Smooth Tips for Traveling with a Baby on a Routine

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Get travel tips for a baby used to being on a routine. Find out how to help baby be flexible, what to pack, and how to enjoy it!

Carlye and her family hiking in Iceland

by Carlye @Pmrmomdoc

In my daughter’s short 16 months of life, she has been on multiple road trips, domestic flights, and even an international trip to Iceland for a week where we lived in a converted van.

This had added up to 16 total flights and many many hours in the car. I am by no means a travel expert but I wanted to share some of my favorite tips!

Traveling, flying, and taking long road trips can feel daunting, but if you are comfortable with the different pieces that make up a trip such as eating out, sleeping in a new space, and having some flexibility, this can make the entire experience more tolerable, and dare I say enjoyable. 

Before you Travel

My number 1 tip to is to start getting out with your little one early, and doing it regularly. 

This can be as small as taking them out to dinner, out to the park, or a day trip to a kids museum 1-2 hours from home. 

You want your little one to feel comfortable eating at a restaurant or spending time away from home, and this will help you feel confident and prepared for what it takes to do those things. 

If you are used to traveling fast-paced before kids, and were always on the go, know that you are going to have to slow down a bit. I have actually loved the change in pace. I love watching my daughter experience new things and places and watching her interact with her environment even if she will never remember many of the outings.

My husband and I name our “must dos” when planning a trip and then work to accommodate those in a manner that is good for us and for her.  

When traveling, we do break some of our general rules to stay flexible and to deal with the unknown. 

Schedules get thrown off, baby needs an extra nap or an extra bottle, or nurses to sleep on the plane and that is OK! We just embrace the flexibility needed with travel, and make sure that our daughter’s needs are met and then we return to our regular schedule and routine once we are back home. 

No matter how prepared you are, know that at some point your little one will cry or throw a fit. Discuss with your travel partner that this is going to happen and be prepared with how you plan to handle it beforehand.

Don’t get embarrassed or worried about what others think. Most people will not be mad at you or your child if they are having a tough time. Everyone understands that traveling is not easy for children.

Just do what you can to calm them down and get through the moment. This is when pacifiers, snacks, nursing, and screen time can come in handy to help calm and comfort them, even if that is not your usual routine. 

Toys for international travel flight
These were all of the toys we took with us for our 10 day trip to Iceland where we lived in a converted camper van in March 2022.  She was 14 months at the time. 

Sleep Tips for Traveling with Baby

Bring comforts from home to recreate some of the same bedtime routine and sleeping space. 

Practice the sleep setup at home. Practice napping or sleeping overnight in a portable crib or pack n play. Practice napping in a not completely blacked-out room. Practice sleeping overnight with your child in your room.

This will help you feel comfortable with some of the environmental changes that will take place when not at home. Nothing makes travel more stressful than an overtired baby. 

Try to keep your routine/schedule consistent around meal times/nap times

When we travel we don’t always go back to the hotel for nap time, but our little one sleeps great in the car or in the hiking pack so we know to plan our drive for the day or our hike during her nap time so that she can get a decent nap while we are out and about.

She is now taking 1 nap a day, but when she was taking 2-3+ naps a day, we would try to get at least 1 solid nap in her pack-n-play at the hotel for as long as she needed, which helps avoid the overtiredness that comes with on the go naps that may be shorter than usual.  

We bring her regular sleep sack, a pacifier, and a portable white noise machine. The white noise machine works great in the car, during stroller rides, and overnight when we sleep. This makes room sharing easy too.

Our daughter doesn’t need a blacked-out room to nap or sleep, but if she did I would bring portable black-out curtains or a slumberpod with us to provide her that dark sleeping space. And of course practice with any new equipment before leaving home.  

As far as what to sleep in, we often will bring our own pack n play. However, a lot of hotels or airbnbs are able to provide you one if you request it ahead of time. You can also rent baby equipment through babyquip or Rents4baby.

These services will deliver baby equipment to your location and can include travel cribs, strollers, high chairs, beach toys, etc for a daily fee. 

baby sleeping on the go while traveling
14 month old Lilly sleeping soundly in our hiking pack for a nap while we enjoyed the views at Glacier Lagoon in Iceland.  

Food for Baby When Traveling

Try to keep your feeding schedule close to the same, because a hungry baby is an unhappy baby. This applies to nursing/pumping, formula, or solid meals as they get older. 

If you nurse, and are uncomfortable nursing on the go, practice! It is an art that you need to fine-tune before you have a screaming, hungry baby in a location that isn’t your house. Know what you need to have to feel comfortable nursing. 

If you do bottles, make sure you have a way to keep the pumped milk cold, or a way to transport formula.  Then if your baby needs warm bottles, make sure you have a plan to provide this on the go. They make really handy portable bottle warmers or have a restaurant or coffee shop get you a hot cup of water to warm up the bottle. There are a lot of really functional baby products which makes all of this easier. Most restaurants and coffee shops will have access to water and milk if your baby has moved to whole milk. 

If your child is on solid food, have LOTS of snacks stocked in your bag. This can help when they get fussy, if they don’t like options at the restaurant, or if you just have gone too long between food breaks and need something to get them to the next meal.

We do not limit snacks in any way when traveling. 

Family on a plane with a baby

Flying Tips for Baby

When taking off and landing, do something that encourages jaw movement. This can include nursing, drinking from a bottle, sucking on a pacifier, or drinking from a cup. This helps their ears pop and helps them adjust to cabin pressure.  

When our daughter was nursing, I would usually let her nurse to sleep on the airplane. This helped her relax and get some solid sleep while flying. This really limited any fussiness, filled her belly, and caught her up on sleep. 

We did a lot of shorter domestic flights, and even if it wasn’t time to eat, we would nurse as we took off, and she would usually sleep most of the flights.  

This goes against everything we do at home to promote good eating and sleep. 

You may not feel comfortable switching the routine in that regard and that is ok! Do what you feel comfortable with. 

We never had an issue with her nursing to sleep in other situations, so we encouraged it on the flights to make things easier on her and on us.  

The safest way for your child to fly is in an FAA approved car seat, in their own seat. This is the safest place for your baby with turbulence, and also allows them a safe place to nap, and keeps parents more hands-free. 

However, so far we have chosen to fly with her as a lap child for all of our flights. That means that in order to travel with her car seat, we gate-checked it in a padded travel bag. We do have an extra “travel car seat” that is lightweight and low frills so that if it gets damaged while traveling, it is not our everyday car seat and can be more easily replaced. 

We also practice installing her car seat with just a seatbelt and without a base. Being able to do this quickly allows you to travel safely and with less stress when we get a taxi or uber or rental car when we land. 

My last tip is always have extra clothes for all adults and baby! We have dealt with blow outs, throw up and messy meals all while on the road. We have had to spend money for an airport souvenir t-shirt for me because we weren’t prepared, learn from our mistakes!

baby on the beach

Conclusion

The best thing you can do when traveling is to give your family grace. Things may never go completely smooth, but the more you practice and the more you do it, the easier it will feel. You will gain confidence in your ability to handle things, what equipment and gear you need, and how your baby will react. Just get out and make some memories. 

Bio 

Hi, my name is Carlye and I am the mom behind @Pmrmomdoc. I am 30 years old with a 16-month-old daughter and a full-time working physician who has always planned to travel the world. My family is based in the Fox Valley, Wisconsin and we use every chance we get to go outside or travel to a new place. I love sharing our adventures, and I want to encourage and support other moms to get out and try new things with their families. Follow along our journey at @pmrmomdoc on Instagram. 

Carlye and her family in a posed photo

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