If you are like us, and traveling is a big part of your pre-child life, then ideally after your baby is born, you want to get back to that as soon as possible. In order to get to this Promised Land, and assuming you are not leaving your baby behind, traveling with baby requires that you firstly need to train yourselves as parents, and as much as you can, mold your baby to be adaptable to travel. We tell that story, as always, with data.
As always, before we get into the data behind our journey, I encourage you to read our A Baby Feeding Journey over 14 Months (a 12 Part Series), and ideally many of our other data-driven perspectives covering our baby’s feeding, diaper, and other events along our parenting journey to not only orientate you, but also help give you benchmarks and information for your own parenting journey.
When I say we love traveling, I am not just saying we love taking a couple of trips a year to a resort or to our annual favorite summer or holiday family location (there’s nothing wrong with either of those things — that’s just not our cup of tea). We travel everywhere, whether it’s across all six major continents, most states across the U.S.; to locations to which most Westerners either don’t go, or when they do, they follow very specific itineraries or are on guided tours (again, nothing wrong with this either; this just isn’t our traveling style). We happily go on long flight journeys, as well as long car trips and train rides. We enjoy not just the destination, but the journey to and from.
So given all this, in order to get back to this style of travel in any form, and now with a baby strapped to us, was going to be a learning experience and an adventure in itself.
Our baby was born in December 2021. Below is is a simplified timeline of travel during year 1 of her life before we go into the data (as a reminder, we live in New York City (Manhattan) in an apartment, do not own a car, and primarily rely on the subway and walking for the vast majority of our everyday transport).
- 4 Months Old: April 2022 – We started being more active out of the apartment, taking her to all parts of the city, across four of the five major New York City boroughs, and being on the subway every week. April was also the first time we took our baby out in a rental car since originally coming back from the hospital after birth/discharge in an Uber.
- 5.5 Months Old: Late May 2022 – We went on first road trip to Philadelphia (~2 hour car trip from New York City, which was our first two nights away from our apartment home since the first night in hospital.
- 6.5 Months Old: Late June 2022 – This marked our second road trip to upstate New York (~2.5 hour car trip form New York City) and second two nights-trip away from home.
- 8 Months Old: August 2022 – This was our first plane trip across the U.S. to California (~5.5 hour plane trip) for a 9-day trip that included a unplanned red-eye (overnight) flight back home.
- 11.5 Months Old: Late November 2022 – This was our first international trip (via plane) to Germany (~2 hours and ~ 8 hour trips, with ~3-hour layover on both outbound/inbound), plus a round-trip via train (~2 hour) to Austria over seven days.
- 12 Months Old: December 2022
- In early December, we went on our second international plane trip to Australia (~5.5 hr and ~14.5 hour, with ~7 hour layover on outbound trip)
- In mid-December, we did domestic flights within Australia for warmer coastal break for five days (~2-hour trips) which also included 2 hours of driving between two cities
- 12.5 Months Old: January 2022 marked our return international plane trip back to the U.S. (~14.5 hours) with a 5-day stop in California, and then a (~5.5 hour) trip back to New York City via air.
Table 1 – Baby is 5.5 Months Old – First Road Trip (Philadelphia) – Saturday to Monday Pre / Travel Weekend / Post
- I decided to look at this as much like for like as possible to normalize the routines and limit variability. So here, we are comparing the Saturday to Monday periods pre and post the equivalent travel weekend days of the week in between. Arguably, you could say that we should look at the days immediately preceding and post the trip, but to me because of our childcare setup plus it being a work week, that adds a number of additional variables, making it hard to see any variation soley due to travel specifically.
- Our baby was completely bottle feeding during this period, about 5x per day (weeks 21-23 in month 6), and as we described in 14 Months of Feeding a Baby in Data and A 1+ Year Breast Pumping Journey in Data, month 6 was peak feeding, breast milk consumption, and breast milk output period. We found that baby drank 9% more during the travel long weekend when compared to the weekend prior, which is a significant jump from 857 mls / day (29 oz) to 935 mls / day (32 oz). That remained pretty constant through the following weekend at 925 mls / day (31 oz).
- The pumping output during these three weekend periods was similar, despite the difficulty/challenge and change in routine to pump milk on the road. Week 21 (pre) was 750 mls / day (25 oz), week 22 (travel) was 758 mls / day (26 oz) and week 23 (post) was 763 mls / day (26 oz).
- Overall in month 6, our baby was consuming 82% pumped/expressed breast milk. Due the lack of change in pumping above, it is not surprising that this didn’t deviate much during this travel period and surrounding weekends. Week 21 (pre) was 81% expressed breast milk / day (695 mls or 23.5 oz), week 22 (travel) was 80% expressed breast milk / day (750 mls or 25 oz) and week 23 was 83% expressed breast milk / day (765 mls or 26 oz).
