Travel Easy - Traveling for Parents with Babies and Toddlers
Traveling with Babies and Toddlers
Yes, it’s true that sometimes just getting out of the house to run to the supermarket with a baby or toddler can be challenging. Let alone trying to manage traveling to another city or country. Rest assured that you’re not the first parent to travel with a baby or toddler, and although each child is different – it can be done! Here are some tips and additional resources to make it travel easier for you as a parent of young children!
How will you get to your destination? How long will it take?
By plane – If your child is under two, you can decide whether to carry them as a lap baby, or pay for their own seat and keep them in a car seat. After booking your tickets, you can also call the airline to request the seats with a bassinet. Even if your baby doesn’t sleep in it, it’s nice to have the option to place your baby down for a bit. Remember to bring a warm baby blanket as the air can get quite cold. Also, it’s always a good idea to bring along a copy of your child’s birth certificate – some countries like South Africa require original or certified copies of your child’s birth certificate just for entry and exit. For newborns you don’t really need to bring any toys, but for older babies and toddlers it’s good to bring along a couple especially for longer flights! Tip: Bring one new toy for them to open on the plane when you need a distraction!
By car – If you’re renting a car at your destination, many car rental companies have car seats available for an additional cost. You can also arrange to rent one from a baby supply company, or bring your own. If you rent a car seat, you can get a car seat insert to use for your baby so the smell of the seat remains the same no matter where you go. Remember to factor in a bit of extra time at pit stops to let your baby/toddler move around out of their car seat. Also, if you’re breastfeeding you’ll need to allow for time to feed.
By taxi/bus/train – Depending on your destination, you may be able to request taxis with car seats but you’ll probably have to wait a bit longer or schedule them in advance. Buses and trains generally don’t require car seats. Be aware that there are countries such as Thailand which have lax laws on car seats and you’ll see babies and toddlers riding in taxis and tuk tuks without any safety restraint.
Many hotels and Airbnbs are able to provide cribs or pack-n-plays if requested. Contact your hotel or host in advance to see what they include. If your child is a light sleeper, consider packing a white noise machine. Some parents set up the crib in the bathroom to let their child have a dark, noise-free sleeping environment and use the lobby restroom to avoid disturbing their child. Count your blessings as a traveler if you have a child who can sleep anywhere through anything! If you co-sleep, you can also bring a portable sleeper cot to place on your bed and give your baby a safer place to sleep. There are basic models with just the cot and deluxe ones with sound and vibration devices to help your little one sleep.
Consider paying a little more for closer accommodations to the attractions you’re planning on visiting. For example, if you’re going to a theme park, having a hotel room nearby to take a mid-day nap can be a lifesaver. You can also use the filters on the search consoles when looking for accommodation to show places with a washer and/or dryer. Hand washing works in a pinch, but having a washer available is nice for those days filled with diaper blow-outs and endless spit ups.
Traveling while your child is a baby or toddler can have its perks too. Often times admission to museums, amusement parks, cultural sites, etc. are free for children under 2 or 3. Sometimes even older! True, they likely won’t remember going at that age later, but you can show them all their adorable photos and the fun stories that go with all the memories you’ll be making. Additionally, even if they may not remember specific trips or outings, they are learning about traveling, interacting with other people and cultures, and having quality bonding time with you as a family.
Do your research to make the day go as smoothly as possible. As parents, you know that things don’t always go as planned but it always helps to be prepared. Look up where restrooms are located, as well as whether baby-changing and nursing facilities are available or not.
Pay attention to the weather and daily temperatures. Babies and small children find it especially challenging to regulate body temperature so it’s important to take breaks in air conditioned buildings if you’re in a hot and humid area, or warm up in a heated place in cold areas. Remember to keep you and your child hydrated throughout the day as well!
Some restaurants are more family-friendly than others. We once made dining reservations for our wedding anniversary and then asked to update the reservation to include an infant since our son was going to be born. The restaurant then apologized and informed us that they don’t allow children under 12 in their restaurant. So you may need to adjust your dining styles for special occasions if you want to include your child, or you can look into hiring a babysitter. Some hotels offer childcare services or activity centers as well.
Parents usually remember to bring an extra outfit for their baby/toddler in case of accidents or blowouts, but sometimes forget to pack one for themselves! Bring an extra shirt for you too on the plane, or when you’re out and about adventuring.
For most travel destinations – finding diapers, wipes, formula, baby food, etc. is not difficult. If you’re set on a particular brand or if your child has allergies or sensitive skin you may need to pack enough for your whole trip. Otherwise you can pack for your travel day and maybe for a couple other days until you can get to the store. Some places may even allow you to order supplies online and have it delivered to your hotel/travel home!
Strollers and carriers can also be helpful while traveling. But it can be challenging to bring your day-to-day stroller or travel system with you. They are often heavy and bulky. Instead, you may want to get a travel stroller that can fold up to fit in overhead airplane compartment, or you can look into renting a stroller at your destination. For baby carriers, you can probably just bring your favorite one unless you are traveling somewhere much colder or hotter than where you live. There are carriers made with moisture-wicking materials to keep you cooler in hot and humid weather and ones made with more insulation for cooler weather.