Yes, our little sweetie has traveled to more international destinations before the age of two than I did before I turned 30. In fact, J. took her first flight when she was only two months old so we could house-hunt in Illinois, and has been on dozens since. She’s a lucky ducky!
Most recently, we visited Ireland in August. It was spectacular and very child-friendly, but more on that in a future blog.
I would like to share some of the lessons we have learned along the way to help other parents gather up the courage to travel with their baby or toddler. We highly recommend it!
Let’s kick it off with the essentials for your young child.
- Anticipate exactly how many bottles or sippy cups your child will need during your travel day. How long is the flight, train ride, or drive? What if you experience a delay? Plan accordingly, and count it out. This may seem like a daunting task, but it will pay dividends when you are prepared at the crucial moment. The night before you leave, make sure you have a supply of clean bottles ready to go.
- You are allowed to travel on U.S. airlines (and internationally), via carry on, with breast milk, prepared formula, formula powder, and whole milk. If it’s for your baby, you are entitled to take it with you.
- If you do fly with carry on milk, just be aware that you will be subject to extra security screening in the U.S. It’s not a big deal. You’ll want to separate your milk from your other carry-ons. An agent will then take that milk and you aside to test the milk—this process usually takes 5-10 minutes, depending on how much milk you are carrying. Not all airports are created equal. Some will hassle you more and take longer (we had a particularly bad experience at SFO once, but this will vary greatly).
- I DO NOT recommend carrying prepared, pre-packaged formula more than 4 oz. that is sealed and cannot be opened without spoiling it, i.e. Enfamil toddler drinks. It cannot be tested with the tools they have available at the airport and it will create problems for you. You may have to throw it away, which will hurt, since those things are so expensive! Four oz. and under beverages of the same type are fine.
- If you are breastfeeding, time out when you plan to feed and pump based on your travel itinerary. You don’t want to get stuck with a full set of boobies or a hungry baby and nowhere to go. Many airports now offer free nursing rooms for mothers. Check online before you go. Bring a feeding cover for convenience, or wear a very large sweatshirt over a nursing tank top and bra. Don’t forget to wear and bring extra nursing pads.
- Also, consider an airline lounge membership. It’s totally worth it if you travel frequently enough. We like American Airlines. It’s about $500 per year for one member who can then bring the rest of the family as guests. Otherwise, you will pay $50 per person every time you use the lounge with a day pass. They always have drinks and snacks available. You can also ask the front desk attendants if there is an empty conference room you can use to breastfeed. This was a lifesaver for me.
- If you have a toddler, give them milk to drink in the car on the way to the airport, and then rinse that cup in a restroom before you go through security. Bring extra empty sippy cups in your diaper bag/carry on. After you’ve gone through security, hit the Starbucks or any coffee shop to get your whole milk. It’s pricey at coffee shops, but typically not sold in any of the convenience stores or newsstands. Trust me, we have looked. They usually only sell nonfat milk, if that.
- If you are bringing your own whole milk on your travels, invest in a true insulating water bottle like the Manna bottles. Though the Manna bottles claim to maintain temperature for up to 24 hours, we have found that your cold milk will stay fresh in those bottles for 10-12 hours, which is still a huge help! Try looking at a discount store like TJ Maxx for a better price on these bottles.
- If you will have an extended stay and need to buy formula, you can buy it locally. Target it always a good bet. I don’t suggest doing this for international trips, as formula is different in other countries and your child may be able to taste the difference, and may reject it. Enfamil makes nice individual travel packs that are convenient. You will pay more for the convenience of not having a huge formula tin taking up your luggage space.
- If you are traveling abroad and need to buy whole milk, gas (petrol) stations and convenience or grocery stores always have it. Make sure there is one of these establishments within a reasonable distance from where you are staying. This is always a good rule of thumb, wherever you go. Check out All The Rooms for a one-stop search of accommodation options, including Airbnb and hundreds more sites.
You can also find some great tips for traveling with your baby here.
Stay tuned next week for part two of the baby/toddler travel guide series: What to pack. Please feel free to post your baby/toddler travel questions and experiences in the comments section! I would love to hear from you.
*Author’s note: these opinions are my own based on my many travel experiences. I have not been paid to endorse any products or services in this blog.