Very few things are as exciting as having a new baby, however, just because you have a new baby doesn’t mean you should put your entire life on hold. Babies are resilient little things and will put up with quite a lot. One of the more common questions mothers of newborns ask their doctors is, can I travel with my baby? Our post today will give you 15 tips on how to travel with your newborn in addition to some other information about traveling. Let’s dive in.
How Long Should You Wait To Travel With a Newborn?
I think it’s important to state, I am not a doctor, but have spoken to a lot of them. In general, most doctors say it’s okay to start traveling with new babies immediately, however, if you’re planning on flying (airplanes are gross), you should consider not doing so until your baby’s immune system is a little more developed.
For full term infants, this could be as quickly as 3-4 weeks, for those who are little premature, you should wait a few months. I’ve even heard some doctors recommend anywhere between three and six months. Regardless, you should speak with your pediatrician before taking your baby on an airplane.
You should also know that airlines differ in their policies on infants flying. On Delta, a baby has to be more than one week old to fly. JetBlue’s policy says the baby has to be at least three days old. United Airlines refuses to allow babies younger than seven days old. So again, check with your pediatrician and then check with the airline you are planning on flying before booking your trip.
What Do You Need To Travel With a Newborn?
Once you’ve decided to take a trip with your new baby, what do you need to bring with you to make the experience great? This probably isn’t a comprehensive list, but it will cover most things you need to travel with a newborn.
What To Take On The Plane
- Bassinet/Doc a Tot
- Baby Carrier
- Extra Change of Clothing
- Clorox Wipes
What To Take For The Trip
- Car Seat
- Pack & Play
- Luggage/Clothes For The Trip
Newborn Traveling Tips
Fly Direct If Possible
For many families, it’s way more cost-effective to have layovers as part of your travel plans, especially when you don’t need to be to your destination by any particular time. However, once you’ve welcomed a baby into the world, you might want to rethink this. As you learn your first time going through any airport, moving through security, getting to gates is no easy feat and many parents are more than happy to pay a little extra to avoid the additional hassle.
Respect Baggage Weight Limits & Be Prepared for Last-Minute Repacking
When packing your bags, you need to know how heavy your bags are allowed to be before incurring additional fees. Most airlines these days charge for the first bag that is checked and any bag weighing over 50 points incurs additional fees. Exact pricing will vary by airline, here’s a list of the major airline's baggage pricing fees:
You should also know that when you travel internationally, fees might be slightly different. So make sure you do your research beforehand.
One thing you’ll probably get really good at when traveling with small kids is repacking items on the fly when trying to check your bag with the airlines. I’ve seen plenty of parents pulling their luggage aside after being weighed and shuffling items to other checked bags as well as personal carry-ons in order to meet weight limits. You should keep in mind that on most airlines, having a second checked bag is often cheaper than having one, overweight bag. It’s also a good idea to have some spare room in one of your checked bags for souvenirs, especially if you are heading to Disney (our favorite place to travel).
Plan to Arrive Early
Traveling is stressful, especially now that extra security is needed at all airport terminals. Gone are the days when you can arrive at the airport an hour before your flight and get right to your gate with time to spare.
Best practice is to arrive at least an additional hour early to allow plenty of time to help with the following:
- Checking or gate-checking special items, such as strollers and car seats.
- Waiting for special security screening - you have to go through the metal detector with your baby and many moms require a pat-down after going through. Your stroller also has to go through a detector.
- Having at least one diaper change before boarding, which may involve waiting for a family restroom.
- Having at least one feed before boarding.
Bring a Passport for Your Infant or Their Birth Certificate
One of the most common questions when traveling with a newborn or infant is if they need a form of identity. Personally, I’ve never seen this, but the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agents are well within their rights to ask parents to produce a birth certificate or another form of ID such as a passport to prove they are who they say they are.
If you are traveling internationally, you absolutely need to have a passport for your infant, so that will push back the amount of time you’ll have to wait before traveling with your newborn. If you are wondering how long it takes to get a passport, the State Department recommends allowing at least eight weeks for it to arrive, however you can expedite the delivery for an additional fee. They cost right around $100 for a non-expedited passport.
Tag-Team Airport Security
Getting through security with small children and babies is much easier when there are two adults helping out. The routine that seems to work well is having the first parent start binning up electronic devices and liquids and then taking your baby through screening. The second parent then goes bins up their stuff and separates baby formula or other baby food (this always requires additional attention from security) and then folds up the stroller and puts it through the machine. If your stroller won’t go through the machine you have to wait until someone from security retrieves it from you.
If you are traveling solo with an infant, you’ll have a much easier time going through security if you’ve pre-sorted everything that TSA requires you to remove from your luggage so you can get it out quickly and get it through the scanner. You should also remember that it’s perfectly acceptable to leave your baby in the stroller until the very last minute, grab him or her and go. I’ve also seen some very nice TSA agents helping single parents navigate security. I’m not sure if this is an acceptable practice, but it doesn’t hurt to ask if you’re feeling frazzled.
