Traveling with a baby. What I need to know?

Will you have to change your travel habits when you have a baby?

Short answer: no. If you are anything like me before having kids, you are wondering how much your life will really change once you have kids. Especially if you to love to travel and you love the adventure. You might even be pushing having kids into far future – just so you can travel more now. It can be smart… but it can also be the worst decision of your life. And this comes from a mom of three, whose all three children were born in different countries. Our first daughter was born when I was 25 years old, and my husband and I had been traveling together for two and half years, and already had lived in two countries together. Let’s just put it this way: we were so far of even thinking of “settling in” in anywhere in the world, that it was self-evident to us: we can not wait that we settle in to live somewhere to have children. Good hindsight there Katja and Matt: sixteen years later, you still haven’t settled in anywhere. Since our first daughter was born in 2000, we have lived in five countries and 7 states in the USA. Some of them have been longer stays, some only a few months, and we have been moving on an average every 18 months. I guess you could call us modern semi-nomadics. Our daughter is now on tenth grade, and she has attended ten different schools since she was in preschool. She is fluent in a two languages and studies several more. Her younger brother and sister are the same way. It would be easy to say – they were born to be travelers, but that’s not quite true. They were raised to be travelers, and it all started from day one. All of our children had passports in less than two months old, and were around two months old on their first trips outside the country where we lived at the time. Since they all were born within 3 years in 3 different countries, the first two moved to a new country when they were around 2 months old. Kids are thriving and they are all honor roll students. I don’t think they are thriving despite of our travels, they are thriving because of it. Our “crazy” unconventional life has actually helped us to raise self-confident, well-educated and independent global citizens.

Discover the world with your kids

But what about me and my husband…? Do we regret for throwing some of our younger years “away” by becoming parents at such young age? Giving up on wild travels when we were still young and in our late 20s? Sure – I sometimes wonder what we could have done, and what kind of travels we had done without kids – and one thing is for sure; we would have afforded more travel and more luxurious travel. However, traveling alone and traveling with your child are completely different thing. While solo and couples traveling is rewarding, it is still more self-centered than traveling as a mom with your child. Yes, it can be frustrating at times to put your own needs and wants on the back burner, and when traveling it can sometimes mean that you won’t get to do or see the things you traveled the first place to do. Traveling with your child — it is like discovering the world in a completely new way. Even the things you take for granted, your child is seeing them for the first time. Even those who have traveled a lot, will get to experience the joys and excitements of first-time travelers through their children’s eyes. Also – children tend to pay attention to different things than we adults do, and your overall experience will be completely different. There is so much joy in teaching your child to travel and to have open mind about our world, and you will notice even in your everyday life how that transforms your child. Experiencing the world and traveling is a gift – but being able to do it with your children is a true blessing.

No fear! You got this!

Maybe you found this post because you already know: you will travel with your baby, and you need more information. Congrats! You are pregnant with your first child, or perhaps you just had your first baby! Your life will never be the same, but it will be so much more meaningful. While you loved traveling before you had a baby, now it is your turn to teach your baby to travel and love the world as much as you do.

Tips to make traveling with kids easier

1. The sooner you start, the better. Seriously, babies were born to eat and poop, and everything else they have to learn. It is your job to give your baby enough practice. There is no certain age when it is perfect time to start traveling with a baby, but make sure your baby is healthy, and your pediatrician says it is safe to take the baby outside and start traveling. Our babies traveled (flew out of the country) at around 6-8 weeks of age the first time. 2. Educate yourself. You are doing great, you are already online looking for information. The more you know and the more prepared to everything you are, the more confident traveling parent you will be. 3. Be smart about the gear. While I am pretty against buying a huge amount of products and gadgets when your baby is born, there are several products you will want to have when traveling with a baby. More isn’t always better — remember, you need to carry it all, and carry your baby too. 4. Be patient. With everyone, including yourself. However much you have been traveling before you had a baby, your first trip with a baby will still be overwhelmingly different from any other trip you have ever taken. Give yourself slack, don’t expect everything to be perfect, and learn to go with the flow. Listen to your baby and what you can and can not do. Forcing a baby or a child of any age to do something they don’t feel comfortable with is not going to make them learn to love traveling. Make it as enjoyable as possible.

Pack good travel products

Airlines have different safety regulations for flying with infants and children, and you should check them before flying. Most airlines offer an inexpensive or free infant and toddler tickets without a separate seat for the child, the seat tickets are also discounted, but never free. It is always the safest to get the child her/his own seat and have the child sitting in a FAA approved car seat. Your car seat might have a FAA approved sticker, or you can always call the manufacturer and ask if the seat is approved for flights. Some airlines might even prohibit using your non-approved car seat on the flight, so remember to check this ahead. Some airlines also prohibit the use of car seats, especially the booster seats for older children. Also, car seats are not allowed in exit rows so you need to make sure you are booking a right seat. Some airlines also offer their own seats – call ahead to make sure that you are allowed to take yours or to know that they are providing one. It always has to be reserved ahead, never trust that they will have one aboard. Some airlines also offer a bassinet for infants, usually they only have one or two per flight, so you need to remember to reserve it ahead of time as well. Bassinets work great for newborns, but I personally don’t feel they are as safe as the car seat. There is only one seat belt, and not very good one, and in a case of sudden turbulence, the car seat is safer. I have been on a flight where a flight attendant suggested laying a baby to sleep on the plane floor and some blankets around the baby. I never would do anything like that – the risks are just too high for the baby to get injured even in moderate turbulence. My recommendation: Buy the extra seat with an airline that allows you to bring a car seat. You will have your hands free, and you won’t worry about your child’s safety. You can look for strollers where you can attach the car seat for younger babies. If you don’t own one, carrying the car seat and the baby can be a hassle. However, the only down size is that for small babies it is not good to sit in the same car seat for a very long time, during the drive, flight and the time at the airport – and when you are exploring in yoru destination. A good stroller can be better for your baby, and wheeling your baby around in a car seat. For airports it is also much easier to have your baby in a sling or front carrier. I love the Baby Björn front carrier, but it doesn’t work that well at the airports. They make you to take the baby out of the baby carriers in the security checks. A sling works actually much better at airports and on flights – sling is easier and faster. The sling will work the best up to three years olds. I love the backpack-type baby carriers for toddlers and older babies, but I wouldn’t even bother with that type of baby carriers for airports, they take forever to take down for security checks.  

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