International Travel With Your Baby

By the time he was 8 months old, our lil bear cub had more stamps in his passport than some of my adult friends. He’s been on 10 airplanes, traveled through multiple time zones, slept in numerous random beds and cribs, missed naps, visited a glacier in cold rain, stayed up past his bedtime almost every night…and we all survived. Even better, we had the time of our lives.

When we tell people that we took our baby with us to Iceland and Sweden this spring we get a lot of responses: everything from “you’re crazy,” mouth hanging open, laughs, looks of disbelief and my favorite, “That must have been hard/terrible.brutal.” I’m not sure why everyone thinks that traveling with a baby has to be miserable. Is it because of all the crying babies you’ve listened to on the plane?

So today I’m here to tell you that traveling with a baby doesn’t have to be miserable. In fact, it can be really fun and awesome. Who says you have to put all of your travels and adventures on hold because you grew a tiny human? You just need a few (dozen) extra things in your luggage, a slower pace and a little patience. No, it won’t be exactly the way it used to be, but isn’t seeing the world through the eyes of a child half the fun of it? Today I’m going to share with you a few of the tips we learned from traveling internationally with our 7.5 month old baby boy.

1. Packing. There’s no getting around it – babies need a LOT of stuff. Especially if you’re going somewhere like Iceland which can have bitter cold temperatures and tons of rain. We managed to stuff all of our stuff into 2 large suitcases and two backpacks. Baby boy’s stuff took up MOST of the space. We managed to pack light for ourselves because we knew we couldn’t skimp on his stuff. While you can’t get away with skipping packing clothes, blankets, food, etc, we did try our hardest to pack as light as possible. Stick to around 3-4 favorite small toys, 2 books if you read every night, only a few extra changes of clothes, and just enough food and diapers to get you through until you know that you can buy more (we were able to find organic baby food that was affordable as well as Pampers diapers in Iceland just about everywhere). There DEFINITELY was a LOT of stuff that we had to haul. We couldn’t avoid a few bulky items like the car seat, stroller, baby carrier and a foot muff for the bitter Icelandic winds — all of which were totally worth bringing which takes us to point #2…

{all bundled up in his Bumbleride winter footmuff which kept him warm and dry}

2. Car seat. This one is a toss up. Let’s start with flying – Many airlines line Southwest, Alaska and Icelandair are very baby friendly and will happily give you an empty seat for you to put your car seat if the flight isn’t fully booked. Trust me when I say that we were SO SO SO glad we lugged our car seat through the airport when it payed off with a FREE seat for baby boy to sleep away in. Icelandair would even move other passengers around so that we could have a full row to ourselves. Ya’ll…it’s painful to hold a 16 lb baby in your arms for 7 hours straight. It was so nice to be able to let him chill in his own seat for most of the flights. Of course, you can always buy your baby his own seat as well. (Side note — please do not check your car seat as luggage! It’s too easy to damage them. Gate check only!) Once in Iceland we also needed the car seat for our rental car. We had actually planned on renting a car seat there as they have different rules around car seats (they require a different buckle type), but our rental car place was crummy and didn’t have a clean car seat ready for us NOR did they know how to install the seat so we just used our own which leads to #3…

3. Make sure you have a locking clip if you take your car seat without a base! Most US car seats come with a locking clip — ours was on the bottom of the car seat. In Iceland, none of the cars seemed to have self-locking seat belts like they do in the US so you HAVE to use a locking clip to make the car seat safe and sturdy. You can request one from your car seat manufacturer if you don’t have one and they will have instructions on how to use it.

{diaper changes can happen anywhere! Back of the car, front seat of the car, in his stroller}

4. Be flexible and patient. Babies require a lot more time to get fed and ready every day and they need extra breaks for naps and eating and diaper changes. We always got a later start than we hoped in the mornings and that was ok! By the time everyone was dressed and fed and on the road, he’d already be ready for his first nap of the day. There were a few times when J would go see a site and I needed to sit in the car or on a bench to nurse for 15 minutes first. Once he was fed he was happy and ready to go! And HE was even more flexible than he is at home.

