Woman with baby on plane. Photo by Paul Hanaoka, Unsplash

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Growing up with a travel writer as my mom meant that my family was traveling all the time when I was a kid. My mom has told me stories of camping with me as a baby or backpacking through Switzerland when I was five months old.

With all the memories of traveling as a kid and hearing stories of baby travels, I knew I also wanted to give my family these same experiences. When I had my first baby (a little girl) last November, I had grand travel ideas for my maternity leave, so my husband and I decided to join my family on a trip to Hawaii during my leave.

Best Tips & Tools to Plan Your Trip

This all sounded great while I was pregnant, but once she was here, the reality set in, and travel seemed so daunting. I was determined to make this happen though, so I spent hours researching tips for traveling with a baby.

Now that I’m back at work and this trip is behind us, I would travel with my daughter again in a heartbeat. While this wasn’t the type of Hawaii trip we had before having a baby, it was still an incredible experience for all of us.

Traveling with a three-month-old is no easy feat, but here are my top 10 tips to help make for a smoother trip.  

1. Skip Bringing (and Paying to Bring) all the Gear – Rent in the Destination.

It is incredible how one little person can come with so much stuff! Trying to pack all of that stuff for a trip, especially a trip that includes a flight, is just unrealistic and can get expensive when checking luggage.

Check with your hotel or vacation rental on what baby gear they have and rent the rest with Babyquip. In Hawaii, our vacation rental had a Pack and Play that our baby could sleep in but nothing else.

We decided to rent an activity mat and swing from Babyquip and would definitely utilize them again. It was extremely affordable, they dropped off and picked up the equipment at our rental and it was so nice to have a few things we knew our baby would love. 

2. Use Packing Cubes

Like I said before, babies come with a lot of stuff and packing needs to be a little more strategic to fit everything in. We used The Large Away suitcase for my daughter and I (it fits a lot) while my husband packed his own bag.

Using these packing cubes for my daughter and I helped keep all of our stuff separate even though we were using the same suitcase. They also made unpacking in our vacation rental a breeze since we could just move the packing cubes to drawers with all of our clothes.

Read More: How to Pack Light for Any Length Trip Abroad

3. Carrier vs. Stroller at the Airport

Before we traveled, I had a friend tell me that you are either a stroller family at the airport or a carrier family. It really is up to personal preference. Our first trip flying was actually to D.C. to see my husband’s family, and we opted to bring our stroller through (we have the UppaBaby Vista 2, so our car seat is part of the stroller) and check the stroller and car seat at the gate.

This seemed great in theory because it could hold all of our stuff and we’d have a place to put our girl if one of us needed to get food, run to the restaurant, etc. What we didn’t think about was the fact that my daughter hates her car seat.

Because of this, she ended up in the carrier anyway, and we were pushing an empty stroller through the airport. We checked our stroller and car seat at the counter and used the carrier for Hawaii and loved being hands free.

My only other item I brought through security was my Petunia Pickle Bottom Diaper Bag. I love this diaper bag! It has room for everything we needed, and also had a luggage strap on the back that makes it easy to transport.

4. Book an Aisle Seat

One other mistake we made when we traveled to DC was booking a middle and window seat. I thought it would be nice to have a window for when if I needed to nurse her or lean up against when she was sleeping.

Yes, those things were nice about the window, but we forgot about the fact that babies have a lot of diapers that you need to change. Our baby also loves to move when she is getting fussy. Having someone in the aisle made it very hard to get out for all of these things.

For Hawaii, we had an aisle which made it so much easier to walk around and run to the bathroom for a diaper change. Another seat tip – check with the gate if there are any rows with a middle seat open that it would be easy to switch to. Having an open middle seat is extremely helpful, especially on a long flight.

5. Skip the Early Boarding

The only reason to board early is to make sure there is luggage space in the overhead bin if you have a carry-on bag. For us, all we had was our diaper bag, a backpack and a baby. On our first flight with her, we used the early boarding and ended up having to entertain our little one in a tight space for longer.

For the flight to Hawaii, we skipped the early boarding and walked around with her until they were close to finished with boarding, which worked out much better.

6. Feed on Takeoff & Landing

One tip I saw over and over in my family travel research was to make sure to feed on takeoff and landing with a baby (a pacifier will work as well). This helps their ears equalize with the change in pressure.

Our daughter does better with a bottle, so I traveled with breast milk in the Ceres Chill. The Ceres Chill looks like a regular water bottle but has a chamber for ice that keeps your milk cold for up to 20 hours. It’s TSA approved and makes traveling with milk extremely easy.

To heat up the milk on the plane, we used the Baby’s Brew Portable Bottle Warmer. If I needed to pump, another easy option was using the Momcozy M5 wearable pump. These are so discreet, and I could just pump on the plane, put directly in the bottle and clean with Dapple Baby pump wipes.

7. Opt for the Best Location

Even if you are traveling, babies still need several naps a day. Naps can definitely be done on the go in a stroller, car seat or carrier of course, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to give them a good nap in their normal sleeping space.

We rented a VRBO that was a five-minute walk from Poipu Beach, which made it so easy to walk back to our place for a quick nap and then head back to the beach once she was up. Picking a lodging property close to where you will be spending a lot of time can save a lot of hassle if baby needs a break.

Read More: Paradise on the Cheap: Budget Travel in Kauai

8. Set up your Space

When we arrived at our VRBO, we tried to set it up as close to how we have things at home to make things easy. Our bedroom did not have great shades, so we used a Slumberpod over the pack and play to black out our daughter’s sleeping space.

We also traveled with our Hatch, which is a sound machine with a dim light for late night feeds. We set up a changing station in the room as well so we knew exactly where everything was when it was dark at night. In the kitchen, I brought this great little travel baby bottle drying rack from Amazon so I had a place to dry all of our bottles and my pump parts.

9. Remember to be Flexible

You can make all the plans and buy all the products, but in the end, babies have minds of their own and things often go differently than you anticipate. The key to enjoying a vacation with a little one is to just remember to be flexible.

If the baby is crying at dinner, grab it to go and enjoy back at your room. Are you out and they need a nap? It’s fine if you need to head back for a couple of hours before going back out. The key is to know that these things will likely happen, and the trip will be much more enjoyable if you can pivot calmy and make the best of it.

10. Travel with Reinforcements (ie. Grandparents)

The best tip I can give for traveling with a baby or kids is to travel with reinforcements (like grandparents!). We traveled with my mom and her husband to Hawaii and it made all the difference. They watched our daughter one night so we could go out on a date night.

They could keep our spot at the beach while we ran back with baby for a nap. They held her when we needed to unpack/pack. They were always willing to jump in and help and that made the trip even more enjoyable. Bonus for them, they got to make special memories with their granddaughter, even if she won’t remember it.

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Author Bio: Kirstin is a Denver-based writer who has traveled internationally since childhood. She looks forward to sharing the world with her daughter and inspiring families to venture out on trips of their own through her writing.

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