How to travel with a newborn? Many parents say it’s easier to travel with a newborn infant than a toddler, or even an older child. Having done it myself, I can see why – newborns sleep a lot, they’re compact and you can bring them almost anywhere. Capitalizing on this short time when they’re so small can allow you to make great memories with them in a different, picturesque places that you will look back fondly on for years to come.
It doesn’t matter whether your trip is by airplane or a road trip within your state or province. Sitting on a dock at a cottage overlooking a lake, or a beautiful sunset cuddling a swaddled newborn is one of the small joys you can experience being with them in the moment at a different destination.
I’ve learned how to travel with a newborn from first-hand experience. I’ve gone on several plane trips and extended vacations with 2-4 month-old babies. The youngest baby I flew with was 8 weeks old, and I was alone for that flight; over the years, I’ve gathered some tips and tricks about planes, road trips and being in transit with babies under 4 months.
Benefits of Travelling with a Newborn
You might get some raised eyebrows when you share your travel pursuits with others, but don’t let this discourage you from travelling with your infant. Taking advantage of this cuddly, sleepy stage to go on a vacation you’d enjoy isn’t a bad idea; many parents have done it successfully.
There are also a lot of benefits to starting travelling with your baby when they’re young.
- You’re getting them used to habits like sleeping in a new place and exposing them to different stimuli, which is all beneficial for their development.
- You’re getting a change of scene and not putting your life on hold, which you’ll be thankful for later.
We’re going to give you the best tips so that you can have the smoothest trip possible… whether its a road trip a few hours from home, or a long-haul flight across the globe.
How to travel with a newborn: Reasons it’s easy:
- As a newborn, your baby’s needs are much more simple to figure out than an older child’s. Unless they have colic, there are only a few possible reasons why they might be crying, and their needs can often be met by milk or sleep.
- Babies in the 0-4-month-old age bracket sleep for 16+ hours in a 24-hour period. As long as you can get them to sleep, and to go about things you’d normally do while they’re resting
- You can do almost anything with a baby strapped to you. Dining out? They can be sleeping in their stroller right next to you. Hiking the mountains? They don’t weigh much more than a small backpack.
Now, for the bad news..
How to travel with a newborn: Things you want to keep in mind:
Newborns can take a long time to feed
Especially if they’re breastfed – but regardless of breastmilk or formula, they’ll need to feed every 3-5 hours around the clock; their stretches might get longer at night as they get closer to the 3-month old mark
If you’re formula feeding, then you’ll have to bring bottles and equipment and figure out the sterilization at your destination
Your baby still may wake up at night or early in the morning. It’s possible for a 6-week-old to sleep 8-hour stretches at night, but the average night stretch at that age would be 4-6 hours. So you should still expect some disrupted sleep when they’re under 3 months old.
Ultimate Guide: How to Travel with a Newborn
Some people travel with newborns just to get out of the house, sometimes it could be because you have to (to reunite with family) or you could be just really adventurous. Regardless of your reasons for learning how to travel with a newborn, here’s a guide to help make it go more smoothly.
Even though your baby can join you for almost anything, these are the best tips laid out for you regardless of the type of trip you’re taking. You can genuinely still have a fulfilling time on the trip, but you want to adjust your expectations for the trip, and plan ahead so it goes smoothly.
20 Tips on How to Travel with a Newborn!
HOW TO TRAVEL WITH A NEWBORN: THE PREPARATION STAGE
Mode of Travel
Weigh options for the best mode of travel for your baby’s age, length of travel time and destination. If they’re cleared to fly (more on that below) then a short flight is better than 12+ hours in a car. Road trips might be safer for your baby in the early days because of less exposure to viruses and illnesses, and you don’t have to worry about the air pressure. But spending more than 12 hours in a car seat isn’t ideal at this age while their skulls are still forming. You’ll want to make plans to stop, which you’ll need to anyway for changings and feedings – but a break from the car seat would be a good thing.
If you choose to travel by air, ensure that your newborn won’t be denied boarding the plane
In general, babies can fly shortly after birth, but there are two sources to check with before planning to bring your newborn on a flight:
- Your baby’s doctor. Get doctor clearance on your specific child to make sure the flight won’t be any risk to their immune system. If they were born early, have any complications, or even came by c-section, then your doctor might recommend you keep the baby on the ground.
- Your airline’s policies. Some airlines require a doctor’s note clearing them to travel, and proof of age (which would be on their ID documents if you’re travelling internationally).
Baby’s ID documents
If travelling internationally, you’ll need a passport for your baby, which they can’t get until you’ve registered their birth. Once you have your baby, register the birth online at your appropriate province or state. Once you have their birth documents, you use those, plus an acceptable passport photo to apply for a passport.
Lap infant, or book a separate seat on a plane?
Option 1: Book a separate seat for your newborn, and bring a car seat on board. (This is what airlines and many parents will tell you is the safest option, and this can also be a contraversial topic in many parent travel forums and groups, so you need to find the most up to date information to make the best decision for you.)
Option 2: Reserve a bulkhead seat and request a baby bassinet from the airline.
Option 3: Do not pay for a separate seat, and have baby fly for free on your lap.
