Whew, our little lady is just past the year mark, and I’m kind of wishing frequent flier miles for babies were a thing because she’s seen more of the world than we ever imagined! When we had a kid, we told people, “Well, we’ll just take her with us,” and so while traveling is definitely different with a mobile baby, it’s surely not impossible or something to fear. While I am not a certified expert on traveling with a baby, after 2 trips to Hawaii, an overseas trip to Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia, along with many continental trips, I’ve learned a ton. So today, I’m sharing all the lessons that our adventures and travel internationally with a baby has taught us.
You’ve seen Home Alone, right? The scene where the family is frantically running through O’Hare? Well, I’ve done that a time or two, and I want you to remove that visual from your memory and start mentally preparing for your flight. Energy is everything!
Hear me out: people instill the fear of God in you about traveling with littles, and it might leave you feeling like you need an Ambien before boarding the plane. But I hope after reading this you feel more prepared and confident to master a flight, no matter how long it is. When parents get stressed, kids feed off of that energy, so we always try to approach our trips like it’s just another day for an adventure, and it’s going to go great. Let’s dive on in!
1. Timing is everything.
If you have the ability to be flexible with your travel dates or times, be mindful when planning your trip and the timing of your flight. We’ve had great luck planning our flights around nap time for shorter trips or bed time for international trips! We try if we can to have the flight fall during a nap time so that we don’t have to try to entertain a baby for hours upon hours.
We also aim to avoid super early flights that cut into her nights rest (which isn’t always possible!). But the closer you can stay to your standard sleep schedule, the better. We bring along her sleep necessities like her sleep sack, her little stuffed animal, her white noise, and try our best to create an environment that is as conducive to sleep as being on a plane can be.
2. Stay-overs have saved us.
We’ve also been super fortunate to be able to add on a day on both sides of our long trips to do a stay-over in a middle spot. So for us, when we go to Hawaii, we spend a night in LA near the airport to break up the 10 hours in the air, and this has been great for us to get a break and to break up the travel day.
I realize not everyone has extra days to add on to their trips, but if you aren’t in a rush, breaking up the super long flights is a great way to get a night’s rest and refresh! The only downside of this is having to check your luggage and go through TSA twice, but it’s worth it to approach the flights feeling rested and recharged. I know travel days take a lot out of me, so I can only imagine how they feel for a little one!
3. Check your luggage.
We were completely carry-on people before we had a baby. Checking luggage was foreign to us, but now, it’s all we do. For three weeks overseas we had 2 full-size suitcases that held all of our clothes and diapers, a travel crib, and then our Doona, which is a stroller/carseat combo!
Considering we were gone for so long, I felt like we traveled decently light. We managed to just go through the airports with only our backpacks to keep our hands as free as possible. Conley likes going in the Ergo carrier, so we just bring that through the airport, but if she didn’t, we would likely bring our Doona through security and then gate check it. Inside of my carry on, we have: diapers and wipes, a few toys, books to read, a blanket, snacks, a change of clothes, and a white noise machine.
4. Board the plane separately.
You know at the beginning of boarding when they say that people traveling with children can board early? Well, now that Conley is mobile, we’ve found a different solution. If you’re traveling alone with baby, you want to jump on and get situated. But if you’re traveling with help, we’ve found that if one parent goes on and gets things situated (toys out, snacks readily available, blankie ready to grab) and the other parent walks around and lets the kiddo crawl around for a few extra minutes, it’s worth it!
I mean, why be stuck on a plane any longer than you need to be? Then board with the kiddo closer to when the gate is closing so that you’re not sitting idle for a long time! (This wasn’t as much of a thing before she was mobile!)
5. Bring activities for baby.
I am not an expert here, but I can say I’m learning some tricks when it comes to flying with a baby. For our overseas trip, we had a total of 12 flights, so there was a lot of air time for babe. I learned to slowly bring toys out one by one and have lots of fun snacks on hand. I also found that having a light nursing blanket was key so that if she was falling asleep, we could block more light!
