International travel is an amazing experience. But travelling with kids, and infants, in particular, can be really exhausting. Here are our top tips to travel with an infant and keep your sanity from six years of living overseas and travelling internationally with our three kids.
There are loads of families who still make travel a priority even with kids in the picture. It can be done and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! Do you want to go to Europe? Go. Do you want to go to Asia? By all means, go. You and your children will be welcomed with open arms (and restaurant wait staff will very likely entertain your children, so you can eat a meal in peace).
Most other cultures in the world have a very high regard for children and they are actively included in public spaces. That is the beauty of travel, and what is so worth embracing. As tiring as travelling with children can be, it’s equally exhilarating, life-changing, and remarkable.
But no, it’s not exactly easy. Infants don’t usually get the memo about time changes or jet lag and there will be diaper explosions and spit ups wherever you are in the world. But you WILL make it if you push through.
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6 tips to travel with an infant and keep your sanity
1. Book the bassinet on your flights
If you don’t pay any attention to anything else in this post, listen to this one! Your arms and your patience will thank us. Book your flights early and get on the phone with the airline if you need to. A bassinet means your infant can sleep in a horizontal position during the flight and you can either eat your meal with your tray table down (without a squirming infant on your lap) or have a snooze yourself.
2. Ditch the stroller, embrace babywearing
A baby carrier is versatile and agile, keeps baby close, and won’t bump around on cracked sidewalks and cobbled streets. Infant carriers are also small enough to pack away into a carry-on when you’re boarding a flight so you don’t forget it in the luggage compartment! It can also double as a child restraint device at restaurant tables in the event there are no highchairs to be found. (Experience speaking here!)
When we travelled through the Middle East and Europe for three months in 2014, we brought a stroller with us from Cambodia but ended up forgetting it in Kuwait. Whoops! We didn’t actually end up missing it though, and the remainder of our travels were more lightweight and agile without it.
3. Pack infant feeding equipment
A bottle or sippy cup, small spoon, and a plate or bowl all pack up simply and easily and barely add any weight to your bags. It makes life so much easier when you’re not worried about your six-month-old slamming a restaurant’s ceramic plates and metal cutlery around. Plus, you can feed baby anywhere, anytime. Bonus!
4. Prioritize lovies
Whether it’s a favourite book, a soother, an adored stuffed animal, or a beloved blanket, it’s 100% worth bringing one or two items your child treasures. One caveat: you will spend plenty of time during your travels double and triple checking that said lovies are indeed packed and with you. Trust me, it’s worth the stress and hassle. Not only does it make sleeping in strange beds more comfortable, those lovies will end up carrying a special place in your heart over the long run. ‘Monkey Anna’ is one stuffed animal who has a special place in our lives. Purchased four years ago in Mostar, Bosnia, she is now a part of the family and comes on all our adventures. She also turns up in nearly all our family travel pics!
5. Pack extra baby clothes in your carry-on – but not too many
Some days it feels it takes special magical powers to strike the right balance with carry-on luggage. Too little and you’re hooped in the event of a diaper blowout; too much and you end up a sweating, fuming mess dragging needless pounds of luggage around the airport terminal. Worse still, with too much carry-on luggage, you’re more likely to leave something behind.
In a bid to keep carry-on luggage to a minimum, I have made the critical error of not bringing extra infant clothes with me on the airplane. I have vivid memories of our 4-month old wearing only her diaper and wrapped in my scarf as we disembarked the plane. No matter how short your flight is, pack an extra outfit or two for baby in your carry-on.
6. Embrace Thoughtful Tech
We celebrate screen-free activities, games, toys and books like any other parent. But tech has its place and it can make the travelling journey so much more relaxed!
White Noise App
We make sure we have our favourite white noise app on our phones and Ipad when we travel and it works like a charm lulling our kids to sleep in different hotel and guesthouse rooms. We use the “Sleep Pillow” app.
Downtime and Transition Entertainment
Sometimes you end up on the cream of the crop airline with personalized entertainment systems for all. Sometimes you don’t and you thank the technology gods that you have your mobile devices along for the ride.
Some of our favourite infant iPad games are:
Memories from home
Before we departed on our Epic trip of 2014, we loaded a photo album on our iPad for our 2-year old daughter. The photo album had pictures of friends and important things we were leaving in Cambodia, and a basic itinerary of our trip all the way back to Canada where we would reunite with our families. It did help provide context and memory for our kids in the middle of changes every single day.
Depending on how long you’re travelling with your infant and young children, this may be a way of helping them remember loved ones, or helping them prepare for the next stages of your adventures.
These strategies have been tried and true for us as we’ve travelled the world with babies in tow. What are your top tips and tricks for making international travel with infants go more smoothly?