Traveling overseas with a baby
As an international couple, I will admit that having a baby put us in a bit of an strange situation. The fact is, raising kids far away from home is a serious challenge. For almost my entire adult life I’ve lived away from my family. It has never been easy but it never felt so heartbreaking until I became a mother. So in September of last year when our baby was 4 months old, we decided to move close to my family. We already had the plane tickets to go to Spain for Christmas and we just needed to cancel the flight back. In the next three months we sold everything we owned and planned a long trip from Kansas City, KS to Jerez (Spain) WITH A BABY.
Travelling with a baby takes courage but it can also be fun and eternally memorable. These are some of my top tips if you are planning an international trip with your baby:
Your baby will need a passport to travel internationally and if your destination requires a visa, you’ll need one for your baby as well. As a parent or legal guardian, you might have to apply in person on your baby’s behalf and in those cases, you will have to bring your baby with you. When applying, you’ll need documentation that proves your baby’s citizenship as well as your own identity and relationship to your baby. Make sure you start the paperwork with plenty of time before your trip, sometimes a new passport or visa can take up to 3 or 4 months before you get it in the mail. Passport and visa requirements of countries can change, so check with the embassy or consulate of the country you’re going to visit before you travel.
REQUEST A BASSINET
This will allow you to safely place your baby in her own bed so that you can sleep as well and not worry about her safety. The earlier you book it the better, as there may be only one bassinet on the plane. Be aware that the bassinet sizes, availability and rules are completely different for each airline.After you book your flight, call the airline or check online to see if you have the option to reserve a bassinet in advance. Not all airlines offer an advanced reservation, so you may be dealing with a first-come first-serve situation at the airport. Also, keep in mind that bassinets can only be mounted in certain areas (e.g., on a wall in front of first row seating), so you will need to make sure your seat is located at one of these key locations. We weren’t lucky enough to get one, but for the sake of comfort, try to move heaven and earth to ensure you’re seated with a bassinet.
Babies do not require a lot of baggage. Take the things you truly need. We had one carry-on each, stroller and diaper bag and it felt like carrying a pile of things. A few essentials you should pack for flying with a baby:
- Diapers, changing pad, wipes and burp clothes.
- More than one bottle, sippy cup and pacifiers (if your baby uses them), as you may not be able to clean them until arriving at your destination. Also pack some small bags to separate clean items from dirty ones.
- Extra clothing. Pack yourself a change of shirt in your carry-on (not just for the baby). Baby food can reach far beyond the baby’s personal space.
- Toys. For lengthy trips you might want to go all out on a few new toys to be unveiled on the go. New toys are good because of the novelty factor. Babies are naturally curious, so having a new plaything will keep your little one pleasantly distracted during times of fussiness. Try to avoid anything noisy, of course.
- First-aid kit. Don’t forget a nasal aspirator, saline solution, baby acetaminophen or ibuprofen and thermometer.
The airline restrictions on fluids/liquids DO NOT apply to baby formula and pumped breastmilk. Try to feed your baby during take-off and landing, it helps their little ears to adjust to the changing elevation. If your baby is already eating solids, grab some baby snacks. They will get entertained for a while, especially if there are foods that they can pick up and eat themselves.
Get on the plane as early as possible, extra time on the airplane may not be ideal for a baby but you will be able to load your gear in a place that’s as convenient as possible. Also, boarding before the crowd means less pressure and stress from a long line of people. If you are traveling with a partner, I’d recommend having her/him load the gear into the plane early, then stay at the gate with your baby until the last minute.
Don’t let the stress of traveling with a baby steal the fun of going to a different land and discovering new things. Try to stay positive and keep a sense of humor.
Just remember the trip will come to an end and you’ll arrive to your destination.
Enjoy life! Having children is an amazing journey.