If you’re a new parent, I think you’ll agree that the thought of travelling with a baby and all his/her equipment for the first time is daunting.
But this doesn’t have to be the case – in fact, travelling with a baby can be surprisingly straightforward and, in many ways, easier than travelling with a toddler!
In our ultimate baby travel guide, put together with expert in family travel and mum of three Wendy Shand, you will learn all you need to know about travelling with a baby.
How soon can I travel with a baby?
Are there any regulations?
There are no standard regulations for any means of transport that require a baby to be a certain age however, some airlines may insist that your newborn baby is at least two weeks old. There are regulations if the infant you are flying with has a different surname than you. You will need to seek permission from everyone with parental responsibility if this is the case.
Is it stressful for a baby?
Travelling with an infant will depend on your infant. It can be more difficult if your baby is accustomed to a routine at home and doesn’t like change. Although most of the time, babies won’t mind whether their bed is at home or somewhere new. When considering travelling long distance, think about how how compromising on your current routine may impact your little one and their happiness.
To help you decide how soon is too soon, here is an infant age ‘difficult-o-meter’ for travelling:
When is the best time to travel with a baby?
Traveling with a baby has its perks.
One of those being that they don’t go to school, meaning you can travel off-peak and find some great family holiday deals on flights and accommodation. It also means that you will beat the summer crowds too which is a great feeling!
This doesn’t mean you will miss out on sunshine though, oh no. There are plenty of short haul destinations that enjoy blissful sunshine all year such as; Lanzarote, Tenerife, Cyprus and Majorca, perfect for Winter sun.
Best time of day to travel
The best time to travel will depend on the tendencies of your baby. An early morning start may work perfectly for early risers but not so well if your baby wakes up grumpy. Travelling over night could also be perfect if they sleep right through or it may make them overtired.
Whatever time is best or worst for your baby, strategizing for the perfect journey can be much more enjoyable for everyone.
Top tips for when to travel with a baby:
- Travel during usual sleeping/nap times
- If you start out in the early hours, be prepared to stop in the early hours
- Travel shortly after a feed to give you more ‘happy baby time’
- Be certain that an overnight flight is 100% suitable as you may end up exhausted
- Always avoid rush hour where possible
Best holiday destination with a baby
Wherever you go, a short journey is of course going to be more suitable for travelling with a tot. If you are thinking abroad, sticking to Europe is a good idea as flights are often no more than 4 hours and you will find familiar brands of baby foods, similar customs and often, more English-speaking residents which can be immensely comforting. Not to mention access to healthcare should your family need it.
The accommodation is the key
Picking the best location to travel with a baby is all about the stress busting factors of the accommodation. You can spend a small fortune on a luxurious hotel in a beautiful country and find sharing a room with your baby means sitting in the dark when it’s their bedtime.
I think you’ll agree, not ideal.
Think about it, when travelling with a baby you are simply moving your parental duties to another place (albeit more luxurious). Often, that place doesn’t have all the equipment you have at home to make life easy, so it can actually be more strenuous caring for a baby when on holiday unless you pick the perfect pad.
Best type of accomodation with a baby
The goal ultimately is to create a ‘home from home’ that is ideal for both parent/s and baby. Here are some pros and cons to help you decide what’s best for your family:
- Space for everything including extra family members (who can babysit)
- Ultimate privacy and relaxation
- No neighbours to disturb
- Freedom to explore the local area
- Catering & laundry services available
- Usually the cheaper option
- No cleaning
- Room service
- Tons of family attractions & facilities
- Social – meet other families
- Babysitting/Crèche available
- More convenient food and drink options
- Full of hazards unless properly safety checked
- Can be tricky to get to from the airport (if you’re prone to getting lost)
- Amenities may be scarce
- Cooking & cleaning
- Lack of space
- Dictated and disturbed by hotel rules
- Lack of facilitie during the evening for bottle making
- Crying baby may disturb other guests
- Can’t choose your own food
- Can become crowded at peak times
- Often near an airport and not truly in
the heart of the country
Once you’ve decided which accommodation type suites you and your family, it’s wise to do some research.
Things to think about before booking a holiday with a baby:
- Can you enjoy a holiday here that involves the whole family? – It’s your holiday too!
- Is there a cot available? – Is it good quality? – does it fit in the room properly?
- Are there facilities to make bottles during the early hours? – Will this disturb anyone else?
