A few weeks ago, we took Nez on her first international trip to Spain for a family vacation. Leading up to the trip, I bounced back and forth between excitement and complete dread, thinking about lounging by the pool and then about the 9 hour time change and impending jet lag. As per usual, I hit Google hard and also asked everyone I knew that had traveled internationally with a baby to give me their tips. I’m distilling down to a few key things that worked for us. Hopefully these help you on your travels!
If you’re formula feeding your baby, bring more formula than you think you’ll need. This applies to your carry-on bag for the day of traveling, as well as for the trip in general. I was surprised about how quick and easy it was to get through security with tins of formula, and was very grateful to have brought extra as Nez ate far more than she typically does in a day. This happens virtually every time we travel with her and I chalk it up to an inherited habit of stress eating. Either way, bring extra formula and extra bottles on the plane, and buy a room temperature water bottle that’s designated for bottle filling. You’ll especially want to make sure you’ve got a bottle ready to rock and roll for take off and landing, but if Nez falls asleep during either, I let her sleep through it and haven’t had any problems with her ears yet… We brought 4 Dr. Browns bottles for the trip and a cheap bottle brush.
Get a travel stroller and bring it with you on the plane if you have layovers! I can’t begin to express how much I love our Uppababy Minu stroller. I can fold it/unfold it with one hand and we use a backpack carrier that makes it a cinch to bring along, even if your baby isn’t in it. We had her in the stroller whenever we were walking between terminals, waiting for our bags, etc., and with layovers, I can’t imagine our life without it.
If you’re on a long haul flight, see if your airline has bassinet attachments and ask to sit in a bulkhead seat. You have to call in advance so get on it ASAP. There are limitations on your baby’s weight and length (for our airline, it was 25 lbs and 27 inches), but Nez fit in this perfectly. We brought along her favorite sleep sack and when it was time for her to nap or go to sleep, we popped her in there and were amazed by how easily she fell asleep (the white noise of the plane is amazing). On the overnight flight she slept for nearly 6 hours straight without making a peep. On the way back she did a few naps in it and it was great for Tommy and I to have some freedom to move around or watch a movie without having to worry about waking her.
Bring a ton of antibacterial wipes and wipe down your plane seat first thing. Nez spent the bulk of the flight touching every surface of the plane and I didn’t have the energy to care. If she was quiet, I was happy.
Bring toys in your carry on but don’t be afraid to improvise. We brought a few of Nez’s favorite things like plastic keys and a Sophie giraffe teether, but ultimately we let her pick at the armrest or shake a tin of mints. Anything goes if it’s not too loud and keeps your baby calm!
Always bring a change of clothes for yourself and your baby. And on a similar topic, bring more diapers than you’d expect to need. You never know when an accident will happen or if a flight will get delayed/canceled. Be prepared!
In terms of dealing with jet lag, we knew we were in for a tough road but did our best. The first night, she went to bed at her normal bedtime of 6:30pm and we thought somehow we were in the clear, but unfortunately she woke up at 1am and was not in the mood to sleep. We kept all the lights off and brought her over to our bed, fed her a bottle, and eventually I got her to fall asleep in bed (Tommy slept on the floor to avoid bothering her!). This is the first time she’s ever slept in the bed with us, but my perspective was, anything goes for some extra zzz’s. In general, I followed this article and did my best to stick with it, including waking her up during certain naps to try and get her on her normal schedule. By day three she was back to her usual sleepy self.
We didn’t want to bring a carseat so we rented one with our rental car. In my eyes, it was nice to have a little less luggage and one less thing to deal with/remember.
Bring a baby monitor with wireless capabilities. We brought our regular monitor and our Nest camera and I’m so grateful we had the Nest camera because I could set it up wherever she was napping and wouldn’t have to worry about sitting by the pool or having dinner without the regular monitor signal reaching. We also had a babysitter with the kids one or two nights so we could go out to dinner, and it was nice being able to check in from afar.
If you’re going somewhere with a pool or beach and your baby is going to take a dip, we liked this reusable swim diaper. Also be sure to bring baby sunscreen if your baby is older than 6 months.
In general, my biggest tip would be to remain calm and go with the flow. The odds are, with a big time change you’re going to be struggling the first two days (and of course that applies to when you return home), but you WILL get back to normal. You’re on vacation- try to enjoy it!