Taking a trip with an infant in tow can seem like a daunting task. Images of crying babies annoying fellow passengers come to mind. Horror stories abound of epic airport meltdowns, endless screaming fits at 30,000 feet, and haggard parents limping defeated through vacation--enduring it all with a forced smile and permanently clenched jaw. It doesn't have to be that way, though. So far I’ve gone on multiple overseas holidays with 2 kids under two, and I’ve learnt that with some planning and preparation, you really can enjoy smooth travels with your little one. Here are my top tips for sane, stress-free travel with babies:
(Note: The tips are arranged from least to most important, so make sure you read till the end!)
1. Pick the Day Flight
When booking a flight with a baby, daytime flights are generally better than red-eyes. You may have heard that if you book a night flight, your baby will sleep through the flight, leaving you to enjoy the flight in peace, and you won’t have to ‘waste’ a day travelling. This definitely sounds ideal… IF your baby sleeps. But if your baby doesn’t sleep, or sleeps and then wakes, then you’ll be dealing with a cranky, overtired baby in the middle of a cabin of angry fellow passengers at 2am. And when you reach your destination, you’ll be really tired yourself, but you won’t be able to sleep because it’s day time! Much better to pick the day flight and accept the loss of travel time, with the assurance that at least if baby is crying throughout the flight, your fellow passengers will not be expecting to sleep if it’s 3pm. Ultimately, booking a day flight sets you and baby up for better rest.
2. Prepare Entertainment
Babies can get fussy on planes, so it's important to pack entertainment to keep them happy and occupied during the flight. Bringing a few of baby's favorite toys and books from home is a great idea since these familiar items will be comforting.
I highly recommend bringing some mess-free art materials too: you could use magnetic writing boards (attach the pen to the board with a string), water colouring books, or silicone colouring mats.
#ProTip: Do not bring a full pack of crayons or ANY balls onto the plane. They are guaranteed to drop (or be thrown) and roll far away! For writing materials like pens, pencils, or crayons, choose your baby’s favourite colours rather than bringing the entire box. And if possible bring pens that don’t have separate pen caps (you can thank me later).
#AnotherProTip: Use a small wet bag to contain the toys. This way, you can clip it to the stroller or the airplane tray table, rather than having to constantly open up your big bag to put the toys away.
Snacks specifically for the plane ride like puffs, raisins, yogurt melts, cereal, and fruit are handy when babies get bored. Offer snacks and toys at take-off and landing when ear pressure changes can bother them. If your baby is old enough to work a zipper, using a small wet bag to hold dried foods like raisins can allow them independent snacking while minimising the risk of a snack box upending over the plane floor.
3. Compartmentalize our Bag
Wet bags and pods are an absolute travel essential, even if you are only travelling with adults. But when travelling with a baby, it's even more crucial to keep their small items organized so they don't get lost in a big suitcase or diaper bag. The small size of baby socks, mittens, and other items means they can easily slip down to the bottom of a large bag. Packing them in separate wet bags or pods keeps similar items together and prevents them from mixing with larger clothing pieces or other gear.
Plus, because wet bags and pods are waterproof, they are extra useful for packing teething toys, bibs, toiletries, and the multitude of other potentially-wet items that babies seem to need.
#ProTip: Assign each family member their own pod or wet bag, so that it’s easier to quickly grab personal items when needed, like when it's time to shower or change clothes.
4. Bring the Stroller / Baby Carrier
Having hands-free carrying options like a stroller or baby carrier is super important when travelling with a baby. It is absolutely essential if you are travelling alone, but even if the adults outnumber the children, bringing a stroller or a baby carrier while travelling can be beneficial for several reasons:
Keep your child from getting lost: Basically, it’s helpful to be able to collect attraction tickets or buy a burger without keeping one hand on your child at all times. Having a baby carrier or a stroller provides you with an easy, safe way to secure your baby near you so that they do not accidentally get separated from you in a crowd.
Save your arms from dying: Even if your baby can walk, they will not be able to walk far. It’s important to remember that while on holiday, you may end up walking much more than you would on a normal day. And in any case, children have much lower stamina compared to adults, so it will benefit everyone if you have an option other than your arms when they decide they are “TOO TIRED!!!” to walk anymore.