- Without going into the data in table form, I will say the times of formula feeds vs. breast milk feeds did differ during the travel weekend (see Baby Feeding by Time of Day in Year 1 for in depth analysis) due to storage on road and keeping the breast milk cold (given this was late spring / early summer period in the U.S.).
- Finally, her diapers did show some variance. In week 21 (pre) and week 23 (post) there were 6 diaper changes and consequently pees per day vs. during week 22 (travel), when there were 5 diaper changes/pees per day. We discuss some of the stylistic differences in Baby’s First Year of Diapers (all the pee & poops) that can explain this. However, she clearly pooped more during the travel weekend doing it 5x vs. only 2x during the surrounding weekends.
Table 2 – Baby is almost 6 Months Old – Second Road Trip (Upstate New York) – Friday to Sunday Pre/Travel Weekend/Post
- Similar to the first road trip, we are looking at pre and post surrounding equivalent weekends. These are weeks 24-26, early in month 7 of our baby’s life. This also was during the early phases of introducing solids to our baby’s diet.
- Now just like with the Philadelphia trip, there was a jump in milk consumption during the travel weekend vs. the prior weekend. However, this was much larger at 26% per day from 773 mls (26 oz) in week 24 (pre) to 973 mls (33 oz) in week 25 (travel). This also differed to the prior trip in that milk consumption dropped the following week 26 (post) by 8% down to 895 mls (30 oz).
- We are going to talk about Baby Illnesses and COVID, etc. through data in the next post, but that likely explains (some/a lot of) the massive variation in the pre week vs. the travel week, as our baby while (not confirmed) likely was recovering from COVID and did have a lesser appetite for about a week or so (you can see this definitive slight decline in the chart in our next post).
- Additionally, the travel weekend also coincided with the all-time peak liquid feeding period, as day 1 of travel weekend (965 mls or 33 oz) and day 3 (1,000 mls or 1L or 34 oz) were the 2nd highest and highest all-time liquid feeding days our baby ever had during this 14-month period.
- The pumped milk output during these three weekend periods varied initially from weeks 1 to week 2, but was flat in the post weekend. Week 24 (pre) was 667 mls / day (22.5 oz), week 25 (travel) was 730 mls / day (25 oz) and week 26 (post) was 730 mls / day (25 oz). The 9% jump in pumped milk in week 2 could be explained by the likely lower output due to mom having COVID in week 1 (see more A 1+ Year Breast Pumping Journey in Data).
- Overall in month 7, 82% of our baby’s liquid diet consisted of expressed breast milk. Due the lack of change in pumping output noted above, it is not surprising this didn’t deviate much during this travel period and surrounding weekends. Week 24 (pre) was 92% expressed breast milk / day (708 mls or 24 oz), week 25 (travel) was 80% expressed breast milk / day (780 mls or 26 oz) and week 26 was 81% expressed breast milk / day (725 mls or 24.5 oz). As mentioned above, the pre-week higher breast milk proportion was likely due to baby’s lower appetite due to recovering from being sick with COVID.
- Finally, her diapers did show some similar attributes as our first road trip. For pees, it was exactly the same amount of diaper changes across all weeks (note: during this period, we didn’t have our usual paid childcare involved much for style difference variance). However for poops, in week 24 (pre) and week 26 (post) there were 3x poops vs. week 25 (travel), when there were 5x poops. Just like our first road trip, she seemed to like pooping more on the road.
Table 3 – Baby is 8 Months Old – First Flight Trip (California) – A 30-day period comparison (10-days pre vs. 10 days of travel vs. 10-days post travel)
- While we are still looking at this as a pre/during/post comparison, in this case, for 10 days in each phase, there will be a lot of differences in this comparison analysis. We were well into the solids feeding phase during this part in late month 8 and early month 9, so we will discuss the impacts there for travel. Baby was averaging 4 bottle feeds per day during this phase. As this involved “long” (5.5 hour) flights, we now had situations of feeding, pumping, and diaper changes during travel on plane. This also involved a 3-hour time zone change each way, which meant a routine adjustment, including sleep/wake cycles. Finally, this involved multiple change of venues including two hotels, staying at grandparents’ home, which presented different challenges and access to things.
- From a bottle feeding perspective (expressed breast milk + formula), in pre-travel 9 days, baby consumed 773 mls / day (26 oz), vs. during travel 776 mls / day (26 oz), vs. 698 mls / day (23.5 oz) in post- travel 9 days. So here we can see a 10% drop during post travel week, potentially explained by the below two points with solid feeding.
