16 Tips for Traveling Abroad with a Baby
With nine flights under our belt over the past couple of months with Brody, we've picked up a few tricks that have made traveling with a baby easier. You can tuck those travel worries away. I have a feeling you will be pleasantly surprised by how fun and simple traveling with a baby can be after a little planning.
Besides the great memories you will make exploring somewhere new, traveling with a baby has its perks. In most cases, a baby in arms is a front of the line pass through security, check-in, and boarding (if you choose). And surprisingly, airport employees and passengers are so kind and friendly when they see you with a little one in tow. We've only been back home for a couple of days and are already itching to start planning another adventure.
Here are a few things we learned this trip.
1. Board the Plane Last
One of those benefits of carrying a baby around the airport is the option to board the plane first. A little extra time to make sure you get your bags tucked under the seat and settled in for your flight ahead. My advice--don't do it. You are already going to be cramped on the plane for a good 8, 9, 10+ hours, why extend it? Boarding typically takes close to an hour on international flights. Try waiting until the very end to board the plane and spend that last hour walking around the gate, stretching your legs.
2. Bring Extra Clothes for Mom and Dad
As a mom, packing extra outfits for baby comes naturally. But on long flights, be sure to pack an extra shirt for mom and dad as well. A diaper explosion is inevitable. On our first flight this trip, I managed to have my drink spilled all over me (I didn't follow my own advice from this post), while my husband received the remnants of a diaper explosion on his sleeves.
3. Stay in Airbnb's rather than Hotels
Making your surroundings as similar to home as possible is key for an easy integration into the new environment. If you haven't used Airbnb before--now is the time. Through Airbnb you are able to rent out other people's homes or apartments during your travels. We stayed in four different Airbnb's on our last trip and they were all fantastic. They allowed us to stay in more central locations in the big cities so we could make pitstops back at the apartment for naps and also gave us extra room to spread out. Plus, we had washing machines and kitchens in each one, so we were able to wash our clothes and cook breakfast at home. We even got to stay in some really cool places like the St. Pancras Station Clock Tower in London, An old Coast Guard House in Northern Ireland, an Apartment right off of Grafton Street in Dublin, and a cute cottage in Notting Hill.
If you've never used Airbnb before, you can earn a $25 credit by signing up here with my referral link. (Full disclosure, I earn a credit to put towards a future rental too if you book a trip).
4. Request a Bassinet
On most international flights, the bulkhead seats (those seats behind the bathroom or the seats without anyone in front of you) are typically reserved for those who may be handicapped or for those who would like a bassinet for their infant. If you didn't know that most international flights had bassinets for baby's, neither did I before this trip. The bassinets hook onto the wall and most can hold a baby up to about 8 months old. It's a nice convenience, but when the fasten seat belt light is on, the baby has to be out of the bassinet. On most of our flights, the fasten seat belt light was on quite a bit, but we still took full advantage of the bulkhead seats for one big reason--extra leg room! We could stretch out, we could stand up and rock Brody in our row if he was fussy, and we didn't have to worry about bumping the seats in front of us.
Scoring a bassinet can be a bit tricky because they are often offered on a first come, first serve basis and there are usually 1-2 on board. Here's what worked for us. A few weeks before our flight, I called the customer service number and had a request for a bassinet added to our reservation. This doesn't guarantee you a bassinet, because they are not allotted for until the day of, but it gives you a better chance. Arrive at the airport early and ask at the check-in counter for a bassinet. On our flight from London to the US, the check-in counter was able to change our seats to the bulkhead row. In the US, the check-in counter will often refer you to the gate agent for your request. Do a little research beforehand on how your airline handles it, as it is well worth the leg work.
5. Be Kind to the Gate Agent
Following the tip above, the gate agent needs to be your best friend for the hour before your flight. Not only does s/he have the power to change your seat to better spot, but s/he also has the power to leave an empty seat next to you. On our flights back from the UK, we lucked out with an empty seat next to us every time. It meant changing our seats to the very last row on one of the flights, but the extra space for Brody to sit and spread out was much appreciated!
6. Change Diapers on Seat of Plane
I am terrified of airplane bathrooms. The tiny, cramped, germy spaces make my skin crawl (yes, I'm still working on my germaphobia). Trying to balance a squirming baby in there to change a diaper is nearly impossible. If you're flying with a spouse, have them take a stretch break and lay your little one across the seats for diaper changes. I put down a diaper changing pad and changed the diaper so quickly, no one around us ever paid any attention. Be sure to bring some bags to tie up the dirty diaper in.
