So I have titled this ‘Top Tips’ because as always, with most things in Motherland, there is endless amounts of advice. I’m going to put together some of the most useful things to remember when travelling with a baby.
On the 25th of October this year we embarked on a trip to New Zealand. We travelled for no less than 30 hours each way. As we made our way to the Southern Hemisphere I made notes to myself of what to remember next time.
Michael, Arlo and I have gone on a few 5+ hour road trips and now with the recent 17 hour flight, a 15 hour flight, two 8 hour flights and a couple of short domestic flights – it’s safe to say we have a fair amount of experience.
Pack hand luggage as minimally as you can
You will need whatever you usually need when you leave the house with your baby. A changing bag with changing mat, nappies, wipes, nappy sacks, creams. A spare outfit or two (a few spare onesies will do fine). Feeding supplies, a blanket, a toy, pacifiers…
On our long flights, we packed a lot more “just in case” and we ended up loaded with bags that became multiple bags of ‘stuff’ that we didn’t even use. We had a buggy with us but there were times when Arlo needed to be held instead, and that meant one of us needed to take everything else. Also you sacrifice on valuable space in the car, on the plane, in transit, wherever you go, wherever you are, and there’s nothing more of a nuisance than tonnes of bags to balance between any spare arms.
Pack your hand luggage wisely. Remember there are stores selling critical items pretty much everywhere at airports or main roads if there’s something crucial you’ve missed.
Have plenty of milk supplies, snacks and food (depending on your babe’s age)
Arlo is bottle feeding now so we take an entire tub of formula with us. We prepare bottles before he need them with boiled water and keep them in an insulated bottle bag when we’re on the go.
If you are flying, the stewards should help in their kitchen with these requirements. You can rinse the bottles with boiling water between feeds too. On other occasions, and at service stations, we have asked cafes for cups of boiling water. Alternatively you could take a thermos of water.
As far as I’m aware baby’s feeding supplies are exempt from the liquids security rules at airports – or the security staff are very understanding. (Security is another time it’s really useful to have minimal hand luggage.)
Arlo is also weaning, so we pack a lunch box of snacks and pouches of puree. Baby biscuits, rusks, crackers and fruit/veggie sticks. Fruit puree and sweet potato puree, it’s best to stick with food that is bland and tummy friendly! It’s probably not the best time to try a spicy onion packed curry for example.
Snacks also offer some entertain for babies on the go – nibbling on a baby rusk can take a while. Anything to keep them quiet, aye?! Use it wisely.
Take a little supply of calpol, teethers, gels and anything else you use at the worst times!
For our long trip we packed calpol sachets and teething gels. Arlo was teething really badly once we got on the plane and settled after a dose of calpol. We also had his favourite teething toy to chew on.
At home I give Arlo baths, and try different methods of soothing him when he doesn’t feel well, but when you need to help them quickly and simply – just try the calpol. I know our fellow passengers appreciated it.
If you are flying, book appropriate seats on the plane
On our long haul flights we booked seats at the front with the bassinet. It’s worth taking note that you must remove your baby from these bassinets when there is turbulence. We found this frustrating when we finally settled Arlo in one then the seatbelt sign was turned on and we had to settle him back down on our laps… That was fun.
On one of our flights we were lucky enough to have spare seats next to us so we were able to let Arlo sleep on them. If you have the money, maybe this is the way forward!?
On some domestic flights, I found it might have been easier to be closer to the bathroom or the small space at back of the plane. On one of our flights Arlo filled his nappy on take off and then insisted on jumping around our laps for the hour long flight. An hour never felt so long. When the drinks trolly wasn’t blocking our path we managed to go to the back, change him and burn off some of the energy.
Don’t expect to sleep and make time to catch up with rest at your destination
Michael and I can get ourselves quite paranoid that Arlo will suffocate or fall somehow or get taken, or just stop breathing. That typical parental anxiety kicks in, and it stops you from getting any sleep.
The bassinets on planes are often very shallow and a baby could easily roll out or snug themselves into the side too tightly. At one point Arlo managed to pick up his head and rest it on the edge, luckily we were awake so he didn’t come to any harm. Then again, Arlo is a little special and accident prone. Of all babies to find fault with the bassinet, it would be Arlo.
For our first day at our destination we ensure it’s relaxed, just in case we’re like zombies. So when we got to New Zealand we had a really easy going day and got into bed by 8pm (legit the latest time we could all keep our eyes open.)
But sleep whenever possible! If you’re travelling with someone else – take turns to be on baby duty and nap
If you are travelling with someone else, and to get around the above issue, it’s worth taking it in turns to look after the baby and take naps. If you’re travelling alone on a plane it might be worth taking a sling or baby carrier, or safely tie them to you with a scarf. You can rest assured they are safely sleeping, and won’t slip off your lap if you nod off.
It’s easier said than done, “just take naps”, because personally I find sleeping on planes and in cars so uncomfortable – but any rest counts! So try it.
