We had been excited to fly with Juliette since before she was born — that’s how much we wanted to share our love of travel with our baby. So, one of our first questions to our pediatrician was how soon we could safely fly with her. We decided to expedite her two month shots to give her as much time to build immunity after those shots before our first flight. And where did we venture to? Back to where we got married — Maui.
We learned so much about traveling with a baby during this trip. Below are some of the tips for what we found critical, useless and recommendations for next time.
What to pack
We were typically “never separate from your luggage” carry-on only travelers. Those days have ended! Juliette had at least three times as much stuff as Justin and I had combined. We will likely get more efficient but we’re also entering a new reality and becoming those people who check bags.
We found there was a clear distinction of what we recommend carrying on, checking and buying once there:
What to carry on
- Critical clothes. As you would when traveling without a baby, pack what you need to have with you. For this trip, it meant our swim suits, at least one sets of hot weather clothes for us, our flip flops and a handful of baby clothes. Keep in mind that if you’re traveling somewhere warmer/colder than where you live, the baby may need to sleep in heavier/lighter layers. We had short-sleeved onesies that she slept in since the evenings were warm and she was swaddled up.
- Critical baby gear. We put her swaddles, pack and play sheet, travel white noise machine and sunhat in our carry-on to ensure we’d have what we needed in the event luggage was lost.
- Nursing/pumping gear. You are allowed to carry-on any nursing/pumping/feeding gear you need and it doesn’t count against the number of carry on pieces you are allowed (so cool!). I had a big bag with my pump + pump parts and Juliette’s bottles — all in addition to our other carry-ons.
- Extra change of clothes for you, your partner and baby. Spit ups and blow outs are common/likely on airplanes. It was almost unusual that we didn’t experience either. On the flight back she blessed us with a massive poop just before we flew. Go kiddo! Make sure you have an extra set of clothes not only for the baby but for you too in the event you get covered during the flight. Keep it easily accessible — if you need it, you don’t want to have to dig around in your luggage for it.
- Carseat and stroller. See below.
At this point, your carry-ons should have everything you really need and if your checked luggage is lost, you’ll be fine.
For your checked bag, it’s easy to just throw more things in but don’t do it — it isn’t worth it. Here is a picture of all the clothes we considered bringing for Juliette:
And what we actually brought for her:
And it was still more than we needed (especially since we had laundry at our condo). Here is most of her other important gear:
Carseat and stroller — what to choose and what to carry on
We knew we’d be taking several trips while she is little so decided to get a smaller, travel stroller for these trips so that we didn’t have to shlep our everyday (bigger, heavier) stroller. We narrowed it down to the Babyzen Yoyo and the Uppababy Minu. Both are super small and can fold up to fit into the overhead compartment — which is amazing! Given our upcoming trips to Boston, Spain and Grenada, we wanted a stroller that was a bit more sturdy on less manicured terrain so we went with the Minu and bought adaptors so we could put our Nuna Pipa carseat on it. It folds up very small, is super light and comes with a shoulder strap — and check out how it fits in the overhead compartment! We have been super pleased with it. We also got the travel bag (and it comes with protection from Uppababy if it is ever damaged during air transit).
We brought our regular carseat and base since we knew we’d be driving around quite a bit in our rental car. We bought a padded travel bag for the carseat and checked it at the gate. You don’t need a bag (you can just leave it with a tag at the end of the jetway) but we were worried it would get banged up so we bought a bag. This bag was great since it has backpack straps making it easier to carry (although still huge and heavy).
We weren’t sure if we would need the base or not since our carseat can strap into cars (Uber to the airport and rental car while there). We brought the base so we wouldn’t have to hassle with strapping it in and out every time we got her out of the car in Maui. In retrospect, it may not have been necessary since it is quite big and heavy. Only bring it if you will be going in and out of your car a lot and don’t mind the weight of it.
I strongly recommend bringing both carseat and stroller to the gate with you and not checking them. In the event that your flight is delayed or cancelled, you don’t want to be separated from those two things. Also, if you can get an open seat next to you on the plane, you can bring your carseat on and put the baby in it (fingers crossed for an open seat).
What to buy there
We were lucky to be going to Maui where there is a Costco, Target and Walmart all within a mile of each other as you leave the airport. We made stops at all three but pre-ordered diapers and wipes from Target and had them ready for us to pick up upon arrival.
We also considered renting a Pack and Play from a local baby gear rental company but instead found it was cheaper to buy a $50 one from Target. We brought our own sheet but had the Pack and Play waiting for us upon arrival also. They also took back all unused items, so if you have time, you can bring back unopened wipes etc. That was a nice surprise.
