This past year my life changed…. I gave birth to a Mini Hobo! Since it had been awhile since I’d been on an adventure, I anxiously jumped on the chance to have a long weekend visit with one of my old University roommates. Problem was, she lives in Thunder Bay which is a two hour plane ride away. This posed a whole new challenge for The High Class Hobo – “How do I travel economically with a newborn?”
Turns out, if you do your research, it’s fairly easy. After all, children under the age of 2 travel for free on most airlines. Here’s what I learned:
Choose your Airline Carefully – Before MiniHobo came along I would simply chose the cheapest flight and off I went. With a baby there are more things to consider. First you need to ensure that children under the age of 2 travel for free. Second, check the baggage restrictions. Some airlines make allowances for travelling with children and will allow an extra carry-on and a stroller in checked baggage for free. Lastly, if at all possible, pick a direct flight. Boarding, take off, landing, and disembarking are quite the process with a little one so make your life easier and go direct (even if it costs a little bit more money).
Pack Light – I know this is virtually impossible with a baby but the less you have to lug around and keep track of, the better. Your child does not need allllll their toys. Similarly, you do not need alllllll your clothes! Pick the essential things and try to figure out what you can do without. For example, don’t bring a bottle warmer, just ensure there will be access to hot water at the place you are staying. Try and arrange items like car seats, playpens/cribs, and strollers to be available at your destination instead of bringing them.
Get to the Airport Early – Arrive early!!! Babies come with so many unknowns. It’s hard to predict when a newborn will need to eat or have a massive exploding diaper. They can also pick up on your stress so if you are at the airport in plenty of time, everyone will be more relaxed. We hit traffic on the way to the airport with Mini Hobo and it was a very tense experience! Somehow Mini Hobo toughed it out and went hungry and dirty while we ran through the airport to catch our flight. What a champion!
If you can get someone to drop you and your wee one off at the airport, go for it! Park and Fly is just one more exhausting step in the process so if you can eliminate it, great. If it’s economical, consider parking within walking distance of the terminal. Check online ahead of time for coupons.
Consider your Baggage – Whether travelling with a baby or without, I always suggest bringing a carry-on only. I hate checked baggage. Since we were just going for a long weekend we did not check baggage but if you are going for longer you will need to. If bringing a stroller contain it in some kind of bag. I would advise against checking your car seat…. have you seen the way the luggage guys whip the suitcases on the tarmac!? That will be your carseat; you should be able to gate check it. If you’re lucky you will be able to keep it for the flight and stick you newborn in an empty seat safely in their carseat. Use the seat belt to secure it and hang onto them during take off and landing.
Now that you’ve ditched your stroller I would suggest one of two things. a) If choosing to rent a car seat upon arrival, strap baby into a body carrier. b) If travelling with a carseat bring along someone really strong to carry it or purchase one of these handy devices (see picture to left).
If your newborn is strong enough to sit up safely in an umbrella stroller this is obviously the best option. You can steer your wee one around in your compact stroller right up until boarding time; then gate check it.
Survive Security – Have your passports handy. If you are not travelling with your spouse you may need a note from them indicating they are aware of your baby’s travels. This is more likely the case if you are crossing borders. When going through security you will get the VIP treatment! People with babies often get to go to the front of the line. They will check bottles, breastmilk bags, and baby food and allow you to take it through security. Lastly, find your gate and wait. Congrats you made it! You will probably get to board first which is another perk of travelling with a newborn.
Prepare for Dirty Looks – Within a 5 seat radius I could feel the eyes on Mini Hobo and me. Yup, sorry about your luck, you got stuck sitting near the baby. Not everyone has experience with newborns so don’t expect them to be kind and understanding. I found people were fine but definitely not overjoyed to realize they would be flying with a 3 month old.
Make Take Off a Breeze – This is the part I was most nervous about. For once I actually listened to the emergency procedures! The flight attendants were very helpful. They showed me how to hold my Mini Hobo during take off and landing. I asked if I could nurse during take off and they said yes as long as I had a secure hold on him. My plan was to nurse during take off so Mini Hobo would swallow and his ears wouldn’t hurt. As usual, babies have a way of ruining your plans. But this time it was for the good! Mini Hobo must have been so exhausted from our scramble to get to the airport that he nursed and then slept during take off. Other suggestions I researched online are use a pacifier or have the newborn drink breastmilk/water from a bottle.
Entertain Baby During The Flight – Since it was only a two hour flight we didn’t need too much to entertain Mini Hobo. He slept for a good chunk. We changed his diaper on the eating tray (with a change pad underneath of course). He looked out the window and enjoyed gawking around at all the people on the flight. He nursed for landing and the pressure did not seem to bother his ears. We did have Baby Tylonol on hand and were prepared to use it if he was in pain. We used some on the way home but it was because he was having major teething pains. Some other advice would be to bring a few favourite books or new toys, sing to baby, walk the aisles, or if you are desperate entertain baby with your phone on Airplane Mode.
Ease into Arrival – Don’t worry about rushing off the plane with everyone else. Take your time and make sure you have collected all your belongings. In an ideal situation someone will be meeting you at the airport to pick you up with a carseat. You can also rent car seats at car rental spots but there are mixed reviews online about doing that because you don’t know the history of the carseat. Public transportation is a great and easy option for travelling with a newborn as well, as long as you can manage all your bags.
There you have it! Admittedly, travelling with a newborn takes a lot of careful planning and forethought. It was also a lot more work than traveling solo, but in my opinion it was completely worth it! I was very excited to share my passion for traveling with my Mini Hobo. I’m looking forward to many more adventures to come!