A very broad and very ambitious title, indeed. Before we get started, obviously there is a huge difference between traveling with a one month old and a three month old, a six month old and a ten month old. So take and leave the advice you find to be useful for you depending on your babe. This advice comes from airplane, train, and car travel with our baby from roughly 9-12 months old.
1. Boob and binky are king
When we travel on trains and planes (car is obviously not possibly without some serious acrobatics), Enzo has an all access pass to the boob. Is he trying to rip off the person next to me’s iWatch? Boob. Is he throwing a fit because he can’t eat the screw he just found on the floor? Boob. Is he tired as hell and can’t fall asleep? Boooob. I don’t have the luxury of having a baby who takes a pacifier (or a bottle for that matter), but I’m sure that it works the same way. Added bonus is that the sucking motion helps their little ears with the pressure changes in the airplane.
2. Get that air cot
If you are traveling by plane and your baby still fits (visit your specific airline’s website to know for sure), you should absolutely get the bassinet. It attaches to the wall and allows baby to have their own sleep space. We were not lucky enough that Enzo enjoyed this for any extended period of time, (he was technically too big for it), but for younger babies it is a huge bonus. The standard rule for international flights is no babies over 8 months, with a weight limit of 25lbs or 11kgs. The standard bassinet measures 71cm x 31cm (28in x 12in). In our experience there has always been a safety harness to strap them in in case of turbulence, but some airlines may require that you remove them. Be sure to request one as soon as possible for your flight, as supplies are limited.
3. Consider screen time
This is controversial and only really works for older babies (in our case probably 10+ months), but if you are on a long haul flight over the Atlantic and baby does not want to sleep, you’ll get to the point that you’ll do anything. Consider downloading some Netflix for babe to watch for a little while. I’ve found Cocomelon and Little Baby Bum songs to be huge hits. You can’t always rely on the airline to have good inflight entertainment so best to bring your own.
4. Maintain a routine
(If your baby is old enough to have one. If not, JUST ROLL WITH IT.) Bring certain things that make wherever you are more like home–sound machine, sleep sack, favorite toy or book. That being said, you’ll be surprised how well your baby deals with slight tweaks in routine when you have to make them.
5. Rely on nap times
Probably a no-brainer but we learned the hard way–whenever possible, travel during nap times or bed times. Nothing is worse than a two hour plane ride with an eleven month old bouncing off the wall in a packed Ryanair flight–believe me, I know.
6. Get some extra room if you can
Of course if you have the financial means to get baby their own seat, all the better. We travelled from Spain to the States during covid times which meant that there were hardly any passengers on the flight. Amazing, but not your typical situation. Buying them their own seat means you can also bring their car seat (as long as it is approved for airplane travel), and have them sit/sleep there.
Also rely on your flight attendants. Many times they can find you a spare seat in order to give you more room. On a flight from Madrid to Amsterdam (and on the same flight on the one on the way back), it was absolutely packed but both times there was one seat available, and the flight attendants made sure it was next to us.
7. Choose your vacation spot wisely
We learned on a recent trip to Tenerife that, crazy enough, traveling is a lot different with a baby. Until then we had travelled, but to our families’ houses, to the beach, to places that were fairly easy and accessible. Tenerife was gorgeous, delicious, fantastic, but it also is not what I would call the *perfect* spot to go with a child under two due to the landscape and majority of activities available. Can it be done? Of course, but just in a different way.
8. Pack mindfully
Bring their favorite toy or book, but don’t bring all of them, because no matter how many you take out on the plane to entertain them, the most interesting thing will be the earrings on the woman sitting next to you. Bring enough diapers to get you through the journey, but don’t waste your whole carry on on them. Buy diapers and wipes wherever you’re going.
9. Food, food, food
You are allowed to bring any baby food necessary on flights, no matter if it goes over the limit of liquids. I highly recommend bringing the pouches because there is less mess. For babies who are already eating snacks, definitely bring some melt-aways or crunchy baby safe snacks like these ones. Highly entertaining in a crunch–no pun intended.
10. Be flexible and give yourself grace
Things are not always going to go perfectly, so it is better to take them in stride. People are generally understanding of your circumstances and will often be happy to help during airplane travel. As for exploring and traveling in your final destination–it is all a learning experience. Appreciate what you were able to see, and know that you’ll be back to do everything you didn’t get to another time.