- From a solids feeding perspective, in pre and post travel periods, she had 2x solid feeds per day consistently. During the travel period, this was erratic, averaging about 1.2x per day with some days having zero solid feeds and other days, just one solid feed. The two days when she had zero solid feeds, she had a fifth bottle feed as a “replacement” feed (see Number of Baby Feeds per Day in Year 1 for an in-depth analysis).
- We were also tracking new foods, which averaged 1.4x (pre-travel period) and 1.9x (post-travel period) per day. With lesser feeds during travel, new foods introduced averaged only 0.7x per day in travel period.
- From a pumped/expressed milk perspective, in pre-travel 10 days, mom pumped 728.5 mls / day (24.5 oz), vs. during travel 720 mls / day (24.5 oz), vs. 706.5 mls / day (24 oz) in post-travel 10 days, so pumping output remained fairly consistent this entire time.
Table 4 – Baby is 11.5-12.5 Months (1 year) Old – International Travel (Europe: Germany + Austria; Australia and Domestic Australian Travel)
Chart 1 – International Travel Period from Month 11 to Month 13 (Day 305-396) (Europe – Germany + Austria, Australia and Domestic Australian Travel)
- For this one, I am going to break the comparison mould in two ways. Firstly, I am combining multiple international trips, including side trips and flights into one analysis. Secondly, I am not doing a strict pre vs. during vs. post travel comparison as done with the other three trips noted (2x road trip and one domestic flight) and their respective travel analyses. We’re looking at this differently simply because for this specific trip, this covers a much longer period of time (6 total consecutive weeks of travel), with the two main trips separated by just 5 days. There was so much variation here, from multiple time zone changes, to seasons, and to so much variation within trips for location and setup for feeds, sleep, and diaper changes, that a pre/during/post could be pretty misleading. Pump output also changed dramatically during this period as discussed in A 1+ Year Breast Pumping Journey in Data. Therefore, I will do various types of relative comparisons here with accompanying milestone events.
- If you look at the chart of this period for total bottle consumption through the Nov 20-27 first international travel period, it is actually very flat compared the earlier part of November (620 mls or 21 oz – Nov 1-19 vs. 605 mls or 20.5 oz – Nov 20-27).
- There is definitely some formula consumption for the first time in a while here (525mls or 18oz), which is the most in a 7-day period since the last trip to California (680 mls or 23oz). However, from a proportional consumption perspective, this was very similar with the California trip being 91% breast milk to formula vs. the Europe trip being 89% breast milk to formula. Pumping, of course, was more of a challenge while traveling on planes, transiting through airports, changes in schedules and time zone differences, etc.
- It is worth noting that overall, baby was consuming about 22% less liquid feeds per day in these two travel periods: In California; in month 9; 776 mls (22 oz) per day vs. Europe in month 12; 605 mls (20.5 oz) per day. This was, of course, offset by baby’s increased solids consumption.
- However, if you continue along the chart, you can start to see a more meaningful rate of decline of milk consumption after we get back from Europe, which then continues to around Day 359. Then, you can see a second rate of decline from this level from about Day 366 (which was at the end of our 5-day domestic Australia trip) to about December 20. This remains reasonably flat through Christmas and New Year’s Day before dramatically declining, as described in A 1+ Year Breast Pumping Journey in Data
- What is running counter to this is that starting December 9, we see a continuing decline in total milk feed, and as we head into month 13, an increase in solid feeding. This was due to a combination of having snack meals or sometimes double lunches during road travels, and introducing more cow milk into the diet as a substitute for breast milk (the bottle feeding spike on January 1 is due to a 15 hour plane travel day, plus a change in time zone backwards to U.S. time from Australia time).
- Because of the combination of feeding at home (grandparents’ place) plus at restaurants, hotels, airports, and planes, this was an interesting solid feeding period. While breakfasts were reasonably constant, the other meals often had wild variations. However, it is clear that month 12 (mid November to mid December) was the first full month that solid foods made up the majority of baby’s diet, with bottle fed expressed breast milk and any formula very much a supplement. As so much of this month of our baby’s life was on the road internationally, it was an interesting adjustment period for her (and us).
- Interestingly, from a diaper perspective, during this solid transition, while we were away for about 35 days in Australia and then California for five days before heading back to New York, baby pooped 69 times or 1.97x per day. During the remainder of January into end of this data set into mid-February, baby pooped 92 times in 40 days or 2.3x per day. This increase in bowel movements was a 15% increase back at home base (I suppose we are all most comfortable while at home, sweet home?).
TRAVEL TIPS WITH A BABY!
Here are 8 + 1 EXTRA overall tips for traveling with baby based on our experiences (including hints we learned from others):
- DO IT AND DON’T BE AFRAID: You will inevitably make mistakes. At times, it will be challenging (e.g., a blowout at a restaurant, pumping milk discreetly on the plane). The only way you, as parents and your baby, will learn is by doing it. If it helps, start with short road trips and work your way up like we did to halfway across the world trips (get your passport and other needed travel applications and documents in early!).
