Traveling with a Baby
Despite what most people think, it’s not that hard to travel with a baby. Actually the younger they are, the easier it is. Of course it’s more challenging than traveling alone, but doable. You just need to be prepared. Yousef has traveled with us since the age of 3 months from Canada to Kuwait, France, Cyprus, and United States and back before turning one.
Let’s start by talking about what to do BEFORE the trip.
1. BOOKING THE TICKET: Check the airline website to see how you can book a ticket for an infant. Some airlines ask you to call to add your baby to your ticket, while others you can do it online at the same time as booking your own ticket. The price comes to about 10% of the adult fare.
2. RESERVE A BASSINET: If your baby is less than 11 kg (25lbs) make sure you reserve a bassinet ahead of time. Some airlines provide bassinets on a first-come-first-serve basis, others you HAVE TO call and reserve. However, keep in mind, chances are there will be other babies on the flight, so if you don’t get a bassinet, relax, it’s not the end of the world! (Read below for other options “BRING A CAR SEAT” or “WHAT TO CARRY ON: Breastfriend or Boppy pillow”
3. SEAT SELECTION: If you can, book a window seat. Especially if you’re breastfeeding, you’ll appreciate the little privacy. Also, make sure to select seats ahead of time to ensure you sit next to whoever you're traveling with.
We personally had a problem with Qatar Airways for a 10-hour flight, where we couldn’t pick and choose where we wanted to sit, and my husband could not book the seat next to me. We called numerous times, weeks in advance, but they couldn’t do anything. They apparently have a system where all infants with one parent, regardless whether or not they will be using a bassinet, are seated on the front row of the plane by default. These seats are “blocked” that even airline personnel don’t have access, until the check in time (or so we were told). When we got to the check in, they were all booked and no adjustments could be made. Even when we mentioned that I have RA and that I needed my husband next to me to help me, they said they needed an official doctor’s note for proof, and only then they could do something. Thankfully, the mother sitting next to me was traveling alone with a toddler anyway, and was nice enough to switch with my husband. We later found out that we could have selected the seat 24 hours before check in over the phone.
Keep in mind, especially at airports, things don’t always go the way you plan, but the most important thing is not to panic (like me, lol) it's really is easier than you imagine.
4. BRING YOUR CARSEAT: We always bring our car seat when we travel, because we need it to get to the airport (of course) and when we arrive. We wrap it, with its base, using the luggage wrapping machines you see at almost every airport, or get an airline plastic bag from the checking counter. You can also purchase a travel bag, one with a tag, but the wrapping is working for us. Most airlines check it with no additional charge. Just keep in mind it’s considered “oversized baggage” so you will drop it off and pick it up off in the oversized baggage designated area.
One time for an overnight flight with Lufthansa Airlines, we asked if we could bring our car seat it on board. They gave us an extra seat to strap it on free of charge! We were so happy; we didn’t ask any questions. We ended up having a fairly rested trip. So my advice is to ask, you never know, or book ahead for an extra seat if you feel it’s worth it. From my own research, these seats are usually adult fare and some have a special price for infants depending on the airline, route and length of travel. Also, make sure your car seat is FAA approved.
5. STROLLER: We travel with the BABYZEN YOYO+, which is one of the very few strollers that is allowed on board, and can fit in the overhead compartment. HOWEVER, that is the extent of its usefulness. While discussing it with my cousin the other day, she made me realize the only great thing about this stroller is avoiding checking it, which in turn avoiding the possibility of it being damaged. Other than that, it’s just an OK stroller, a tad uncomfortable for a sleeping baby to be honest, because it doesn’t lay completely flat. So if you’re willing to check your stroller at the gate, I would go with your everyday stroller (get the travel bag ones that say “handle with care” or check if your stroller brand sells one) or just get a cheaper one that lays flat for travel.
6. Baby carrier/wrap: this is useful when passing through security. Since the stroller needs to go through the x-ray machine, it is easier to carry your baby with a carrier. That way your hands can be free to open bags and take out liquids (read below on how to organize liquids and make the security process easier) Also, you are allowed to go through the security with it, but you might be asked to do further screening. The process of this extra screening only takes a moment.
