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9 Tips For International Travel with an Infant

international travel with an infant
Allianz - international travel with an infant

Thinking about going on a vacation overseas with a young baby? Your friends and family will say, “You’re crazy.” We say, “Go for it!” International travel with an infant isn’t easy, but it’s simpler than you think. Although your little one won’t remember the experience, you’ll always treasure your memories of baby’s first trip.

Get a quote for the OneTrip Prime travel insurance plan, which can cover children 17 and under for free when traveling with a parent or grandparent.

1. Travel before your baby becomes mobile.

Many new parents think they should wait nine or even 12 months before going on a big trip. But traveling with a squirming, crawling baby, or a toddler, is much more challenging than with a babe in arms. At three to six months, your baby is less fragile than a newborn, but is still easy to wrangle and sleeps a lot. Plus, airline seats are free for infants in laps.

2. Consult your pediatrician before planning a big trip with your baby.

Your doctor can advise you if your baby’s old enough and well enough to travel, and if any extra vaccinations are suggested. Your doctor can also offer suggestions for keeping your baby healthy on the trip, including medications to pack. Don’t listen to well-meaning friends who advise dosing your baby with Benadryl or similar medicines to get them to sleep on the plane. In many cases, these medications make babies restless, instead of drowsy.

3. Get a travel insurance plan that covers children for free.

Chances are you’ve experienced that nightmare moment when your baby wakes up screaming at 2 a.m. with a 103-degree fever. Now imagine you’re in a hotel overseas when that happens. What should you do? Who do you call?

If you have travel insurance, you don’t have to panic. Call the Emergency Assistance hotline from anywhere in the world, and our multilingual experts will help you obtain emergency care, medication or whatever else you need. Emergency medical benefits and emergency transportation benefits can cover the cost of a medical evacuation or medical care if your little one experiences a covered medical emergency while you’re overseas. And last but not least, trip cancellation and trip interruption benefits can reimburse you for your non-refundable, pre-paid trip payments if you have to cancel or interrupt the trip for a covered reason.

Best of all, you don’t have to pay any extra to protect your little one. Both the OneTrip Prime Plan and the OneTrip Premier Plan cover children aged 17 and under for free when they're traveling with a parent or grandparent.

4. Choose a baby-friendly destination.

One of the hardest parts of traveling with an infant (or young children) is that insidious feeling that people are judging you. Are plane passengers annoyed by your baby’s babbles? Is his crying going to wake up the people in the hotel room next to yours? Avoid the stress by picking a destination where you know you’ll be welcomed.

Possibilities include resorts that advertise family-friendly amenities, like Club Med’s Baby Club Med with activities geared for infants. Key things to look for: vacation nannies, rooms with kitchenettes, baby pools, baby- and toddler-friendly food, and baby gear (like bathtubs and bottle warmers) provided on-site.

5. Don’t forget your baby’s passport and paperwork.

If you’re traveling internationally with your baby, she needs a passport. Make an appointment at your nearest passport acceptance center for a time when your baby will be calm and alert, because for the passport photo she must be looking at the camera with eyes open – and not screaming. Read the passport requirements for minors first.

Also, if you are traveling as a single parent, or with a grandchild, niece or nephew, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) strongly recommends carrying a notarized letter from the child's other parent(s) that gives permission to travel overseas with the child.1 Other countries may require that you carry this letter, a birth certificate and/or proof of guardianship in order to gain entry.2

6. Pack more than you need.

When it comes to international travel with an infant, there’s no such thing as over-packing. If you think you’ll need 10 outfits, pack 15. Remember that basic baby items such as formula or diapers may not be available where you’re staying, or may be prohibitively expensive. The Transportation Security Administration will let you bring bottles on board, but read the guidelines for traveling with children first.

Now, you do have to set realistic expectations for the amount of gear you can carry — especially if you’re traveling solo. A simple baby wrap might be better than a bulky backpack carrier. And if you just can’t schlep the stroller, car seat and luggage, look into renting baby gear at your destination.

Read more: Packing Checklist for Flying With an Infant

7. Pack clothes and toiletries for yourself in your carry-on.

True story: My husband and I took our 4-month-old on a short vacation to Rio Bueno, Jamaica. We made it through two flights, a long customs line and a bumpy bus ride, no problem. Then we arrived at the resort and made a beeline for the pool bar. Traveling with an infant’s not so hard! we thought, clinking our Red Stripes. Then, I looked down and saw a big, damp stain on my navy dress. Yep — I was the victim of an unnoticed diaper blowout.

Fortunately, I was able to dash to our hotel room for a quick change of clothes (me) and diaper (her). But what if I’d been on the plane, or otherwise in transit? Try to anticipate your possible needs as a parent, so you can avoid baby-caused disasters. 

8. Defend your baby from germs — but don’t freak out.

The thought of your baby crawling around on an airport floor or touching a plane tray table probably makes you squirm. But that’s just what babies do — you can’t stop them! What you can do is carry appropriate defenses. Pack a blanket for floor playtime, wipe down hard surfaces on the plane, and wash baby’s hands as often as you can. In fact, one parent found hand-washing to be the magic distraction for an 11-hour international flight with a toddler: “He pumped the foamy soap, squealed with delight as he lathered up, rinsed and walked back. Walk, lather, rinse, walk back, repeat.” 

Read more: How to Avoid Germs on Planes

9. Ask for help.

A friend was traveling solo to England with her infant son when he got violently airsick on the plane. She felt awful, but the Virgin Atlantic flight attendants were as kind as could be. They helped her clean up her baby, get him the fluids he needed, and even arranged for assistance with her luggage when she landed.

Now, you can’t expect flight attendants to solve all your problems when you’re taking a long international flight with baby. “We do not have diapers, wipes or extra clothes on the plane,” writes flight attendant Leisha Poage. “The best we can do as flight attendants is to provide you with trash bags for the dirty clothes.”3 Nor can you expect them to hold your baby, serve baby food or have special snacks. But flight attendants, gate agents and hotel staff will do their best to help in a pinch — you just have to ask. You’ll be surprised by how gracious most people are when they see you’re traveling with a baby.

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