7. Pack a Travel Crib
The more you can make your little one feel like they are at home, the better. We have used the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib every time we've taken Brody out of town. Not only is it the lightest weight and most compact travel crib on the market, it's comfortable and sturdy too. We typically have Brody sleep in it for a couple of nights before out trip so it is familiar to him when we arrive at our home away from home.
8. Go Out for Lunches and Do Dinners In
One of our favorite parts of traveling is trying all of the new foods and restaurants of wherever we are staying. Dinners out were a quite a change this trip from previous travels. By the time we arrived at a restaurant, it was Brody's bedtime and he was cranky! Our first few nights we spent dinners switching between one of us holding Brody outside of the restaurant, while the other one ate (romantic, right?). After a couple of days like that, we decided to try out a cool restaurant for lunch and order in for dinner. If you're in the UK, Deliveroo is an amazing service. You can place an order from hundreds of restaurants in the area and they will pick up your meal for you and deliver it to your doorstep. Thanks to this service we had fun date nights trying new foods in the comfort of our Airbnb apartments while Brody snoozed.
9. Treat Yourself to the First Class Lounge During Layovers
Two words bring more joy during a long layover than "lounge access". Every time I walk by those secretive doors at the airport, I imagine a break from the hustle and bustle--and the truth is, it's just that. If you can swing it, book a first class ticket or business class ticket and you earn automatic access to the lounge. We used points to upgrade our seats on one of our flights because we wanted to have the British Airways lounge for our 4+ hour layover. It was worth it. Inside you'll find comfy couches, limitless food and snacks, wifi, free booze, showers, private bathrooms, and most importantly--a sense of calm. I was able to stretch out on a couch and feed Brody uninterrupted. Quite a few airlines allow you to buy a pass into the lounge for the day. It's worth it. If you consider the high costs of buying snacks and drinks at the airport, it's all included with access to the lounge. Many of the lounges also have a separate playroom inside for kids. Worth every penny.
10. Bring Your Own Diapers and Wipes
Every time we travel, I debate whether or not to pack diapers and wipes or buy them at our destination. When traveling abroad, it's so much easier to bring them with you. Sure, they take up a lot of space, but trying to track down diapers in a new city can be a pain. Plus, as you use them up, you make lots of room to bring souvenirs home.
11. Change Baby Into Pjs on Flight
If you are flying on a red-eye flight, or you want your little one to sleep during the flight, go through the bedtime routine. On our flight to London, we changed Brody into his Pj's around his normal bedtime. He ended up sleeping for 4+ hours straight.
12. Tour Busses are Great for Feeding
Every time we visit a new city, we spend the first day on one of those open-top, hop on hop off, tour busses to get a lay of the land. We hop on an off on occasion, but it helps us decided what we really want to see in the coming days and where all of the attractions are located. With a baby in tow this year, the tour busses were also a great spot for naps, feedings, and diaper changes. Rather than sitting at the house while Brody napped, we were able to sit on the bus and take in the sites of Dublin and London. In Dublin we used City Scape Tours (highly recommend!) and in London we used Golden Tours (we were not impressed with them).
13. Disposable Onesies to Wear on The Plane
You know that huge stash of onesies you have? Use them when you fly. It's inevitable that your little one will make a mess on their clothes some point or another during your travels. Rather than hauling the dirty clothes in your diaper bag with you--toss them. A basic, long-sleeved onesie is perfect for traveling.
14. Keep Your Sleep Routine
By keeping your daily routine, you will be amazed by how your little one can adapt to a new time zone. For us, we were 8 hours ahead of Arizona time. My husband and I had a bit of jet lag, but Brody had none. We kept his eat-play-sleep routine every day and he had no problem sleeping during the night or napping during the day. If only my body could handle the time changes that easily!
15. Pacifier Clips are a Godsend
There's a 4th member of our family in nearly every picture from our most recent trip-- Sophie la Girafe . Not only is she Brody's favorite teething toy, but she goes with us everywhere we go. Brody has started the throwing stage where he likes to drop anything and everything on the floor. After running over Sophie one too many times with the stroller, we decided to rig our cute Loved by Sophia Claire pacifier clips to keep Sophie attached to Brody at all times. Not only did this ensure Brody always had a toy within arms reach, but it also ensured Sophie wouldn't get left behind.