Travelling with a baby
July 4, 2014 8:02 AM   Subscribe

Due to a confluence of family occasions and holidays this summer, we'll be taking our baby on several trips over the next couple of months. We don't have our own car, and will be travelling via train some of the time, so would like to keep the amount of baby paraphernalia to a minimum. What's your best advice for travelling with a 4-5 month old?

Relevant details:

- They're all multi-day trips, from 2-5 nights

- We'll be staying in a combination of holiday homes and with family, with a couple of nights in a hotel on one trip

- Some journeys will be in a car with friends/family (so we won't just be driving with the baby on her own at any point); others involve train journeys, from 3-5 hours. One of them involves crossing central London, which I've done a lot of times before but never with a baby + baby stuff in tow.

- Baby is generally pretty happy, very sociable, and loves staring at new stuff. Does not cry much. She's been away overnight before (and was fine), and on trains before (ditto), but not for these lengths of time.

So I'm looking for any general advice on travelling with a baby this age, and particularly on the practicalities of transporting her and her stuff, because ideally we'd like to take as little as possible when we're sharing cars or travelling via train. How do we work out how many clothes/burp cloths/toys etc. to take? Is it better to take disposable nappies with us, or buy them when we're at our destination? (She's mostly in cloth at home but I don't think that's going to be practical when we're away, right?) She'll be sleeping in a travel cot at floor level, which isn't what she's used to - is this likely to cause problems? Is there anything we desperately need to know about entertaining or caring for a baby on a train, preferably without annoying any other passengers? She'll be sitting on our laps or in her Ergo carrier for the train journeys.

Slight complication: she hates her car seat with a pure and burning fury, so if anyone has any advice on surviving car journeys with that in mind it'd be appreciated.
posted by Catseye to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There is No Such Thing as having too many diapers. Babies can declare a poop-a-thon at any time. Same goes for having spare changes of clothing. My son tended to have explosive poops on planes. Good times.

Car Seat. Bring it in the house, outdoors, the park. Sit her in it to watch fun things.

Bring a lovey or blankie for comfort. We traveled with very little baby stuff, just what we'd carry in the baby bag - Dipes, wipes, blanket, jacket, nursing pads(I used paper towels - the cushy ones), change of clothes, pacifier, favorite toy. There will be plenty of new things to see. It will be fun to buy that baby toy in that country, of a sort you never encountered at home. Same with adorable t-shirts and onesies from cool places.
posted by theora55 at 9:03 AM on July 4, 2014

Best answer: We traveled with our 5 month old to Germany. Ergo carrier was awesome. We toted her all over Munich in her ergo carrier and she loved it. We also had her car seat and when she was in the car, she just zonked out. It was a lot of activity for a 5mo! Bring some cloth diapers for their amazing ability to be versatile and soak up spills but, yeah, disposables are the way to go for travel.

At one stop, we were able to borrow from the hotel an umbrella stroller -- cheap little thing -- and it was a relief to walk around town without her on our backs (actually our fronts in the Ergo). So, I'd ask these friends and family to see if they can borrow to have on hand: cheap umbrella stroller, a baby seat and a cot or pack 'n' play. At one of our family visit stops in Germany, they had borrowed a pack 'n' play and we did put her in there for sleeping at naps. At all other places, we made a little nest in the bed or on the floor with rolled up towels. She slept with us. With all the travel and unfamiliarity, she wouldn't have slept anywhere else. So, don't bring a sleeping cot unless she doesn't sleep anywhere else.

We also brought one of these travel chair things. I only used it once out of principle -- but luckily it packed up small and was not much of a burden.

In short -- bring nothing but an ergo, baby cleaning/feeding supplies, teethers. At each spot, seek out a drugstore and buy a cute little toy for her -- it'll be new and interesting. You'll be shopping for diapers along the way, anyway. She was delighted by new little toys as we travelled and I'm glad I only brought the essential toys -- a couple board books, teethers, lovey.

Good luck -- you'll be amazed at how easy it is. It gets more complicated later. :)
posted by amanda at 9:05 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: --You will possibly annoy people, but they'll be fine. She'll likely enjoy walking, the dining car, things like that. Take a deep breath and remember that she has just as much of a right to be there as they do. Plus she'll brighten any number of people's day! I love seeing babies.

--Toys, meh. Burp cloths, meh. Lots of clothes though, and they're relatively little so I'd say 2 outfits a day and maybe 2 pairs of pajamas if you typically use pajamas.

