Pitstop on the way home from the hospital? A celebration when the baby is one month old? Some people travel with a newborn, and some people don’t travel until their child is 1, or 7, or 16. People’s customs and comfort levels vary widely when it comes to going out and traveling with the littlest ones. And that’s okay. But if you do want to travel with your baby, how do you figure out when is the best time to go?

Transportation age restrictions on baby travel

Airline policies vary, but most require baby be at least 7 days old (yes, days, not months or years) before flying. If you’re flying internationally, baby needs a passport first which takes some time to process. Cruise lines typically require baby be at least 6 months old before cruising, even older for certain voyages. Trains don’t seem to require a baby to reach a certain age before traveling. And of course, you can travel by car with a baby from day one. 

 Elden goes to Austin, TX at 6 weeks old
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Elden goes to Austin, TX at 6 weeks old

A newborn has some immunity to certain viruses since mom passes on antibodies to the baby while pregnant. These antibodies decline within the first couple of months of life, but some moms can continue providing more through breastfeeding. The passive immunity (which doesn’t cover all illnesses/viruses) may make some parents more comfortable traveling early with the baby even if the baby hasn’t had some vaccinations yet. Other parents may want to wait until the baby has certain vaccines before traveling.

 Elden strolling around Grant Park in Chicago, IL at 4 months old
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Elden strolling around Grant Park in Chicago, IL at 4 months old

Our experiences and learnings traveling with young babies

We knew we wanted to travel with our babies when they were young, but figuring out exactly when to take that first trip was a tough decision as first-time parents. Traveling with your baby for the first time can seem daunting, even to the most experienced travelers. A family obligation, special event or holiday, or a work requirement can push parents to take the leap and travel with their baby.

We waited until Elden and Orlo each had their 2-month-old vaccines before flying. No one recommended this to us, it was just something we felt arbitrarily comfortable with and we went with it. We brought Elden to Austin, TX for a night when he was 6 weeks old. Otherwise, both boys’ first flying trip was to Florida, to meet family at Disney World. Elden was 2.5 months old, and Orlo was 3 months old. Elden and Orlo’s first time cruising was this past summer, Elden was 2.5 years old and Orlo was 7 months old. Both have been on various trains and subways. Both of them rode in the car from birth, and Orlo was not a fan.

 Elden (2.5 years old) on his first cruise around the Mediterranean
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Elden (2.5 years old) on his first cruise around the Mediterranean
 Orlo (7 months old) cruising out of Venice
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Orlo (7 months old) cruising out of Venice

As first-time parents, we were a little more cautious traveling with Elden at first, but once we realized what he and we could do we went all in. We brought Elden to Japan for his first international trip at 7 months old, and it was such a great country to explore with a baby which further encouraged us.

Orlo’s first international trip was to Mexico at 4 months old. We traveled to some countries with Orlo (e.g., Peru, Egypt) that we wouldn’t have considered going to with Elden at that young of an age, but everything went well. Orlo was 6-8 months old during our big round-the-world trip, and it was a great age for this.

 Elden (7 months old) on his first international trip to Japan
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Elden (7 months old) on his first international trip to Japan
 Orlo (4 months old) on his first international trip to Mexico
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Orlo (4 months old) on his first international trip to Mexico

In hindsight, we’ve realized how much easier it is to travel with a younger baby. When they sleep often, only drink milk, aren’t mobile and are easily distracted it’s fairly easy to bring them along. When they start to get a bit older it can be more challenging, but it’s still doable and fun in a new way. I see it as a bell curve, easier when they’re really young, more difficult as they’re an older baby and toddler, but then gets easier again as they get a little older and more self-sufficient. Baby and child, and parent, personalities differ of course so your experience may vary based on your child’s and your own temperaments. 

Keep in mind becoming a parent is a huge life-altering adventure. It’s a big adjustment, and further complicating this new stage with travel might not make sense for everyone at the same time. Traveling with a 5-month-old baby might be great for some, and terrible for others; you never know, babies are a wild card. Don’t forget to also consider mom’s health before traveling, the fourth trimester is very real and affects each mom differently.

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That still doesn’t answer my question…

There are no hard and fast rules as to when is an acceptable age to travel with your baby. Don’t listen to other people questioning your judgment. Trust your instincts and go with what you’re comfortable doing. If you want to travel with your baby, feel you can manage, and s/he is medically okay then go for it. If you feel you need to wait until your baby reaches a certain age or milestone, then wait. Babies are all so different so it’s impossible to know ahead of time what will or will not work for your family.

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