Updated: Apr 29, 2021
I have all this "free" time. But babies require so much stuff. Can I manage a trip on parental leave?
Parental leave can be a great time to travel with a baby. Having a successful trip under your belt definitely builds confidence in the new family unit. It also breaks up the monotony of days spent at home. If you are flexible with travel dates, you can take advantage of off-peak plane and hotel fares. One perk is that typically infants under two don't pay airfare if you they are sitting on your lap. Babies, particularly those with limited mobility (ie pre-walking), are relatively easy to travel with. Often the ambient noise in planes and the gentle motion of driving can help them fall asleep. Even babies who are learning to walk can be great to travel with as they are entertained by walking up and down the aisles while making new plane friends.
Pre-booking flight considerations
If there are options for different flight times, I personally always preferred early to mid-morning flights with my littles. As every parent knows, a well slept baby is a less cranky baby. And a less cranky baby will help keep the peace on the flight! Many parents ask about giving their babies medication like Benadryl to help them sleep- I personally would not recommend this as a good percentage of kids actually have the opposite reaction and are hyper-alert! If you do go down this route, make sure you do a test dose at home.
If a child is travelling with one parent only, the parents travelling should carry a signed note from the other parent (if applicable), stating they are aware of the travel. This is particularly important when travelling internationally. You will need a full-length birth certificate to apply for a child passport. In Hamilton, the passport office is in Jackson Square- it is typically quiet at opening. Make sure to double check everything is signed on the passport application. When organizing passport photos, make sure the photographer has experience with infant and/or child passport photos.
Travel Health considerations
If you are travelling internationally, I would urge you to make sure your child is up-to-date with their routine vaccines as the same diseases that are risks in Canada are risks elsewhere. I would also recommend considering early vaccination with MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) for any infants under 12 months travelling to any international destination.
The standard vaccine schedule in Ontario means kids typically receive their 1st measles shot at 12 months. Other vaccines outside the standard schedule may be considered based on health risks at your destination. If there are disease-carrying insects at your destination, a mosquito net to put overtop your stroller, carrier or baby bassinet may be a good idea in addition to infant-safe bug spray. My preferred bug repellant for kids is picaridin (PiActive) which is widely available (online and big box vendors). Antimalarials (if malaria is an issue at the destination) are strongly recommended if travelling to a malaria-endemic area as babies will not have immunity to malaria if they were born in Canada.
Often carseat regulations abroad may be much less stringent than in Canada. I would urge you to consider bringing your own carseat as we know that baby will be appropriately secure and you can vouch that the carseat has not been in any accidents. Also, baby is more comfortable and used to this seat. You can purchase carseat bags to ensure the seat remains clean.
Many airlines offer extra baggage allowance for both checked baggage and carry on- contact the specific airline or check their website for their regulations. Often two from the following list of baby extras are complimentary to check-in: stroller, pack'n'play and carseat. It is advisable to contact the airline after booking the flight to advise them to add the extra baggage allowance and also details of the infant traveller. They may also be able to assign you seats with extra leg room. For longhaul flights, depending on the aircraft, you may be able to reserve a bassinet if the baby meets the airline's weight requirement and cannot sit on their own. Many hotels will provide a pack'n'play for free or a minimal charge.
Usually you can bring your stroller right to the gate. I often found for shorter trips that babywearing was an effective way to navigate the airport and limit my baggage.
Often you are entitled to bring a carry-on bag for the baby in addition to your adult carry-on allowance. It is typical that parents be permitted to bring aboard as many snacks and/or fluids required as the baby/child may require. This includes baby formula, milk and water. Definitely bring extra in case of delays. Be prepared for security to analyse any fluids- it is standard procedure.
Snacks, especially novel ones, help pass the time and keep spirits up on longer flights!
Breastfeeding or offering a bottle on takeoff and landing can help minimise ear pain related to pressure changes that younger kids can experience on flights.
I like to bring an “entertainment pack” for toddlers including trinkets from the Dollar Store eg playdough, stacking cups, stickers, little cars, lots of different finger foods, colour-wonder books, and an extra change of clothes for you and baby.
At your destination
You may be able to request a microwave in your room- this is useful if you are sterilizing baby bottles. If you have access to a microwave, microwavable sterilizer bags are probably the easiest way to sterilize baby bottles/pumping parts.