Page header image

Traveling with a Baby

As with almost everything else connected with babies, the key to success is to be prepared. Here are some tips for traveling with your baby.

No matter what kind of travel you do, here are a few basic travel tips to help keep your baby safe and happy:

  • Wash your hands often to help prevent illness.
  • Pack a small bag with your baby’s favorite snacks and toys, blankie and other most-loved items to help keep her amused and calm.
  • Pack a few extra clothes, tissues, pacifiers, diapers, ointment, wipes and other “must have” items in case of travel delays.
  • Dress your child in easy-on, easy-off layers (elastic waist, zip-up outfits, snap crotch and Onesies) for easy access and comfort.
  • If you carry medicines, or other possibly harmful items in your purse or suitcase, make sure they are up and out of your baby’s reach at all times.
  • If traveling to a sunny location, be sure to pack sunscreen. You may also use sun-blocking shirts, hats and swimming suits. Baby sunglasses are also a good idea.

Car Travel

ALWAYS use a car seat when you take your baby in a car. Here are tips for traveling by car:

  • Children should ride in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. Never place your baby in the front seat of a vehicle if it has an airbag.
  • Don’t cover your sleeping baby's head with a blanket, comforter, or quilt in a car safety seat.
  • Tie or hook some toys to the car seat. Make sure the ties are not long enough to twist around a finger or toe, or choke or strangle your baby.
  • During longer trips, allow for frequent rest stops. Take your baby out of the car seat and place her on her back or tummy to relax muscles.
  • If you think your child needs feeding or a diaper change, try to stop before she starts to fuss.
  • Use a wide brimmed hat or block the sun from your baby with a car window shade. Make sure that you have sunscreen if your baby will be outdoors.
  • Keep a wet washcloth or towelettes in the car for sticky, sweaty baby hands and faces.
  • Never leave your baby alone in the car even for a minute. Children are at risk for heat illness and injury when left alone. Always check to make sure your child is not still in the car when you leave your car.
  • Always have a first aid kit in your car.

Air Travel

  • The FAA allows children younger than 2 years of age to be held on an adult’s lap during plane flights. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your baby rides in a safety seat beside you. Some car safety seats are FAA-approved to be used on planes. Check on this when you buy your car safety seat. Let the airline know ahead of time if you are bringing a car safety seat.
  • Consider taking late day flights. Generally, infants and small children sleep on late flights.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and go through security. You can carry enough medicine and food for use during the flight. If you don’t need it on the flight, store it in checked luggage.
  • If only you and your baby are traveling, get a portable stroller. You may be able to fold it up and take it on board with you or you may need to check it at the gate.
  • Changes in air pressure during takeoff and landing can cause your baby’s ears to plug up or hurt. You can help keep your baby's ears clear by feeding her from a bottle or breast or offering a pacifier during takeoff and landing. Sucking and swallowing help to equalize the air pressure inside the ears. You can also try gently massaging your baby’s outer ears. Check with your healthcare provider before flying if your baby has lung problems, has recently had surgery, or has a cold or ear infection.
  • The flight attendants can warm food and bottles for you. Bring snack foods if your baby eats solid foods.
  • Because you have to carry a lot of equipment when you travel with a baby, it is easiest to let other passengers get off the plane before you.
  • Car rental agencies generally have child safety seats available with their cars. If you do not bring your own, reserve the safety seat when you reserve the car. Call ahead to the local agency where you will pick up the car to confirm that the child safety seat is available.

Train Travel

  • Trains do not have seat belts. Amtrak recommends you place infant safety seats on the floor in front of your seat. This is safer than holding your child in case of a sudden stop.
  • Avoid busy travel times if you can.
  • Temperatures can change on the train, so dress your baby in layers of clothing and remove or add as needed.
  • The train may have a dining or snack car, but bringing snacks keeps you from trying to walk through a moving train with your baby. Ask if they offer children's meals and will heat a bottle or baby food. They may also refrigerate baby formulas or foods for you during the trip.

Restaurants

  • Choose a child-friendly restaurant if you can. They have child menus and changing areas in the bathroom. The other diners are more likely to accept an upset or crying child than diners in a restaurant that is quiet and mainly serves adults.
  • Call ahead to reserve a table or go early to avoid the rush. Your wait for a table may be shorter and your food will be served faster.
  • Feed your baby before you go to the restaurant if possible. If you need to breast-feed, request a booth that is out of the main traffic flow.
  • Babies have short attention spans. Take toys or snacks for her while you are waiting to be served and while you are eating. A table by the window let’s your baby watch the sights outside.
  • Don’t put your baby in the high chair until the food is served. This helps keep her from getting restless if there is a long wait after you order.
  • If your baby gets disruptive, take her outside or to the restroom. Parents may need to take turns eating, especially if your baby is overtired.

Hotels

  • Pack a night light and electrical outlet covers for outlets in the hotel room. Check the room, bathroom, and closets carefully for hazards. Move any dangerous objects out of reach. Cover sharp corners with blankets. Tie cords used to open drapes up out of the way.
  • Locate the fire exits. If the room has a balcony, make sure the sliding door is kept locked.
  • Reserve a crib at the hotel. Cribs provided by hotels may not meet all current safety standards. If you doubt the safety of the crib, ask for a replacement. If you often travel with your baby, you may want to get a portable crib. It’s a good idea to pack a crib sheet as some hotels have only full size sheets.
  • Check water temperature in the bathtub carefully to avoid burns. It may be hotter than your water at home.
  • Find out where the nearest store is so you can buy diapers and snacks.
  • If you have been traveling all day, spend some time with your baby before putting her to bed. You may want to read a book, give her a bath, or go for a walk.
  • Follow your baby's normal eating, sleeping, and bedtime routine as much as possible.

International Travel

  • Make sure your child is up-to-date on her vaccinations. Check with your healthcare provider to see if she might need additional vaccines. Take a copy of the immunization record when you travel. Some countries ask for proof of protection against certain diseases.
  • Diarrhea is a common illness for international travelers. Do not feed your baby food from street vendors. Avoid raw fruits and vegetables and raw or undercooked meat. Safe water includes bottled water, boiled water, or water treated with chlorine or iodine.
  • Prevent mosquito bites by dressing your child in long-sleeved cotton shirts and long pants. Children older than 2 months can use repellents with no more than 30% DEET. DEET should be applied just once a day.
  • Adjust your child's sleep schedule 2 or 3 days before you leave. After arrival, it’s best to be active outside or in brightly lit areas during daylight hours to help adjust to the new time zone.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-07
Last reviewed: 2014-10-07
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
Page footer image