This is not a “how to do international travel with a baby” sort of post. I’m not going to be qualified to write that for many, many more years. But I can now say that I’ve done international travel with a baby (Milo was 4 months old on his first trip across the pond) and…we survived! Haha. We also had lots of fun, made some mistakes, did a few things right, and had a lot of fun in the process.
Maybe I’ll eventually be able to share a lot of tips, ideas, and resources with y’all to help you plan your first international trip with a baby. But for now, all I can do is share what I learned. Here’s a recap of how I planned, what I’d do differently, and what I did well.
International Travel With A Baby: What I Learned On My First Trip
First Things First…
Mindset is everything. International travel with a baby is not going to be the same as a trip with just my husband. Nate and I have had sooo many fun trips together (London! Spain! Vancouver!) and we’ll go on more in the future without kids. But for my first trip with a baby, I had to recognize that it would feel very, very different. Managing my expectations helped me have a more positive experience. Makes sense, right?
Also, this thought served me very well throughout the trip: my baby is going to behave like a baby. He’s going to cry on the flight. He’s going to have messy diapers at the most inconvenient times. He’s might decide that he’s hungry and fussy while I’m in the middle of a big crowd. His sleep schedule will probably get off, because we’re traveling to a different time zone. He’s going to act like a 4-month-old baby, and that’s a good thing!
So when people ask “how did he do on the flight?” I can say, “great!!” Because he slept a little bit, he fussed, he had a couple screaming fits, he napped again, he had plenty of diaper changes. I mean, he acted like a baby, and he is a baby, so he did great.
4 Things That Went Well On This Trip
1. We asked my in-laws to come with us. This was, undoubtedly, the thing that saved us time and time again. Nate’s parents came with us (we met up at Heathrow), and not only are they wonderful people and fun travel partners who we enjoy spending time with, they also volunteered to watch Milo for us many, many times so we could run out and go on dinner dates and enjoy some time to ourselves. They were also SO amazing to take shifts with Milo early in the morning when he decided that 5 AM was an acceptable time to wake up in the morning (after crying every 2-3 hours through the night.) Nate and I would often catch our sleep from 5 am – 9 am while Nate’s dad hung out with Milo in our apartment living room.
I know that we’ll eventually be able to travel without an extra pair of hands to help out, but for our very first trip with a baby, we appreciated having them with us SO much!
2. We brought our Vista stroller. I know that some people love traveling super light and only bringing an infant wrap or a travel stroller, but for us, the Vista stroller was amazing. It’s so easy to wheel around, even on bumpy surfaces, and Milo sleeps well in it, so we could be out during his naps and he’d just fall asleep in the stroller. It also has a huge storage compartment underneath, so we could put a diaper bag for him, and water and extra layers for us. (I’m going to be sad when Milo’s older and I can’t travel with a stroller anymore, because I’ve already gotten used to having the extra space to throw my stuff!)
3. We booked the bulkhead seats with the bassinet on British Airways. Our flight from Austin to Heathrow was so easy. Since we were traveling with a baby, British Airways allowed us to book the bulkhead seats for no extra cost. We left around 7 pm, I nursed him during takeoff, and as soon as the fasten seatbelt sign went off, I tucked him into a little bassinet in front of our seat and he fell asleep. The flight home was a different story, because we had to book a last-minute emergency flight due to COVID-19 and we didn’t have the bassinet seats…and we missed them!
4. Nate and I were both relaxed and easy-going about things. For the record, I’m not a super “easy-going” person, but choosing to adopt this mindset made all the difference. (By the way, Nate is much more of a go-with-the-flow sort of person in his everyday life; I had to work on it a bit, haha.) We had to travel differently than we normally do. For instance, we planned a lot more thoroughly this time (timelines, schedules, reservations, etc), and typically Nate and I enjoy just bopping around when we travel. But with 4 adults plus an infant, we had to plan really far in advance and recognize that basic things, like just getting out the door in the morning, would take much longer than usual. It’s all just part of the deal of traveling with an infant!
3 Things I’d Do Differently Next Time
1. I would probably wait until he was 6 months old instead of 4 months. Ok, I can’t say this one super confidently, because I’ve never traveled with a 6-month-old. But since we used the SNOO for the first 5 months of his life, he didn’t sleep well without it on the trip. I have this feeling that if we had waited until we had weaned him out of the SNOO, he would have slept better in the travel bassinet. (Some of you who have traveled with a 6-month-old might be thinking, “nooo way, 4 months is way easier than 6 months!”)
2. I wouldn’t have moved around so much. The trickiest things about traveling with an infant were the transitions (check in/check out, packing/unpacking, figuring out how to get up stairs or escalators with a stroller and luggage…stuff like that), and we had wayyy too many transitions in our trip! Haha. Live and learn, right? We flew into London, immediately rented a car and drove up to Liverpool, then took that rental car up to Edinburgh, dropped off the rental, then took a train back to London, then took the tube to get to the airport again. Too many transitions for an 8 day trip! Next time I’ll plan on one city/week. So, if we go on a 7-day trip, I’ll stay put in one place.
3. If possible, I’m going to try to travel somewhere warm. We chose London because it’s a pretty easy non-stop flight from Austin, we’ve been there a bunch of times, and there’s a great public transportation system. Sine we went there in early March, it was still pretty cold, so we brought coats, hats, gloves, and outwear for ourselves and Milo. That was a lot of stuff to pack, and it made getting out the door in the morning a bit more cumbersome. If I could do it again, I would have booked our first international trip with a baby during the summer months to help us pack a bit lighter. It wasn’t a huge deal, and I’m sure we’ll go on many more cold-weather trips with him, but for our very first trip, a warm destination would have been a little bit easier.
Ok, that’s it for now! If I ever become a true superstar at international travel with a baby, I’ll let ya know. 😉 For now, I’m just choosing to have fun with it and embrace the memories, because these early months with Milo are flying by! And like I mentioned before, the mindset really was 90% of it for me. I feel like pretty much anything can (and will!) go against my best laid plans when I’m traveling with a baby, but if I can have a good attitude about everything, I’m going to have a blast and make a bunch of fun memories with my family.