- Are there child gates and are they placed appropriately?
- Are balconies protected with gates or railings (with no large gaps)?
- Can baby’s room be made dark enough with black out blinds or curtains?
- Is there a microwave?
- If abroad, is it a long transfer?
- Does the room/property have good sound insulation?
- Has the property undergone basic child safety checks?
- Does it have everything I need as a parent?
- Are there any extra charges for babies to stay?
- If it’s an apartment/hotel, is there a lift for a buggy?
I think you’ll agree, researching all these things and more for your peace of mind could be time consuming! This is where we plug ourselves (sorry). At Tots to Travel we specialise in baby and toddler travel and do all that hard work for you.
Included in every one of our family holidays is:
A guarantee that ensures a physical pool barrier is available for private pools across our range
5* Family friendly travel experts to give advice and guidance on a holiday that meets your needs
Best way to transport a baby
How to carry a baby if you are flying
A front carrier/sling is a great tool to have in the arsenal for travelling by air. It provides baby with comfort in a noisy airport and frees up your hands to fetch passports, tickets, wipes and food while also juggling your baggage and push chair.
Note: You can use a stroller right up the aircraft door before you need to fold it away. Find more about flying with a baby.
Any other means of transport
Baby travel systems with car seats that slot in and out of a pushchair are the bread and butter of baby transport. This makes it super easy to move sleeping babies between cars, cafés, trains etc. without causing too much disturbance. Plus, a lot of the systems are foldable so can be stored away in the boot of car.
Feeding a baby while travelling
If you’re breastfeeding your baby, this is actually super convenient for travel as you won’t need to pack or worry about any food or formula!
It can be a little cramped at times, especially in a car, train or plane. If you are a ‘nervous nurser’ at the best of times, a well placed muslin can give you some privacy.
If you’re formula feeding your little one then consider buying some travel sized packets/bottles of ready-made formula for the trip, or bring an insulated flask of boiled water, plus some sterilised bottles and teats, so you can make some during the journey. You can usually pick up all you need from a Boots in the airport.
Top tip: Baby milk and foods are not subject to the same liquid restrictions as usual hand luggage if you are flying, so you can take as much as you need!
Feeding when you arrive
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you will be able to buy more formula and solid foods in local supermarkets, although you might want to bring your own if you’d rather stick to familiar brands. Unfamiliar brands may have different salt/sugar content to those you use regularly so keep your eye on that.
Recommended organic formula brands available in Europe:
Sterilising while travelling
When you book with us, your accommodation is guaranteed to have a steriliser available, but do double check what’s available if you book with another accommodation provider. If a steriliser isn’t available, consider bringing some travel bottle sterilisers or pre-sterilised bottle liners.
If your baby has food allergies, then you will need to be extra vigilant but feeding on holiday is still manageable. Here’s some advice for travelling with a child who has food allergies.
Be mindful of the drinking water abroad
When it comes to using drinking water abroad, especially for baby bottles, you may have some concerns about what’s safe to use. This does vary depending on where you’re travelling to, but check our advice here: Drinking water abroad with babies & toddlers- What you need to know.
3 Rules to keeping a baby happy while travelling
Even smaller babies will get themselves into a routine and develop an internal clock.
The first rule to a happy baby is to avoid upsetting the routine you have established at home with feeding, napping and sleeping.
If you feel overwhelmed (especially when flying) don’t be afraid to ask nearby staff to help you make up or warm a bottle to keep on top of the schedule.
Top tip: If travelling abroad, you will be occupied with tickets, passports and airport security. Set reminders or alarms on your phone or watch based on your home routine. Baby will remind you anyway, but this may help manage your day of travel.
Despite sleeping a lot, babies need entertaining (especially older babies).
As well as all your food, drink, wipes, nappies and the kitchen sink, take a little bag with baby’s favourite play toys and some new ones to keep them fully entertained when food and sleep isn’t the answer to a cry.
Easy baby travel entertainment:
- Unbreakable/baby proof mirror
- Even small babies love to glaze into a reflection of themselves.
- Transfer station
- Older babies are starting to figure out ‘empty and full’. Using two lidded plastic pots, one filled with toys like blocks and the other empty, encourage baby to transfer the toys between them – this can occupy a lot of time!
- Anything shiny
- Ooooo keeys! Babies love to explore noises.
- Teething toys
- For obvious reasons.