On our long flight (12 hours), we ended up putting on a penguin movie, and while Coco hasn’t had much screen time yet, she seemed to love it. Truth be told, all rules go out the window when you’re on a plane, so do whatever it takes to have a happy baby and happy parents! There were a few times where I stood to rock her near the bathroom just to kind of get her up when she got antsy and try to get her to relax.
6. Attempt to stick to your schedule.
I say this with as much grace as I can muster, but stick as close to a regular sleep schedule as you can manage while traveling. I’ll be the first to admit that I never thought I’d be a schedule kind of gal, but we tried to stay as close as we could (within an hour give or take) to the nap/bed schedule.
Keep in mind we changed timezones in a giant way when we flew to Fiji, but Conley acclimated quickly because we kept the wake windows pretty comparable to at home and then kind of eased in. I was amazed at her resilience with the shift, and we just got back on track once we landed and tried to just live in the timezone we were in while being flexible realizing that it might not go seamlessly.
7. Pack intentionally.
I was impressed that I was able to fit all of Conley’s stuff with all of mine in one full size suitcase. I used lingerie organizers I snagged on Amazon and Marie Kondo’ed her clothes so they were easy to store and see what we had. I also ended up packing two full sleeves of diapers and some of her favorite teether snacks since I wasn’t sure what would be available in Fiji for us (we were on a more remote island).
We packed her monitor, which came in handy because a few of the hotels we stayed in were suites which gave us the chance to create a separate sleeping space for her. (I should also tell you that she slept in her travel crib in a shower at one hotel since the space was tight. I mean, you do the best with what you’ve got, right?) I also brought my breast pump that I didn’t end up needing (but brought in case I needed to pump while I was working so Drew could have a bottle!).
8. Ask for room upgrades.
Hear me out, you might not get them, but our hotels, when they saw we had a small baby, did their best to give us options with more space when it was available. It never hurts to ask, and we were so thankful for the rooms that were suites because it gave us a chance to not have to tiptoe around or eat room service by the light of cellphone so we wouldn’t wake her! They might say no, but what if they said yes? It doesn’t hurt to ask what your options are when you arrive!
9. Room service is your friend.
I didn’t order room service until I was like 30… like, I just grew up in a household where that wasn’t something we did, and now I’m a giant fan. We ended up getting room service often, especially when it was Conley’s bedtime and she went to sleep!
We tended to adventure out for lunch and then stayed in for some of the dinners, and it was a blast and relaxing for us! Room service came in very handy for us while we navigated the timezone changes with a baby and not to mention, eating truffle fries in bed feels so naughty (but is so fun!).
10. Hire a travel agent.
We were super thankful we had a travel agent arrange all of our flights and hotels for our trip! If anything came up or we needed anything, she was our point of contact which gave us an easy-to-follow itinerary and helped us to know that we were taken care of.
She also knew little things like applying for Visas for other countries and things we likely would have missed had we planned on our own. We also worked with a company called Noken that took care of our entire itinerary and reservations in Australia, and it was so seamless and stress free. They had recommendations for food, booked us kid-friendly activities, and had 24/7 support! It was the best!
11. Have fun! (Seriously!)
I truthfully wasn’t sure what to expect. Our first flight was a little bumpy, and I had these instant thoughts of, “Oh crap, we’re in for a long three weeks if this is any indication of how it’s going to go,” but the funny part was, that was our worst flight out of the bunch, and it wasn’t even that bad. The actual getting there part is a tiny blip compared to the memories you get to make with your family. We got to experience a side of the world I never thought we’d see with our little girl, and while she might not remember it, I will never forget it. Stay relaxed, laugh a lot, pivot, and find your flow, and have so much fun! You can do it, you really can!
Well, there you have it. The 11 big lessons I learned while going on a three-week-long adventure across the world with a ten month old! I am so, so thankful that we went for it and that we had an opportunity to experience such once-in-a-lifetime moments with our baby! While traveling internationally with a kiddo is entirely different than traveling alone, I’ve found that the joy outweighs the extra logistics and that babies are a universal way to bring joy to strangers.