Traveling internationally is always a feat. But when you're doing it with a baby, your anxiety may be through the roof. The thing to keep in mind is that you want your baby to enhance the experience. Will it be easy? Not necessarily. But will it be worth it? Absolutely. And almost everything that's worth it is also hard AF. There's plenty of ways to prepare though and with a list of things you need to know about traveling internationally with a baby, you can relieve some of your worries while still having an amazing travel experience.
When my daughter was 10 months old, I took her to England. I panicked about the trip for a long time, especially because I was traveling alone. But it couldn't have been better. I did the research beforehand, I talked to my airline, I spoke with my daughter's pediatrician, and I looked up the rules on food and bottles on the plane — I prepared. Because I wasn't going into the experience blindly, I knew what to expect and I also knew what to do in every situation I encountered.
I was also incredibly excited to experience my favorite place in the world with her. And not to sound all hokey, but that positive energy worked. She was a dream baby.
If you're worried about a plane ride, I get it. But I found that more people were willing to smile at my baby, play peek-a-boo with her over the seats, and ask me if I needed help than they were to scowl at her or complain if she made any sound.
Basically? It's hard, but it's probably not as hard as you're thinking. Just remember that it's worth it and then keep these 17 things you need to know about traveling internationally with a baby in mind.
1. Your Baby Needs Travel Documents
It's amazing how many people forget that a child also needs a passport to leave the country, including an infant. USA Today noted that anybody entering a foreign country must have a valid passport. It's best to get this done early, especially if you want to avoid rush fees, so plan ahead. According to Baby Center, if the country you're traveling to has visa requirements, you'll also have to get those in order for your baby. Do your research. Boarding passes, passports, IDs — you don't want to be ready to board your flight and realize you don't have any of them for your little one.
2. Every Airline Has Different Luggage Policies
Seriously, all of them. If you're checking a stroller or a car seat in addition to a suitcase, you'll want to check your airline's policies. Some allow you baby travel gear in addition to your one free suitcase and some don't. You can also check on your carry-on bags. Some don't count a diaper bag as a carry-on and others do. Just check ahead of time so you aren't scurrying to pay extra fees or unpack all of your bags.
3. Your Baby May Require Certain Immunizations
Depending on where you're traveling, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that your baby may require certain immunizations. The requirements can change frequently, so keep up-to-date and speak with your baby's doctor. In general, following the normal, recommended vaccination schedule is fine, but it all depends on where you are going.
4. You Can Take Breast Milk & Formula On The Plane In More Than 3 Ounces
Stop panicking about that 3 ounces rule. Although your breast milk, formula, and bottles of water will be tested, the Transportation Security Administration does not count these liquids as part of the 3 ounces rule. Just make sure to let the TSA agent you're working with know that you have these items so that you can get through security efficiently. You can also bring on any cooling packs you need for breast milk.
5. Their Ears May Be Sensitive To Airplane Pressure
I worried about this a lot with my own little traveler. Her pediatrician prescribed ear numbing drops for her, but I found that a pacifier or a bottle did the trick during take-off and landing. If you're nursing, try and offer the breast during those times to help relieve the pressure on their ears — Fox News noted that having something to suck or swallow can help.
6. It Helps To Research Your Destination
Chances are, you've already done plenty of research on where you would like to go and what you would like to do, but do some extra digging when you think of your little one. Is where you're going baby-friendly? Will you have places to change your baby or somewhere to feed them while you're experiencing the sights and sounds? You can work with what you have, but knowing that there's a coffee shop near a destination you're heading to that looks cozy or having places in mind to take your baby can alleviate some stress.
7. Be Prepared To Walk The Plane
Babies get fussy. This is just life. If your little one is getting antsy in their seat, be prepared to take a couple of walks up and down the aisle. It can do wonders for a not-so-happy baby.