- Oldest trick in the book. Babies don’t understand that things continue to exist even when they can’t be seen. ‘Peek-a-boo’ teaches them that they do still exist and its super entertaining, for baby at least.
Making sure your baby is not too hot and not too cold is something to check every hour or so. If you are sat in an airport or taking a long car/ train journey, baby will likely get quite sweaty and uncomfortable.
If possible, try and allow extra time for breaks of fresh air and nappy change so baby can stretch their legs (yes, they need it too).
Top tip: It’s not always possible to get air or take a break, take a handheld fan with you to keep yourself and baby cool.
Dressing baby sensibly for a long journey is a good idea. Soft material in a few layers which are easy to get on and off is ideal. For example, a sleepsuit and vest are going to be more comfortable for baby than trousers with a top which can roll and bunch up when wriggling in a seat for hours.
Baby’s health on holiday
Health concerns? Avoid long haul travel
When travelling with an infant, it’s also important to think about your little one’s health on holiday. If you have a very young baby whose health you are concerned about in any way, the advice is to avoid long haul travel. If you have no choice, then seek professional medical advice before you do.
Do babies need vaccinations?
Yes, sometimes is the answer to that question. Double check with the NHS whether your little one will need any injections or special medication before you travel, leaving plenty of time to do this before you need to depart.
Prepare yourself for potential health problems
Make a note of the nearest doctor/hospital from your destination or if there is one on site. Where necessary always seek medical help and stay calm if you have any concerns. Before you go, read up on some basic baby first aid or at least keep a web page accessible should you need it.
Apply for a European Health Insurance Card which gives you and your family the right to access state-provided healthcare during your holiday. You will need your full name, date of birth and National Insurance number to register and your card will arrive approximately a week after applying.
Take a basic medical kit:
- Antiseptic cream
- Antihistamine cream
- Eye and ear wash and drops
- Teething gel
Preventing health problems:
- Take baby sun cream at least SPF 50 and high UVA protection
- Apply generously 20-30 minutes before going into the sun
- Plenty of fluids to keep everyone hydrated
- Check the drinking water
- Keep them in the shade
- Between 11am and 3pm is the hottest point of the day but it’s best to keep baby out of the sun altogether
- Pack sunglasses or a wide rimmed hat to protect eyes from the sun
- Check balconies, trip hazards, electrical sockets & child gates if baby is mobile
- Avoid using or feeding baby anything that is wildly out of the ordinary if possible
4 Steps to packing for baby travel
Only pack what you absolutely have to, otherwise you’ll be packing the planet. Check what’s already in your accommodation before you go.
Some family friendly destinations are well equipped for babies and toddlers for example, we equip every property on our website with our Essential Kit Guarantee, containing over 20+ key baby and toddler items, such as a steriliser, potty, high chair, baby monitors and more so that parents don’t need to worry about bringing them.
Start early by building a little pile of bits to take with you on your holiday as soon as you’ve booked.
Adding to it over time (such as every time you pop to the shops) not only breaks a huge task down into something that’s much easier and more relaxed, rather than last minute and frantic, but you also get the satisfaction of watching the pile build as your holiday gets closer – exciting!
Also give some thought to what you’re going to put everything into once you’ve got a pile: how to choose the right suitcase for your family holiday.
Think about the essentials from a practical perspective and from an emotional perspective – for example, even if your destination provides a cot, you may want to bring your own sheets, covers and blankets as the familiar scent will help baby feel comfortable.
- Toys to keep baby occupied
- Duplicate of a favourite toy to prevent meltdown
- Baby monitor
- Night light
- Plug adapters
- Universal bath plug (to turn a shower into a bath)
- Enough memory to take plenty of photographs (you can never have enough)
Find a complete list of everything you could ever need here:
Do babies need passports?
The short answer is yes. The process is identical to getting yourself a passport. This means you need to take a picture and follow the legislation which can be really difficult.
Luckily we have a guide for that too – How to take a baby passport photo
To apply you need:
- Completed application form
- Two identical passport sized photos with a professional reference signing the back of one
- Birth certificate of baby
- Mum & Dad’s passport
- £46.00 payment
Travel documents you may need:
- Airline tickets
- Accommodation details
- Car hire docs
- European Health Insurance card
- Family contacts/important contacts
- ID & money cards
- Travel cheques/currency
- Medication prescription