If you love to travel then once you have children you want to keep travelling. My late husband and I spoke a great deal about how we would love to travel with our children. He was convinced that we should travel with our children from when they were still teeny tiny little babies. As he put it, they absorb so much at that age that travel can only enhance their experience of life even if they won’t remember it.
We planned to take our first local trip when our daughter was 3 months old and our first international trip when she was 6 months old. Her father was taken from us just before she was 3 months old. I had to make the teary calls to cancel our accommodation a few weeks before. The venues were more than understanding as sometimes people are decent human beings. Believe it or not the trip was actually supposed to be to Gariep Dam in South Africa for a Harley Davidson rally weekend. Our daughter loved sitting on the motorcycle with her Dad. Mom and her would then proceed to follow Dad in the air conditioned car.
A promise I made myself is to keep travelling. To bring her up the way her father and I always spoke about and to travel to all the places that he wanted to go to and those that he had already been to and loved. I think I’ve done well so far. NM, my daughter, has been on 19 flights in 19 months and already has a three stamps in her passport. I have to admit though that travelling with a baby and now toddler as a solo mom is not easy. It takes a great deal of preparation and planning and a very anxious mom come d-day. My biggest realization though is that as long as they are fed, warm, and have mom, then babies are pretty happy to travel. Toddlers can be a bit trickier as they like to move so that proved a bit more challenging but the fed part played a big role here too.
So here is what I learnt about travelling with a baby. I am writing here about flying before 8 months and am busy writing another post about flying after 8 months (this is because she became mobile after 8 months).
Travelling with a baby younger than 8 months:
- Invest in a good and easy to use baby carrier. This is the best way to board the plane and keep your hands free. Also helps to get through the airport without worrying about carrying a baby on one hip and dropping your carry on luggage. I put her in the carrier getting off the plane as well. Hands free is key. I used the Stokke baby carrier which is a little more complicated but worked well once I got the hang of it.
- A back pack is an easier to carry item than a handbag or wheeled bag. I’ve tried using all three options and the backpack was easiest except when holding her without being in the carrier and trying to get my wallet out but you can always sling it on one shoulder.
- If you need to travel with a car seat then I recommend the wheeled bag. I hooked my car seat to the wheeled bag and off we went. However if you are lucky enough to have a car seat that hooks onto a stroller base that is even better. Unfortunately I did not have one of those. In hindsight would have been much easier.
- A stroller is a personal choice. For our long haul travels, and here I mean a total of 23 hours, I invested in a Baby Zen Yoyo. It is a smaller stroller option and folds so incredibly easily and is compact. You can unfold one handed which is great when travelling as a solo parent. I did however have some challengers travelling with a car seat, and stroller, and carry on luggage. In my opinion if you can leave the stroller at home the baby carrier works best. Check out the Yoyo here.
- Pack diaper/nappy changing kits. I bought ziploc packets and put in each one a diaper and two wipes. If I had to change her I could grab a packet and whisk her off to the change room without having to take my whole bag when on the plane. It also made for easy use in the airport.
- Pack change of clothing kits. You never know. Spit up happens. Put an outfit in a ziploc bag. For long haul flights I would recommend two or three extra outfits. You never know.
- Pack only a few toys as I found that babies are more interested in everything else around them. She spent most of one flight playing with a plastic cup and the seat belt. She hardly played with any of her own toys.
- A blanket is always a good idea as aeroplanes tend to be a little on the chilly side. If you happen to have a seat open next to you it is great to put your little one down on the blanket a bit.
- Booking seats. I know it is cheaper to fly with your baby on your lap but if you can afford it I cannot stress how much it helps that they have their own seat. On a short flight you can get away with holding them but long haul I was incredibly blessed to have been able to get her a seat. I actually used her carseat on the plane as she could sleep more comfortably in it if we couldn’t get the bulkhead seat that comes with the travel cot. A pain to carry on and off but attaching it to the wheeled carry on bag helped.
- Where I fall short of providing any experience is with regards to bottle feeding. I am grateful for how easy it is to breastfeed. I didn’t carry any bottles or formula on the flight with me. Just my nursing cover and we were good to go.
- Pacifier use is recommended for take off and landing as the sucking helps them to deal with the pressure changes in their ears. Here again my daughter has never taken a pacifier or dummy so I have no experience but fortunately she hasn’t had any pressure issues. In fact she slept through four landings.
- If your baby has started on solids before travelling I recommend those packets of pureed foods that have a nozzle with a lid that you can squirt the food directly into their mouths. Works like a charm. Take a few flavours.
- Last thing on travelling with a baby. Ask for help. People I also find offer help so accept it. The air hostesses on most flights were incredibly helpful and fellow passengers helped me stow my luggage. Find someone you can trust to hold onto your little one when you need to use the bathroom. It’s not easy taking them with.
In the end traveling with a baby may seem daunting but to be honest, the long haul flights I was on with her, were actually more pleasant than when I travelled as a childless adult. Perhaps she kept me busy that time passed quicker. I was grateful to get off the plane though yet all of our trips have been worth every flight. The lead up to the flight was always the most anxious but once you are checked in everything will be ok. Travelling with my daughter has been incredible. In fact she has even more stamps in her passport now but that is for another post. Travel with your baby. It is so worth it.
Have you travelled with your baby? What tips and tricks do you recommend?