Opinions differ on the when but the how is pretty much universal!
Ask any ‘seasoned’ parent about what age baby should be before you travel with them out of the country and opinions will vary tremendously. Some say a few weeks old is fine (depending on where you are travelling to); others say wait a few months at least, or at least until they’ve had their first set of vaccinations.
It’s all about germ warfare and the fact that babies have still developing immune systems, while also factoring in that some countries are more lax about vaccination policies than others. Your best bet is to speak with your pediatrician about it, before you book.
That takes care of the ‘when’, so assuming you’re airplane tickets are booked and you’re ready and raring to go, here are a few ‘how’ tips that you can use!
Does my baby need a passport?
Yes. You need to allow time for applying for one, as well as any necessary visas (not all countries require a visa for US citizens, but you need to check with individual consulates!) Also, some passport photo locations aren’t equipped to take infant photos, so check before you go to get those done!
This US State Department site gives you easy to follow information about travel. Just enter your destination country and it will give you what you need to know! Keep in mind that there are special documentation requirements if both parents, as shown on baby’s birth certificate, aren’t travelling with baby.
Does my baby need an airplane ticket?
Most airlines are fine if a baby sits on their parents laps, as long as they are under age 2 at the time of travel. This depends on the duration of the flight though, and can vary a little by airline so keep that in mind when booking your tickets. Most international flights will require even a baby to have a seat / ticket, while domestic flights (shorter duration) might not.
What equipment does my baby need for a flight?
•For a longer / international flight, you’ll want an FAA approved car seat. Some airplanes have bassinets installed right in them but they are few so you may not be able to get access to one. Check with the airline as to their car seat restrictions.
•Have any baby food you need, and medications, with you in your carry-on. Most airlines don’t carry baby food. Bring formula, breastmilk (expressed) and baby food in the quantity you need to make it through the flight (with a little extra to allow for delays, etc…) Dehydration IS an issue on airplanes, as much for babies as for adults, so make sure they drink enough!
•Use an easy to fold and store stroller, like an umbrella stroller. Most airlines will let you use a compact stroller all the way up the jetway from the gate. Larger jogging or double strollers will have to be checked as luggage, so keep that in mind!
•Better than a stroller is a baby sling or carrier. Your hands stay free so you can manage passports and boarding passes easily. It’s also helpful for during the flight if you need to do a lot of walking up and down the aisle to comfort baby!
TIP: Feed your baby during takeoff and landing to trigger swallowing and help prevent earaches from the pressure.
Visit your pediatrician a few weeks prior to departure!
It’s a good idea to get a handle on any food / airborne diseases that are higher risk at your destination, and what you can do about it as well as what you can give your child in terms of medications, if they get sick during your trip. It might save you a trip to the local ER or walk-in clinic!
Prepare for jet-lag!
Jet-lag is tough for babies: they don’t always suffer from it if they manage to get a good amount of sleep on the airplane, but the strange environment CAN wreak havoc with their normally solid sleep patterns, so be prepared for a rough couple of days if they don’t rest! Bring a favored blanket or toy from home, so that baby has something that smells and feels familiar nearby (besides you, of course!)
What equipment will my baby need at destination?
If you’re staying in a hotel, see if they have a crib / cot that you can reserve, when you book your room. These are usually free of charge. Make sure you still bring a blanket from home, so there is something familiar. Pick a room with a mini-fridge, so you can store expressed breast milk, or formula.
If you’re staying with family, a travel cot that is rated for sleeping in is an option. You might also want to take along your baby monitor. Don’t forget a plug / power adapter for your destination country.
A night light is also a good idea, so you can see your way to baby, for midnight changes.
Remember to take it easy and keep your schedule manageable while you’re travelling: a mad dash from one tourist site to another won’t be practical with a baby in tow. Plan lots of downtime, particularly around nap times, so that everyone has a happy, positive experience!