Do you love to travel? Or does the thought of traveling with a newborn give you sleepless nights? Either way, there is so much to consider before you think about traveling. For us, traveling has been our passion for a very long time. Our wanderlust had driven us halfway around the globe and we had hoped to cover the remaining half soon. However, once Aarav was born and we recovered from the initial few months of new parenthood, the first thing that struck us both was that we needed to continue traveling. But with a newborn to think of, we were counseled by many to put our travel goals on the back burner until he was old enough to travel.
But unlike other parents, we decided to introduce our passion for travel to our son from an early age. We waited until Aarav was about four-months-old, and then we set off traveling.
While we had planned numerous trips before, we soon realized that traveling with a newborn involves way more planning than we initially anticipated! At first, it was very difficult to wrap our heads around the plan. But our passion for travel eventually won over. Traveling with him was a challenge the first time around, and it has remained a challenge to date. But it is one that we have enjoyed and become more comfortable with every passing trip. He now enjoys traveling as much as we do, and we have the most memorable trips together. Every trip made us more and more comfortable and confident.
Like us, if you can brave the storm and take the plunge and manage the first time well, there is no stopping you from there! Remember, there is no such time as “old enough” when it comes to traveling with a baby! The earlier you start, the more comfortable the baby and you get. The baby’s internationalization process of traveling also makes a quicker start.
We’re here to help!
Be it car, train or flight travel to local, domestic or international locations, remember: preparation is the key to ensure your child and you have the most comfortable experience. So if you want to travel with your newborn, it is essential to start planning meticulously so that both you and your child can enjoy a comfortable and memorable vacation. The key is to remember that whether you choose to drive, take a train or fly with your newborn, you need to be prepared.
We figured out a few things by ourselves while on our trips with Aarav and they have helped us and our friends tremendously. Here are a few points that you might find helpful when you are planning a similar trip with your newborn.
1. Prepare yourself mentally
When you are planning your first trip with your newborn, what becomes most important is “your newborn” and all things to do with him or her. Now, you have to be ready for a whole new world of uncertainties, because when traveling with a newborn, you never know what happens!
The first thing that you need to decide is if you are mentally prepared for a trip. Your trip is, more often than not, bound not to go exactly as planned because your baby is not old enough to be following the plan to the tee. Be prepared for that even before you plan your trip. Your planned itinerary can go for a complete toss if your newborn decides to throw a temper tantrum or, God forbid, is taken ill. In such cases, keep an alternate lighter and more doable backup plan handy to make the best of your time and money.
Before even thinking of traveling with your newborn, prepare mentally for two things. First, that your trip won’t be perfect and that’s okay. And second, you can also enjoy your trip as desired, even if it is slightly compromised!
2. Confirm if your child is ready to travel
Just because you are raring to travel with your child as soon as it is humanly possible, it does not mean that your child is ready to travel too. Till such time that a child can express their thoughts, wishes, wants, likes, or dislikes, parents have to decide for them. Therefore, as a parent, you need to be very sure whether or not your baby is fit to travel yet, medically or in terms of his or her physical growth patterns.
This can be generally be confirmed by your pediatrician. Generally, doctors recommend to start travel anytime between three and six months, depending on how soon your baby’s immune system develops. Travel involves exhaustion and disturbed routines. Although for newborns sleep is not disturbed much during drives or train journeys, in case you plan a flight, this can be a major factor. Flights have been found to put even grown-up bodies into an uncomfortable state, so for newborns who cannot express their discomfort, this can certainly be worse.
If your plan includes air travel, remember that an additional factor that can affect your plans is your kids’ ears being affected due to a drop in pressure. Newborns are used to a particular pressure and temperature before and after birth. Any change can lead to physical discomfort that they are unable to express in clear words. Also, make sure your newborn has a valid passport before you make travel plans and check with airlines about the minimum age for travel. So if you plan to take a flight, make sure you have done everything to ensure that your child has all the necessary arrangements made to take a flight.
Remember, long hours of travel, frequent changes in surrounding conditions, different modes of travel, including intermittent air travel can all together mess up your child’s system. So, if you’re planning on traveling with a newborn, it is advisable to keep your travel plans simple and easy. Before making any bookings or plans, check with your doctor if your child is ready to go through the stress that travel entails.
3. Decide on the destination and duration
The destination and duration are two major things that go into planning a trip. Where you go, how much time you spend, and what memories you come back with are your ROIs from your trip. But you have to be extra careful when you are traveling with a newborn for the first time. Being inexperienced as you might be in terms of choosing the best destination, you can narrow down your search based on two main points – duration and distance. As a travel enthusiast, you might feel like going to exotic or remote places, but if you plan to go traveling with a newborn, you need to consider more popular or accessible destinations.
You might want to consider shorter road trips to start with. It’s a good idea to acclimatize your baby to the concept of motion and irregularity of timing in everyday life. You could try for slightly longer train trips to places with different weather conditions your baby is accustomed to. These gradually lengthening trips can be a very good way to introduce your child to travel. At the same time, they can give you a sense of what to expect on a bigger trip and how to go about planning it.
