If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that protecting our health is more important than ever. The habits we used to have are changing out of necessity — and that includes our previous travel habits.

If you’re a waiting adoptive parent, it’s likely that your child will be born in a different state. You’ll probably need to fly or drive for placement, but traveling back with a newborn and their weak immune system will require more planning and foresight.

As always, American Adoptions is here to help. Below, we’ve gathered some helpful hints for traveling with a newborn, tips that will be useful long after the global pandemic comes to an end.

You can read about parents’ recent experiences traveling during COVID-19 here.

First: Weigh the Pros of Flying vs. Driving.

Most adoptive parents have the advantage of time to plan their travel. Most of our adoptive parents have months or weeks to get to know a prospective birth mother, understand her hospital plan, and decide what kind of travel is best for them.

American Adoptions requires all adoptive parents to arrive at a prospective birth mother’s hospital within 24 hours of labor. If an expectant mother goes into labor early, most adoptive parents will hop on the next flight out of their local airport. But coming home with a vulnerable infant is another story.

If you haven’t decided on flying or driving back with your infant, your ICPC wait can be a good time to weigh your options. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How long will each travel option take?
  • What is the current state of the world? (COVID-19, travel restrictions, gas prices, etc.)
  • Does your child (or you) have any special medical concerns?
  • What does your pediatrician recommend?

Remember, your adoption specialist can always provide more information and recommendations as you make your travel plans.

5 Tips for Flying with a Newborn

For some adoptive parents, a quick flight can get them back to their destination in a few hours (rather than a day or two by driving). If you’re in this situation, there are a few steps you’ll need to take to prepare:

  • Familiarize yourself with local routes and schedules: Most airlines operate on planned routes so, if you think you’ll need to fly home from your ICPC stay, look up these times early on. That way, when you receive ICPC clearance, you will know your options and be able to jump on the next flight that works for your schedule.
  • Check your airline’s policies: Some airlines will have specific policies when it comes to traveling with a newborn. You’ll most often need a doctor’s note clearing your child for flight; check ahead of time to get what you may need. There’s nothing worse than showing up at the airport lacking the important paperwork you need to board. Your status as an adoptive parent may also require additional documentation to prove your parentage.
  • Remember your baby’s ears: The changes in air pressure will be unfamiliar and scary to a newborn, so make sure to have a pacifier or bottle for your baby to suck on during takeoff and landing. Earplugs or cotton balls are also a good thing to have for a noisy cabin, so your child can sleep soundly.
  • Keep your surfaces clean: COVID-19 taught us that hand sanitizer is invaluable, and it’s a lesson to keep in mind! Bring your own sanitizer and wipes to clean off your tray table and seat. Not only will you protect your child from germs, you’ll also be protecting yourself from the pesky cold often picked up while airborne.
  • Take your child out of their car seat: When you’re in the air, don’t be afraid to readjust your child’s position in their seat and even hold them for most of the flight. Your baby may be more comfortable in your arms, and changes in position will help keep their blood flow normal and sustained. You might even choose to have your baby in a sling or carrier for most of the flight.

3 Tips for Driving with a Newborn

Perhaps you’ve decided that a drive is the best way to travel home. Maybe you’re avoiding the exposure to germs that airports and airplanes provide, or your drive is short enough that spending money on plane tickets can’t be justified.

Whatever your reasons for choosing to drive, you’ll need to prepare ahead of time. A newborn requires a lot more attention than an adult on a road trip; they can’t entertain themselves, and they’ll need feeding and changing frequently.

As you prepare for your road trip, keep these tips in mind:

  • Have everything you need ahead of time: Make an extensive list of baby supplies (diapers, wipes, trash bags, formula, bottles, nipples, etc.) so you don’t have to stop in the middle of your trip. Make sure to pack plenty of snacks and water for the drivers, too!
  • Make a schedule: You and your spouse should decide how driving time will be split up. You may find that you feel most comfortable with the non-driving spouse sitting in the back next to your child, so that they can indicate when you need to stop. Map out your route and identify bigger cities to stop in where you can use the restroom, fill up on gas and make safe stops for baby care.
  • But be flexible: If you’re a frequent road-tripper, you may be used to burning through hours on the road without stopping. A baby will make that impossible to do. Recognize that you will need to stop at least every few hours to attend to your newborn’s needs. Sitting in a car seat for that long won’t be comfortable for them, so don’t forget to stop more frequently than you might usually do.

Have any other tips for families traveling with newborns? Let us know in the comments!