I have so many feelings and thoughts on traveling with a baby. Best piece of advice I could give you: Throw all your expectations out the window, expect the worst, go with the flow, and you will survive. Survival being the key word. Let me be the first to tell you that you could pack and prepare perfectly and your travel experience can still be a challenge. Basically after flying with Otis, my respect level for parents that travel with babies or kids in general went through the roof. I feel like I want to high five every parent I see about to board a plane now because I know just how HARD and challenging the experience can be. That all being said, I am by no means an expert. I will share my tips and tricks below, but know that when it comes to traveling with kids, it’s an unpredictable ride you have to cruise through with them and hope for the best. Be prepared, and know that if things go the absolute worst they can go, you will likely never see these people again. Also, if you don’t have kids and for whatever reason are reading this post, if you see a parent struggling with their little one on the plane, know that the majority of us are working our ASSES off to keep those babies happy and occupied and a little game of peek-a-boo or even just a smile will go a long way for a parent and baby about to have a meltdown. So let’s start at the beginning: PACKING.
WHAT TO PACK FOR BABY WHEN TRAVELING
As far as packing goes, we decided to bring 1 HUGE suitcase for the whole family and this ended up being a huge mistake. Since our bag was overweight we had to pay a lot because of that. So if you learn from our mistakes, weigh your suitcase before you head to the airport!! If you don’t care about dropping cash on suitcases, you can go the route of packing 1 big one to minimize the bags you need to trek around with.
MOM TIP: Pack smaller suitcases so
you aren’t charged overweight baggage
fees at the airport
I did use these packing cubes to organize all of our clothes inside the suitcase and that is always a game changer. I packed 1 large cube for Otis, 2 for myself, and 2 for Blake. It’s great to be able to keep things organized and easily accessible. I live by packing cubes. I also fold everything using the marie kondo method so I can see everything I have packed. I have used these packing cubes for years that I found on amazon. They have held up through so many trips I could not even count them if I tried. I also recently got these that are personalized with both our names and by color and can be a fun way to easily distinguish whose cube is whose. I have used them a handful of times and they seem to be holding up well.
MOM TIP: Pre-plan baby outfits for each day and fold them up together. This way, each day you just take one folded bundle and it makes dressing baby in the morning easy and stress free so you can enjoy your vacation. I pair a top, bottom, and bib together.
I started packing at least a week before our trip (I am intense like that!) because I was so worried about remembering everything for all of us. I am a 100% extreme intense packer and while it stressed me out beforehand, it keeps me stress free when I reach my destination. Blake and I have our own google doc packing lists that we print out everytime we travel. We always update this list so that we can be sure to always pack the essentials and not forget our toothbrush for instance. Something so simple that if it’s not on the list, maybe we will forget to pack it!
MOM TIP: Create a spreadsheet list for trips that you can reuse each time you travel. Write down everything down to the smallest details like baby nail clipper because if it’s not written down, chances are that you will forget the most basic essentials.. Like diapers. Add diapers to your list right now!
We packed 3 carry-on bags also. One for Otis, Mom and Dad. Will list what I packed in each below. On top of big suitcases and carry-ons, we needed the rest of our baby gear. We used this nuna car seat bag to pack our carseat and base. Then we took our colugo stroller which comes with a backpack bag which made it easy to pack up and throw on our back if we weren’t using it. We also brought our colugo carrier for the plane and airport. We tried to travel as light as possible but at the end of the day, there is no such thing as traveling light with a baby. But I will say, one thing i love to practice is that I gather everything I want to pack and lay out it. Then I go through a round of edits as I like to call it. I rescan things and see what I need and what can be left home. From the initial packing haul, there are always some things that can be left home so always do a little “edit” of your own packing to see how you can lighten your load. Every bit of space makes a difference when you are packing for an additional family member.
MOM TIP: It’s sneaky but we threw an
extra pack of diapers and wipes inside our
car seat bag. You aren’t technically supposed
to put anything else in there but it fit easily
and saved us room in our carry-on. You never know when you will need an emergency stash
of diapers and wipes.
Otis Carry-on: I used Otis’ carry-on as mine as well. So I kept my phone and wallet here because I only wanted to have to handle one bag at my feet for both Otis and myself. It’s an important reminder to pack all your medications and baby health items in your carry-on because you always want to be prepared in case of an emergency or your checked bag doesn’t arrive. Another thing to note was that I put all toys into a zipper pouch. This way I could easily access the toy bag and take 1 thing out at a time. I kept books organized in side pockets and kept the other loose toys attached to the bag with the toy straps and then placed in the front pockets. Bottles were placed upright in the side pouch specifically made to hold bottles. I tried to keep this bag super organized so it was easy to access everything while wrangling a wild little baby.