5. Know your baby. Obviously, every baby is totally different, right? When we were in Iceland, Ethan was 7.5 months old. He wasn’t crawling yet and he loved being in his car seat. It was truly the best timing for this kind of trip where we spent MOST of the day driving in the car with him strapped into his car seat. He would nap and giggle and sing and look out the window. He never had a meltdown in the car the entire trip. If your kid hates car rides, he or she would definitely hate this kind of trip….so maybe a place like Iceland or New Zealand wouldn’t be ideal at this point for you, but somewhere else could be great!

When we hiked the W trail in Patagonia a few years ago we saw a couple who was doing the same hike with their 10 month old on their back. It was a hard trek but that baby was SO happy every day! It was incredible! Their baby loved going on hikes and being outside so that was a great trip for them. Remember, you’re baby is super adaptable so they will probably do better than you think they will, but perhaps try not to put them in a situation where every single day they are miserable.

{napping in Stockholm}

6. Breastfeeding tips. When you breastfeed your baby, you can feed your baby anywhere! And you should! Bring a nursing cover if you care about modesty, but know that many parts of the world are much more accepting of nursing in public than the US. Of course, if you have a little one like mine who gets distracted SO easily, that’s easier said than done. Take a hand pump along so that you can relieve your breasts if you need to — plus, it takes up way less room in your luggage! I love this pump and take it everywhere.

7. White noise is your friend. Be sure to bring along your noise machine or at least download a white noise app (I use one called SleepySounds when I travel) so that you can create a quiet place for baby to sleep regardless of if your hallway echos with every door slam or you are above a noisy city street.

8. Bring a crib sheet. Each hotel on our trip provided us with a crib or a pack and play for Ethan to sleep in –but none of them had any sort of sheet or cover for the bottom of them. Seeing as I don’t know how often or if the crib mattress has ever been cleaned, I always covered it with a light muslin blanket. Just tuck in the blanket as well as you can, and sleep easy knowing that baby isn’t face down on an icky surface.

{checking out the geysir in Iceland}

9. Let go of the schedule. Take a deep breath momma. You can do it! If you’re anything like me, your baby lives, eats and sleeps by a strict daily schedule. I don’t let much mess his schedule up because it keeps momma and baby happy and rested. Before our trip I envisioned us marching back to our hotel every day in Stockholm so that little E could take a 2 hour nap. Haha! That never happened. We’d wander so far from our hotel every day that there was no way that we’d return until after dinner. Instead, we made sure that we were prepared for the day with food and diapers (he is nursing so he always has milk nearby) and we let him take naps whenever he needed them in his carseat (Iceland) or stroller (Sweden). He definitely got more naps in Iceland but he was in no way on his schedule at ALL. Bedtimes were super late after super late dinners. It wasn’t how we wanted it, but it’s just how it went. He’d crash at night and wake up happy and ready to go each morning.

In Stockholm he spent all day either being carried or in his stroller which made for easy napping. He definitely got less sleep there as we pushed him along cobblestone streets, but he sure loved napping in the dark and quiet Vasa museum. Thankfully, our stroller back can be lowered to an almost flat position ( we LOVE our Bumbleride Indie) so when we’d see him fall asleep, we’d slowly lower the back to let him sleep lying down.

10. Have fun. Here’s the thing…you’re gonna have good days and bad day,s but at the end of it all you’ll have created some really incredible memories with your little one. Try not to sweat the small stuff (like the fact that Ethan would not nurse in public in Sweden no matter how hard I tried) and instead embrace each day as an adventure. We’ll never forget how Ethan’s eyes lit up when he saw a waterfall, or how he would squeal and get super excited as we explored beaches and glaciers. We loved watching him pet Icelandic ponies and try crazy foods like pickled herring. We didn’t mind giving up the glacier hikes and horseback rides that we would normally choose to do because this is our life now…slower…different…and perfectly sweet family.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “International Travel With Your Baby

  1. Love love love. Love that Ethan is traveling with you two now. This is so encouraging and can’t wait to revisit this post when it’s our turn. Genius idea about the crib sheet, btw!

  2. These are all great tips! We just did our first trip with our 4 month old. It was a two day trip within driving distance, but it still took so much planning. We are planning on working our way up to bigger trips later in the year. I’d love to eventually go international like you. I’m going to blog about our travel adventures here letstravelbaby.blog . I’m going to follow you to keep up with your travels!

    1. Congrats on your first trip with baby! They do require SO much planning and packing! We also started with a closer trip (TN to visit grandma and grandpa) before our big international trip. I can’t wait to hear about your adventures!

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