Everything You Need to Know About Traveling With a Baby

Traveling with a baby? Here are expert tips to make your trip as safe and comfortable as possible.

Woman traveling with her baby
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Years ago, Kristiana Choquet was nervous about taking her then three month old, Olivia, on her first flight. It would be long — 11 hours from Johannesburg to Paris — and like many new parents, she wasn't sure what to bring. "I packed a backpack of her own, with diapers and wipes, a messenger bag with extra clothes, and a rolling suitcase and stroller," says the associate director of leisure for EMBARK Beyond, a travel agency in New York. "Our friends were like, 'You're never going to need all this stuff.'"

Since that momentous first trip — which Air France made easy with a complimentary bassinet — Choquet has gotten smarter about packing. "Now I only fly with just one backpack for both of us," she says, laughing.

We asked Choquet and other experts for their best advice on how to travel with a child under 2. Here's what they told us.

Before the Trip

Check With Your Pediatrician

"If the family is traveling internationally, it's always a good idea to check with the pediatrician at least two weeks before to see if the child would require any extra immunizations," says Dr. David Fagan, vice chairman of the Pediatric Ambulatory Administration at Northwell Health in Massapequa, New York. Depending on where you're going, your child may need to have certain vaccines earlier, like the measles vaccine, or take a particular medicine before or during travel. Your baby may also need a COVID-19 vaccine (if he or she is older than 6 months) or a negative test result before traveling. The Centers for Disease Control's online Traveler's Health information page is a great place to research.

In general, there is no enforced minimum age a newborn has to be before they fly, although rules may vary by airline. For example, Vueling and Delta will allow newborns as young as seven days old to fly. JetBlue will allow infants as young as 3 days old to fly, but between three and 14 days you will need a doctor's letter of approval. However, it is generally recommended that you wait a few months before traveling in order to let your baby's immune system more fully develop. If flying internationally, it takes about six weeks to obtain a passport for your baby.

On the Flight

Consider a Rear-Facing Car Seat

Yes, it's a hassle. But on a plane, a rear-facing car seat is still the safest place for an infant, insists Fagan. And if you're traveling by car, this piece of safety equipment is a must. Check with your airline to determine the specific policies for using a car seat on board, and keep in mind that you may need to spring for a separate ticket. Be sure to take the infant out of the seat every couple of hours. "This allows them to stretch out and move their legs," Fagan notes, and they'll probably need a diaper change anyway.

Bring a Collapsible Baby Stroller

Choquet swears by the popular Babyzen Yoyo2 stroller, which folds neatly and can be slung over the shoulder like a tote bag. It also meets most airlines' carry-on luggage requirements, making it easy to navigate airports and train stations before throwing it in the overhead bin once on board. The only downsides are the price (this stroller is over $400), and the fact that it's not recommended for travelers under 6 months old.

Choquet also likes the Ergobaby, a wearable, space-saving baby carrier. "A lot of times baby falls asleep on your chest," and if your baby's a lap child, or under the age of two, this carrier can alleviate the stress of toting a stroller around.

Ask for a Bassinet

Heading abroad? Choquet recommends calling ahead to see if the airline offers a bassinet on board. These specially-made bassinets are designed to fit in the extra space of bulkhead seating sections. These are typically complimentary on international flights, though they're subject to availability. Delta advises to check ahead, especially for domestic flights, while United Airlines provides a limited number of bassinets on international flights only, which also need to be reserved prior to boarding. No matter what carrier you travel with, bassinets may not be used during taxi, takeoff, or landing, or when the seatbelt sign is illuminated.

Keep Your Baby Entertained

Choquet advises keeping your little one busy with "snacks, puzzles, coloring books," or "anything you can stuff in your bag that's not bulky." Load the iPad with games and kid-friendly movies, and stock up on favorite snacks, so you're not at the mercy of the food cart. Backpack too heavy? Old-school hand-clapping games like Patty Cake are always a hit and don't require toting around extra toys.

Deal With Changes in Air Pressure

"Most children are usually okay with changes in air pressure during takeoffs and landings," explains Fagan, but since infants can't swallow, pop their ears, or yawn, their only alternative for clearing their ears is sucking. Breastfeeding, or sucking on a bottle or a pacifier works well, especially during the initial descent, when the biggest change in pressure occurs. Ask a flight attendant to let you know when the descent is about to begin.

At the Hotel

Check for Safety

Safety standards vary by country, so be sure to do a thorough inspection of the hotel room upon arrival. "Parents should be comfortable with railings and check that the child can't slip through," Fagan warns. Also, scan your accommodations for exposed electrical wires and peeling paint chips. Parents of toddlers who walk should be especially vigilant.

Ask for Baby Amenities

Why pack a bottle warmer or car seat when you can get them at the hotel? Every Rosewood property comes fully equipped with diaper pails, baby baths, and monitors. At St. Regis hotels, parents can borrow strollers and stock up on diapers. "I've never really had to travel with a stroller," says Choquet, who advises calling ahead. Just remember to thoroughly check cribs and strollers for safety — visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website for current rules — especially if you're staying abroad, urges Fagan. If the hotel you book is not up on the family amenity trend, Choquet advises buying diapers, wipes, formula, and bottles online, and then having them shipped to your U.S. destination.

Arm Against Mosquitoes

You shouldn't let your child drink tap water (Fagan advises opting for bottled water while traveling), so don't let them skip the mosquito repellent, either. In tropical climates especially, long-sleeved shirts and pants are best, but also consider lotions with no more than 30 percent DEET, recommended for children over two months. (Never spray an infant due to the risk of inhalation.) Fagan says that placing mosquito netting around a crib can be helpful, too, but check with your pediatrician and the CDC to hear your options.

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