The mere prospect of traveling with a baby can be enough to keep any parent home. You probably know some tried-and-true tricks, such as reserving a bulkhead seat on a plane so you’ll have more room for baby gear. But here are some lesser-known tips.
1. Buy your baby a plane ticket so she can travel safely in her car seat. Most airlines offer such tickets at half-price. Your car seat’s frame will say if it’s approved for air travel.
2. Bring lots of baggies. “I cannot say enough about the importance of plastic Ziploc bags,” says Leslie Housman, a Homewood, Ala.-based mother of three. They’re good chaos minimizers, useful for everything from keeping pacifiers clean to preparing individual servings of formula and ready-to-mix baby cereal to stashing dirty diapers.
3. Ask family you’re visiting to stock up on items such as diapers, formula and baby food so you don’t have to schlep them. If you’re staying in a hotel or just don’t want to risk Grandma buying the wrong kind of formula, use a service such as JetSetBabies (866-990-1811, jetsetbabies.com), which ships everything from disposable utensils to swim diapers.
4. Put your baby in diapers one size larger than normal. When you have to skip a diaper change because you’re stuck in traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike, you’ll be glad you did.
5. Pump before you go. Susan Broadway, who made the 10-hour drive from Manhattan to North Carolina with Ava, then 4 months old, offers this tip: If you’re traveling by car (but not behind the wheel yourself) and nursing, pump a bottle or two of breast milk beforehand so you can feed the baby without having to stop the car and lose travel time.
6. Dress your baby in layers, since temperatures can fluctuate during a flight or a long car or train ride.
7. Consider renting bulky gear, such as a bouncy seat or Pack ‘n’ Play (Baby’s Away, babysaway.com, has more than 50 locations nationwide). You’ll have less to lug and won’t have to worry about whether your aunt’s disco-era crib meets current safety standards.
8. Have your spouse board the plane first to install the car seat while you wait with the baby until the last boarding call. If you’re flying solo, tell the flight attendant you need to board early, and ask for help. Deplane last after landing to save you—and other passengers—time and frustration.
9. Choose a hotel with suites so your baby will have wiggle room for playtime and you’ll have a place to hang out while the baby naps. Most suites also offer refrigerators and microwaves, so feeding your little ones is easier.
10. Adjust your expectations. The most common mistake parents make when traveling with babies is being overambitious, according to Justin McNaull, an American Automobile Association spokesman. For example, it’s easy to overestimate how many hours at a stretch a baby will happily spend in a car seat. So, make the most of your journey together. “When you’re physically forced to spend hours eyeball-to-eyeball with your child,” he explains, “it allows for playing, singing, reading—a lot of quality time you might not otherwise get.”