Need to travel outside the U.S. with your infant? Don’t worry, it’s possible. There are no airline requirements for age– even newborns can fly in their first few days of life. You’ll need to take some precautions, though, to keep your baby healthy, and there are plenty of logistical details to consider.
Here are 9 tips for international travel with an infant (Most of these will apply to domestic travel as well):
- Passport and visa requirements apply to people of all ages. Allow yourself time to apply for a passport for your infant, and to ensure your own is valid for a few months beyond your visa date. In terms of a visa, not all international countries require a visa for US citizens (with a valid passport), if the travel is limited to a certain period of time. To learn more about the specific requirements for passports and visas for your travel destination, head to http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country.html
- Determine if your infant needs a ticket. Once you lock down your travel dates and are looking into flights, keep in mind airline requirements for traveling with infants. Most airlines will allow infants under the age of 2 to sit in your lap, based on flight duration. Although local flights do not require a ticket for a lap child, most international flights require a ticket regardless, and so you are better off reserving a seat for your infant (for the times your arms need a break!).
- Bring the right car seat: Although bassinets are often available free of charge from the airline, infant car seats are not, and need to be FAA (federal aviation administration) approved for use. Visit your airline’s website or call customer service to review all options. The car seat manufacturer web sites also include information on FAA approval. Some car seats will have a sticker on the back that denotes FAA approval.
- Pack your own food and medications. At least for the initial flight, pack your infant’s food, as not all airlines are equipped with baby food. Additionally, pack all bottles and feeding equipment you may need for your travel. You are allowed to bring as much infant formula, breast milk and baby food as you will need for your flight. Breastfeeding on airplanes is commonplace and airlines are generally quite supportive. It is your right to feed your child, although there is no clear policy on this issue in the United States. Don’t worry: the few times breastfeeding women have been made to feel unwelcome, there has been an enormous uproar from the breastfeeding community. Bringing pumped milk and bottle feeding is also an option. Here are 10 tips for flying with breastmilk.
- Find a great stroller or carrier. Your bulky, carry-all stroller might not be the best for dragging around an airport. Some airlines require that large strollers are checked and do not allow you to use the stroller to get your infant to the gate, especially jogging strollers and double strollers. Find something small and easy to transport, or use a baby sling.
- Plan a visit with your Pediatrician several weeks before travel: I cannot stress this enough. There is a large extent of food, water and mosquito borne illnesses that are prevalent in several international countries, and traveling abroad can certainly take a turn for the worse if you or your child gets sick. Speak with your pediatrician about the available prophylactic medications and immunizations recommended for your infant prior to travel, and at the least, try to complete the basic vaccines of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTaP), varicella (chickenpox) and polio. Keep in mind that a lot of the travel immunizations you may have heard of for adults are not yet approved for use in children. For example, Yellow Fever vaccine can only be administered in children older than 6 months, and Hepatitis A vaccine can only be administered in children older than 12 months. Don’t forget a copy of your child’s vaccination records in the event you need to seek medical care while abroad (leave the original at home so you don’t lose it). You can read more about the recommendations for your particular country of travel on the CDC website: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list
- Be healthy. Be careful of the food and water you find in areas where sanitation may be poor. Several infections are bred in contaminated food and water, often causing fevers, vomiting, diarrhea or even chronic illnesses in travelers. Avoid consuming tap water, ice made from tap water or raw foods such as salads that have been washed with tap water. You may have boiled, treated or bottled water, or carbonated beverages. Unpasteurized dairy products and undercooked fish or meat should also be avoided.
- You and your baby will have jet lag– be ready. Jet lag can be especially hard on infants, and most parent of a jet lagged baby will be tired or miserable. Even in foreign situations and countries, a little bit of the home schedule will be of comfort to your infant. Bring certain toys or blankets from home, and attempt to stick to a nap and bedtime routine. Although melatonin supplements can be helpful for adults and older children with jet lag, melatonin supplements not recommended for infants. You can help re-set your baby’s natural melatonin release by dimming lights 30 minutes before bedtime and avoiding exposure to screens for 2 hours before bed.
- Have fun! Bring a camera and a journal, as these will be some of the most memorable days you’ll have with your family. Seeing the country is fun when single, but is even more exciting when sharing it with those you love. Know that you are well prepared, and enjoy your time abroad!
Need help packing and getting through the airport without attracting attention? Here’s more on flying with young children.