-Packing cubes (that came with the bag): baby medications (Tylenol, motrin, benadryl), baby aquaphor, baby thermometer, baby sunscreen, extra food pouches, wipes, diapers, formula, 1 outfit change, food bib
–2 dr brown bottles: prefilled with water to mix with formula
–Formula container pre-portioned and filled
–Water cup (munchkin miracle 360 cup): prefilled with water
–post-it notes: the cheapest most epic way to entertain a baby
–wet ones wipes: Germs be GONE. I made an effort to do my best sanitation when we sat down.
–toy straps: MUST HAVE. If you don’t want your toys falling on the dirty airplane floor, BUY THESE NOW.
-changing pad (loaded with diapers and wipes)
-adult snacks: dried fruit + chex mix + oreos (because I always need salty and sweet)
Mom Carry-on: This was everything that I technically should not need at all. It was more of a “just in case bag” that hopefully we would not need to open until we got to our destination. This bag would be stored in the overhead bin.
-1 outfit + Mom, Dad and Baby: I packed outfits suited for our destination so we would not need to unpack our entiresuitcase to change when we got there.
-Swimsuit Mom, Dad, Baby: I wanted easy access to swimsuits so that we could find it easily without opening our big suitcase and sorting through it.
-Flipflops Mom + Dad
-Mom Makeup: I always try to pack my makeup with me in case my luggage gets lost
-Mom Skincare toiletries: Ditto for keeping skincare with me so its not lost if my luggage gets lost.
-Baby Formula: It’s ESSENTIAL to put this in a carry-on so we have a backup in case we got majorly delayed. We use Enfamil Enspire and I always buy these double boxes.
Dad Carry-on: Blake usually packs a backpack so he can be hands free so he is usually in charge of all the electronics and the snacks we buy at the airport.
-tablet to use as monitor/entertainment
Stroller Backpack from Colugo: We use the colugo stroller and what I love about it is that it’s small enough to fit in the overhead bin in the plane. And comes with the backpack case to make it even more compact.
Nuna Car Seat Bag: This held our carseat and base
Baby Carrier from Colugo: This is essential with a baby so you can be hands free going through security
MOM TIP: Prefill all bottles and water cups
at home. TSA will allow you to travel with
water for your baby or premade formula
or breastmilk bottles. This will allow you
to feed baby in an instant and not have
to be scrambling to do it on the plane. No
one gave us any problems at the airport.
NAVIGATING THE AIRPORT WITH A BABY
I think everything can seem super overwhelming when you are doing it for the first time. When we got to the airport, I actually used my baby carrier to wear Otis while checking our bags and going through security. This was a GAME CHANGER. We also have Global Entry which allows us to go through TSA precheck which also makes things much easier on us while traveling with a baby. I highly recommend looking into TSA precheck if you can and know you have a trip coming up.
Going through security was pretty painless. I didn’t need to remove any of my bottles or formula etc. I just alerted the TSA agent that I had them with me and they took a peek through my bag after it went through the scanner. We folded up our stroller and popped it on the conveyor belt to also go through the scanner. I was also able to keep Otis in my carrier and wear him through the metal detector so that made life super easy not having to readjust holding him and be juggling our bags.
After we got through security, we put Otis in his stroller to give our backs a break and to allow us both to use the restrooms before getting on the plane.
IN THE AIR WITH A BABY
Obviously being in the plane was the hardest part about traveling with a baby. Never has time seemingly stood still as it did during that first flight with Otis. Before sitting down I used wet wipes to wipe down every possible surface I could see… because obviously Otis put his mouth all over that airplane. Say what you will, I desperately with all my power tried to keep him from touching random things and doing that… but it is what it is. You do your best. Before we even took off, Otis was squirming around since he was already crawling and just wanted to be free from our arms and explore on his own. No can do on an airplane little buddy! It was the moment that made everything sink in… shit. We were stuck on this plane for 6 hours…. and it was going to be the longest 6 hours of our lives. HA!
