Traveling can be a pain in the ass. And now, you want to bring along your infant and all the baby paraphernalia that’s transformed your once neat-and-tidy home into something resembling a toy store after a hurricane? I wish you much luck. But while I’m still new at this whole dad thing (not to mention traveling with a baby), I’ve found that with some planning and research, you can steer clear of some of the infant-travel-related headaches, whether your destination is in the States or abroad.
If traveling internationally, check the U.S. State Department website. Baby in tow or not, it’s good practice to find out if there is a war, conflict or health-related issue where you’re headed. If there are health-related issues, consider immunizations for you and your child(ren). Before we departed to the Dominican Republic, we took our son to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital travel clinic for his pre-trip shots and travel prescriptions. We couldn’t have been more pleased with our Lurie experience as the travel nurse sat with us for 30-40 minutes and addressed all of our country-specific and travel-related questions.
Apply for your baby’s passport paperwork well in advance. Check out travel.state.gov for details. You can pay for expedited service if need be.
Check TSA guidelines. Review the TSA website (TSA.gov) to find out what’s allowed through security (formula, breast milk, etc.), what’s not, and how much of certain products can be taken on board.
Research child-restraint systems. We didn’t go this route, as we’re going to try to take advantage of as many free flights as we can before our son reaches his second birthday, but if your plan is to take a child safety seat on board, review the FAA website (FAA.gov) first.
Pack (’N Play) lightly. Our full-size pack ‘n play worked out just fine when we threw it the trunk for our drive to Des Moines, but we didn’t want to drag this along on our flight to the Dominican Republic. We purchased a travel bed that can literally fold up and fit into a backpack. (Be careful with some of the quality of these beds, though: we returned two of them before our trip because they weren’t staying flat on the ground when we placed our son inside.) Another option is a light version of the play yard. The one we bought weighs about half as much as our regular pack ‘n play, and comes with a comfortable shoulder strap for easy carrying. And remember, some resorts/hotels have cribs you can use, so it‘s worth a call ahead.
Bring a travel stroller. Our everyday stroller is this Eddie Bauer monstrosity, so we needed a more practical option for our Punta Cana trip. We decided on a 10-pound stroller from ZOE that folds up nice and compact, and it can also double as a cart at the airport. What sold me, though, was that for a few more bucks, ZOE sells a stroller backpack that frees up our hands, which we all know is a good thing when baby is around.
Use a carrier at the airport. You’ll have to take your baby out when you go through security, but it’s still a good idea. Strapping your baby in a carrier (hopefully) keeps them from getting their hands into everything, and keeps your hands free to maneuver your luggage and have quick and easy access to your travel documents.
Get to the airport safely. If you don’t want to take CTA, think about using a car/taxi service with car seats. We found a number of Chicago-area services (Going Green Limousine, Ride in Bliss, Windy City Limousine, American Coach Limousine, Uncrabby Cabby) that offer full-size cars and/or SUVs with car seats. Expect to pay a little more for the car seat, but with more peace of mind.