We have just returned from our first family holiday in New Zealand which was significantly different from our extensive travels as a couple.
Thankfully, our trip was a success and our 3-month-old (at the time), Hugo, travelled like a champ. Here’s our advice for travelling with a baby, based on 3 weeks of road-tripping around New Zealand, including our mistakes and things we wish we did.
Let’s start with this…
There’s no denying that babies are unpredictable little humans and because of that, things are not always going to be smooth sailing. Poo explosions, uncontrollable crying, tummy troubles, overtired-ness & over-stimulation are just a few reasons that can cause havoc in a babies’ day & yours. BUT, if you stay calm and “go with the flow” as my mother always tells me, chances are, you’ll be right.
Preparation is key and here’s what we found helpful during our 3 week holiday to NZ!
1. Pre-book a Bassinet Seat on the Flight
Most flights, especially international flights, will provide you with a bassinet seat that fastens to the wall, however, you must book it! Bassinet seats are not given to you automatically when you book an infant seat. Simply ring the airline to reserve a bassinet or show up early to request it as it can be first come, first served!
2. Gate-Check Your Stroller + Bring On Board A Baby Carrier
Most airlines will allow you to check your stroller in, but we recommend keeping your stroller until you have to board the plane, which is called gate-checking. You should also bring a baby-carrier such as the Ergo 360 on board for once you get out at the other end.
If you have a stroller small enough to fit in the overhead compartment, great, but if it’s too large, they will check it in for you underneath at the last minute. Keep in mind, if it goes under the plane, you won’t receive it back until you collect your baggage from the oversized baggage area, after you go through customs. This is where the baby-carrier comes in handy! (We learnt this the hard way).
3. Take Advantage of Pre-Boarding
Pre-baby, we would have waited until the last minute to jump on board but since travelling with Hugo, we now understand why families with children have the opportunity to board the plane first… it’s time to get organised before the rest of the plane tries to sort out their own belongings. We all know how tedious this process can be. Take this time to make sure you have what you need and allow yourself and your baby, time to get comfortable.
4. Buy Nappies (Diapers) on Location
Don’t take up space in your suitcase by bringing along an entire vacations worth of nappies/diapers. We packed what we needed for the plane plus an extra 10 nappies in case our bags were lost. Grab them when you arrive at your location and save that space in your bag.
5. Bring Your Own Car Seat
Most car rental companies can provide you with a car seat, whether it be rear-facing, forward-facing or a booster seat. However, if I could do this trip over, I would have brought our own (shown below). Why? You never know what you’re going to get! The car seat we were provided was shocking. That’s all there is to it. It was very uncomfortable and it didn’t provide adequate support for his little head.
Considering we were planning to spend the majority of our vacation in the car, I would have preferred to have the extra baggage of our own car seat purely for Hugo’s comfort, as well as my own peace of mind.
Fortunately, we were able to borrow another seat from our friends in NZ which made it far better for Hugo (and me!). Saviours!
6. Plan Your Car Trips Around Nap Times
After day 1 we learnt that planning driving around the babies nap time was very important. Especially for our Hugo. At first, he didn’t love the car and considering we were on a 2.5-week road trip, we needed to find a solution quick. Going forward, we planned our drives around his nap schedule and generally right after a feed. This meant he was calm, content, comfortable and ready for a nap. Unfortunately, this does mean at times you’ll find yourself taking it in turns to view the sights with your partner or hang out in the car with a sleeping baby, but hey, such is life. I’d prefer to do that than wake a sleeping baby.
7. Feed During Take Off and Landing
The pressure during take off and landing can cause serious troubles for our ears, let alone a little baby. As adults, we can chew gum to eliminate this pain but obviously, you won’t find a baby chewing on a piece of Extra. Instead, at take off and landing feed your baby, whether it’s via breastfeeding or a bottle or even a dummy. Sucking and swallowing helps equalise the pressure in your babies’ ears, avoiding any unnecessary discomfort.
8. Pack Extra Baby Clothes (Wherever you go!)
Never underestimate the power of a poo-explosion or their frequency for that matter. Whilst I’m not encouraging you to over-pack, I am encouraging you to make sure you have enough clothes for your little one at all times. Travelling can cause them to have irregular toilet habits.