MOM TIP: Prep a present! Prep mini bottles of liquor and add a little custom label and pop into your carry-on. Ours said, “Have a great flight. <3 Otis” We did this just in case things went bad and we needed to give our neighbors a little “I’m sorry we have a cranky baby have a drink on us” present. Doesn’t have to be booze, maybe you make a snack bag, something easy. Always nice to be kind to your neighbors 😉
One of the most important tips when flying with baby is making sure to feed them at takeoff and landing. This is to help relieve the pressure in their ears. A flight attendant also told me on our flight that when they pressurize the cabin before take off is also a time you should feed your little ones since that will also affect their ears. I was breastfeeding in a 3 seat row and luckily I had a very sweet woman next to me who was accommodating to the fact we had our baby with us. Not gonna lie, it wasn’t an ideal situation and I am pretty go with the flow nursing on the fly. There just isn’t much space so if we had the choice I would 100% recommend a window seat.
MOM TIP: If you are nursing, grab a window seat so you can have somewhere to lean and not have to worry about people on both sides of you.
I did everything right… fed during pressurizing the cabin, and during landing… and Otis DEATH cried. It was not as bad taking off as it was landing. He refused my boob. Refused my bottle. HE just screamed bloody murder and it was one of the saddest and most stressful moments. You just feel horrible for your baby, you are trying literally everything to sooth and calm them down, and they are screaming so loud the whole plane can here and your just utterly embarrassed, sad, emotional. The tears were coming for me. I was about to lose it. And then my seat mate looked at Otis and started to play peek a boo. GOD BLESS THAT WOMAN. Like I said earlier, you can do everything right.. And shit still happens. I obviously knew I needed to feed Otis and was doing my best to do so for his ears. Lots of people were also telling me that if I fed him he would feel better while he was screaming but he literally refused every form of food at a certain point so he just cried it out and thankful we were landing and I had a literal angel woman sitting next to me. Just want to keep it real and let you know it’s not always smooth sailing. And if you aren’t a parents and cringe when you see a family coming on a plane… be kind. Because chances are they are just working so hard to survive their journey and doing their best to keep their child and you happy. Just some food for thought.
After the initial take off, we basically cycled from toy to toy. The main key was not taking more than 1 toy out at a time. We exhausted that 1 toy before pulling out a new one. This way we would keep him as occupied as possible.
MOM TIP: Ask your flight attendant for
an empty plastic cup and plastic spoon.
They make the most simple toys and were endless entertainment for Otis.
Our last pretty epic toy we would leave till the last resort was post-it notes. This was an epic way to occupy Otis. I would basically stick a few of them all over the chair and let him pick them up, crumble them, re-stick them etc. This kept him VERY occupied for a while. Also it’s such a cheap thing to buy and keep in your bag for the future.
MOM TIP: Make sure you get some new toys
and books for your flight so baby is super stimulated exploring something new instead
of an old toy they might lose interest in sooner.
In between wrangling toys, we would make sure that Otis had the meals he needed. To keep things minimally messy, we brought food pouches with us (AND A BIB!) to feed to him. Our favorite pouches that don’t need to be refrigerated are here and here. Not gonna lie, it wasn’t mess free because one time Otis got hold of the packet and squeezed it all over both of us. This is why packing an outfit is always essential when traveling with a baby. But having that quick and easy meal option was great for the plane. Snacks were also essential for keeping his hands and mind busy. I packed his snack cup and pre-filled it with his favorite puffs and had a bag of yogurt melts with me as well.
When we got super desperate, I pulled out our loud sound toys. Good news is the actual plane is loud and the sound didn’t disrupt anyone around us bc I could barely even hear it. This was also when we would pull out our ipad and put on some Puppy Dog Pals or Disney for Otis. He doesn’t really watch but he loves the songs and it was another thing to focus on. I had a super old ipad that I got this kids case for and now have it for prepped for him with kids shows.
When it came to diaper changes, when we first got on the plane, one of us went to scope out which ones had a changing table. We flew Delta and never had a problem finding a changing table on the plane. I would carry my changing pad equipped with wipes and diapers and Otis and that is it. It was… interesting. HAHA. Our changing table opened up on top of the toilet and it’s just super slippery and your in a tiny space. So if you can, bring some kind of distraction toy with you to make your life easier.
Naps/Sleeping were a particular challenge for us on our flights. Otis is normally the most amazing little sleeper and he just fought it with every fiber of his being on our flights. He isn’t one of those babies that just falls asleep on us anymore because he’s so mobile. So, we got out our trusty baby carrier and Blake walked with him up and down the airplane aisle until he fell asleep. It wasn’t easy, but FINALLY Blake got him to sleep. We got a solid 30 minutes which was better than nothing. You just have to be willing to go with the flow when you are traveling and know that not all your schedules will be met or kept.