Until the baby is born, only book refundable things
Most of us travelling this early in the life of our newborn may have already started trip-planning when we were still pregnant. As a fellow travel-lover, my advice is to just don’t go too crazy until after the birth – if you can help it. I realize this may not always be possible for ideal for your plans. The reality is that you don’t know how you or your partner will feel emotionally or physically after the baby is born. In the event of an unplanned emergency c-section, colic or postpartum depression, there’s a chance that you won’t feel up to the trip, or that you’ll want to modify parts of the trip. In this case, if you’ve only booked things that can be cancelled, then you don’t have the added stress of losing money in addition to changing plans.
Most accommodations are at least partially refundable up to a point, so you should be safe there. For flights, its worth it to pay extra for the ability to cancel if the trip is happening when your baby is younger than 2 months old.
Plan ahead by researching the nearest ER or urgent care centre in the area you’re visiting
Likely, and hopefully, you won’t need it, but looking up this stuff ahead of time has major benefits:
- It reduces the stress and panic in the situation in case you do need it
- You have the piece of mind of knowing that you already have that information
- In the unlikely event of an emergency, your baby gets the help they need sooner
Don’t overschedule your trip
This goes for babies of all ages, and toddlers too. Go somewhere where you’ll enjoy the scenery, weather and other amenities, but don’t plan a trip expecting to see and do 15+ things in a week. Plan a low-key vacation where you can go with the flow, and have slow, easy mornings. This will make it so much easier and more enjoyable to visit there with a newborn.
You can cuddle your swaddled newborn in front of some beautiful scenery. You can do quite a bit with a newborn strapped to you in a baby carrier; it doesn’t mean you’ll always feel like it every day. Ideally, a trip where you can leave your accommodation and walk to some things in reach. Go somewhere where you can go with the flow and enjoy the time without stressing about checking items off of a bucket list.
HOW TO TRAVEL WITH A NEWBORN: THE PACKING STAGE
Car seat and/or stroller
One major benefit to bringing both of these items with you is that you can easily walk around, and you can eat in restaurants with your newborn right beside you where you can see them, sleeping in their car seat or stroller. If you’re flying, strollers can be brought straight to the gate, folded down and put aside during your flight.
A comfortable baby carrier
Regardless of the type of trip you’ve planned, a baby carrier is so useful, at home, in transit, and at your destination. It allows you to be hands-free during flights, hikes, or even eating in a restaurant if you don’t have a stroller. If you’re not using it during the transit period (in the plane) most of them aren’t too large to fit in a suitcase.
PRO TIP: Get your baby used to being in the carrier before the trip, so that you avoid dealing with fussiness during the trip.
One of the most useful items we brought with us while travelling (and everywhere) was a portable changing mat. We could use this on the ground, on a bed, outside or inside, or on a fold-down change table. You can’t always guarantee a clean surface wherever you go, so it’s better that they’re being changed on your own rubber mat.
Bring your own pack-and-play (if possible)
This is going to depend on your mode of travel and destination, of course. If you’re flying and the airplane lets you check an extra piece for baby, then I’d recommend a pack and play; especially if you can’t guarantee that you’ll have access to a good-quality one at your destination.
Our airline permitted an extra piece of luggage for our baby, so we chose to bring our own pack-and-play to Costa Rica. We were so glad we did. When I saw the pack-and-play put aside for us there, I was thankful that we brought our own. Theirs was old, with a soft sleeping surface – it wouldn’t be considered up to code in our country. With any kind of baby equipment, you have to keep in mind that different countries have different safety regulations.
If bringing a pack-and-play with you isn’t possible, don’t sweat it. Just make sure if you’re booking accommodation, you reserve their cribs in advance because they often go like hotcakes.
HOW TO TRAVEL WITH A NEWBORN: DURING THE TRIP
You can always count on a McDonald’s to have a changing table
I don’t always love chains, but this is one thing they’re great for. They don’t care if you use the washroom, and there’s always a fold-down change table in them. (How clean they are might be a different story! So don’t forget the sanitization wipes.)
Keep your nighttime routine as similar as possible to at home
To make your trip and your life, in general, go more smoothly, you should have some sort of routine before bed at night that differs from nap times so that your baby understands its night time. You can’t emulate this perfectly during a trip, but you can bring a few familiar items, or play familiar music (if it’s normally a part of your routine.) Whether it’s a music-playing stuffy, a story or a bath before bed, do as much as you can to bring this to your destination. And you know what? It’s ok that things will be different on your trip. Don’t feel guilty about the routing being a little different and changing their surroundings – getting your baby used to things being different sometimes is a positive thing that will help them be more adaptable as they age.
Conclusion: How to travel with a Newborn? Is it a bad idea?
With some planning and preparation, a trip with a newborn can be a much-enjoyed event that will get you in a new environment and help you feel refreshed. Don’t listen to anyone tells you that you’re crazy for considering a trip at this precious stage in your baby’s life!
Final Thoughts: How to Travel with a Newborn
A trip with a newborn may be more difficult from pre-kids, but it can also be rewarding to feel alive with a tiny human in tow, and enjoy sights and experiences with them snugged at your chest; something you’ll cherish for years to come. We hope you learned more on how to travel with a newborn!