I use the Baby K’tan wrap; to me it was the least complicated one to wear. However, to be completely honest, I couldn’t do it past 3 months (it was painful because of my RA) but if you can, go for it. Now, we take turns carrying him then use the stroller. We are considering getting a carrier for my husband; so if you have any suggestions, let me know! But I don’t think anything substitutes a stroller, at least not for us.
HOW & WHAT TO PACK IN A CARRY-ON:
The first time we traveled we definitely over packed. We also used the biggest diaper bag we had, made sense since we were “traveling”, right? Wrong. In this situation, you want to carry a "diaper clutch" for a one time changing essentials, and have the “extras” in a carryon with WHEELS! It’s okay to over pack just make sure you’re not “carrying” a lot of the weight on your shoulders because that will be overwhelming.
WHAT TO CARRYON?
- Wipes: I use WaterWipes
- Pacifier wipes: I use Munchkin Arm & Hammer Pacifier wipes, incase they fall on the ground which is highly likely.
- Tissues: I use Kleenex Perfect Fit
- Bibs: disposable bibs (I use Tommee Tippee) or any all silicon bib (for easy clean)
- Plastic Bags: I use Diaper Genie Portable Diaper Pail Bag Dispenser from Playtex Baby, for soiled diapers and clothing as well.
- Changing Mat: You can get disposable ones or one that is waterproof to wipe down.
- Diapers: One for each couple of hours on the plane. If you run out don’t worry, I’ve seen airports that sell a pack of only three.
- Travel size lotion diaper rash cream & soap: I like Live Clean travel pack
- Extra Onesies: If you layer, I like to layer.
- Extra sleepers: I like ones with zippers to travel. The brands that I found to have zipper sleepers are: BONDS wondersuit, Mamas&Papas, Carters, Gap. For shorter trips and as he got older, I started dressing him in a one piece with bottom closure like this one from Gap.
- Brestfriend or Bobby Pillow: This is important if you don’t have a bassinet you will need some sort of support for your baby (and your comfort) to sleep on your lap. I bought the inflatable breastfriend but I don’t recommend it, it deflated within few days of use. And even though we patched it up with the patch it came with, it kept deflating. So go with a regular breastfeeding pillow, trust me, it’s worth lugging it around.
- Formula/Liquids: Even if you breastfeed, you need "emergency formula" or pack expressed breast milk. Just in case you don't feel well, or your milk is not enough, or the baby throws up the entire feed, you never know. For formula I suggest getting the premixed infant formula bottles with the sterilized disposable nipples. Liquids for baby are permissible, but I suggest that before you leave the house, you collect all the liquids in clear ziplock bags by category and carry them all in a reusable bag; this makes the security check MUCH easier. However, expect to for the liquids to go through further screening, it’s normal procedure.
- Baby Food: When traveling you obviously can't make baby food, so it's better to buy organic baby food pouches. Things to look for: real fruit/veggie ingredients (not from concentrate), lowest sugar content, lowest sodium content, as well as high iron percentage. Ascorbic Acid is fine, it's vitamin C it preserves the color of the food.
- Pouch Attachable Spoons: I use Infantino (they attach to most pouches)
- Clip on Pacifier/Teether: I used Tiny Teethers teether clip, they also have pacifier clips. A pacifier could be used to equalize pressure in the ears, if your baby doesn’t take one (like mine) schedule the feeds for take off and landing. That’s what I do, and I haven’t had any problems yet.
- Baby Tylenol, Anti-gas Medication & Thermometer: For long flights, just in case you need it.
- Suction hook: Yes suction hook. Make sure your diaper clutch is "hang-able", so you can hang it on a suction hook or the hook in the airplane bathroom. I use them even for myself whenever I travel, to hang my toiletry bag/loofa etc. The brand I like is InterDesign
- Stroller hook: I use OXO tot stroller hook. It is useful to hang your purse or any other bags. Just make sure the bag is not too heavy or the stroller will tip over.
I hope that I gave some useful tips, and I wish you all safe travels with your little ones!