MOM TIP: Wear your baby in a carrier
to try to get them to nap. Trust me, better
to be seated uncomfortably with a sleeping
baby attached to you then wrangling
a cranky baby past their naptime.
Basically Blake and I tag teamed everything and switched off often to give each other a break. When we were preparing to land and the plan started its initial descent, we prepped milk for Otis and he took it at first and then started to refuse it. His poor little ears must have been affected by the pressure and he was DEATH CRYING and there was nothing we could do to console him. I tried to breastfeed him, bottle feed him, give him a bottle with water, a straw cup, etc and nothing would work. It was likely the worst part of our trip. I was heartbroken for him to be so uncomfortable and just not be able to help him. It was beyond horrifying and the tears started to stream down my face. And then our kind neighbor started playing peek a boo with Otis. Somehow it got him to start to calm down a little bit. Honestly that part was really hard. You feel completely helpless and honestly embarrassed because your baby is screaming. So many emotions. But I am here to tell you that we all survived. And he left the plane smiling and high fived the captain.
GETTING OFF THE PLANE WITH A BABY
When our plane arrived at the gate, I put Otis in the carrier so we could easily grab all our bags. It’s always a gamechanger to be hands free. We grabbed all our stuff and then deplaned and changed his diaper right away when we got off. To navigate the rest of the airport, since we knew we were going to have to wait for a rental car etc, we put him in the stroller to get a little break. Of course the minute he hit his car seat in the rental car… OUT. Completely passed out.
Not gonna lie, after flying with Otis both of us turned to each other and said, “Let’s not fly again soon!” Flying with a baby is next level. It’s 100% a different and much more challenging experience. Gone are the days of face masks, bubbly, and naps on planes. Because I could have used a drink but didn’t even have a safe location to drink it or keep it with wrangling a baby. I legit told Blake to fill a camelback with wine for me next time. I’m only half joking 😉
In all seriousness, I came in with zero expectations and it was absolutely a challenging and stressful experience, but we also did have fun. Watching Otis look out the window, play with post-its and wave to our neighbors on the plane just burst my heart right open. That first day walking into the Four Seasons Maui, grabbing my swimsuit, and letting Otis crawl onto the sand… it’s incredible to be able to share some of our favorite places and experiences with Otis. It’s 500% worth the travel adventure.
MOM TIP: Make sure you plan a long enough trip so you make the travel day and struggles worth your while! We originally only booked
a 4 night stay for our first plane trip and I had wished we added on at least 2 days.
ADJUSTING TO A NEW TIME ZONE WITH A BABY
On the day we arrived to Maui, we decided to keep Otis up as long as possible to adjust him to our current timezone. There are lots of different schools of thought on how you should adjust your little ones. Some people stay on their home time zone, others adjust. All depends on what works for your baby and your family. Otis is a pretty resilient traveler and doesn’t have sleep problems when we travel to hotels or family etc so we chose to adjust him to the Hawaii time zone.
Basically the key is to keep them up as long as humanly possible as close to their new bedtime as possible. We kept him busy exploring new places in the hotel and went out to the restaurant in the hotel for dinner. He was busy eating his pasta and Blake said, “Looks like he is closing his eyes.” The next minute we look over, Otis fell asleep sitting up in his highchair. Poor guy was so exhausted from our travel day that he just passed out. I have NEVER seen him do something like this. It was one of the sweetest little things to witness him snoring at the dinner table. We somehow managed to transfer him to this stroller and he stayed asleep while we ate our dinner. Of course before our check came, he woke up freaking out having a meltdown and Blake had to leave the restaurant with him and bring him to the room while I got the check. We quickly headed to the room and got him down to sleep and he had no problem sleeping through the night.
FINAL TRAVEL THOUGHTS
Guys, we did it. We survived. And so can you! I think the most important thing to note about traveling with a baby is you really have to let go of any type of expectations. Throw them out the window. If you can find a way to go with the flow, it will make the experience more digestible for the whole family. Yes it might go amazing, no problems, angel sleeping baby that takes their nap… that is goals. Serious travel goals. It could also go terrible with a diaper blowout and some tears shed. Just know that you got this Mamas and the next time you see a parent traveling with their kids, seriously give them a high five because I know most of you are working your butts off to keep those littles happy. Prep as best you can and roll with the punches. Good luck!! If I think about anything else that might be useful will add it to this post.