I wrote a series of Travel Tips for Parents for the Parents' Club of Palo Alto & Menlo Park Newsletter a while back. I thought I'd update them here from time to time. If you happen to be in Palo Alto on Monday, April 16, I'll be speaking on a panel about travel with kids at Parents' Place at 7:00. Free to PAMP Members, $5 for the public.
When is it safe to travel with my baby?
If you are contemplating taking your infant out on his or her first trip, you may be wondering at what age it is safe (or appropriate) for your child to travel. Continental Airlines has a rule that infants who are less than 7 days old cannot fly, Delta and affiliates have 8 or 12 day restrictions that can be waived with a note from a physician, but other airline websites are silent on this issue. If you have a newborn, ask the airline when you make your reservations whether the airline has a rule on this, based on the age of your child at the time the trip will occur. Infants may normally travel only with someone over the age of 18, or with the child's parent or legal guardian. American allows infants to travel with someone 15 years or older. Since the requirements vary, be sure to check with your air carrier when you make your travel plans.
We took our first trip with our son when he was 6 weeks old, after consulting with our pediatrician on the risks involved in traveling with a newborn. Our pediatrician advised against traveling outside the state until after the baby had his first round of vaccinations, and advised us to wait until the second round for travel outside the U.S. The primary health risk to infants is that their under-developed immune systems make them more susceptible to viruses than adults. Before you travel with a newborn, consult your pediatrician. Not all would agree with this assessment, and some might be more cautious. Be sure to ask your pediatrician for an assessment of risks associated with your specific travel plans, based on your child’s medical history and your destination.
When is it best to travel with my baby?
Aside from health concerns, parents should be aware that some babies travel more easily than others. Examine your child’s personality and your own. Think about your child's personality: Does your child fall asleep in the car seat or only in his crib? Is she flexible with schedules or rigid and scream when taken out of her routine? If your child is extremely sensitive to strangers, noise, or new environments, you may want to consider waiting until they are older. If they like "white noise" they will probably sleep on an airplane. Every baby has a different tolerance for new experiences, and whether or not your child travels well may depend on these factors. Trust your instincts and your judgment.
Consider how you are feeling, both physically and emotionally. How good are you at coping with crying/stress/travel problems that might arise? The first few months post-partum are difficult adjustment periods for many parents, due to sleep-deprivation, erratic schedules, and the stress of handling the changes in the family due to the lovely new arrival. Travel can be physically exhausting and stressful, so if you have a choice, you may wish to wait until you are up for the task yourself. Traveling with a baby requires a lot of lifting and carrying, so be sure that you have completely healed after the birth.
Sometimes, regardless of the risks or travel-readiness of the child or parent, you have to travel with them due to family emergencies, social engagements you must attend, or just to get out of the house. Looking back, it seemed much easier to travel with my son when he was an infant. In fact, some parents think this is the best time to travel. The upside of traveling with very small infants is that they are somewhat easier to manage. A baby under six months old is not as wiggly as an older child, doesn’t demand to be walked up and down the aisle, doesn’t try to escape from his seat every five minutes, kick the person in front of him to the rhythm of "Elmo's World," and doesn’t ask, “Are we there yet? Why aren't we there yet?”
You might consider booking a short trip while you are pregnant, to be taken about 3-4 months after your baby is born. By then, you may want to get out of the house, but be too intimidated to take the plunge, or stuck in a rut. If you've planned a trip to see Grandma ahead of time, you force yourself to jump in and see how it goes. Ultimately, it is your call as to when to begin traveling with your baby. Don't be afraid!
Next Time: Packing Tips