Priority Boarding & Security Lanes For Families: Use them!
The wonderful thing about traveling with an infant and small children is the fact that you always get to board the plane during priority boarding. Always! It truly makes a huge difference being able to get your stuff in the overhead bins and get settled in before the plan gets crazy busy with people fighting for space. The same goes for security lines.
Not always, but many times when traveling with small children, you can find a security guard who will take you to the front, a priority line or a line for families. Even if you don’t see a line specifically labeled for this, it doesn’t hurt to find someone and ask them if there are special accommodations for families traveling with infants.
Utilize Airport Lounges Wherever Possible
For those who have had access to and used airport lounges, you know how amazing they are for parents with young children who are tired of crazy terminals, packed restaurants, and standing room only gate areas. They are especially great by having quiet feeding areas for babies, delicious meals for parents and unhurried diaper changes.
Pricing for these private lounges are pretty expensive ($30-90 per traveler), however, many reward cards offer free or discounted lounge access as a value-added perk. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers complimentary access to more than 1,000 lounges in the Priority Pass Select network. If you have a credit card that offers travel rewards, check with them before you go on your trip to see if they offer anything like this.
Locate & Use Family Restrooms at the Airport
Before you get to the airport, you’ll want to get a map and locate all of the family restrooms near security and your departure gates. As you well know, blowouts are a common emergency and the best way to deal with and change one is by using the family restrooms… even if there is a line.
Change Diapers Before Boarding & Put On An Overnight Diaper
It’s always a smart thing for you to change any and all diapers right before you board. When doing so, it’s a good idea to change your baby into an overnight diaper. As you well know, overnight diapers are heavy-duty diapers designed to absorb huge amounts of urine and should contain almost any blowout until you can get to a restroom.
Wipe Down The Plane
Planes are one of the most disgusting things carrying lots of germs to make you and your little one sick. It’s always wise to pack a few Clorox wipes in a baggie or grab a travel size case of wipes from Amazon. As soon as you board the plane, take one out and wipe down the following:
- TV Screen
- Tray table
- The back of the chair in front of you (before closing your tray table of course)
- Seat belt
If you’re a total germaphobe, you can wipe down the entire seat, but most of the time this list will be enough.
Leave the Jogging Stroller at Home
Jogging strollers are fantastic and are capable of navigating everything from snow to mud and everything in between. The one thing they are not very good for? Traveling. For seasoned travelers who travel with small kids often, they know that the best option for traveling with a stroller is an umbrella stroller. These strollers are several inches narrower, about half the weight and are far more maneuverable.
The one problem with an umbrella stroller is that they won’t accommodate a car seat attachment. If this is something you absolutely need, you’ll just need to bite the bullet and deal with it. Regardless of the stroller, you decide to bring, make sure to bring it through the entire airport and gate-check it as soon as you arrive in the boarding area.
Wear Your Baby
Another option to consider if you’d rather not bring your jogging stroller is to wear your baby in a carrier. Baby carriers all you to move around easily, navigate stairs and be faster and nimble as you move about the airport and your vacation destination. One other great advantage is that babies love to be close to their parents and oftentimes will doze off regardless of where you are (restaurant, airport, amusement park, etc.)
If You Can, Breastfeed Your Baby
When you are traveling with babies, the last thing you want to do is bring more luggage than you need to. If you are able to breastfeed your baby, you won’t have to worry about bringing large containers or bags full of formula. It also makes it super easy to feed anywhere, regardless of the time or place.
Leave The Cloth Diapers At Home
More and more parents are opting to use cloth diapers these days, but to be honest, they are an absolute nightmare to deal with when traveling. Not only do cloth diapers take up precious luggage space, but they have a high risk of leakage, which is never good on a plane or when you’re on the go. We’d recommend using disposables on vacation and then switching back to the cloth as soon as you are home from your trip.
Pack More Than One Outfit Per Day
As we talked about in other posts, babies typically need more than one outfit per day. Since baby clothing is compact and lightweight, it shouldn’t be too big of an issue to double up on outfits without increasing your total baggage weight. If you’re looking for something extremely lightweight, our newborn knotted gowns fit the bill.
Bring A Portable Sound Machine
Some parents want to bring their noise machine with them when they travel, but most of them take up too much space. Instead of opting to bring the sound machine with you, you can easily download an app on your phone or a tablet that will do the same thing. One of the more popular apps is called Rainy Mood and as you probably guessed it, has a light raining sound and is perfect for babies.
Have Travel Insurance
You never know when you or your baby might need to see a doctor when traveling. You’ll want to check if your health insurance will work outside of your state and if not, you’ll want to purchase travel insurance just in case.
Accept That Not Everything Will Go According To Plan
Whatever you do, keep in mind that some trips will definitely go smoother than others. Each trip is a new adventure and the number one tip we can leave you with is that not everything will go according to plan. Be flexible and patient and you will enjoy traveling with your little one.