With the holidays coming up, you might not be able to avoid traveling with your littles. We imagine that as you begin to sort the bags, plan the itinerary, and make packing lists, that you are already drinking and the anxiety is rising. We feel you and we’re here to help. Karen Trombetta, mama to Matteo and international woman of travel, just returned from a month-long stay in Europe (Spain, Italy and England with her little babe) and she lived to tell about it. We begged her to share her travel tips that can be applied to any type of air travel, not only international. If you have additional travel tips, please share in the comments below.
By Karen Trombetta
My husband and I love to travel and did so extensively before we had our son. We knew we would not stop traveling once children came, so instead, we learned how to travel with babe in tow and still have a great trip. We recently traveled with our little one to a few countries in Europe and learned a thing or two about traveling with an infant. Here are a few tips I learned along the way.
PACKING AND PREPPING
- You’ll want to have a gate check bag for your stroller (and your car seat if you gate check it!). We used this one. They get thrown around and very dirty if not. Be sure that the airline puts the gate check tag ON YOUR BAG and not your stroller/car seat. This is key.
- Packing is the trickiest part about traveling with a little one. This is particularly hard for me because I tend to overpack and am married to a carry-on-only-guy. Spend some time thinking about your destination and how accesible it is.
- Will you have to carry your little one?
- Can you use a stroller for most of the sight-seeing?
- How many hands are free to pull or carry bags? Because I was pushing Matteo’s stroller and carrying my large cross body, I chose this super large carry-all from Cuyana. It fit everything I normally carry in my purse plus M’s essentials for the plane. I packed my folded Longchamp and used that once we got to our destination. My husband stacked a duffel onto one of two large suitcases he pulled.
- In your carry on, you want to make sure you have an extra outfit for everyone. You don’t want to risk lost luggage and spit ups. Pack plenty of diapers, diaper cream, wipes, and food to get you through the journey, including any layovers.
- I made sure I had some travel versions of vital medicines with me – Tylenol, teething tablets, saline drops, thermometer, and Benadryl (M is allergic to eggs).
- Bring your little’s favorite toys and a few new toys to engage them. Older kiddos love stickers and Legos can also buy you 1-2 hours. We also loaded up my ipad with videos Matteo could watch without wifi.
- When I’m packing my carry-on, I like to walk through a normal day and night of my little one’s schedule to make sure I’m covered. What is your routine like at home? You’ll want to mimic it as much as you can while on the plane, without over-packing.
- Dress in layers. This goes for everyone. Planes are notoriously freezing but babies can feel like tiny heaters. Socks for everyone is a must have and pashminas can work for you as a nursing scarf, blanket for baby, and a catch all for spit up, diaper change, etc.
SLEEPING ON THE PLANE
- Did you know you can reserve a bassinet when booking your flight? There is typically only one on a plane so if you forget to reserve, call ahead and cross your fingers! If your little on is over the weight limit like ours, you can reserve the bulkhead seats. This gives you and your little more space to move around. You have easy access to your overhead compartment and can easily get in and out of changing your babe as it is right by the bathroom. These types of seats are based upon availability so book as soon as you can.
- If you’re planning on traveling with your little one on your lap, make sure you get two or three of those little plane pillows. You’ll want to shove those under your low back before they fall asleep. It’ll save you. Trust me.
- If you choose to buy your little their own seat and bring along your car seat, you’ll be in great shape. You’ll enjoy being hands-free!
- Walking up and down the aisles rocking your babe is totally normal and encouraged by flight attendants as long as it’s safe.
- If booking an overnight flight is an option for you, go for it. The darkness really makes a difference.
PACK IT VS BUY IT
- I researched our destinations to death, so I knew my next move as soon as we landed in each country. I knew which brands of baby food each major supermarket carried and where to find them according to where we were staying. I also found out that in Spain, Pampers are called Dodo, for example, so I knew which diapers to get. We actually traveled with our formula, but you can find plenty of travel blogs on where and how to find your desired formula in each country. I’ll also say that through my research I found that formula is more highly regulated in Europe than in the US, so I knew if we had to buy some there, we would be o.k.
- Remember that different countries have different customs when it comes to baby food. Don’t be surprised if you find baby jars of horse meat, veal, rabbit, duck, lamb, etc.
- All this to say, only pack what you need while traveling! Don’t pack food, wipes, diapers and formula in your checked bag. You’ll need that precious space after all the shopping!
- This doesn’t technically apply to pack it vs buy it, but if you can avoid it, DO NOT bring your own travel crib. It is unnecessary weight. If you must, choose a super light one. We have the Lotus by Guava.
- Make sure you check what you’ll need to access each country you visit. We only needed passports. Check for any visas or any special permits you’ll need. Also, if you happen to travel internationally solo with your little, make sure you check this website
TRAVELING GEAR ESSENTIALS
- You’ll absolutely need a light weight stroller. Nobody wants to haul around a heavy stroller or baby. You’ll want to be able to zip through airports and train stations, but more importantly, most countries are NOT like the U.S. They have smaller staircases, smaller hallways, and you’ll find that not every museum or building has elevators or any sort of lifts. I have some personal favorites because I happen to strongly dislike umbrella strollers (something about the frame and how it folds length-wise). We love our Recaro Easylife. It’s super light and small when folded. It’s also a one-handed fold which makes a huge difference. Another great option is the Babyzen Yoyo, if your budget permits.
- Bring a rain cover, they are cheap and not bulky.
- If you have a regular framed stroller invest in some high quality hooks. If you’re traveling with a convertible car seat you can hang it on the stroller while you push your little around the airport, etc. (We bought a light and inexpensive Evenflo Tribute LX).
- If you’re traveling with your infant car seat, bring the caddy along! It’s such an easy alternative to a stroller.
- We knew that most places in Europe would not have high chairs, so we bought a portable high-chair booster seat. It was the best $20 we ever spent. You can adapt this little thing to literally any chair, so even being at our own place we converted a dining chair into a high chair.
HOTEL VS. SHORT TERM RENTAL
- We knew we’d prefer airbnb vs a hotel because our son sleeps more soundly if he has his own dark room with a white noise machine. And, we wanted to drink wine and have dinner and be normal people past 7 p.m. We like having the freedom of having a kitchen to clean bottles and feeding supplies as needed.
- The nice thing about a hotel is that you’re able to book sitters and nannies through their concierge. It adds a level of accountability when leaving your precious babes while you venture out for the night. Not to mention your room is serviced every day and your sheets get changed if you so desire. I hate making my bed while on vacation.
- Some resorts have kid-focused rooms, areas, activities, pools, and offer amazing packages for the entire family. For example, The One and Only Palmilla’s children’s program and installations are quite impressive.
- Make sure if you do decide to search for a short-term rental, you apply filters to only search places that allow small children, have cribs available, and accommodate your family’s needs. This is how we avoided bringing our pack and play. I would recommend pack your own travel crib sheets, just to ensure they are clean and safe for your babe.
Karen Trombetta was born and raised in Celaya, Guanajuato and moved to Texas at 13. She has a deep love for travel and found the perfect partner in a Sicilian man with whom she’s traveled to destinations near and far, 10 countries and counting. Karen has a one-year-old son, who rocks her world. She loves learning everything about different cultures; their food, language, and customs. Prior to focusing on her son, Karen was the Director of Special Events at LifeWorks.