Top Ten Tips for Traveling with Baby

Last year, a few months after Alexa was born, my parents surprised us with a trip to Turks & Caicos at Villa Alamandra. I know, a really awesome and generous surprise, one that included 8 people in my family, ranging in age from my one-year-old daughter to my 92 year old grandmother. So, this trip has been something I’ve so been looking forward to for about a year (we didn’t take a trip the year I got pregnant, so literally it was two years without a getaway… trust me: mama needed a getaway.) As excited as I was for this trip, when we started getting to the two month countdown I started getting nervous… that was about the time when my husband reminded me that we needed a passport for the baby (yes, you need a passport for a baby for the Caribbean and any other foreign places). And I also realized I didn’t have her birth certificate yet, so yes, it was a couple days of heart attacks. After we paid all of the extra fees to ensure it would get here on time, I had the looming question of, “how on earth are we going to figure everything out ahead of time to make for a smooth vacation with our little one year old?”

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This mama needed a vacation!!

Naturally, as any other first time mom, I asked all of my most experienced mom friends (thank you!) and Googled. I got some great tips, and here I am sharing for you my top tips (and must haves) for traveling with baby, which I updated after our first vacation as a family. My first tip is to stay calm and know that the trip will go better than expected. Trust me, I’ve had my fair share of rude people run-ins with traveling a lot for work… and when you have a baby, for the most part, people are so kind and understanding. I couldn’t believe how kind all of the security and airport personnel were to us all!

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Waiting to get through customs with her Nan, having fun on the rolling suitcase. Who needs a stroller? 😉

1) Bring a Car seat / Stroller / Car seat cover: This was probably the area where I was most confused about – what to bring and where to check, etc.? Alexa is still in her infant car seat (Britax/BOB B-Safe), and it was so easy to have the travel system together in the airport and through security. They make it really easy for you and you just have to put the stroller and car seat through the X-ray machine and then you are able to walk through the metal detector holding your baby. At the gate, we checked both the car seat and the stroller (we used my mom’s Britax B-Agile stroller, which was great for travel). I bought this Britax bag (a bit expensive, but totally worth it and also has wheels and backpack straps) and put the car seat in it to prevent it getting dirty (which I heard they can get really dirty). Then Alexa sat on our laps for the plane ride, which worked out fine. The only regret I have was that I didn’t bring the car seat base. Due to the type of rental car we got, the seat belt would not strap in the car seat, so we ended up holding her in the car seat in the car (definitely not the safest). The base would have fit easily into the car seat carrier and would have been easy to gate check along with the car seat. It was also a godsend having the stroller with us (the one that she was used to) so that we could get her to take her afternoon nap in it.

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It was nice to know all surfaces were clean, to let baby touch what she wanted!
It was nice to know all surfaces were clean, to let baby touch what she wanted!

2) Stock up on Clorox wipes and hand sanitizing wipes: I am always equipped with hand sanitizing wipes (I love these Babyganics ones), but a good friend recommended Clorox wipes. I bought a bulk pack on Amazon, and these babies have gone to great use. I cleaned off the whole row in our plane (first time mom here!) from tray table to seat to window. These wipes were also perfect for cleaning of high chairs and any other potentially dirty surface we came across while traveling.

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A little first-plane ride craziness!
A little first-plane ride craziness!  Not quite sure why my sunglasses are still on.

3) Nurse or bottle-feed upon take off and landing: This was a tip I consistently got, as it helps with their little ears adjusting to the air pressure. I was able to do this, and Alexa had no trouble with the air pressure. If you aren’t able to do either of these, other good-to-haves include a pacifier (if your child will take one) or Tylenol as a last resort for babies that are visibly uncomfortable.

4) Pack 2 extra sets of clothes for mom and baby in a plastic bag: I was told to bring clothes in my carry-on not only for baby, but also for me, as you never know when a mishap can happen. And it’s great to throw them all in a plastic bag, so that you can easily swap in the dirty clothes if you need a clothing change.

5) Pack the week before: I am totally the girl who normally packs like 3 hours before I have to leave (and sometimes it’s an even closer call for me). This is no longer the reality with a baby. It was so helpful to start packing a week before, so I didn’t forget anything, and could throw in anything when I thought of it.

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Alexa and her favorite Corolle doll totally bonded during our Turks and Caicos vacation.
Alexa and her favorite Corolle doll totally bonded during our Turks and Caicos vacation.

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We also loved using these Itzy Ritzy Snack Happens bags to put snacks in for our carry-on and trips to the beach.
We also loved using these Itzy Ritzy Snack Happens bags to put snacks in for our carry-on and trips to the beach.

