I've done my fair share of travelling. I've done my fair share of travelling with littles and in the last year alone, I have been on 15 flights with my baby Ava. As a mom to 3 and someone who loves to travel, I have found ways to do both. Read below to learn how I do it and my top tips and tricks for a successful vacation, I mean 'relocation'.
When travelling with kids, it's not a vacation, it's a relocation.
PLANNING YOUR TRAVEL
There are so many things to consider here. Why are you travelling? Where are you going? How long do you plan to go? What do you want to do? What is the purpose? What experience would you like?
Consider budget. Do you have unlimited funds? Do you travel often? Do you splurge on vacations? Are you conservative? What do you value - top service, modern decor, spacious rooms?
Hotel or House/Condo? When travelling with young ones, renting a house/condo can be more cost efficient than staying in a hotel. It also requires more work, this is a true relocation. Grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, cooking. If you're in a hotel, you can get room service, laundry service, pool service, drink service, this is more of a vacation than a relocation.
Will the house or condo be accessible with a stroller. Will it be baby and child-friendly?
Booking a seat for your child (under 2 years old). You can book a seat for your infant or toddler under two (this will cost the full fair for a child), or they can sit in your lap. If they have their own seat, you will have to take an airline approved car seat for them to sit in. If you're booking a seat for them, there is a large chance they may not sit in it. Some parents prefer this as it gives them extra space and a place for the child to sit or sleep. It definitely frees up your hands, but there is a full child's fair price to pay for that.
Travelling with a baby or toddler on your lap. You can book a flight with your child under 2 as infant riding in lap. You should only be charged the taxes at most. This means that you won't have another seat to put them in. I suggest bringing a carrier or wrap to free your hands when you need them, also for walking through the airport and so the baby has a chance at napping.
What does the destination require you to bring? If you're travelling to a kid-friendly all-inclusive resort, there is a good chance they will have baby gear on-site. Ask in advance what they offer and reserve the items you require. Crib, playpen, high chair, baby monitor, baby food, swim diapers, etc.
How will you be getting to and from the airport and how far is it? Will you be renting a car or taking taxis? If you're driving to the airport in your departure city, travelling with baby in lap, and taking a car service to your destination, there is a good chance you may not need a car seat. The car service could loan you one for the drive to and from the airport. I almost always travel with a 'travel' car seat. It's a cheaper, lighter car seat that I don't use everyday or care too much about should I lose it.
What is your destination? Will you be going to a beach or city? Is this a foreign country or remote area? This will help determine what baby equipment you need to bring. If you forget stuff, can you easily access it at your destination - tuck shop, Walmart, drug-store?
Do you plan to bring help or hire a nanny/babysitter? This is a big one. You're spending money to get away, and although you love your children and have accepted it's more of a relocation, it's important that you enjoy yourself and make time for yourself - gym, spa, runs, workouts, drinks, dinner, dancing, pool time, beach time, boat time. Almost all of those you can't easily do for an extended period of time with a baby or toddler on your hip.
Most hotels have a caregiving service either in-house or on contract. Inquire in advance with their availability, terms and rates. Some want cash, some won't work during the day (it's their second job), most have a minimum number of hours, most charge more for multiple children, most charge more moola for hours past 11 pm.
I've brought help with me, my mom or my nanny. I've also hired a babysitter for an evening out and a nanny during my stay to help during the day and evening. When you take a nanny, you're typically paying for their time, flight and food. Some nannies won't help in the evening or after their shift - they treat it just as if they are at home. They typically don't look at it as a vacation, so don't expect them to. If you take a family member, you may have to fork the bill. When you take someone to help out, it definitely costs you more money. You need a bigger space, larger car maybe, and so on.
Once you know what kind of vacation you want, you can start determining what you need to do to make it just that.
BEFORE YOU TRAVEL
Google the destination, price compare, read reviews, look at maps.
Check your passports and expiry. They can't be wet or have stains. Some countries require that they not expire within 6 months of your departure date.
You can apply for your baby's passport right after they receive their birth certificate. Not all passport photo studios will take infant photos. Call around to inquire. The professional places will take the photo from overhead and lay the baby on a blanket on the floor. Propping the baby upright doesn't work that well, as you can't show your hands and newborn babies can't hold their necks up. I've done this once, and we used a white receiving blanket to cover my hands behind her neck.
Make a thorough packing list. Know where you're going to put what. Know what you're taking on the airplane and what you're packing.
Call the hotel and airline to confirm all details. If you're travelling with an infant in your lap, you cannot check-in online (most airlines). You must do so in person.
Prepare your important documents. If you're separated or divorced or travelling alone with the baby or children, you will need a letter from the other parent. It helps to have it notarized. I also suggest taking a copy of the other parents passport. Put all these documents in a ziplock bag for safe keeping and keep in your personal bag or carry on. If you're separated or divorced it may be helpful to bring a copy of your separation agreement or parenting contract as well.
Take photos of all of your important documents; Passports, credit cards, drivers license, health documents and itineraries. Create a folder on your phone with these details for easy access.