- ON PLANES – If you can afford it, pay for more space, whether that is for wider or premium economy seats, or higher classes, or try and sweet talk an agent to block out a middle seat for you (lucky us, this worked out once). Whether it is allowing your baby to move and squirm around as they inevitably will want to do, changing or feeding baby, arranging pumping parts or pumping milk, or packing/setting up bags/luggage, the extra space will always, always be helpful. Most airlines will have extra allowances for baby and mother-related items (diaper bag, breast pump bag, bag to store expressed/pumped milk), but check with your specific chosen carrier and your country of travel rules. Children under the age of 2 usually do not cost anything to fly (beyond maybe taxes, depending on the destination), so this is a great age window during which to take advantage of the lower costs, and save money in your bank account.
- STROLLER / CAR SEAT – On planes, if you can have a setup where you can click your car seat into your stroller, it would make for a breezy to-and-from airport transfer, as well as when you are traveling in new places. The smaller the stroller (so it can fit in the overhead bin above your seat), the better.
- BREAST MILK AND PUMPING – As noted above, airlines usually have additional baggage and storage allowances for this, but as best as you can, make it easy on yourself with portable (battery operated) pump devices, cold storage bags, ice packs, etc. Try to plan your baby’s feeds to allow for travel day logistics, such as baggage check, airport security lines, etc.
- DIAPERS – Plan to change baby’s diaper BEFORE you get on the plane to hopefully minimize need/amount to change during flights, and ensure you have adequate supply of change clothes, wipes, and other relevant items handy. Practice changing in small, cramped spaces like in restaurant bathrooms or in your car (the trunk/boot is a great place to change!).
- ACCOMMODATION – Just like with planes, if you can opt for space and kitchen like facilities (fridge, kettle, cutlery/flatware, etc.), then it will make your life easier and potentially give your baby more places to explore. Most hotels have cribs but ask early
- LUGGAGE – If you pack more prudently for yourselves, it allows you to be more liberal with things you need for baby without expanding luggage too much. For a moment, think about what would happen if luggage that had essential items is lost or delayed. Don’t let this be a potential problem by spreading your key, needed belongings out across checked luggage AND carry-on bags (real talk: this happened to us with baby and mom’s stuff on our first international flight. As luck would have it, it is the first and only time we ever had checked luggage arrive delayed). As mentioned previously, there are extra allowances for baby and mother’s belongings, but flexibility and less stuff help you manage the transfers more easily and makes it less likely you will lose belongings.
- EMBRACE THE CULTURE / FOOD: If your baby is in solids eating phase, embrace the fact that your child could get exposed to new foods and flavors, different ingredients and water, and hopefully this will all result in a stronger gut/microbiome, a more robust digestive system, a dynamic immune system, and greater openness to trying new flavors even when you are home. Also, means you can explore more food, as well!
- (EXTRA) – Gadgets and things we liked/found invaluable for our travel with baby included (Note: some of these links are affiliate links, where we get a small commission if you purchase):
- Apple AirTags / Tile for Android – luggage tracking was important especially when baby supplies are in checked luggage. We had delayed luggage on our first international trip where most of baby’s clothes and diapers were located.
- Philips Avent Bottles – our baby feeding bottles of choice because of its no spill/drip protection; this nipple style forces baby to “do the work” to suck harder to get the milk out.
- Spectra S1 Plus Breast Pump – This is a powerful breast pump that is relatively light, has a long-lasting battery (wireless!) and because of that, is great for pumping while traveling because it does not require you to be stuck plugged into an outlet. Mom pumped using this breast pump in cars, trains, hotels, airports, planes, and restaurants. In addition, the warranty is excellent, plus their phone/internet support is fast and extremely helpful.
- Babyzen Yoyo Stroller / Car Seat Adapter – We were lucky in that we borrowed this stroller from a friend for our international trips. This stroller was amazing, as it can fit easily rolling down plane aisles, in overhead luggage bins; with the car seat adapter, it can click into car seats like one below, making it easy to get in and out of Ubers, cabs, rental cars, etc. All this while also being part of one “stroller” to cart your baby around places like airport, or cities where you know you might want the backup option of being able to jump into a car when needed — this will make travel so much easier and reduce stress considerably.
- Nuna Pipa Rx Car Seat – This popular car seat was durable and transported well across three continents and numerous different models of cars, while easily working well with both the Yoyo stroller as well as our everyday Nuna Triv stroller (all Nuna infant car seats click into Nuna strollers with the Nuna car seat ring).