Provide a place to sit or lie down: High chairs and change tables may not always be available where you are going, so it’s useful to have an additional place (that you know is relatively clean) for your baby to sit for meals, diaper changes, or even naps.
- It’s free, anyway: Most airlines, even budget airlines, allow you to check in a stroller at no extra cost.
5. Practice at Home First
Getting your baby used to sleeping in a travel cot at home before your trip is one of the best things you can do to ensure they sleep well while traveling. If possible, let them take naps and sleep overnight in the travel cot for at least 2 weeks before your trip. This allows them to get comfortable with the different feel and environment of the cot. Practice setting up the travel cot in different rooms in your home so your baby gets used to sleeping in it in various environments, not just their nursery.
Consistent sleep cues are key to helping baby sleep in unfamiliar places. Be sure to bring along the same sound machine, lovey/chou chou, and any other sleep associations that baby uses at home to create a similar sleep environment. If you don’t have a sound machine, you can use an old phone or tablet to play rain sounds, and get baby used to listening to that at night / for naps prior to the trip.
Even you are using a cot provided at the destination (super convenient!), you should bring cot sheets from home. The familiar scent and texture will provide comfort and make the travel cot feel more like their bed at home.
6. Equip Yourself for Flexibility
As anyone who's ever travelled with a baby knows, the journey seldom goes precisely as planned. Babies are spontaneous, and their needs can change in an instant. They can be happy gurgling one moment and screaming like a tortured prisoner the next. Honestly, plans with babies are more like suggestions, at best.
That's why being flexible is fundamental in any travel plan involving a baby. Rigidity just doesn't work. If there's something babies teach us, it's to embrace unpredictability and learn to adapt.
To make this whole "going with the flow" thing a less wild river ride, we've got to pack smart. That’s where my lifesavers come in:
- Traditional Muslin Swaddle: Even if your baby is too old for swaddling, these are SUPER useful as sunshades, stroller blankets, bath towels, nursing covers, and general all-purpose cloths. They are extremely lightweight and fold up compactly, perfect for travelling.
- Large Change Mat: while travelling, it’s highly likely that you will have to perform diaper changes in less-than-ideal situations (think a car boot, a park bench…). Having a change mat can ensure your baby has a clean surface to line on, even in an unfamiliar location with dubious (or non-existent) baby changing facilities. Our large change mats also double up as mini picnic mats, play mats, and mattress protectors — ideal for letting baby roll around in the hotel room without touching the carpet, or letting you put your bag down on a damp grass patch.
Flexibility doesn't necessarily mean chaos. Equipped with the right travel gear, flexibility can become your strategy, making your travel experience more enjoyable and less of a grueling challenge.
But even more important than any product you might bring is the shift in your mindset. If you are not mentally prepared to adapt to changing plans, you will likely be miserable no matter how well equipped you are. Embrace the flexibility — it can be fun, too.
7. Plan for Breaks
Babies get tired extremely easily, especially in new and exciting environments. And trust me, you don't want to have to drag a cranky little one while rushing along for multiple pre-arranged, pre-booked activities.
Plus, remember that babies are built-in inconvenience timers. They’re likely to poop right as you’re heading out the door, or want an extra feed when while you’re on the road in the middle of nowhere.
So schedule in free time in your itinerary, and incorporate plenty of rest stops within your plan. These little timeouts can be great for diaper changes, feedings, or just letting your little munchkin stretch their tiny limbs!
Factoring in moments of pause can do wonders in transforming your baby travel experience. Use these breaks as stepping-stones to explore and enjoy the journey itself. Who knows, you might find a hidden gem in form of a beautiful picnic spot, a quaint playground, or even a gorgeous view perfect for family selfies.
After all, travel is about collecting experiences rather than ticking off destinations. Taking it slow ensures you and your baby comfortably take in all the beauty and charm your travel path has to offer. Because, at the end of the day, they won't remember the fancy hotel or the five-star restaurant, but they'll definitely remember the laughs, the unexpected detours, and the fun you all had