Share your itinerary and emergency contacts. Let your loved ones know of your travel details and share the itinerary with your VIP(s). Put an emergency contact sheet in your wallet. Once you arrive to your destination, let the reception or hotel know of an emergency contact incase something were to happen. This is especially important if travelling alone with children. If something were to happen to you, who would be there for the littles?
Choosing seats. Do you want to be near the back of the plane, close to the washroom (not sure why you'd want that), will you upgrade to business or premium, will you invest in more leg room? If your near the back of the plane, you are last for food and beverages and you're typically close to the washroom and may have a line of people and a stinky toilet to deal with.
Don't book an exit row - they won't let you sit there as it's an emergency exit and all people need to be able to assist in case of an emergency. Seats don't recline in rows that are in front of a wall (at the back of the plane and sometimes throughout the plane).
I suggest an isle row when I have a little one. It's easy to get up and down, I can use the isle as extra space if it's not occupied and I'm mindful of people passing by. If you can upgrade to more leg room, I suggest that. If money isn't an issue, I suggest buying the seat next to you. If you choose your seats online in advance, you can look for a row that isn't so busy in hopes of having an empty seat next to you. I also suggest arriving early to let the check-in desk know and have them look for the best seat. When travelling with kids, your seat matters that much more. Don't leave it up to fate.
If you're driving to the airport and parking, can you purchase parking in advance? Do they have valet? Some airports have decent savings if you prepay and prebook parking. I suggest parking right at the airport, not at a nearby lot and shuttling. Again, depending on your goals and budgets - if this is what you can afford or choose to do, it's totally doable, you just need extra hands and to pack efficiently.
Give yourself more time than you think necessary and double check you have your travel documents before you leave the house. As I mentioned above, if you're travelling with an infant in your lap, you will need to check-in at the airport (this is true for most airlines - call to confirm).
Are you dropped off at the curb or will you be walking from your parking spot? Something as simple as this can get your off to a bad start. Do you have a cart or bellman to help you with all your gear?
Head to the check-in desk right away. They usually have a line for families - go there pronto. Especially if you couldn't check-in online because of the infant in seat issue.
If you're taking your stroller through security and to the gate, ask for a gate check tag (stroller, car seat). If you're checking oversized luggage there may be a special spot for that.
Keep your travel documents and essentials handy.
Have your essentials handy - hand sanitizer, gum, snacks, travel documents, phone charger.
Have baby essentials handy - baby wipes, diapers, snacks, formula, bottles, soother, stuffy, toy, things to keep baby distracted and happy, etc.
Baby gets special treatment. You're allowed to take baby formula, food, breastmilk and water for mixing infant formula in bottles through security. Because of this, they will have you go through some additional testing, like swabbing your baby food, milk, etc for chemicals.
Airport security typically have a family line. When you get to the attendant at the line, ask what it is they expect of you. Do you close the stroller and put it through the scanner - if it's too big they will allow you to push it through - but the entire stroller will need to be empty (underneath too). You won't be able to wear a baby carrier through the scanner. Do you have to take off sweaters, shoes. Do you need to take out all of the baby food and liquid? Do you need to take out laptops and iPads? Although you're in the family line, expect to take longer than usual because of the additional screening. I've been held up for 30 minutes before because they swabbed every single packet of organic baby food that I had.
Dress for comfort. I like to dress a baby in a one piece sleeper so the feet are covered and they are cozy. Airplanes can get cool. I will also take a t-shirt and pants outfit incase they need to change.
Immigration Forms. You will likely need to fill out at least one form, likely one for each person in the family. Have a pen and the information easily accessible. Rather than pulling out all of the paperwork, I use the photos on my phone to get the necessary information. Some countries require you keep a stub for the day of departure. Do not lose this.
WHAT TO PACK
Typically babies/infants can check up to 2 pieces of equipment - car seat, stroller, playpen. They can also have a personal item (diaper bag) and a checked bag. Always confirm with the airline. Most airlines have don't offer a free-checked bag anymore, the charge is typically $25 for the first checked bag per person. The weight limit is typically 50lbs. Consider this when packing.
Diaper Bag. Enough diapers for the travel day, pack of baby wipes, empty large ziplock bags, bottles/nipples, water, formula, sippy cup, baby snacks, baby food, extra sets of clothes, blanket, burp cloth, soothers.
Stroller. Does your infant car seat attach to your stroller? Does it require an attachment? If you're walking your stroller that has an attachable car seat, you can more than likely take both to the gate and check them there (check with airline). Remember to take your gate-check bags to check your stroller and car seat in. If you're gate checking them as two different items in two different bags, get two gate check tags. I put my gate check bags in the bottom of the stroller.
Carrier. Bring this on the plane with you. Even if you're taking your stroller to the gate, it can be very helpful ton put your carrier in the bottom of the stroller. Once you check your stroller at the gate, you can put the baby in the carrier and get settled on the plane.
Play Pen. Does the destination have a crib or play pen? You can take your own for free and it will need to be checked in the oversized area. If you're particular about the crib sheets, take your own.
