In this post I’m sharing my top tips for international travel with a one year olds and younger! Pin it here.
We recently got back from a trip to Bulgaria, Amsterdam and Paris and I’ve had so many questions about international travel with a one year old (14 months this trip!). We also took Baby T to Iceland, Denmark and Finland when she was 8 months old.
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Top Tips for International Travel with a One Year Old
We have LOVED traveling with Baby T! We’ve gotten a lot of, “You should just leave her – you’ll have more fun,” but honestly… we’ve made such great memories traveling all together! It’s not always perfect, but it does always make for great stories. Here are my top tips for traveling with a one(ish) year old and younger. Don’t forget to check with your pediatrician before blast-off to see if your little one needs any additional vaccines beforehand.
Tip #1: Travel Light
Tip #1: Travel light. Some things you definitely need to bring, but most bulky items will be a waste of space. We always opt for carry-ons only for international travel because we’ve lost luggage before and it’s easier. Check your flight parameters because some international flights let your baby bring a full-size carry-on PLUS a diaper bag (so nice!). Sometimes between countries on smaller planes you’ll have to check a bag; it happens, but we try to carry on as much as possible.
Do not pack these bulky items:
- Diapers. Pack enough for 2-3 days but every country has babies. Don’t waste half a suitcase on diapers.
- A car seat. Rent one with your rental car or secure one on your day excursions (e.g. bus excursions) through the tour companies.
- A pack ‘n play. Secure one through your hotel or when searching Airbnbs, filter for rentals that have a crib (it’s an option under “Amenities”).
- A super nice stroller unless you can carry it on like the UPPAbaby MINU. Leave the BOB at home unless you don’t care that it’s broken (our axle was broken on our very first domestic flight). A small, cheap umbrella stroller will do the trick. If your kid is younger than 7 months, your baby might not fit well in an umbrella stroller and you might need to plan to just use a baby carrier. Even at 8 months, our daughter hardly used the umbrella stroller and only wanted to be in the Ergo.
- An excessive number of pajamas. You will be putting them in regular clothes first thing in the morning most days because you’re going out on adventures. They should not get very dirty; a few pairs are fine.
- A baby carrier (what I use here). I repeat – this is mission critical. On both of our international trips, Baby T has ridden in the baby carrier 90%+ of the time. Wear it through the airport and boarding or put it on the back of the stroller so it doesn’t waste space in a bag. Once on the plane you’ll have to put it in the overhead cabin but they won’t count it as a personal item.
- A cheap umbrella stroller (what I use here). I’d gate check the stroller so you can use it in the airport terminal if you get tired of wearing them or chasing them around.
- A sippy cup and bib if they are eating solids (what I use here and here). A sippy because you won’t always have water available and bib to protect clothes because you’ll have limited access to washers to get food stains out right away.
- Snacks for the flights or emergencies. Don’t go super crazy here, you can pick up more in the next country at a market. Just get what you think you could need for a couple days at a time.
- Any medicines or special lotions/creams needed. Shout out to the Motrin I brought just in case she cut new teeth, which she did. We also bring her Cerave soap and lotion for her eczema, and Benadryl and Auvi-Q for her egg allergy. Keep all your baby’s liquids/gels in a plastic baggy – European travel is especially strict, while domestic flights are usually fine as long as they’re somewhere in the diaper bag.
- A few toys and books. Your kid will be bored of whatever you bring by the end of the trip. I brought three small toys (banana toothbrush, Nuby ring and toy keys) and three books (If You Ever Meet a Groovicorn, Little Blue Truck and Dear Zoo). The books got pretty destroyed by the end of the trip, but they were important entertainment on the flights and in the car.
- A spare outfit and socks in the diaper bag.
- Clothes, obvi. With a few back-up outfits. Roll the outfits together in pairs (top and bottoms) and it will save space.
- Extra things I like to pack:
- 2 changing pad liners (I keep one in the diaper bag and one for the hotel)
- 2 burp cloths (good for spills, drooling, snot, again one in the diaper bag)
- 2-3 cloth bibs (if cutting teeth, keep one in the diaper bag),
- a few extra outfits
- 2 baby blankets (one in the diaper bag that can get “dirty” on the planes and trains, one clean one kept in luggage to sleep with at night)
- Tide pen for stains
- Ziploc bags (I kept her cleaned toys, books and medicines in them but ended up using them for bibs that got super dirty, garbage from snacks, etc. by the end of the trips)
- Wipes (I bring teether wipes to wipe down her sippy, paci when she used it, or toys that she puts in her mouth and end up on airport floors; Boogie wipes; 2 fresh packs of wet wipes – one for the diaper bag and one for the hotel bag)
- Nail clippers (I use these), and a head thermometer just in case!
Tip #2: Select Front Row Airplane Seats & Reserve a Bassinet ASAP
Tip #2: Select Front Row Airplane Seats & Reserve a Bassinet ASAP. If you are able to choose seats and you are in economy (sorry no idea on what happens in Business or First Class!), choose seats that are in the front row of any given “break” (this can be after Business Class or after the little areas where they prep food). You will have more leg room but more importantly, extra playing room for the babe and you can get a bassinet or “baby chair” as they call it that goes on the wall – YES, I AM SAYING THEY DON’T HAVE TO BE ON YOUR LAP THE ENTIRE FLIGHT!
