stimulating and engaging, while taking up very little room in your luggage.
Important general travel tip for you, the mother:
If breastfeeding, pack a script or antibiotics for YOU
If you’re going to get mastitis, it’s usually when you’re out of town, in another country and/or in the middle of the night when you can’t reach a GP. You know - the most inconvenient place or time. This happened to me on my first trip away. During the drive, the seat belt rubbed up against my breast for six hours causing a blockage and within 24 hours of arriving at our destination on a public holiday (!!!), I had full-blown symptomatic, smack-you-in-the-face mastitis. Spending hours in an emergency room with a newborn on a public holiday, and quite frankly, feeling like you’re dying, is no fun. I have since, always, kept a box of antibiotics on-hand, just in case!
Tips to help you pack light with a baby
#1 Pack a small amount of light and compact toys
You don’t need to take your whole toybox away with you. Really you just need a couple of light and compact toys to get you through the journey. We suggest these interactive socks and wristbands and this collapsible pack of stacking boxes. Once you arrive we have the best hack for getting more toys. At most libraries in Australia you can loan toys! Check ahead and see if they do this where you are going. It’s really brilliant. Your baby gets to play with new toys that they will find exciting and then you can return them before you leave, saving you room and weight!
#2 Leave the car seat, bassinet, stroller and pram at home
Rather than taking the bulky car seat, stroller, pram, collapsible high chair, cot or bassinet with you, hire what you can at your destination. The less baby gear you have to lug around or check-in, the happier you will be! Sure, it could work out to be a little more expensive but truly worth the investment if it means you don’t have to lug it all around. Besides, you will probably end up saving by not exceeding baggage allowances. You can go down the route of a one-stop hire shop or opt to source different things from different places. If you’re hiring a car, then you will have the option to hire a car seat. Book at a hotel that offers baby equipment. Sometimes they will have it all set up ready in the hotel room for you. Often tourist destinations like theme parks will have strollers or prams for hire. As long as your baby is still little, use a baby carrier as much as possible, especially if you’re having to catch trains and walk up and down stairs, it will be much easier to navigate without a stroller and keep your hands free.
#3 Wash clothes while you’re away
If you commit to doing some washing while you’re on holiday then you really can pack light with clothing. Pack enough for five to seven days for longer trips. You can find a laundromat if there isn’t a wash facility at your accommodation.
#4 Buy what baby products you can, when you get there
Don’t bother packing enough nappies and wipes to get you through the whole holiday. Pack enough for the journey and a few days in and then find some at your destination. So much better than losing all that space in your luggage. You can even buy baby food and tins of formula once you arrive. Just research ahead of time to find the best baby products available, particularly if you’re travelling outside of Australia. Be aware that if you give your baby bottles, you will likely need sterilising equipment wherever you stay. You can get away with boiling water in a saucepan but if visiting less developed countries, research how you can sterilise equipment and find or buy sterilised water.
We hope this guide has helped you feel more confident about your upcoming travel plans. Now that the world is opening up again and we are less restricted with our movements, we would hate to see a baby or young child deter you from travelling. It can be such a magical experience!
#5 Invest in a baby nest
A baby nest is the perfect portable nap solution for your baby while away from home. It's also super light weight and compact which is great for packing in the car or taking onto the plane. The nest would be perfect for popping into the plane bassinet and your baby will feel like they're sleeping in a familiar environment.