International Travel With an Infant: Important Tips for a Smooth Trip

woman with baby boy sitting at the airport

Venturing overseas with your baby is an exciting adventure for everyone. You and your tot will make so many wonderful memories while on your excursion abroad. To maximize the joy and minimize the stress that can arise from international travel with an infant, be sure to plan and pack accordingly.

Pay Attention to Pre-Planning Needs

If you are headed overseas with your baby, a lot of preparation needs to occur before you even consider dragging a suitcase out of the closet. Pay special attention to the planning stages of travel, so everyone has a comfortable and safe trip.

Consider the Age of Your Baby When Planning a Trip

Many parents decide to wait until their infants are a bit older to head overseas. Why do it when they will sleep through most of the experience? The truth is, even if you push your trip out until your kid is toddling around, they will still likely not recall your vacation escapades; hence you might consider taking that international trip when they are young babies. After they receive their initial rounds of vaccinations, they will still be napping most of the day away and will spend the vast majority of their day in a stroller or infant carrier. This will make sightseeing and dining much easier (and enjoyable for parents).

Get the Go-Ahead From a Doctor

Babies require more regular check-ups with their pediatrician during their first year of life compared to older children. This means there are plenty of opportunities to connect with your infant's doctor and discuss your travel plans ahead of time. Let the doctor know where you are considering going and how long you plan to be gone. They will help you determine if your child is old enough to travel abroad, and ensure their vaccinations are up to date by the time you depart.

Look Into Travel Insurance and Cancellation Policies

Travel insurance covers babies, so be sure to get it. Even the best-laid plans fall victim to illness and accidents from time to time, and insurance can give parents peace of mind to venture into uncharted territory with their tot and receive medical assistance should the need ever arise.

Life with children is unpredictable. Kids suddenly become ill all the time, and should this happen right before a trip; you'll need to be able to cancel without financial penalty. Make sure your travel insurance allows you to do that, because while you can hope for the best, you need to prepare for the worst.

father holding baby daughter under blue sky

Prep All Paperwork and Passport Information

Going abroad requires travelers to obtain a passport. Your infant will need their own, as will you. When taking a passport picture, your baby will need to remain awake and calm. You will also need to prove their country residency and your right to them as the parent. Be sure to bring along their original birth certificate as well as your own identification.

Passports can take quite a bit of time to process and receive. Generally speaking, 18 weeks is the average time it takes for a person to get their passport. Knowing this, have your infant's passport done at least six months in advance of your trip. It is also suggested that if you are traveling with a child without their other parent, bring along a notarized copy of written consent from them that permits you to travel with your child in their absence.

Planning a Trip for a Tot

After you have done the pre-planning leg work, it is time to focus on the fun aspect of international trip planning. If you are headed overseas, you are likely looking at flying or taking a cruise. If you are flying to your international destination, you will want to make the long journey as comfortable and seamless as possible for you, your infant, and your fellow travel companions.

Considerations When Booking Plane Tickets

Infants can travel for free when they fly the friendly skies internationally, but do you really want to hold your baby for the entire duration of the journey? It is worth it to purchase your infant their own ticket so they have their own seat. While you can usually check a car seat at the gate, you will want to bring yours onto the plane and strap your infant into it securely. They will be snug and comfortable in their car seat, traveling in a manner they are likely already used to. You will also find yourself comfortable and relaxed, and hands-free for at least a few snippets of travel time.

If you can, try and reserve seats in the back of the plane. These seats are generally not considered prime plane real estate, but in the case of international infant travel, they certainly are. Bathrooms are located toward the back of planes (great for multiple diaper and outfit changes), and there is often some standing space for parents to get up and pace or rock upset babies if need be.

Time Your Airport Arrival Perfectly

In life, timing truly is everything, and this mantra pertains to flying with babies. You want to try and time your arrival at the airport just right. It is suggested you arrive at the airport three hours before departure for international travel. Extra time wandering around the airport while pushing a stroller and hauling carry-on bags isn't a super fun experience, so adhere to the suggested time frame as closely as possible. Know that an international travel day is going to be a long day, plain and simple.

If you can, book a flight that coincides with your child's nap or bedtime. Two hours of sleeping silence will make a long flight feel significantly shorter compared to a long flight spent entertaining an overly tired infant.

Don't Fly Without a Meltdown-Mode Emergency Pack

Even the best-behaved babies will cause a scene on a plane from time to time. International travel tends to be lengthy, with long airport waits and long flights to destinations. Staying quiet and content for the entire duration of travel is too big an ask for a baby. You may not be able to stop impending crying from occurring, but with a well-packed emergency bag, you can likely reduce the amount of time your baby spends upset during the flight. Be sure to stock a bag with:

  • An iPad
  • Snacks
  • Formula
  • Plenty of diapers (pack more than you think you'll need)
  • Changes of clothing
  • A blanket
  • Pacifiers, and additional comfort items your baby may benefit from in the event of a meltdown
mom with baby at airplane

Look Into Infant-Friendly Lodging Accommodations

International lodging provides you with several options. Each option has pros and cons. Look at the choices and decide on what best suits your family.

