Moving to a new country is exciting, inspiring, and just a little bit terrifying. I love my adopted home in North America, but I still miss the sights and sounds of home (England). Because I am just a touch homesick, and because my mom would kill me if I didn't, I travel back and forth across the Atlantic fairly often. This arrangement certainly didn't change when I had a baby, so I'm pretty quick to say there are things you should definitely do the first time you travel with your baby.
Trust me when I say that the following suggestions aren't coming from a place of hubris. If anything I have learned the hard way. So, when I say I've been able to differentiate between the things that work and the things that don't, it's because I've survived some serious trial and error. A few of those hard-earned gems? Adequate preparation is the key to ensuring a smooth journey. However, you can go a touch overboard. For example, I once packed 52 diapers for an overnight trip. 52. That's not really necessary.
I've also learned that the best resource when traveling with a baby is another adult. Having traveled both solo and with my partner, I can report that an extra set of hands (and a shoulder to cry on, if it all goes wrong) is totally invaluable. However, whether you have help or not, these steps will help to make your travel plans run a little smoother:
Take The Right Documents
Depending on your relationship to the baby, the country you are traveling in, and the airline or tour operator you booked your trip through, you may have to arrange a number of documents for your child.
Mini-travelers may need their own passport, a letter giving you permission to leave the country with them, or other identify documents. Definitely make sure you check the requirements before leaving home.
Limit Ear Pain
I breastfed my son on demand during most flights. Letting him nurse not only keeps him content, but helps limit any ear pain he might experience thanks to a change in air pressure.
If you're not nursing (or you're not comfortable breastfeeding on an airplane) you can ease any pain by offering milk or water in a bottle or, encouraging your baby to use a pacifier.
Pack Spare Clothes
Pack way more clothes and diapers than you think you'll need. Your baby may well have a blowout poop, spit up all their milk, or spill food on themselves. Also be sure to take spare clothes for yourself, too. Trust me.
Check Your Stroller
When my baby was really small, I carried him in a wrap or soft baby carrier. However, I still took a small foldable stroller right to the gate, which allowed me to pile all the bags on and push it around the terminals with ease. If my little one fell asleep, I could transfer him to his stroller and get my body back (for a little while).
Take A Surprise
When your baby has finally had enough and about to go lunar, pull out the magic surprise and bag yourself at least an extra hour of peace.
The "surprise" can be a new toy, a delicious snack, something sparkly to look at, something of mommy's he or she is not normally allowed to touch; the sky is the limit. Whatever it is, as long as it's an age appropriate item your baby will think their birthday came early.
Bring Plenty Of Snacks
Depending on the age of your baby, they may well need some food during your journey. Trust me when I say snack time can prove to be a good distraction, especially when traveling becomes too much.
Plus you will also need to refuel, especially when it's impossible to eat in the confines of an airplane while holding a baby. Choose items that can be eaten with one hand (and give you the energy you need to complete your journey).
On every flight I took with my baby, I took little bags filled with diapers, wipes, and toys. I then punched a hole in the corner that allowed me to hang the bag from the corner of the tray table, freeing up floor space and making everything accessible and easy to reach.
Free Up Your Hands
It can be difficult to juggle a baby, fold a stroller, and get your hand luggage on a flight, especially if you are the only adult traveling.
It's a smart choice to select services and products that allow you hands-free options, like booking the "sky cot" on the airplane so your baby can have a sleep sans your arms. Taking a carrier or wrap with you, to keep your little one close and your hands free to retrieve your passport and documents, is also a pretty great way to go.
Try Not To Stress
Traveling can be really stressful. Trust me, as I have been there (and continue to be there because, well, family). Snooty passengers giving you side-eye when your baby cries, delays and layovers, missing sleep and crossing time zones are all tension inducing. However, try if you can to remain calm. Your baby will feed off your energy (whether it is positive or negative) and, whether you believe it or not, it'll be over before you know it.
I have endured some truly terrible flights with my son, if Im being honest. However, after whatever happened during the long journey, I was always excited to be home or at my vacation spot.