8. You Can Request A Bassinet On Your Flight
This will vary by airline, but Flying With A Baby noted that a lot of airlines have bassinets you can request for your baby. Some go into the wall (and require having seats at the front of the plane), while others prop up on the floor. You'll want to call your airline and find out more information, especially because they only have so many per flight, but they can be incredibly useful for your babies to sleep in or hang out in when your arms need a break.
9. You Should Ask About Changing Tables
Another thing that may vary from airline to airline? Changing tables. When I took my daughter to London, I realized too late that not every bathroom on the plane had a changing table. I eventually asked a flight attendant where one was and it was in a specific bathroom on our plane. So ask ahead of time. Find out where one is or if you can use the bassinet as one.
10. A Baby Carrier Can Be Easier Than A Stroller
Obviously, choose whichever one is better for you, but I find there's a huge benefit to a baby carrier — it's not a stroller. Baby Can Travel suggested that you may need both, but a baby carrier is incredibly helpful in an airport (hands free, don't have to worry about losing your baby) and that sight seeing can be easier with a baby carrier as not every place is stroller-friendly (like, you know, the ancient ruins of Rome). Do whatever makes you feel comfortable, but I highly recommend a baby carrier, especially if you're using public transportation.
11. Remember That Other Countries Have Things You May Need
You don't have to load up your bag with everything your baby owns. You can get diapers and wipes in Paris. Obviously, bring what you need, but I remember doing a lot of panicking about packing for the weather in London before I realized that London also has tiny baby leggings and long-sleeved shirts available if I needed them.
12. Do Pack Extras For The Flight
OK, you do not want to be stuck on a 12-hour flight without enough diapers, wipes, or a change of clothes (for you and the baby). iFly.com suggested organizing your bag so everything is easy to find, but to make sure you have what you need in case baby has a blow-out, pukes all over the place, or tosses a bottle of formula on you. If you're worried about bottles, call your airline. Some may be willing to let you rinse your bottles out in hot water instead of packing a bunch.
13. You Can Take Advantage Of Family "Privileges"
So many parents find it easy to board airlines first that, according to CNN, United Airlines actually changed their stance, allowing people with children that are 2 years old or younger to board after disabled passengers and active duty military. All airlines are different, but call ahead and take advantage of those family privileges. They can make all the difference.
14. If Bringing A Car Seat, Make Sure It's Flight Approved
Not every family brings a car seat on to a plane, but if you do want to bring one, make sure it's approved for a flight. The Federal Aviation Administration noted that not all car seats are approved for airplanes. Check with your car seat manufacturer, otherwise it will have to be checked as baggage.
15. Some Cultures Are Very Different In Regards To Babies
This is just a tip to keep in mind — you won't be in America. Some things will be awesome, like other countries not giving a damn if you breastfeed in public or not. But some cultures may be overwhelming, especially when you have a baby. Rookie Moms noted that in some foreign countries, locals may try to touch your baby or take pictures. When I was in London with my own daughter, another tourist took several pictures of her while I was waiting for a light to change on the sidewalk. I was totally creeped out and asked the man to delete the pictures, which he did. But he told me he didn't realize I would be uncomfortable, he just thought she was really cute. They aren't necessarily being malicious, but there can be a culture difference. Be aware of it and speak up if you're uncomfortable.
16. Jet Lag Is A Total Pain In The Ass
It is. I'm just going to say it. My kid had a hard time that first day after an eight hour flight and a five hour time difference. Baby Center noted that the more time zones you cross, the more jet lag affects you and it doesn't just mess with your sleep. It can affect your baby's eating habits, their sleeping and waking cycles, and their attitude in general. Be prepared for it and try to get them adapted to a new time zone before you leave for your trip.
17. It's OK To Ask For & Accept Help
Especially if you're traveling alone. If a flight attendant offers to hold your baby while you use the bathroom, accept the help. If someone waiting for baggage claim could grab your bag for you while you're holding your baby, ask them. People are more willing to help than you think.