Having a baby doesn’t mean it’s the end of your traveling days. With the right baby travel gear, you can keep exploring the world. It just might be a different kind of adventure than the ones you are used to having!
In this series of articles, we’ll review the items that will make your life easier when you travel with an infant, and give you our advice on some specific brands to consider. We’ll focus on the things you’ll need to travel internationally, but you’ll find this baby travel gear useful even if you are staying in the States. Today, we’ll look at transportation items to keep your baby on the move.
We can’t imagine traveling with a baby without bringing a stroller. (Okay, maybe we can — if we were doing a backwoods trek, we’d skip the stroller. If that’s the kind of trip you’re taking, skip to the next section!) If your trip will involve wandering city streets, visiting museums, going to amusement parks, or anything else involving a lot of walking on flat surfaces, you’ll be glad to have a stroller. The stroller isn’t just for pushing the baby around. It can do extra duty as a place for the baby to nap, or even a secure place for baby to sit while you dine at a restaurant. Even more importantly, the stroller can help you carry all your other baby travel gear!
When shopping for a baby stroller for travel, you’ll want to look for a sturdy collapsible “umbrella” type stroller. Your stroller needs to be able to fold up into a slim shape so you can easily transport it on planes, taxis, buses, and trains. You can find extremely cheap umbrella strollers at big box stores, but it’s worth it to spend more for a stroller that will hold up, and will be comfortable for you and your baby. Look for a stroller with solid construction, smooth-rolling wheels, and handles that are high enough that you are not hunching over to push. A sunshade and a reclining seat will keep your tot cool and comfortable — remember, you want him to be able to nap in it while you’re out and about! You’ll also be glad to have a cargo basket on the bottom of the stroller to stash diaper bags and other gear.
Even if you’re taking our advice and bringing a good-quality umbrella stroller, a baby carrier is an important addition to your stash of baby travel gear. As you travel, you are sure to run into situations where your stroller just won’t work. Perhaps you aren’t allowed to push your stroller into that Renaissance church you want to explore. Maybe the hilly, cobblestone streets make pushing the stroller more trouble than it’s worth. If you want to hike around a nature park, your stroller won’t do well “off-road.” And no matter where you are, you know that sooner or later baby will decide that she needs to be picked up, now!
Having a baby carrier will allow you to “wear” your baby. It keeps your hands free, and saves your arms the ache from carrying your infant for ages. Are you a nursing mom? Using a baby carrier to wear your baby on your front will allow you to discretely nurse your babe, even while you shop or sightsee.
There are a lot of different kinds of baby carriers out there, from slings and wraps to structured hiking carrier. If you’re already a babywearer, you probably have a few to choose from… or maybe more than a few! But if you are new to babywearing, a soft structured carrier like the Ergobaby is a great option. A soft structured carrier allows you to carry your baby either on your front or on your back, like a backpack. They are easily adjustable so both parents can take turns carrying the baby. There are other great options for soft structured carriers – Tula makes carriers in tons of fun patterns, and Infantino offers a well-respected budget carrier. It’s the Ergo’s large storage pocket and dirt-hiding neutral colors that make it our top pick for travel.
Should you take a car seat with you when you travel? That depends on your travel plans. If you will be renting a car and driving at your destination, you should definitely bring your child’s car seat. We also highly recommend that you bring a car seat if you are buying an airplane seat for your child. The safest way for your baby to fly is in his own seat, not on your lap, strapped into a FAA-approved car seat. (Almost all car seats on the market are FAA approved for air travel.)
If you are bringing a car seat for your baby, you’re likely going to bring the one you already use at home. But if you are in the market for a new car seat, and think you may use it for travel, look for a seat with great safety ratings that is very easy to install. Our top picks are the Britax ClickTight series. They install quickly – very important if you’re trying to secure it to an airplane seat with a line of impatient travelers behind you! Even better, they make an audible click to let you know it is installed properly. That will be helpful if you are trying to put it in a rental car when you’re jetlagged after an 8-hour flight.
Some traveling families prefer to purchase a separate car seat just for travel. It makes sense — if you’ve invested $300 or more in a car seat, you might not want to risk having the airline lose it! If you prefer to get an inexpensive car seat that you won’t have to worry about, consider the Cosco Scenera Next. This seat gets excellent ratings from safety experts, and costs less than $50.
How to Fly With Baby Travel Gear
Your days of hopping on a plane with just a single carry-on are over, but don’t let that stop you from flying internationally with your baby! Airlines are very generous in the way they deal with baby travel gear.
Your stroller can be gate-checked. You can just roll it down the gangway all the way to to the door of the plane. Remove the baby – that’s a very important step – and fold it up. An airline employee will then tag your stroller and stow it for you.
When you land, you can wait at the bottom of the jetway (or in a designated area near the plane, if you are disembarking onto the tarmac) for an airline employee to bring you the stroller.
Most airlines don’t charge any fees to gate-check your stroller.
Your baby carrier won’t be any problem to fly with. They’re made of soft, squishable fabric, so you can easily pop them into any of your bags. You can also use your baby carrier to tote your baby on to the plane. However, you will need to take the baby out of the carrier during the flight, or at least during takeoff and landing.
If you bought a plane ticket for your baby, and she has an assigned seat, you can use your car seat on the flight. Airplane seats don’t have LATCH anchors like cars, but you can install the seat using the seatbelt.
You will also have the option of gate-checking your car seat if you will not be using it on the plane. Some travelers like to use a protective bag over the car seat so it stays clean and so the straps won’t snag on anything. Like strollers, most airlines allow you to gate check car seats for free.
Whether you’re gate-checking or using the car seat on the plane, a car seat can be a bulky, awkward item to haul through the airport. There’s a baby travel gear solution for that, too! You can purchase a strap that connects to the LATCH hooks on your seat to attach it to your rolling suitcase. You can then even use the seat/suitcase combo like a stroller in the airport.
What are your favorite travel items for the baby on the go?