--Cloth won't be practical but a couple of pre-folds with a waterproof cover might be a good versatile backup.

--I'd buy disposables when you get there, they're really bulky. But I'd also pack more then you think you need for the trip.

--She might hate the travel cot, mine did. But them's the breaks, and he did get used to it. If you're very worried, you might consider trying to put her in it for naps.

--Mine hated his car seat until he got used to it; since we don't drive he was never really comfortable in it. The older he got the better it was, and he actually just fell asleep on longer journeys. So you might get lucky with SCREEEEEEAM fall asleep. If one of you sits with her it might help.

--Strongly consider a cab or car across London if it's practical. If traffic would make that crazy, and you're using transit, then remember that most people actually like babies and will try to help you out. (Of course, this is from my experience in NYC so YMMV). Don't travel at rush hour, though, if you can help it, because people are significantly less charitable when they're trying to go to work.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:07 AM on July 4, 2014

Best answer: From my experience, you've picked a good time to travel. We took our six-month-old to Mexico and he handled the travel no problem. We were able to mess with his nap schedule on travel days so he would be mostly asleep on the plane. It's kind of a dangerous game, since the baby can get overtired and refuse to nap, but if it works out it can make travelling almost painless. We just put up the armrest and napped him across our two laps and he was fine.

Baby clothes are so tiny that you can take lots if you roll them tight instead of folding. We packed enough for two or three changes a day, considering that the change in food and drink might cause diarrhea. If you can manage to buy good disposable diapers at your destination I would do that, since they take a lot of space to pack. If you use a certain type of soother, pack lots, since the selection seems to be unpredictable at most stores. If you haven't been using a soother leash this might be a good time to try that too.

I would get her used to sleeping or at least napping in the cot now, if you can, so it's not so unfamiliar. I would bring only minimal toys and books, since there will be so many people around she won't need many. If she has anything that she goes to bed with, it'd be worth bringing that to help her sleep - with a group of people around it'll be noisier than she's used to so any kind of sleep-sound toy might be good.
posted by pocams at 9:13 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hi!

We just returned from a trip to the UK from Canada with our 4.5 month old. It was a ten day trip wherein we took a plane, then trains from London to Leeds to Oxford to Brighton and back to London, with only 3 carry-ons. It went surprisingly well even though our baby generally hates sitting still on our laps or going to sleep without dramatic deep-knee lunges. (I will be posting a sleep-training question imminently.)

Our baby also hates car seats and strollers, and prefers a carrier. She's napping on me right now in her carrier while I awkwardly answer this on my phone - please excuse any typos. I'm sorry I can't speak to the carseat issue because we didn't travel by car at all, but here's what worked for us on our trip.

Agreed that you should take a little as possible. It's stressful enough making train changes with a baby without unmanageable luggage. Re. What to take: favorite toys only, maybe 5 or so. We just cycled through each of them on train rides, shaking them at her, alterating with walking the aisles in her carrier, and when she got fussy, standing by the doors away from other passengers doing said lunges and squats. We always had her in the carrier when standing as the trains were really lurchy. The 3 hour trip to Oxford did feel a bit long but if your baby likes looking at new things, you may be pleasantly surprised how she fares.

We learned that you can book seats in advance for the trains. You may already know this but we didn't and there was a train we couldn't get on, even though we had tickets. Strongly recommended booking your seats.

We normally do cloth diapers but used disposable (biodegradable) for the trip. We brought about 12 to start and bought more as we went along. I think this was the best way to go.

We brought two burp cloths but our daughter doesn't spit up much. You could always use her worn clothes if you run out.

One of the hardest things was having nowhere to set her down in hotel rooms, eg. her exersaucer. We brought a Jolly Jumper but only one of the hotels had a lintel. Still, I was glad we had it when she was up one night in that hotel, jet lagged at 3 am and needing to burn off energy. If you have anything portable like this, also strongly recommended.

Re. Sleeping quarters and whether she'll adjust, I'm also afraid I can't be much help here as our daughter is co-sleeping in beds with us. There were a few times when she was unusually fussy (Jet lag? New surroundings?) And I was really glad I had brought one particular toy, an LCD plastic mushroom from the Dollar Store, that I could put on in the dark which seems to mesmerize and calm her.

