When to Travel with a Newborn

Baby on Board?

While the notion of traveling with a newborn may conjure horror stories around the water cooler, it’s really just a different version of a familiar experience, and manageable with a bit of effort. Ask questions, prepare for the things you can anticipate, and go in knowing that wild cards will pop up. If you’re not already reaching for your travel-size, anti-nausea medication, you’re probably up to the task.

Let’s assume you aren’t just planning to travel with a newborn for the sheer joy of it. If the trip is a business obligation, feel free to lean heavily on your employer and service providers to accommodate you. Negotiate for a better seat, a hotel suite, or the cost of traveling with your own childcare provider. Even places that aren’t family friendly, perhaps especially such places, want you to be quietly comfortable. They can provide everything from a nightlight, to a rubber ducky. Let them.

If your trip is for pleasure, formulate a plan that gives you the most control. This may be the time to choose a road trip over a flight, or a pricier airfare over the chance of missing a connection. Find out all that you can about the resources available at your destination. Do they have a crib? Toys? If not, can they get them? Is there pediatric medical care accessible? Will you have the foods and creature comforts you prefer? Knowing what you’ll need might sound like a simple matter of checklists, but babies and plans don’t always mix. Newborns start out free of schedules, but full of opinions. They get sick. They get loud. Flexible dates are ideal. A new mom needs recovery time, and a new baby needs time to establish healthy eating and weight gain. They both need to learn what is comforting for the newborn. After a routine begins, but before mobility is a concern, can be a great time to travel. Your healthcare provider can help you ensure that everyone is roadworthy, and provide you with tips for a safe trip.

In addition to the logistical questions, some introspective ones can guide you along as well. What kind of traveler are you? Are you flexible or impatient? Do you have any travel challenges of your own to consider, like allergies, or mobility issues? Have you been through the newborn stage before? If your flight is overbooked, or your hotel has no more cribs, will you adapt or melt down? If a trip sounds more stressful than fun, it may be better to wait, or invite family and friends to head your way instead.

Unfortunately, plans sometimes need to be made before the baby arrives, in which case you’ll want to know the policies for altering or canceling any bookings. If you have the flexibility, it’s best to book after the baby is born. Due dates and health status can change with the wind. Passports and immunization requirements can add months to your timeline.

Take comfort in knowing that you’re not the first to hit the road with a new bundle of joy. Websites for airlines and hotels have prominent, detailed policies on everything from car seats to kids’ menus. New parents may have no idea that infants can often fly free when sitting on a parent’s lap. Many airlines allow children’s travel items like strollers and car seats to be checked at the gate for free, without counting toward your luggage allowance. If you know you will be booking transportation or lodging, it’s advisable to research policies online, and then call to book. An agent is likely to know about details or perks that even experienced traveling families might overlook.

Newborns may seem like formidable travel companions, but the truth is, they are as portable as they will ever be. There’s no reason a healthy newborn can’t be part of your travel plans. Know your baby, trust your judgment, and travel well.

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