Swim Gear. For baby girls, I suggest a two pieces for easy diaper changes. Rash guards are important for little ones. I personally put a rash guard on the top and a reusable swim diaper on the bottom. A good wide brimmed SPF 50+ hat is important Babies under 6 months are said to avoid sunscreen. If your baby or child is over 6 months, use an organic sunscreen. It's better they be white than red. Keep them protected.
If you're taking disposable swim diapers, they are really one good for one dip in the pool. One pack should do, and most large hotels or cities will have them for purchase. Some higher-end hotels even provide them.
Life Jacket. This would be necessary if you plan to be out on the water. If you're travelling to a destination where you will be on a boat, you should take your own infant life jacket. Most places will have for older children and adults only. I like the Salius brand.
Laundry. If you are staying in a hotel, laundry service can be quite expensive. I suggest taking a little liquid laundry soap or Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap to do your own in the sink - baby tops, onesies, underwear, swim suits, etc.
Electronics. I pack all of my electronics together in my carry-on. My older kids keep their iPads in their carry-on along with their headphones.
Food & Snacks. I always pack snacks in our carry-ons. But I also bring a ton of food and snacks in my checked bags. If health is important to you, take your own healthier snacks. Most likely the airport, hotel or destination won't have your favourites. For the baby, I pack Love Child Organics snacks and food in the squeezies.
HOW I PACK
I take the following bags on almost all vacations. I use packing cubes for everything. I sort by category and will explain in further below.
1 carry-on bag for each of the big girls. I like there rolling ones from Pottery Barn that come with the back straps. They have lots of pockets, water bottle holders and are easy for kids to roll. They each take their own snacks, plane essentials, sweater, clothes for the destination, iPad/headphones, hand sanitizer, book and pens for writing. When they were younger we did colouring books and crayons.
1 carry-on bag for myself. This holds all valuables, electronics (laptop, headphones, cables, camera), my cosmetics and beauty care products (less than 100 ml), snacks for the plane, a Turkish towel, baby wipes, extra clothes for myself.
1 checked bag for myself, the two big girls and the baby. This would include our clothing and our beauty products over 100ml as well as snacks, food, etc.
1 checked car seat in a Britax Bag - Because I can check this bag for free, I use the packing cubes and fill it them up with baby gear - blankets, shoes, food along with the larger stuff or beach gear. I have been questioned about putting stuff in with the car seat in the Britax bag, but I explain it's all baby stuff and helps to protect the seat.
1 diaper bag. I have one that I put on my stroller, but it's helpful to have one that is backpack style. I pack diapers, wipes, ziplock bags, Tylenol, Benadryl, food, bottles/nipples, toys, blanket, extra clothes, food and feeding supplies (plate, spoons, bibs).
1 travel friendly purse. With all of my essentials - gum, travel documents, wallet, pens, lip balm, sanitizer, phone charger and phone.
I will usually only check our one big luggage bag as checked bags typically cost $25 each, Nowadays I am travelling alone with my baby or all three of my daughters so I try to limit the number of bags and I also consider how I will transport them all. This is one of the reasons that I add the extra baby/toddler essentials to the car seat bag.
Clothes on their own don't weigh a lot, so I can get all of our clothes in my bag. The clothes are packed in cubes for each person so when we get to our destination everyone can easily put away all of their clothes.
I will take my playpen only if necessary; this almost always isn't necessary.
My stroller is gate checked in my red gate check bags.
Take a peek at my Packing For Travel blog post and my packing checklist.
CARRY ON ESSENTIALS
Your carry on should have all of your essentials and valuables. You should pack your important toiletries or cosmetics if they are expensive. Include some basic staple clothing for your destination in the event that your bag was delayed or misplaced. Pack a swim suit, pants, top, bra, underwear, sweater, flip flips. Read the Packing for Travel blog post for more tips and to read about how I pack my carry on.
MY FAVOURITE PRODUCTS ON AMAZON
After 3 children, I have finally found my favourite baby gear for travel.
Bugaboo Bee5 Stroller
This is the ultimate travel stroller. It's not too small, it's not too big. It's folds up. It's one piece. The seat reclines, the basket is large, there are compatible infant car seats. When I'm not travelling, I keep it in my trunk.
Gate Check Bag
I have the double stroller size bag and it works great with the Bugaboo Bee. It's better to have something a little too big than too small. This will also fit car seats and umbrella strollers.
Britax Car Seat Bag
This is pricier than some of the car seat bags, but it doubles as a packing bag too. It has wheels, 2 carry straps and back straps should you wish to carry it on your back. I check this in oversized and fill the bag with other baby supplies to help product the car seat. You can check this bag for free for the baby.
Jan & Jul SPF 50 Sun Hat
This SPF sunhat is great. I love the material of it and that it has the neck strap. They come in an assortment of colours.
Hi, I'm Jules; a multi-passion business woman, boss babe and entrepreneur; a mindful mom to 3 daughters, luxury travel and fitness lover, planner, organizer and lifestyle blogger. I live mid-town Toronto with my daughters. Any chance I can, I'm booking a vacation. I appreciate quality and love natural products!