6) Pack toys from home (blanket, anything that reminds baby of home) + SNACKS: I brought some of Alexa’s favorite toys from home (including her Corolle doll and Aurora plush cat) to act as a “security blanket.” I didn’t know that she would appreciate this as much as she did. Her doll (and randomly her bathing suit coverup) both became her loveys that she snuggled while taking a nap every day and when falling asleep at night. So sweet and so glad that I brought stuff she felt comfortable with!  Additionally, snacks are a must to bring in your carry-on.  You never know what food options will be at the airport and cheerios, crackers, pouches, etc. are always a safe bet!  We love the Itzy Ritzy bags for easy, clean, and reusable snack bags.  Additionally, a sippy cup was a must-have in our carry-on.

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Alexa took all of her naps in her stroller, which worked out great. She got so many bad mosquito bites (sad!!) on her first night, that we got a mosquito net that worked for her stroller and crib. It’s worth checking out if your destination has any mosquitoes and if so, investing in one of these!

7) Make a plan for where baby will sleep: We were lucky that our Villa was equipped with a crib, so we just brought an extra crib sheet. We have been thrilled with our BabyBjorn Travel Crib (which is so light and could legit could fit in a big suitcase) and would feel very comfortable bringing that had we not had a crib provided for us. There are also often local places to rent items for baby, if that is something you feel comfortable with… which I would! Alexa did feel a bit out of her element the first couple nights and woke up much more than normal. When I would bring her on our bed, she would fall right asleep (not common for her), so it was obvious it was related to being in an unfamiliar place. I stayed up while she slept, enjoying the extra cuddles… and luckily was able to rest during the day with the extra help from my family.

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Alexa’s swaddle blankets & two loveys for the week during an afternoon nap.  You can see poor baby’s bug bites.  Darn mosquitoes!!

8) Bring a swaddle blanket & warm blanket: Aden & Anais blankets are just the best for about everything (changing pad, sun cover, light blanket, stroller cover, nursing cover), so highly recommend packing at least one for multipurpose use… we used them a lot during our trip. We also brought a warmer blanket, due to the cold weather in the Northeast and also never knowing how the air conditioning will be in new places.

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Silly Daddy put his hat on Alexa.  But this booster seat allowed Alexa to sit on a chair at a place that didn't have high chairs (although most did).
Silly Daddy put his hat on Alexa. But this booster seat allowed Alexa to sit on a chair at a place that didn’t have high chairs (although most did).

9) Make a plan for where baby will sit/eat: The Brica booster came highly recommended from Lia, so I purchased one (only $25!!) and packed it. It was so convenient and easy to fit in my suitcase and also was very helpful for meals at the Villa (we had a kitchen and dining room, so we did many meals there). Now that Alexa is a little bigger, it was a little unstable at times (needing to be right near her so she didn’t push herself out) so I will be on the search for a portable booster seat for future trips now that I have a bigger baby.

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Alexa had  SUCH a blast with this bucket and shovel - I would have shipped this kind of stuff right to the destination.  Also, swim diapers!
Alexa had SUCH a blast with this bucket and shovel – I would have shipped this kind of stuff right to the destination. Also, swim diapers!

10) Ship what you can ahead of time: Although I didn’t have this option being that we would be on a Caribbean island (and the shipping times are long and expensive), had we been traveling to a domestic location, I would have totally shipped diapers and some other necessities (i.e. shampoo, lotion, swim stuff) right down to our hotel via Amazon or another quick and reliable e-commerce site. I ended up packing a ton of diapers in my suitcase, but it would have been more convenient (and less for me to remember) if I shipped a bunch of stuff down there ahead of time (especially consumable items).

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Alexa and her grandfather in one of my favorite pictures ever.
Alexa and her grandfather (my Dad) in one of my favorite pictures ever.

There are my top ten tips (so far) for traveling with baby. I am by no means a travel with baby expert, but the above list really made for an awesome first experience, which really felt like a rite of passage as a mom.  I now feel ready to take on the world (literally!)… well probably anywhere that is less than a 5 hour plane ride… the 4 hours was fine, but I don’t think I could do too much longer at this point.  I will leave with one final tip… if you have the chance to bring help, take it!  I can’t tell you how much it helped having my parents and family there to help take care of a very busy little toddler (one who was just taking some of her first steps on this trip). While it’s certainly not a necessity (and you can surely have a wonderful time without help), it really made for a positive first experience. Nick and I even got to have a little time alone together for a beach trip… and I got to relax more than I have in awhile!  Not to mention, it was so wonderful spending the extra time with my wonderful family… and Alexa bonded so much with them during the week (especially with my Dad, who she doesn’t see as much as my mom and grandmother.)  What are your top tips for traveling?  We’d love to hear and I’m sure our list will expand as our baby girl gets older, too!

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Note to self: next time get more full family pictures, where everyone is looking at the camera! First trip with baby was a success!

With love,

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