Feel free to me mail me!
posted by Sweedeedee at 9:14 AM on July 4, 2014

Best answer: -infant car seat and a snap and go stroller frame to click it in to.

- a dozen diapers (plan to buy a small package every other day or so)

- I would skip the travel cot unless you try it out at home first and your baby sleeps in it. Consider co sleeping and if the baby is not a crawler just putting her on the bed to sleep.
- I love the big Aden and Anais wraps. They can be folded up for burp cloths, draped over a stroller/car seat for sleeping shade, used as a nursing cover and spread out on the floor as a good size play blanket in hotels etc...

Grab a couple lift the flap books as they are very interesting at that age. One or two can be small but read over and over again. Also load up some kids music (we like Raffi) on a smart phone. This can be played quietly on a train and babies seem to know its for "them". A little music while looking out the window can really calm a baby.

- Lots of wipes. You will really need them.
- can you wash clothing where you stay? Lots of hotels have machines you can use? I liked to bring 6- 8 sleepers and outfits and plan to wash them every 3 days.

- with the baby hating the car seat, check the fit. Is her hear flopping over when she sleeps? Are straps rubbing her neck? My son hated the rough fabric on his hairless head so I slipped a thin empty pillow case over the part that touched him and it was a huge improvement.
posted by saradarlin at 9:43 AM on July 4, 2014

Best answer: I took vacation last month with a (then) 5.5 month old, and the only thing I don't see above is packing a little blanket/quilt to spread out on the floor and plop the baby down on. Our baby is reasonably happy self-entertaining with just 2 or 3 toys down on the floor (turn sideways! turn the other way! roll to tummy! try to get on hands-and-knees!) and I'm glad we packed a small quilt so that we could lay him down on carpets of questionable cleanliness, on grass, and wherever we were. (It can also be folded in half and used to provide extra cushioning if you find yourself changing diapers on concrete or hard floors, which we often needed to do.)

Also: baby tylenol. Babies vary widely but 4-5 months is exactly when our son got his first two teeth and that is something you do not want to be running around a strange city trying to track down.

In terms of toys, make sure you have at least one thing that is good for chewing. Five months was around when we started to see a shift from batting at toys or being fascinated by crinkling to instead wanting to put EVERYTHING in his mouth and gum on it. The rattle he hadn't cared about much suddenly was his favorite, and his little crinkly butterfly was persona non grata (not as fun to mouth, I suppose.)

You'll have fun! I found it much easier to travel than I had feared--it's pre-crawling at that age, so they're not usually upset about being carried around everywhere, but they also have developed enough to be fascinated by toys and teethers and are more entertained by being out-and-about and meeting new people.
posted by iminurmefi at 12:12 PM on July 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

The advice above is good.
I'd skip the travel cot in favor of the rolled up towels solution, and I agree a little quilt is a very good thing. They can be quite light weight, and I (or baby) had one with play elements on it (like a big spider, and a button to push).
Disposable nappies, of course.
Ask ahead if you will be able to do laundry - maybe you only need 4 sets of clothes, then.
Maybe there are "toys" where you go? My gran was a master of entertaining babies with kitchenware. A wooden spoon and a lid would lead to hours of entertainment. As could an apple. Babies don't eat apples, but they bite into them and play with them and have fun, and it is safe.
posted by mumimor at 12:41 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is only relevant for breastfeeding and may not apply if you're on a train. We drove for about 10 hours (usually takes 8) with a 5-month-old. What I didn't expect was that the baby was not that interested in nursing during the drive. I think he was just sick of being in the car for so long and wanted to do anything else when we stopped. A manual pump would have been a huge help for my comfort.
posted by orange (sherbet) rabbit at 4:20 PM on July 4, 2014

I don't know about the UK, but in the US, there are companies that rent baby equipment -- that is, they can show up with a high chair, pack-n-play, box of diapers, and who knows what. given the variety of your stops and logistics, I'd carry as little as possible (e.g., I vote Ergo over carseat) and try to make things magically appear at most destinations.

Good luck! even though logistics can seem daunting at this age, it's about the best travelers they'll be for, um, the next.... 6? years.
posted by acm at 7:55 PM on July 5, 2014

Young rope-rider has the answer, but, really until they can walk (read, mobile) you have an advantage. I had two plus two teenage girls at one time, the teenage girls were the worst. Whatever, have fun.
posted by OhSusannah at 10:52 PM on July 5, 2014

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