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New parents looking to take their first trip with their new baby face a lot of challenges. Even with the rising costs of hotels, airfare and gas prices, more people are eager to go on vacation. These factors can complicate a new family’s vacation plans if they don’t plan accordingly.
Whether parents and baby are hitting the highway for their first road trip or preparing for baby’s first flight, there are a number of tips, tricks and even products experts recommend to make a new family’s first vacation a memorable one, and in the best way possible.
Here is a roundup of the most helpful hints for what new parents need to know when traveling with a baby for the first time.
1. Always Arrive/Leave Earlier Than You Expect
We know that getting out of the house with a baby on a normal day can be a challenge. However, with record numbers of people traveling during the summer season, you will want to leave plenty of time to get to your destination, especially if you’re heading to the airport. The last thing you want to do is worry about missing a flight while juggling a new baby.
Fatherly recommends arriving at least 90 minutes to 2 hours before your flight’s departure time. This not only allows for long lines through ticket counters and TSA but also gives new parents a chance to catch their breath before getting on the plane, leaving time for a bit of shopping in the terminal or lunch for you and baby.
2. Bring A Portable Changing Station With You
The biggest worry most new parents have when going anywhere, even just to the store, is having a clean, reliable place to change diapers. That’s why we recommend picking up one of the best portable changing stations to bring along for your baby’s first major trip.
When looking for the best portable changing station, you want a compact but roomy carrier (backpack or duffel-style bag) that can hold plenty of diapers, wipes, changes of clothes and even some bottles or food. Then, when necessary, the bag (either part of it or the whole thing) can be transformed into a diaper changing station or even a crib. Some of the newest portable changing stations even have a USB charging port for your smartphones or other devices!
Our top pick for the best portable changing station, based on customer and expert reviews, is the Happy Luoka Diaper Bag Backpack with Foldable Travel Bed/Changing Station.
As a reminder, TSA allows for baby formula, breast milk and juice (up to 3.4 ounces) to be placed in carry-on bags. When bringing bottles or liquids through TSA, make sure to follow the agency’s guidelines.
3. Resist The Urge To Overpack
Of course, new parents don’t want to be caught without something important. However, when traveling there is minimal space to pack in either a suitcase or even a car. You simply can’t bring everything with you. That’s why experts recommend thinking like a minimalist when packing for baby’s first trip.
For international travel, Vogue offers two practical tips that really apply to all trips to help parents make sure they have what they need to take care of the baby at their final destination, even if they are staying stateside.
First, consider shipping larger items ahead to where you’ll be staying. Many locations offer grocery pre-ordering so you can make your list and have it ready for either pickup or delivery when you arrive and are ready. You can also use services like Amazon to purchase diapers and formula and have them shipped to your accommodations.
4. Use Gate Check for Car Seat and Stroller
Even with the possibility of shipping items to your destination, there are two essential items for the baby that always prove to be a hassle: the car seat and the stroller. New parents can’t live without them, but traveling with them is a chore, for sure.
Plan to gate check these items. When you gate check an item, it means you can bring the items with you through TSA security and to the gate. This is so convenient when you’re carrying a baby and all the necessities. However, once you get to the gate, the items will need to be stored properly on the plane. This is when an agent will tag your car seat and/or foldable stroller for luggage workers to stow on the plane.
Then, when you arrive at your destination airport, your tagged items will be waiting for you when you get off the plane. That means no going to the luggage carousel and praying that the stroller or car seat made the trip with you!
5. Travel During Baby’s Nap Time, If Possible
Anyone who is a parent knows that naps can be so unpredictable. However, when you’re planning your travel schedule, if your little one does have a regular snooze time, then use that nap knowledge to your advantage.
Whether you’re scheduling a flight or plotting out a driving schedule, try to work in the baby’s nap time into the peak travel time. A sleeping baby is a happier baby (and parents and fellow passengers, too!).
Setting out on a vacation with a new baby can be an adjustment, but with these tips, your family will turn into travel masters before you know it!