Baby-Proof Travel: Seven Steps to Simplify the Journey

We’ve recently returned from a week-long winter break in Slovenia and despite having an extremely energetic and curious child who hates to sit still, traveling with our one-year-old, Seb, was much easier than I had envisaged. When you have a baby, traveling anywhere becomes all about convenience, minimising stress and being time-effective, and I have to say we managed to achieve that pretty well on this trip.

Somehow, I packed for a week-long holiday for the three of us into two and a half bags (Seb was allowed a very small bag). I packed everything we needed, I had no intention or need to buy anything when we arrived. This was a massive achievement for me as (ashamedly) I’m a hoarder and I take too much stuff everywhere I go.

How was it possible I managed to go away for a week and not check any bags at all?

Clever packing and some very obvious, simple but effective tricks;

  1. Pack Light & Pack Smart

Traveling on budget airlines always ensures appealingly low fares, but unfortunately almost always includes high extras; the airlines make their money by charging these “extras” at extortionate prices at the airport, for example if you are even an ounce over your allocated baggage weight.

My husband insisted we needed to check a large bag to take all our things. I insisted we did not. So in the interest of saving us the £80 it would cost to check ONE bag, (yes ONE 20kg bag cost £80 on top of our fare), I researched exactly what we were allowed, then packed and repacked until I had efficiently gathered all our needs for the week into three bags; mine, my husbands and a small one for Seb.

When you fly with an infant you are (usually – check with airline) allowed to take a collapsible stroller or pushchair free of charge, and one small bag for them, both of which came in very handy for us. We needed a stroller footmuff for Seb as we knew it was cold in Slovenia but we kept it attached on the stroller when we folded it at the gate – one less thing to pack.

Packing to maximise space can be easy when you pack well; rolling clothes instead of folding helps to maximise every bit of space. Three outfit changes were enough for the week (we mixed and matched) and I packed extra under-layers for Seb in case of any accidents. Worst case scenario we could always hand wash anything during the week.

Thankfully, one of my favourite non-toxic soaps come in miniature-size; Dr Bronner’s Mini Castile Liquid Soap is perfect for traveling. One drop goes a really long way, it’s gentle for all the family and even performs great as shampoo.

Since my makeup brushes take up more space than my actual makeup itself, I carried them separately in one of the huge pockets of my ski coat. It’s amazing what you can fit in the pockets of a ski coat, I can actually fit whole cans of beer in them. (I learned this handy trick a long time ago.)

  1. Wear the Heavy Stuff

Because we were going to a cold country we needed warm clothes but to maximise space we wore our bulkiest items for the flight; thick sweater, ski coat and winter boots. This might sound unpleasant, but we used the stroller to carry everything through the airport (including our coats) and were actually grateful of the extra layers when we stepped out from our tiny plane onto the tarmac in Ljubliana at -3C.

  1. Take a Baby Carrier

The best thing we did on this trip was to take our Ergobaby Carrier. It meant I could carry Seb through the airport and have my hands free while my husband used the stroller to carry our bags and coats. Carrying your baby or toddler in a sling also means they’re restricted, they can’t crawl away and they tend to be happier when they are carried (no sudden meltdowns halfway through security). I use the Ergobaby Original which is possibly my favourite of all baby-related products. It’s made my life so much easier. (Read more here.)

Because the sling has pockets I was able to fit my phone, passport, bank cards and boarding pass, therefore eliminating the need for another bag for myself, and even a few extra nappies. Yes, I even managed to pack nappies; I counted how many Seb needed for each day and stuffed them one-by-one into any remaining space in our tiny suitcases. But having some extra in the sling meant I didn’t need to risk disturbing (and therefore spilling) the entire contents of our full-to-the-brim bags in the airport. If I hadn’t packed nappies I would have simply bought some when we arrived at our destination, but I’m quite picky about the nappies we use so another safe-saving tip would be to simply order them through Amazon and have them delivered to your destination.

 

  1. Stay at the Airport

This mostly applies for morning flights or if you live a distance from the airport, which unfortunately we do.

Seb’s never been very happy in the car so we didn’t want to face a two-hour journey with him plus the work of getting through the airport, then the flight. So we stayed in a hotel at the airport the night before. When you combine an airport stay with parking it can actually work out only slightly more expensive than parking alone, so for the convenience it’s well worth it.

  1. Check in Online

This is rather obvious and most smaller airlines even charge a penalty for not checking in online, but just having hand luggage and no bag to check meant we went straight through security to the gate, with no one even needing to look at our bulging bags. Once we arrived at the aircraft the stewards gladly took our bigger bags into the hold which meant we didn’t need to have them with us in the cabin. Essentially, we ended up checking our bags for free. Of course this isn’t a guarantee on a flight so otherwise be prepared to fight for space in the overhead bins. If this is the case, having a baby on your lap should get you a little sympathy from nearby passengers.

 

6.  Arrive Just in Time and Board LAST

I’ve never been one for getting to the airport early, but with a baby even less so. Babies get bored easily so you don’t want to spend half an hour on the aircraft before it actually takes off; by this time your baby will likely be bored and restless. And that’s before you even have to strap them in!

We gave ourselves just enough time to get through security with a few minutes spare to get coffee and use the bathroom, then went straight to the gate. We didn’t hang around the airport long enough to give Seb any time to get out and crawl around, we kept moving. Also, because we got on last they were happy to take our bags into the hold and we just walked straight to our seats, avoiding any queues. Babies hate queues. Unless they’re asleep that is.

7.   Be Prepared for Popping Ears

It can be difficult for a baby on an aircraft when they need to pop their ears, so we need to encourage them to swallow often. I tend to chew gum on take-off and landing but since this isn’t exactly appropriate for a baby (it would look a little trashy to have our baby chewing gum), I fed Seb during this time. Breastfeeding, a bottle, snack or any other drink will work.

This is rather obvious and most smaller airlines even charge a penalty for not checking in online, but just having hand luggage and no bag to check meant we went straight through security to the gate, with no one even needing to look at our bulging bags. Once we arrived at the aircraft the stewards gladly took our bigger bags into the hold which meant we didn’t need to have them with us in the cabin. Essentially, we ended up checking our bags for free. Of course this isn’t a guarantee on a flight so otherwise be prepared to fight for space in the overhead bins. If this is the case, having a baby on your lap should get you a little sympathy from nearby passengers.

 

20180107_113111.jpg
Everything we took for a weeks winter holiday

I loved this experience of forcing myself to simplify and minimise my life for a week. Now, if only I could replicate this in my everyday home life….

What about you, any tips for traveling with children you’d like to share? Thoughts or questions? Comment below!

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