The rental companies are great if you want to have bouncers, toys or other gear. They will often drop off and pick it up at your hotel or condo and rent by the day or week.
Surviving the airplane ride
Everyone knows the dreaded experience of sitting down on a plane next to a screaming baby. It stinks. Until it is yours and then you hope for pure compassion. So, we were cautiously optimistic for our first flight with Juliette. She was a total champ for the five-hour flights. Here’s what we learned:
- Nurse/give pacifier when taking off and landing. I was overly eager to nurse Juliette during takeoff that I overlooked the importance of it being during takeoff and not when the plane taxies away from the gate. I started nursing when we pulled away from the gate, but we sat on the runway for 20 minutes so I quickly realized I needed to stop and start again once we were finally ready for takeoff. Luckily, Juliette was totally patient and went along with that plan.
- It’s helpful for the baby to be sucking during the flight. This applies to the whole flight not only takeoff and landing. The more they are sucking, the easier it is for their ears to pop. We had not used a pacifier up until this point but brought one for her to suck on (turns out she liked it) and that helped alleviate potential discomfort. Nursing also works great, but it’s tough (unbearable) to nurse for five hours straight.
- Wear the baby in a carrier. Juliette loves being in the carrier and I had her sleeping in the carrier on me almost the entire flight. It was helpful to have a carrier that was easy to put on and take off since I had it off when I nursed, when she wanted some fun awake time and when we went to change her diaper. Wear something that is comfortable for you and easy to get the baby in and out of. Our pediatrician also suggested keeping such a young baby in a carrier so that she would be covered and protected a bit from onlookers and germs.
- Keep yourself/surroundings clean. We brought Purell wipes and cleaned everything around our seat. We also brought lots of hand sanitizer which we used generously and frequently. Planes are filthy. Stay as clean as possible, especially anything that touches the baby or that you touch frequently.
- Have everything within arm’s reach. You don’t want to have to dig through your diaper bag for things so keep anything you need handy — nursing cover, burp cloth, pacifier, hand sanitizer etc.
- Be kind to the people around you. We tried to make nice small talk with the people around us as we were boarding. We hoped that goodwill would pay off in the event Juliette wanted to cry a lot. Fortunately, we didn’t need it, but it was nice to have.
What to skip
We brought these baby headphones and put them on her during our flight to Maui. They aren’t noise cancelling but they block out a fair bit of noise and we were hoping that they would keep Juliette from startling awake when drink carts came by and announcements came on. They are tricky to nurse in and hard to fit in the carrier if she’s fully tucked in. So, not sure they were worth it for us but boy are they adorable!
And like that, we did it! Aloha! Welcome (back) to Maui!
Hotel or apartment? Where to stay with a baby
For us, it was a no-brainer to get an Airbnb over a hotel room. Having an Airbnb meant we had a kitchen, fridge and most importantly — laundry. It was just like being at home and was so comfortable to have everything we needed in our unit.
Best tip for vacation accommodations
Get accommodations that are comfortable that you’ll want to hang out in — because you’ll be there a lot. It is definitely worth spending any extra money to get a nicer place. In our case, we got a unit at our favorite condo building where we stayed for our last three trips. We chose a unit right on the ocean with a big lanai, so we could see the ocean and sit out on the balcony all day. This was perfect for nursing and for hanging while Juliette took naps inside.
There were days we didn’t get out of the condo until 4:00pm. That’s when it is nice to enjoy your condo. Also great if you end up getting take out to bring back if dinner time interferes with bedtime.
Managing expectations while on vacation
So, we survived the flight and we were in paradise. Sunny, 80 degrees, listening to the sounds of the ocean…and stuck in our condo. We spent a lot of time in the condo between nursing and naps and more nursing. The added bonus for this trip was that we traveled with my in-laws who were visiting from Australia which meant they could watch Juliette while Justin and I ran down to the beach for a walk or quick swim. Having that time was incredible. If you travel without help, take turns getting out and getting some non-baby time — it’s so important! But set expectations that this new type of traveling will mean doing far less than you did before.
Maui is a special place for us since we got married here a few years ago. Every time we come back (usually around our anniversary) we go back to Olowalu Plantation House where and watch sunset at the site we got married. This year we took Juliette there with us. There may have been a few tears (from me, not Juliette).
So, our first trip is in the books and was a total success. Juliette was a champ on the plane (we were too!) and gave us the confidence and excitement to do it again. Good thing we have trips planned every month for the next four months. She is a frequent flier in the making!
Comment below with questions and your favorite travel tips with a baby. Happy traveling!