Standard Hotel

A standard hotel is an option for international lodging. Check out the room sizes, especially if your infant is moving about already. Will you be comfortable in a cramped space? Is there room to store a car seat, stroller, and set up a crib? Does the hotel offer cribs for use? Will sharing walls with strangers make you anxious? Not all hotels have the amenities you need, like a snack bar or convenience shop, a concierge, or an in-room refrigerator. This is especially true if you are traveling to faraway destinations. Hotels in other parts of the world can look vastly different from what you are used to in the states. If this is your pick, know what you will be living without during your holiday.

Resorts and Spas

Staying at a premiere resort and spa is a step up from a standard hotel. If you are booking an international getaway, this may be a better option for people with tots than staying in a small hotel. Resorts have more amenities available to guests, like nannying services, activities for youngsters, multiple restaurants, and meal options to make vacations less stressful. Large resorts also provide guests with necessary infant items such as high chairs and cribs.

Airbnb and Apartment Rentals

You might decide that you need more living space than a hotel or resort provides. In that case, choose to book a house or apartment rental. With this option, you will have ample space to store infant items and freely move about with your baby. Starter toiletries and linens are often provided, but you will have to do your own grocery shopping to stock the space with what you and your baby will need during your stay. It is important to note that you'll want to put extra time and care into booking a rental property in a safe part of town if you are traveling to an unknown destination. If you plan on exploring the locale with your infant, choose a rental close to the city center. Know your lodging priorities and select a property based on those needs.

Pack Like a Pro

Once all of the bookings are taken care of, it is finally time to turn your attention to the packing. When headed out into the wide world, make sure you have everything you need to pull off a successful international vacation with your little one.

Make a List

Make a packing list to stay organized. As you pack items, be sure to check them off of your master packing list. You can choose to create one long list of travel needs or break your list up into sections. Every family will decide to pack a bit differently, but if you are traveling overseas, be sure to bring:

  • Passports, birth certificates, other pertinent paperwork
  • Cash and/or money orders
  • A front carrier and a stroller that suits your vacation needs (rugged terrain for adventures or lightweight stroller for city exploring)
  • Food and formula (other countries will likely not carry exactly what your baby is used to)
  • Plenty of clothing (especially if your lodging option does not include a washer and dryer)
  • A car seat
  • A medical kit specific to infants to use in case of emergencies

Can You Ship Anything Ahead?

Look into shipping large items ahead of your stay. If you are taking a long international trip, see if you can forward bulky items or a suitcase of extra clothing, blankets, diapers, wipes, and formula to your destination. This is a great way to minimize what you have to carry through airports and on the plane. Shipping luggage ahead of time comes with the additional risk of the packages you ship going missing. Luggage gets lost all of the time, so take this into consideration and don't pack precious items in shipments.

Other Considerations When Traveling Abroad With an Infant

Booking, packing, and traveling are all aspects of international travel with an infant that parents need to pay particularly close attention to. Still, there are other considerations as well.

Different Time Zones Can Be Tricky

If you are traveling across time zones, your baby's schedules can be completely thrown off. Try and stick to your child's current home schedule as closely as possible. This may mean that you become night owls for the duration of your trip, or end up seeing the city sights very early in the morning.

Be Ready to Baby Proof

Hotels in faraway countries may not be babyproofed. Bring along items to help keep your baby safe when staying at hotels, resorts, and rental properties. Ship baby gates ahead of you and bring any socket protectors and latches you may need to help create a safe and secure space for a tot.

Consider Bringing Along a Travel Buddy

If you are a single parent looking to get away with your baby, an international trip might be a perfect time to invite your best friend or your baby's grandma along. Having help with the baby and international navigation can lessen any stress and anxiety that accompanies such a significant adventure.

Remember... Bumps in Travel Plans Never Means a Foiled Vacation

No matter how much thought and time you put into your international travel plans, something is bound to go awry at some point. Know this and expect it. Curveballs will almost always come during a holiday, and the best you can do is turn those lemons into lemonade. Give yourself some grace and trust that you are handling setbacks as best you can. Don't become discouraged; remember that all trips, international or otherwise, contain moments of stress or frustration. Focus on the positives, which will undoubtedly outweigh the negatives, and pat yourself on the back for providing your family with a once-in-a-lifetime vacation abroad.

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International Travel With an Infant: Important Tips for a Smooth Trip