Okay now pay attention, because even if you reserved a bassinet online it does not guarantee you will have one on the flight. The bassinets go fast as we learned on our last trip. Ask for one right after take-off, even if you aren’t sure if you’ll use it right away. Although we had reserved one for one of our flights, they were all gone by the time we asked for it, so we had to use the “baby chair” which kind of looks like a bouncer. She slept about an hour and a half or two in the chair (nighttime flight), but didn’t sleep in the bassinet (given it was a daytime flight – the 16 month old next to us slept several hours in the bassinet). You can always try the bassinet first and then switch to the chair if you want. Notably, the bassinets are kind of small so you may find better success with the baby chair if your kid is older. Because she didn’t sleep much in the bassinet, we put it on the floor with our feet and she liked to play in it, taking her toys in and out. The front row means your diaper bag needs to be up in the luggage compartment at takeoff and landing, but you can bring it down afterward.
We usually get an overnight flight on the way over, hoping she sleeps (which she hardly does haha, too much excitement), and a daytime flight on the way back and try to keep her awake for the most part so she will sleep when we get home. As always, nursing, eating or drinking on takeoff and landing will help with their ears.
Tip #3: Book Overnight Accommodations Close to Public Transportation
Tip #3: Book Overnight Accommodations Close to Public Transportation. It is not fun to carry a tired baby, a stroller, diaper bag, two personal items and two to three rolling bags through the city on cobblestone streets for miles on end. Keep in mind not every country has ride-share platforms like Uber and Lyft, and if they do you may not have Wi-Fi to snag one. Taxis are an option but ride sharing usually also requires you to BYOCS (bring your own car seat – see what I did there?). If you intend to use trains, metros or busses, stay close to them. You will thank me. We have also rented bikes in several cities and strapped Baby T in the Ergo as our transportation. Alternatively, you can rent a car and car seat and stay wherever you want :).
You should be able to drop your bags at the hotel even if your room isn’t ready yet so you can go explore the city. On the flip side, if you’re needing to check out of your hotel but have time before leaving for the airport, you can almost always check luggage at the train station and then hit the town.
Tip #4: Be Flexible
Tip #4: Be Flexible. No, you will not be back to the hotel for their naps and probably not for bedtime. Yes, they will survive. They will fall asleep in random places, on the train, out to dinner, and there might be a few meltdowns, but put the schedule to the side for a week. I promise they will never remember as an adult that they had a week without their nap time as a baby. Don’t totally gyp your vacation for “the schedule”.
That said, also be flexible enough to let them be kids and get their wiggles out. Let them crawl or walk around the airport – I know it can be gross. Find a set of stairs to wear them out on. If you have a bit of extra time let them walk around the park or on a wide sidewalk. Usually they’ll sleep better if they’re exhausted! You can’t expect them to stay contained all day long, everywhere you go.
Tip #5: Swap If You Need To
Tip #5: Swap if you need to. Keep in mind there may be some activities that you and your partner need to swap in order to have the best experience possible. In Iceland, instead of going in with the “we need to swap” mindset, we tried to see if we could sneak Tess into the Blue Lagoon even though she was under 2 (side note: we learned they are very strict, whoops!). It ended up being stressful instead of relaxing. We learned our lesson and when we did the sauna experience in Finland went in with the “swap mindset,” and each had a super enjoyable time.
Tip #6: Be Prepared
Tip #6: Be Prepared. I like to keep all the things I may need with me in the diaper bag. This means I swap it out daily depending on the day’s activities, because I also don’t like carrying things I am not going to need. If we’re riding bikes, I won’t need her blanky, but I might need her sweater. If we’re taking a long train ride, I probably need a couple toys, a book and her blanky. If it will be a fast and furious morning catching a flight, I’ll stop by a market the night before to grab on-the-go breakfast options for Baby T. While it’s no big deal for us to hold off an extra hour or two for a meal, the littles don’t do as well.
Things I always keep in the diaper bag while traveling regardless of the activity (linked to most of these under Tip #1):
- Diapers, wipes and diaper waste bags
- Changing pad
- Hand sanitizer
- Burp cloth and cloth bib – for messes or teething
- Motrin in case of teething
- Sippy and bib if on solids
- Nursing cover if still nursing
- Change of clothes and socks; sweater if it could get cold
Tip #7: Tap Out & Stay Cool
Tip #7: Tap Out & Stay Cool. There are going to be hard moments that are frustrating. You might get a 2 am wake-up call from your 8 month old who’s ready to party and end up singing Old McDonald so many times he has frogs and snakes on his farm by the end (yes, that happened). You might end up almost crying from an 8 hour flight that your baby decided to cry through (also has happened once). Know your limits as the parent, and get your partner to take over when you feel you could lose your cool. As long as one of you can stay calm and collected at any given time, everyone will be safe and you can enjoy your trip :). In our marriage, we call it tapping out, “Hey, I’m tapped out. You’re up.” and we do the pass-off.
My final two tips have less to do with traveling with babies and more to do with saving your wallet.
Tip #8: Don’t Pay in Dollars
Tip #8: Don’t Pay in Dollars. If paying with a card, select the country’s local currency instead of dollars. Otherwise, you’ll be charged additional conversion fees. Though they can be minor (3%-3.5%), they add up.
Tip #9: Apply Leftover Currency to Your Hotel Bill
Tip #9: Apply Leftover Currency to Your Hotel Bill. If you got cash in the country’s local currency and have some leftover, give it to your hotel to apply to your bill. Otherwise you will lose on the conversion (again) converting it back to dollars.
Traveling internationally with a baby or toddler is totally doable, and we have had so much fun all together. The memories have far outweighed any minor inconveniences or mini meltdowns! Plus, you won’t be worried about how your littles are doing at home! Keep a positive attitude and roll with it. I hope these travel tips with a baby or toddler are helpful!
Have you traveled internationally with little kids?
Are there other tips you’d want to include?
Where have you traveled with a baby?
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