When you are finally ready to plan for a longer trip, consider multiple locations just to keep alternatives handy. It might be a good idea to avoid high altitude areas or places where your baby could possibly be at physical unease. Try and choose a destination where you can easily reach out to a doctor in case of an emergency because, with a child, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Remember, what appeals to you might not necessarily appeal to them. A beautiful natural scenery might not be as heartwarming to your baby as it is to you. Rather, consider a vibrant place full of activity that can attract your baby’s attention for a longer duration. Also consider, if there are enough places to feed your baby if he or she is breastfeeding.
Remember, this tour is your baby’s initiation to the world of travel and yours to traveling with a baby; so choose your travel destination after careful deliberation.
4. Choose the mode of travel and seats
Now that you are done deciding on the duration and destination, it is necessary to look at possible modes of travel. Your wanderlust might have taken you to places via various modes of travel, but traveling with a newborn is just not the same ball game. Depending on your child’s age, you would have to decide whether traveling by road, train or air will be the most comfortable for your child.
Car vs train vs air travel
While car and train travel is more convenient and comfortable for kids or babies of any age, air travel can be slightly more tricky. Air travel causes a change in pressure that can mess up even full-grown people, so it is hardly surprising that a baby can be supremely comfortable flying, particularly on longer flights. We personally are big fans of car travel or train travel to start traveling with a newborn just to get your feet wet and then move to plane travel as you feel more comfortable.
In terms of time of travel, we prefer overnight trains or late flights for long journeys since your child will generally spend that time sleeping. Smaller trips or flights can be taken in the morning time. To learn more about travel in a plane, check our post flying with a newborn on a plane.
Do not forget to specify your choice of seats since this is going to be a decider, particularly on longer flights. You might prefer an aisle seat, just to ensure that getting up to rock a crying or cranky baby does not inconvenience others sitting in your row. A middle row front seat or bulkhead seat can also be a good idea if you are carrying a bassinet or crib to put your child down to sleep. However, if you breastfeed your child, it is better to have a window seat or one where your partner can share the responsibility of carrying the child.
5. Buy proper travel paraphernalia
Once your planning is over, it is time to start putting things together one by one. The first thing that you need to keep in mind in this regard is how to ensure your baby is comfortable throughout the trip without you being terribly tired by the end of it all. One of the major sources of discomfort for a child can be their posture during the journey. Depending on how you are traveling, travel bassinets, kids harnesses, or strollers can be your best friends.
It is a common practice to carry children up to 2 years on your lap, on any form of transport. But this can be uncomfortable for you and your baby if it continues for a while. If you are traveling by car, this might not be a huge concern as long as you have selected an appropriate car seat for your newborn. However, if you are traveling by train or flight, make sure you choose the most appropriate seat. We recommend those with adequate leg space to accommodate a travel bassinet or stroller.
Our Take on Baby Travel Equipment
We have personally found bassinets to be very helpful both while traveling and at destinations. These easy to carry, collapsible items can ensure your baby is comfortable and safe. We have recommended a few travel bassinets that you can choose from as well as our preferred choice of one in our post, Parent-Approved: The 6 Best Travel Bassinets. If your baby is slightly older, a travel crib can come in handy. Check our post Parent-Approved: The 6 Best Travel Cribs for Toddlers to choose from our recommended travel cribs.
It might not be very convenient to carry your child all the time, whenever you are traveling. A travel stroller can come in very handy at such times. If you can walk a stroller around with your baby sleeping peacefully, you can enjoy the trip yourself as well. We have also shared our recommendations on travel strollers in our blog Parent-Approved: The 9 Best Travel Umbrella Strollers. So, go ahead and choose the most appropriate carrier for your child to make your trip comfortable and memorable. Remember, proper travel paraphernalia can ensure a comfortable travel experience and make things much simpler for you and your baby.
6. Carry all necessary documents and paper
Like adults, babies too need documents to validate their identities. Unless you are using your own car, any national or international travel involves abiding by the rules and policies. This implies presenting identity proofs and other documents of proof. Most travel services require to check legal documents before boarding. This is to ensure it is your baby you are carrying with you. Alternatively, that you have the necessary permission or consent form if you are not the parents.
If you intend to fly internationally with your child, irrespective of age, it is absolutely necessary to get a passport. A passport works as a valid proof of citizenship. Therefore, it’s wise to apply for your child’s passport as early as you can. Depending on how soon you want to travel since passports usually take about 4-6 weeks to get generated. For any other mode of transport, a birth certificate is essential to prove whether your child is old enough to travel or whether they need a separate seat.
Some countries might require you to carry a Child Consent Form if you are traveling alone with your baby. Please check the requirements of the airline or of visiting the country before embarking on your trip. It’s important that you have enough time to arrange for them. Carrying your valid documents to prove your parentage is also necessary in some cases. It is also essential to consult a pediatrician before traveling with a newborn. If they issue a prescription, be sure to carry that along with the prescribed drugs.
