International Travel With Baby: What to Expect, What to Pack, and More

When your life exists on two continents long-haul travel is unavoidable and expensive. When you add a child to the mix it becomes extra daunting. How do you do it? This is how.

When your life exists on two continents long-haul travel is unavoidable and expensive. When you add a child to the mix it becomes extra daunting. How do you do it? You just do. But this list will help.

In this post, I will try to let you know what to expect because half the battle is mental. I'll describe how I survived the first 30-hour journey with my six-month-old daughter. I will also provide a detailed list of what I brought along with me and why. Don't forget to download the free packing checklist at the end of the post. I hope it helps!

International Travel With Baby: What to Expect, What to Pack and Jet Lag advice

Seasoned parents told me; the younger the baby, the easier the journey.  I guess it makes sense. At just a few months old they can't run away from you and only eat, sleep, poop...and cry.  I took Lavinia from Melbourne, Australia to Buffalo, New York when she was just a six-month-old nugget. Looking back, she was the perfect age to travel yet I was waaaaay to stressed to appreciate it.

The Mental Journey

At the time I was battling post-natal depression and anxiety so deciding what to pack for the flight itself was stressing me to the max. After all, it was only the flight I worried about- being stuck and not able to buy something I forgot or needed. And I could only physically carry so much! For a little extra pressure sprinkled on top, I had new-Mom-guilt attacking me overtaking the baby out of her routine (let alone exposure to germs and recycled air.)

I needed more than Google. I needed people with experience. Seasoned experts. I asked some of my ex-pat Mum friends for advice, looked online, and even ordered a book about 'flying with baby.' After reading the first chapter I didn't sleep a wink and had the good sense to delete it from my kindle at daybreak. Seriously, a whole chapter on airport strollers!! Brain short circuit. Too much info.

Disclaimer: The journey was completely and totally worth it. I got to introduce my beautiful little girl to the rest of her family and her 'other' home.

So How Do We Do This?

As soon as I got out of my own head and up into the air I realized that traveling is still a part of who I am. I'm glad fear did not prevent me from hiding my baby away in the Melbourne suburbs forever.

Recently, my cousin had to travel from the USA to Germany with her baby girl and she asked me for advice. It brought back memories of researching myself into a tizz before my own trip. I still had my original packing list and figured this information might actually be useful to others as well.

What to Carry, How to Carry it, and What to Wear

  1. Forget about bringing anything to entertain yourself.  I had two magazines with me at the start but ditched them before I even boarded the first plane in Melbourne. Even if you do have a few spare moments of peace you'll probably be like me and race to the galley begging for white wine.
  2. I dressed my baby in: A Bonds Wondersuit to fly and took an extra one.  These suits are great because they have a two-way zip and little fold-over mitts that cover both the hands and feet for extra warmth.
  3. I decided against a stroller because I could not find an airport stroller that reclined.  It may have been handy but we didn’t need one. Many airports lend strollers/prams however I was not so lucky when I checked in at MEL as they were all out.
  4. I wore a 'cute' pair of sweatpants and slip-on flat sneakers plus a v-neck T with button-down over it so I could breastfeed easily and a lightweight hoodie (layers are key- it gets cold up in the sky.) I also had a change of clothes in case I got barfed on... or worse.
  5. I carried a diaper bag with everyday supplies and a rolling carry-on with the rest of our gear.  I wore a travel baby carrier that was lightweight and folds up into a pouch.

What to Expect Once you Arrive at your Destination

  1. The first and most important thing to keep in mind is your baby's jet lag (and yours).  Be prepared for a few difficult nights. Luckily I was able to feed Lavinia back to sleep when she woke up confused and freaked out by the time change and new environment.
  2. When you arrive immediately put your baby in her routine on the current time at your destination.  It took my little angel 3-4 nights to adjust which was a result of her barely sleeping on the journey.  A blessing in disguise I suppose!
  3. They say that getting the little bub out into the midday sunlight helps them adjust to the new time zone more quickly.  A little walk outside each day can’t hurt either of you, even in winter.

If you would like a copy of my packing list, click here, or on the graphic below.

Notes On My Packing List

Carry-on rolling bag with the rest of baby supplies for the overhead because you'll likely be seated in the bulkhead.

Nappy bag- Packed with the same supplies you would have for a normal outing. Keep this bag at your feet after takeoff and before landing for easy access. Replenish with supplies from your carry-on bag that you will stash in the overhead bin.

Small purse- that I could easily shove into one of the other bags (carry-on or nappy bag). It contained our passports, a pen for filling out customs cards, my wallet, Blistex and our itinerary. 

Ergo Travel Baby Carrier- this is great because it folds up into a pouch. I hooked a carabiner onto mine so I could clip it someplace out of the way when not in use.

Remember: you are carrying all this stuff plus a baby so go easy on yourself.

Diapers, bring enough for a whole day, I brought too many and they took up lots of room in my carry on. At least they were lightweight.
Diaper baggies for dirty ones
A few travel packets of wipes and some extra in the carry on
Change mats bring at least 2!
Hat (Flights can get really cold)
Sleeping bag
Extra PJs, and onesies. It's a good idea to bring plenty of layering options in case it's warm or cold (it tends to be freezing on planes but you never know) extra baby clothes are one thing that don't take up lots of room and are worth bringing
Teething Rings and rusks and cookies
Bottles x2 with cool boiled water* (I was breastfeeding at the time so just in case)
Food pouches, spoons, and bibs (each in a separate Ziplock bag)
Formula in single-serve pouches
Pacifiers/ Dummies (good for clearing ears at take-off and landing)
Lotion and Bottom balm (for dryness)
Bach’s Rescue Remedy (for me) and homeopathic jet lag pills (for both of us)
An empty water bottle and snacks (for me) you'll need them.
2 swaddles
A few burp cloths
Socks hand mittens

For me:
A change of clothes!

*make sure to dump and rinse any bottles with excess formula in the airplane bathroom. Security made my Mummy-friend take a sip out of the bottom of each used bottle after a 14-hour flight. Have you ever smelled old formula (let alone tasted it)? Dis. Gus. Ting.

Further Research:
My friend Bec also did some research for me and sent through this article. It is one of the most helpful ones I read. Thanks, Woman.

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4 comments on “International Travel With Baby: What to Expect, What to Pack, and More”

  1. I can only hope to help other stress-balls with my near-tragic, first, flying-with-baby experience. Just as with many trivial things we worry about- it'snotthatbad!

  2. Makes no sense at all, the smaller they are the more crap they require. I used to carry spare garbage bags around for poo explosions. One of the many household items in my nappy bag.

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