Even when your baby is in the perfect routine, travelling (especially across different time zones) can throw up a number of challenges. Having spent many years travelling across the globe as a nanny, I have picked up many tips for travelling with a baby. I hope you find some of them useful.
At the airport and during the flight….
- Have all your documentation in order:
Your baby will need a passport! Gone are the days when children can travel on their parents’ passports. A baby’s first passport can take up to six weeks to process, so make sure you leave plenty of time.
- Plan your journey around your baby’s present schedule:
If you need to be at the airport for 3pm but your baby usually sleeps from 12-2pm, then leave at midday so your baby can sleep in the car. Starting your journey with a well-rested baby will definitely help to prevent meltdowns at the airport!
- Leave plenty of time:
Travelling with a baby is very different to travelling on your own. You will need to allow for feeds, nappy changes, dropping off pushchairs and oversized baggage and other baby-related tasks. You will also be the first to board the plane.
The time at the airport will fly by and there probably won’t even be time for shopping!
- Pack for every eventuality:
Think two changes of clothes, bottles of water, food, dummies, quiet toys, books, new activities for your baby or child to discover, sachets of Nurofen and Calpol…. There’s a lot to consider!
When it comes to liquids in your hand luggage, even if bottles are over the 100ml limit, there’s no need to panic. You can still take them as long as you’re willing to drink some of the milk or water. Sealed cartons or powder are also fine.
- Know your luggage limits:
You are only entitled to one carry-on bag and your baby is not entitled to any. Your handbag will need to be included in the baby’s bag.
Most airlines will allow you to check in a sealed pack of nappies as well as your luggage. Do remember, however, you will be able to buy nappies, wipes, swim nappies, food etc. once you reach your destination.
Most airlines will allow you to take two pieces of baby equipment free of charge (for example a pushchair and car seat or a car seat and travel cot).
- Prepare for sleep:
If your baby is used to a swaddle or sleeping bag, then ensure you take this on the plane. It’s in your interest to make your child comfortable, keep them warm and able to rest on the flight.
- Car seat comfort:
For a child who has their own seat on the plane (and remember you can opt to pay for children under two years old to have their own seat), you can take your car seat on board and strap them into it. Some babies and children will be more comfortable this way and therefore better able to sleep well on the flight.
Taking the car seat on the flight means you will have it with you at the other end. This is something you may well be pleased about when you see the hire child seats in some destinations!
- Happy landings:
Ensure your baby is feeding (breast, bottle or sips of water) on take off and landing to help with their ears.
- Take a good pushchair:
If you want your child to sleep in their pushchair while away, make sure you take a good one. I know a lot of people opt for light-weight strollers rather than the big travel systems, but babies find it very hard to sleep in these. This can be restrictive when you want your child to sleep while you sunbathe or eat out.
If you have a two part pushchair (e.g. Bugaboo or I Candy), it’s best to check this in with the suitcase rather than leave it at the door of the plane. You will then need a baby carrier for the airport.
- Keep up fluids:
Your baby will need plenty of fluids on the plane. Breast feed, offer water or milk throughout the journey.
Once you are at your destination….
- Familiarity is key:
It’s a good idea to take along any items your child uses habitually for comfort or sleep. Don’t forget your baby’s swaddle or sleeping bag! The more familiar your baby is with their surroundings at bed time, the less chance their sleep will be affected by the change.
Also, remember to take other sleep cues such as music (there are great phone apps available) and maybe a sheet from home for the travel cot. Remember that even in very hot countries, the room may be cold at night. Make sure you take warm bedding and pajamas.
The first night of your holiday you may want to stay in the room while your baby goes to sleep. This will give them a little reassurance in their new surroundings. Sit by your child so they can see you, but try not to focus your attention on them. Play on your phone, read a book and wait for them to sleep. The next night you should be able to walk out the room as you do at home. It’s especially important to do this with older babies and toddlers.
- Know your time zone:
If your destination is within two hours of your own time zone, I usually advise for your baby to stay on UK time (especially when going forward because you will get a lie in!). Staying on UK time makes it easier for you and for them.
When going further afield, it’s best to just go for it. Don’t try and adapt the routine by a few hours per day. As soon as you board the airplane, try as much as possible to go by your destination time. I usually find babies adapt far better than we do to jet lag. They are often on their new time within a couple of days.
- Keep the evening routine:
When going out in the evening, keep your babies bedtime routine as usual. Once you have completed your usual nighttime rituals, put them into their swaddle or sleeping bag and then straight into the pushchair. Fingers crossed, as you wheel them out to dinner, they should sleep while you eat.
- Hydration, hydration:
If it is very hot, remember to offer plenty of fluids. For breastfed babies, this may mean more feeds or even considering feeding on demand in order to ensure baby stays hydrated.
Whatever happens while you’re away, remember anything can be fixed once you arrive back home. It is practically impossible to undo any good routines and habits in just a week or two, so try and enjoy yourself. If this means resorting to survival tactics such as co-sleeping or night feeding then so be it. All this can be reversed (with a little persuasion and consistency) on your return home.
Not worrying about a screaming baby when there are people trying to sleep in the next hotel room is the key to a happy holiday after all!