Whether you’re traveling by car or by plane, you’re probably anxious to make sure baby’s first trip goes smoothly. And that’s understandable: from cranky seatmates in economy class to unexpected car troubles, there are many things that can complicate your first journey with baby.
But don’t panic just yet. With a bit of planning—and, granted, a bit of luck—there’s nothing to stop your trip from going smoothly. Here are a few steps you can take to make traveling easier.
1. Draft a pre-travel checklist
The key to stress-free (or at least stress-lite) travel with your baby is planning ahead. This includes the obvious like packing (more detail below), but also thinking ahead to things like changing tables and facilities for breastfeeding or pumping mothers.
If you’re flying, one option most people don’t think of is calling the airline to check how spacious the airplane is and checking the airport’s website to see what facilities are like for parents. If your child is a bit older, you can also locate play areas in the airport(s) where you’ll be flying. For car trips, check the route for kid-friendly places where you can stop along the way, and plan to stop frequently.
2. Let's talk about packing
If you’re nervous about what to pack, don’t worry: the Internet has oodles of travel checklists you can draw from, so we won’t dive into too much detail here. Don’t forget the essentials: snacks, drinks, and wipes. You should always pack more than you think you’ll need: if your flights are delayed or your bags get lost, you’ll be infinitely less stressed if you have supplies to last an extra day. For airplane travel, the TSA allows baby formula or breastmilk on the plane in reasonable quantities↗, though they will screen it separately. Don’t forget the pacifier to help your baby’s ears adjust to changes in pressure.
If you’re traveling by car and have more space, you might want to pick a few favorite toys and books, several changes of baby clothes, a change of clothes for you and zip lock bags for soiled clothes. Joe Rubino, Lysol’s Chief Microbiologist, also recommends bringing several travel packs of disinfectant wipes, such as Lysol Disinfecting Wipes— to help keep surfaces clean in germy airports, restaurants and public places.
In the last few years, some parents have started handing out goody bags with candy and earplugs to their fellow airline passengers to apologize in advance for their baby’s behavior, often to Internet acclaim. If this sounds like something that will make your flight easier, go for it, but don’t feel pressured to follow this trend: all babies cry, and your fellow passengers can handle it. You have enough to worry about without the added pressure of making adults feel better about normal baby behavior.
3. Healthy baby, happy travels
So, you’ve packed, you’ve planned, and you’re ready for your family to hit the road. But your throat is getting itchy, and your head has started to ache, and is that… achoo! Yep, you’re sick right in time for the big family trip. Nothing makes travel less fun than getting ill or traveling with a sick, grumpy baby.
There’s only so much you can do once you fall ill, but these tips might help you avoid it. If possible, try to avoid traveling during cold and flu season, and keep baby out of crowded areas with lots of people. “Even after babies receive the flu vaccine, it can take a couple months for their immunity to kick in,” says Joe Rubino, Lysol’s Chief Microbiologist. Of course, avoiding people isn’t always possible if you’re traveling through busy airports and crowded airplanes, so don’t feel guilty if you can’t keep baby away from people all the time.
If you’re traveling somewhere warm, make sure you and baby drink plenty of water and add hats and sunscreen to your suitcase.
Finally, remember to set your expectations low. Traveling with baby is never going to be easy, but the more organized you are, the more relaxed both of you will be.