9. Find Kid-Friendly Accommodation
Choose your accommodation wisely. Think about stroller accessibility, a bath, toys, pets & overall safety. Our Airbnb was amazing and provided us with specific things needed for a baby, as shown.
10. Create a Few Playlist’s of Nursery Rhymes
Ahhh, the children’s songs! As joyful as they are, we downloaded only one playlist and by day 3, we were well and truly over those songs! Have a couple of playlists up your sleeve, especially for the car trip or you may go insane. If you use Spotify, make sure to download them so you can listen offline.
11. Know When to Call It
I know it’s fun to do things you used to do pre-baby travel and at pace, but the fact is, you now have a mini-human that essentially calls the shots. If you can see your baby has signs of tiredness or hunger, don’t overdo it by visiting one more sight or capturing one last photo – you’ll regret it more than you’ll appreciate the pic!
Sometimes, babies have just had enough and dragging them around can ultimately ruin anyone’s day. What’s that saying? Happy wife, happy life? I think the same goes for a happy baby, a happy life :).
12. Keep It Simple with the Toys
There’s no need to fill your suitcase with every toy your child owns. Pack just a few small toys and light books to keep them entertained and use the world around you to stimulate their little brains. It was so fascinating watching Hugo being mesmerized by everything surrounding him, all the new smells and things to see. Brain overload!
They can play with their toys when they get back home! If there’s one toy we highly recommend packing, its a “squeaker” or similar. They are light to pack, easy to grab and the squeaking entertains them for hours, so many hours.
13. Slow down your travels
Don’t try and fit too much into one day or into one vacation. It’s helpful to add in a few extra days to allow for some flexibility. You don’t want to put yourself on a tight schedule and have to miss out on something because bub is sick or no one’s slept. We allocated a few days throughout our trip as “nothing” days. Hugo was able to reset and get decent periods of sleep throughout the day as opposed to napping in the car.
14. Get Travel Insurance
Babies get sick too. In fact, more likely than us big kids! In our opinion, it’s very important you have coverage for them when travelling overseas. If you can afford a holiday, you can afford insurance. The last thing you need to worry about is a hefty medical bill for your bub. Take the pressure off and grab the coverage. Our recommended company is WorldNomads.
Travelling with a baby is no easy feat, but it’s also not as impossible. Babies are curious little creatures and will be happy if you’re happy (for the most part). As long as your baby is fed, clothed and getting enough rest, everything else will fall into place. If your baby missed a nap, rest assured (no pun intended), he/she will make up for it at a later time. Adjust your thinking from stressing to positivity and you’ll no doubt have the best time with your little buddy.
16. Pack The White-Noise Machine
Don’t forget your white noise sound machine! You never know how noisy your hotel/home will be and it will help create a familiar sounding environment for your baby. If space is an issue, there are apps that can play white noise for you instead such as Rain Rain Sound.
17. Use Your Stroller’s Bassinet As The Cot
Hugo was small enough to still sleep in the bassinet attached to the stroller, which significantly reduced the amount of luggage we had to take. If your baby can still fit in your bassinet, use this instead of carting a porta-cot. How good is a bed on wheels?
What to Bring on Your Flight
For our 3-month-old breastfeeding baby, here’s what our nappy bag looked like.
- Nappies. It’s up to you how many you wish to take based on how long your flight is but always pack a few extra in case your luggage gets lost.
- Dummy x 2 (back up) + strap to avoid dropping it on the floor.
- A changing mat and cloth towel
- Comfort toy (if they have one)
- 2 small entertaining toys
- An extra towelling cloth for spit ups and nappy explosions.
- Dribble Bib
- 1 – 2 books
- Hand sanitizer
- Jersey Wrap (our favourites are from Little Fraser)
- Light Blanket
- 3 changes of clothes plus a change of shirt for yourself and your partner in case shit goes down.
- Ziplock bags/a plastic bag for soiled clothing.
- Baby Carrier (we use the Ergo 360). Especially if you’ve checked in your stroller.
- 2 boobs. 😉
Do you have any other baby tips to add to our list? We’re all ears, so feel free to reach out and let us know!