When Sawyer was no more than a peppercorn in my belly, Jamie and I agreed that we wanted to have a family full of happy little travellers. As such, we made a commitment to travel early and often to get our wee babe(s) used to the sights and sounds of new places, airports and airplanes. At almost seven months old Sawyer has been on 13 flights, with his first one at one month old and he has visited Toronto, Palm Springs, Mesa, Canmore, Lake Powell and Victoria. That’s more traveling than many people will experience in a lifetime. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been so worth it!
I’ve had a number of friends and followers reach out to me for some tips for traveling with a baby, so I figured it was time to get them written down for all to share! Though these tips have worked well for us, my best advice is to let comfort and ease dictate your choices…and don’t try or start anything new on a travel day!
- HAPPY BABY, HAPPY PARENTS // If you have the option, fly at your babies happiest/easiest time of day. For us, that is unquestionably in the morning. This was a tough one for us because we often travel on long weekends and we would almost always leave late on Friday night and fly home late on Monday evening (or similar). After doing this a couple of times with Sawyer, we had to acknowledge that it was way too hard on all of us. So, if we ever have the option, we will fly in the morning. That said, if we don’t have the option, I don’t think it’ll stop us from going…it just means we have to baton down the hatches and bring a bag full of earplugs and candy for the people sitting near us!
- REDNECK FIRST CLASS // Do it. Do it. Do it. What is it you ask?? If you are traveling with your partner, during your seat selection, pick a window seat and an aisle seat and pray to the airline gods that that middle seat stays free. If it’s not a sold out flight, chances are good that you’ll get lucky. If someone happens to sit in that seat, they’ll be more than happy to switch with one of you.
***Canadian airlines now offer advanced seat selection for free if you’re traveling with kids, so call ahead! You don’t have to wait until check-in anymore.
***If you’re flying without a partner, pick a window seat. Though you’ll have to climb over people to do a diaper change, it’s worth it to not have to battle elbows and the beverage cart.
- DIAPERS // We’ve only flown with WestJet, so I can’t speak for other carriers; but if you’re flying with WestJet, the change tables are at the back of the bus. And whatever you do, do not change a diaper at your seat…you’ll get in big doo doo (lol)!
- BABY WEARING // Wear your baby through the airport if you can…especially if you are flying solo (without a partner). This is a piece of advice you should heed only if your baby likes his or her carrier. Though you can bring your stroller and gate check it, I have seen so many moms and dads fumbling with their stroller as the pre-board announcement is occurring. When you’re ready to get on that plane, the last thing you want to be doing is putting your baby on the ground while you fumble with wheels and latches. If you are wearing your baby through security, you can request a pat down so that you don’t have to take the baby off to go through the metal detectors. We have loved having our carrier through the airport, but also on the plane. If Sawyer ever gets cranky or fights sleep, I just strap him into the carrier and walk up and down the aisle until he settles. That said, when Sawyer is a bit older, we will start traveling with a smaller umbrella type stroller…these are way easier to manage in a pinch so it might be the way to go eventually.
***You can’t wear your carrier during take-off or landing though. So even if babe is sound asleep, you will have to unstrap them and hold them in your lap.
- ARRIVAL // Get to the airport early – at least 90 minutes prior to a domestic flight and at least two hours prior to an international flight. Though you’ll get moved into the fast lane at security, you’ll still appreciate being early to the gate so baby can sleep or feed or just hang out and watch the planes. You’ll also have some time to decompress and grab a coffee before your flight.
- CHECK YOUR BAGS // Forget the carry-on. Though you might be a bit worried about a baggage delay and will want to get out of the airport ASAP when you arrive, extra carry-on is a massive hassle when traveling with a little one. I travel with a pretty packed diaper bag and a purse…that’s it. I check the rest.
- ID // When traveling within Canada, identification is not required for kids 17 and under. That said, I always travel with a COPY of Sawyer’s birth certificate just in case. This becomes especially important as the near the two year mark or if they’re a big baby. They can fly for free under two if they’re on your lap, but you have to pay for a seat once they’re over two.
- PASSPORTS // Yes, even a one week old needs a passport to fly transboarder or international. Passport photos can be taken at tons of places, but infant photos are tricky. Especially because they need to be awake, looking at the camera and you can’t be in the photo. There are places where they will take the photo of babe in their car seat with a white blanket behind them. Find one of these places and go there! We went to London Drugs and though the photo worked out, I was sweating by the end of it! I had to hold Sawyer up with a blanket across my arms and kept having to maneuver him so that he was looking at the camera. It took close to 20 minutes to get one decent photo!
***For my Calgary friends, I’ve heard that Village Studio will do a car seat passport photo. http://www.thevillagestudio.ca
- EARS // For wee babes the recommendation is to nurse your babies on take off and landing to help the pressurization. This is great if it works out, but I found it more stressful than anything else. I was either holding him off when he was hungry or nursing during a long taxi and having him finish before take off or getting off our schedule to accommodate this. After our first flight, I tossed that advice and just gave him his soother. It worked like a charm and we haven’t had issues with his ears. I’ve also heard that young babies adjust better to the pressure than older kids. Not sure if this is true or not, but it certainly seemed that way for us.
- SLEEP // If you have a good little sleeper at home, prepare to say goodbye to them while you’re away from home…for the first few days at least. I don’t know if it’s just the change in their environment or sleeping on a different mattress, but Sawyer’s sleep just sucks when we are away from home. Over Christmas, we were all so sleep deprived that we almost threw in the towel on traveling all together. When we got home though and looked at the photos and the memories we made, we realized that it was totally worth it and we would just learn to live with it. A friend of mine gave me a great suggestion, which was for the week or two prior to your trip, have them do one nap a day in a pack n’ play at home (if that’s what you’re planning on using), just so they can get used to the feel of the bed and the change in space.
- PACKING // This may not be popular advice, but in my opinion, don’t bother packing light. I’ve never been good at it, so it’s no surprise that I am a monster packer with a baby, but it is so worth it to have the comforts of home. I bring our baby monitor, our white noise machine, my pump, bottles, so many clothes, soothers, toys, etc etc. The only thing I don’t bring is diapers…you can buy them anywhere.
***We are heading to Maui in the spring and though we haven’t utilized this service before, there are companies in certain destinations that offer rentals for baby equipment. It’s worth looking into, especially if you are staying in a hotel or rental property.
I could honestly go on for pages with all of the things we’ve learned over the past few months; but I’ll stop there with the expectation that part two will come around eventually! The best thing that traveling has taught me is that babies are incredibly resilient and adaptable. There was one time that we were on our way to the airport for a dreaded evening flight and I realized that I forgot Sawyer’s bottle at home (he ALWAYS has a bottle at bedtime). I had panicked images of him refusing to eat, not sleeping because he hadn’t eaten, me with my boob hanging out trying to make him eat while tears ran down my face (no joke…I was spiralling!). As soon as we got on the flight, I nursed him, he slept and everything was totally fine! Lesson learned.
If you have any questions or if you have some tips to share yourself, please share them in the comments below!
Love, lust and baby dust,