Traveling with your baby
Taking a trip with your baby may feel exciting and overwhelming all at once! But with a little planning, you can enjoy your trip and make special memories for your family.
Plan ahead and follow these tips to stay safe when traveling with your baby:
- Call your baby’s health care provider before planning a trip to make sure your baby’s healthy for travel.
- Find out if your health insurance covers medical care for your baby when you’re out of town. Health insurance helps you pay for medical care. Most insurance plans cover emergency medical care no matter where you are. But you need to know what your plan means by “emergency” to know exactly what it pays for.
- Think about buying travel insurance. This is insurance you buy in addition to your regular health insurance. It covers your baby for medical care during a trip. You also can buy travel insurance that refunds some of your costs if you have to cancel your trip. Visit USA.gov to learn more about travel insurance.
- Learn about medical care that’s available where you’re headed. Your baby’s provider may recommend a provider in the place you’re visiting, or you can find a pediatrician through the American Academy of Pediatrics. This helps if your baby gets sick when you’re away from home. If you’re traveling outside of the United States, find a provider through the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers website.
- Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for information about vaccinations, safety tips and other information that can help keep your baby healthy during travel.
Pack a large diaper bag for your baby and keep it with you at all times. This way, everything you need is always handy.
Babies usually adjust to changes in their eating and sleep schedules without much trouble. But if you’re switching time zones, it may take a little longer for your baby to adjust. Bringing a few things from home helps your baby get used to travel and new places.
Pack these items in your baby’s bag:
- Baby food, bottles and formula. Bring extra food or formula in case of travel delays.
- Changing pad, diapers and diaper ointment. Throwaway changing pads can make changing your baby’s diaper easier.
- Extra baby clothes
- Rattle, book or favorite toy
Most healthy babies can travel on airplanes. But if your baby has a health condition, such as heart or lung problems, ask her health care provider if it’s safe for her to travel by plane. If your baby is sick with an ear infection or cold, ask her provider if she can be treated before the trip. If your baby flies with an ear infection or cold, she may feel a lot of pain in her ears from changes in air pressure during the flight.
The best way you can keep your baby safe on a plane is to make sure she has her own seat where you can fasten her car seat. Children younger than 2 years can sit on a parent’s lap, but sitting in a car seat is safer.
Follow these tips when traveling by air:
- Ask your airline if they charge less for a baby’s seat. Your baby’s seat may cost half the price of your seat.
- Buy a window seat for your baby and make sure that you sit next to him. Airlines only allow car seats in the window seats of regular rows. You may not use a car seat in an emergency row.
- Check the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) air travel rules before your trip and give yourself plenty of time to go through airport security. You can bring breast milk, formula, baby food and baby medicines in your carry-on bags. But tell the TSA agent that you have these items before you go through security.
- Confirm that your baby’s car seat is safe for air travel at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) website. If it’s not, ask your airline if they have an approved car seat that you can use for the flight.
- Keep a diaper, wipes, toy and bottle in your seat pocket. This way they’re close by if you need them anytime during the flight.
- Feed your baby, or offer him a bottle or pacifier during takeoff and before landing as the plane gets closer to the ground. Sucking can help ease ear pain due to changing air pressure.
- Walk up and down the aisle with your baby every few hours when it's safe to leave your seat. This can help soothe your baby if she’s cranky or crying. If noises from the plane bother your baby, putting cotton balls or small ear plugs in his ears can help block some of the sounds.
Follow these tips when traveling by car:
- NEVER leave your baby alone in a car, even for a moment. Babies can die from heat stroke because the temperature inside a car can become deadly in just a few minutes.
- Place your baby in his car seat in the backseat and make sure he’s strapped in. The car seat should face the back of your car until your child is 2 years old, or until he reaches the weight and height limit for his car seat. If you’re using a rental car, ask for a car seat if you don’t have your own.
- Play some of your baby’s favorite music and let her play with toys during the drive. Babies can get bored or cranky on long road trips.
- Stop driving every 2 hours or so. This gives both you and baby a break for fresh air and stretching.
Follow these tips when traveling by ship:
- Ask your cruise line if your baby is old enough to travel on its ship. Babies may need to be between 3 months old to 1 year old to cruise. Some cruises offer cheaper fares for babies under 2 and even provide babysitters for hire.
- Confirm that a nurse or doctor will be on the ship, and check what medical care may be available at each port. Ask if your ship has passed a CDC health inspection.
- Review room (cabin) choices to see which works best for you and your baby. For example, you may need a refrigerator for storing milk or a tub to give your baby a bath. Reserve any baby gear your ship provides. Some cruises offer cribs, play yards or strollers.
- Make sure your cabin has a life vest for your baby. If it doesn’t, ask for one to keep your baby safe in case of an emergency at sea.
- To help avoid infections, wash your hands often and wash any fruits or vegetables you give to your baby during the cruise. Some cruises mash or puree food for babies, but others don’t. Bring extra baby food or formula just in case.
How can you keep your baby safe when traveling out of the country?
- Ask your baby’s health care provider if it’s safe to travel to the country you’re planning to visit. Your baby may need vaccinations before your trip, or you may need to bring medicines with you. Take a copy of your baby’s medical and vaccination records with you. Know your baby’s blood type.
- Get your baby a passport. Even newborns need a passport if they’re visiting another country.
- Take baby formula and baby food with you. These products from other countries may be different than those here.
- Find out what your health insurance covers outside the United States. Think about buying travel insurance.
- Find a local health center or provider in the country you’re planning to visit before you leave home. Review the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers’ database of providers all over the world who offer medical care to travelers.
- Register with the American embassy or consulate once you arrive in the country you’re visiting. Staff there can help if you need to get out of the country during an emergency.
- If you don’t speak the local language, bring a dictionary.
Last reviewed October 2012
See also: Travel during Pregnancy
Frequently Asked Questions
Are plastic baby bottles that use BPA & phthalates safe?
Scientists are debating whether BPA (bisphenol A) and phthalates pose a risk to children's health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expressed concerns about chemicals used in plastics. BPA is used to make plastics clear, strong and hard to break. Some baby bottles, dishes and toys contain this chemical. Some research has found that bisphenol A can affect the brain, behavior and prostate gland in infants and children.
If you're concerned, buy BPA-free plastic baby products. You can also use baby bottles made of glass, polypropylene or polyethylene. If you use plastics, avoid plastics numbered 3 or 7 (look for the number in a triangle typically found on the bottom of containers). Use plastics numbered 1, 2 and 4. If plastic baby bottles and infant cups contain BPA, discard them if they have scratches. Don't put boiling or very hot liquids, such as formula, into plastic bottles or containers that contain BPA.