Monday, May 10, 2010

Traveling With a Baby Internationally?

Would I travel with a 13 month old to the other side of the world and live in an underdeveloped country for 6 weeks again? Yes. But let me share a few things I’ve learned. I'm writing this to have all the details saved in one place if we ever consider doing this again and thought I'd share since it may help you if you're considering traveling internationally with your baby/kids.

Here are some things that have been invaluable to us while we’ve been here:

  • Portable high chair—It compacts, is easy to wash, and fits on most tables. Also holds children up to 37 pounds.
  • Stroller
  • Pack n play—Most airlines let you take a stroller and a pack n play for free with a lap baby (children under 2 that sit on your lap). These 2 things are a must have if you’re traveling internationally!
  • Baby wrap (I had a friend make mine for me and it’s perfect for those times when a stroller is too big to maneuver through the small crowded spaces)
  • Baby snacks/food from home Great for the plane rides, but also those times when you’re not sure about the sanitation of the local food.
  • Skype It’s great to be able to talk to family and friends 10,000 miles from home.
  • Sanitizing wipes For the airplane, etc. (not the same as baby wipes—these kill 99% of germs). This is one of the first set of flights where none of us got sick afterward. BTW, have you ever wiped down the airplane seats before you sit in them?? They are disgusting!! Think: several white wipes made dark, dark brown from all the grunge. We brought along an entire box. Also, they’re good if you get a cut/scrape and don’t have any alcohol on hand.
  • Books for Kasen He loves to read along with age appropriate books for him and they are hard to find in another country.
  • A few games/toys Make sure they pack well (small). These are great entertainment for the plane ride and once you're there. Also, the in flight magazines and sick bags are great to let your little one play with/rip up (the magazines say you can take them with you, so don't worry about ruining them). You can make a game of putting things in and taking them out of the bag. And be prepared to walk the aisles to get the wiggles out in between meal times. Most people are really friendly on the flights and will smile and wave, etc. as you pass.
  • A few favorite movies to watch when you get a little homesick.
  • Several sippy cups Should you ever leave home without one? We brought 5 and have had 3 break, so we’re happy we brought more than we thought we needed.
  • Nursing. I’m nursing beyond when most mother’s quit, but if you read up on the benefits, they are vast! Also, if you’re traveling close to the time you’re thinking of weaning consider a few things:

  1. It’s a big comfort for your baby when you’re traveling across the world and just about everything is new to them.
  2. If they get sick, babies that refuse to take food usually will still b/f, so you know they are still getting nourished and hydrated. This happened with Kasen while we’ve been here. He ran a high fever for 3 days straight and refused food. When I called the doctor in the U.S., she was relieved to find out he was still b/f because dehydration is a huge concern for babies.
  3. They can get your antibodies while b/f which helps prevent them from getting sick and helps them get over it more quickly if they do get sick.
  4. These are just the benefits I’ve found for traveling. There are many more overall for b/f, but that’s a whole different topic…

Before you leave:

  • Call your airline and request the baby bassinet if you’re traveling with a lap baby. There are only certain seats that have this option, so call as soon as you book your ticket because they’re on a first come, first served basis, but they free you up during sleep time which is a HUGE relief on long flights. Kasen was over the height and weight limit, but it just meant that he was very snug while sleeping.
  • Make sure immunizations are up to date for you and your kids.
  • Put together a travel kit with medicines for you and your baby/kids just in case. Talk with your doctor about potential illnesses and get a few prescription medications you can pack to treat a broad spectrum of sicknesses. Also include a good supply of ibuprofen and Tylenol for your child. Kasen has run a fever several times while here and he also cut 4 new teeth, so we used our entire supply already.
  • Pedialyte packets. You can reconstitute them with bottled water, but it’s perfect if your little one gets diarrhea or is vomiting. Thankfully Kasen avoided both of these, but we packed a hefty supply just in case.
  • Passports for your kids.

What we wish we had done differently:

  • Packed a few more books for Kasen’s age. I packed a few board books, but have them completely memorized now and am looking forward to getting back to our small home library for a little more variety.
  • Packed more ibuprofen and Tylenol for Kasen.
  • Packed everything we needed for 3 days in our carry-on. Since our luggage was delayed by up to 8 days for some pieces, I wish we had packed more essentials. Usually we do, but with all of Kasen's stuff, we decided to try and pack lighter. That was a big mistake!
  • Realize that things wear very quickly, so only pack those things that you don’t mind getting a little extra wear and tear. Some of our whites are blue, some of our colors have been bleached, and many things have permanent stains. (This is true for our particular kind of trip, but if you’ll be staying in nice hotels, etc. this may not apply to you.)
  • Packed an extra bottle of shampoo and conditioner. Paying $7 per bottle is a little hard to swallow when I could have packed the same bottle for $2.
  • Packed a “leash” for Kasen. I don’t care what your line of thinking is on this one—when you’re traveling in another country, it’s nice to know they are close and attached.

FYI: I had a friend who lives in another part of Africa tell us that for babies/kids it generally takes about 1 day per hour you change in time. After having experienced crossing time zones with a baby for myself, I have to agree with her. Being 10 hours off from Pacific time, it took us about 10 days from the time we left for Kasen to get adjusted to the time here. Kai and I have always been able to adjust within a day or two if we stayed awake until the evening of the local time (no napping!), but with a baby it’s a whole different challenge.

Yes, he really did fall asleep standing up due to jet lag.

Note: Do your research and find out what's available before you travel. Madagascar, though very underdeveloped, still has basic necessities available for purchase.


  1. I wish others would read this...even when traveling domestically! I can't tell you how many times I've been asked, "do you have a diaper, a bottle, milk, etc" and no...we don't. We usually get one carton of milk per fight, and it's in first class. Never get diapers or a bottle. And I agree 100% on the b/f, wish Grace had stayed on longer. I don't think we Americans realize most other countries b/f until age 3! This blog has been so much fun~ technology is amazing!!!

  2. We have absolutely enjoyed your blogs and all your wonderful experiences. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I b/f my kiddos over the "norm" too....with Grant he was about 18 months....Chace was 22 months (with only having a 2 min "nightcap" at bedtime....why the kid insisted on those two min is beyond me!!)
    and I have to say, I'm soooo glad I don't have to worry about all the baby stuff while traveling anymore!! They are now responsible to fill their own backpacks for entertainment (which just means electronic games and a couple of books usually!)