If you are flying, feed your baby milk at take off and landing, or give them a pacifier
The air pressure on the plane can make your ears pop, and babies don’t understand how to relieve this pressure. It’s best to get them to swallow something as they go up and down in the air. Breastfeeding or bottle feeding as you physically incline and decline will help. Otherwise letting them use a pacifier might help.
If you are driving, plan breaks, stop at least every 2 hours and be aware of where the service stations are on route
It’s worth being aware of the time and how long you have travelled for when you’re on the road. It’s also worth doing a bit of research into the best places to stop. Don’t just go by your petrol gage!
Babies shouldn’t stay in their car seats for longer than 2 hours, so it’s best to have breaks every 2 hours at least. When Arlo was younger, this fit in with his feeds nicely too.
Baby changing facilities, convenience stores, cafes, restaurants, picnic area – all great places to aim for on route.
If you are driving, get a back seat child view car mirror
SO valuable when driving. These mirrors easily attach to the head rest in the back seat and mirror your baby in their carseat. We can see Arlo in the rear view mirror, also if we turn around. It really helps to see how they are, if they’re sleeping safely and if theres anything wrong.
Now Arlo is communicating with us more, we can interact with him using this mirror and car journeys are a lot more enjoyable for him (and for us, who doesn’t love watching their precious baby snooze?!)
Take a couple of spare pacifiers
Whichever way you are travelling, it is so worth packing a spare pacifier or two. We have lost so many in our time and when Arlo is having a meltdown, we thank our lucky stars that we have a spare tucked away for him.
Take a pacifier clip
To help with the above issue of losing pacifiers, use a pacifier clip to keep it within reach and to save your pocket money on buying new ones.
Only pack a couple of toys
The excitement of being on the road and/or being on a plane is stimulating enough. Toys can take up valuable space in your hand luggage and most of the time, the baby gets so distracted with everything else going on, they won’t want to play with them. Just pack a few – if they haven’t seen them before that’s even better! We bought a couple of small second hand toys for Arlo and that was enough to keep him going. I only whipped these out when he wasn’t fascinated by looking out the window of the car, or staring/laughing at the other passengers on the plane.
Attach ribbons to toys
If you don’t want to lose them down the sides of seats, or for them to be tossed away, it’s best to tie a ribbon to the toy and then to your baby’s wrist or clothing. This also proved to be really useful on our travels as we managed to identify Arlo’s toys really easily!
If you are flying, make friends with the cabin crew a.s.a.p!
A friend of mine gave us this advice before we went away on a 30 hour long trip (to NZ) and I totally understand what she meant. We made sure we were polite and friendly towards the staff onboard and they were happy to be of assistance to us whenever we requested something. They were really helpful and spoiled us with baby goodies and cuddles for Arlo.
However, there are always grumpy hostess’, and they can make the trip a lot more difficult for you. So try to familiarise yourself with the friendly ones that are happy to help.
If you’re flying, take advantage of times when the seatbelt sign is off when your baby is awake. Go for walks up and down the plane, find a safe open area (often at the front or very back of the plane) to play
Burn some of their energy by exploring the plane. Let them crawl, walk, sit in the open areas. Let them ‘stretch their legs’ and explore the new environment. At one point I took Arlo to the kitchens to talk to the stewards, when they weren’t busy, and have a little chat and cuddle with them. Give yourself a breather and your arms a little stretch – boy those babies get heavy right?!
If driving, take advantage of stops and let your baby have a stretch, tummy time or assisted toddle around
It is recommended that babies don’t spend more than two hours in a car seat. If you have space on a spare seat, the boot of the car, or in the service station, or a picnic area – let them move about or have some tummy time. It might be worth packing a picnic blanket so you can also do this outside if you stop at a more rural spot!
If you are flying, make sure you have access to a buggy and/or a baby carrier and a car seat (and all other large necessities)
We took our buggy on the plane with us on our trip, then we borrowed a car seat from our friends at our destination.
We also borrowed a high chair and a travel cot- and this proved to be much more helpful to us than I first thought!
These things can be quite expensive to buy at the destination for a trip so it’s best to make arrangements before you travel. Either take them with you, borrow them at the destination or rent them. Most hotels and holiday rentals can help too!
If you are travelling to a different time zone, follow your baby’s routine on route
We find Arlo sleeps a lot more on the move. On the plane journeys he slept for hours, woke for feeds, and then slept for even longer. This was great because it meant when we got to New Zealand we could keep him up until bedtime. Almost immediately he had adjusted to the new time zone (it’s exactly opposite to the UK – so their morning is our evening.)
I would recommend keeping track of the time at home and being aware of their usual routine, so you know when to expect them to be extra tired or hungry.
I hope these tips are helpful and honest. It’s certainly not easy travelling with a baby, but the younger and less mobile they are the better! Do you have any travel tips? I’m keen to learn more before our next big voyage.