A quick tip. Revisit all the necessary documents and their requirements from time to time to be able to plan and arrange for the same before you start. Keep all these documents handy and in one accessible place so that they are easily retrievable if the need comes. Remember, the key to a happy and memorable vacation is pre-planning.
7. Follow necessary health tips and carry necessary medication
The last thing you would want on a trip is for someone to fall ill. If that someone happens to be your baby, your trip could end up being a nightmare.
Water can be a huge factor on any trip, so be extra careful about the water you give your baby. Make sure to boil it or use bottled mineral water. Hectic and busy travel schedules can also affect your baby’s health. Newborns are not used to too much movement or change in the environment. So if you keep shifting them constantly, even if they sleep on the way, their bodies are more susceptible to exhaustion.
It might be a good idea to consult your baby’s pediatrician about any precautions that you might need to take before a trip. If you are going to a particularly sensitive place, do carry adequate insect repellants. While traveling in a car or bus, use car seats. Make sure to put on the seat belts and necessary straps to prevent them from a fall in case of a sudden brake.
Motion sickness could be a very common problem with children of any age. Make it a point to make a checklist to identify the symptoms and act accordingly. Air travel is perhaps the most hardest of the lot as the change in cabin pressure is most likely going to be a painful experience for them. Suckling a baby during landing and take-off can help reduce this change in the pressure. For slightly older babies, give them something to chew or drink so that they keep swallowing.
Carry a medical kit with all necessary medicines:
- A thermometer
- Baby aspirin
- Any ear drops
- Baby antiseptic cream or lotion
- Any medicine for a bad stomach and ORS solutions
- Anti-itching creams
- And such other items of immediate use or SOS.
Remember, a little preparedness and forethought can help you ensure a happy and safe trip with your baby.
8. Make a checklist to sustain you through the travel
Traveling with a newborn child can be a challenge, but not if you are prepared. Your luggage will need to be customized according to the needs of your child. You need to literally carry the whole world in your handbag; enough for at least 72 hours, just in case you do not get access to your luggage in time. It might be helpful to make a checklist of things to put into your handbag as you pack.
We learned it the hard way, but this is a list of things that we think are absolutely necessary.
- A sling or baby carrier. (Slings can be very convenient and comfortable to carry your baby)
- Diapers and wipes to last 48 to 72 hours
- Changes of clothes for your baby as well as you. (You never know when your little one can spill food on your dress. Both of you might need to change!)
- Feeding bottles and formula food, if your baby is not breastfeeding. (It is a good idea to stick to the 3.4 ounces or 100 ml rule)
- Nursing pads and stoles, if you need to breastfeed your baby
- A few pacifiers (take at least 3-4)
- Ziploc bags for disposing of waste
- Small, collapsible toys that your child is fond off. (If your child is slightly older, you will need a lot of these to keep them in one place for the length of your travel)
- Picture or storybooks. (These can also come in handy when the child is still too young to throw a major tantrum)
- Any electronic gadget that can keep the child busy for a while, if he or she is old enough to use them.
- A travel crib or travel bassinet
- A travel stroller
If you are traveling by car or taking shorter train trips, you might be able to drop a few things from your list, since you can stop or pull over and buy the necessary stuff from highway stations. But it’s a better idea not to depend much on stops, and keep all your things ready with you. Newborns usually tend to be cranky because they are hungry or have a nose, ear or stomach ache. To tackle any or most of these issues, keep food and medicines handy.
Remember that on a trip of a fixed duration, your baby does not need every item they use at home. Carry only the most essential items that you cannot do without. If you miss something, don’t panic. Remember that since your chosen travel destination is well thought of, it will certainly have someplace to buy things from.
No matter how much you prepare, traveling with a newborn can be a major challenge. But having said that, this challenge is worth taking and the memories you make are going to be precious forever. Be ready to compromise on your rest when you take up the gamble of traveling with a newborn. Remember, you have to be comfortable, but that can happen only when your child is comfortable. And much as it is important to ensure your child’s comfort, it’s also important that you remain healthy and happy. Remember that it’s your trip too and you deserve to enjoy it!
Space out your fights or trains so that you get some extra time to recuperate. This is absolutely necessary for your baby as well as you. Make sure to include these extra hours while planning the trip.
Some words of encouragement…
Your first trip with your newborn is at the end of the day your first trip as a parent. Messing up is part of it. Don’t worry about that, there is always a next time when you can correct your mistakes. Travel is an adventure, after all, and what is an adventure without a few bumps? So, go ahead and enjoy the bumps as well as the ride. For memories are the best things we get out of traveling. Grab a copy of our book How to Travel With Kids Without Losing Your Mind to learn from our mistakes and plan well to ensure your trips are hassle-free. Then, of course, we can’t promise you anything When traveling with a newborn, things could go wrong out of nowhere. Since you can’t do much under these circumstances, remain calm, plan the next plausible move, enjoy the chaos!
Also, check out our post about Our Travel Philosophy to learn more about our style of travel.