Traveling to and through High Altitude Destinations with Babies

When we road tripped from Seattle to Oregon and California, we traveled through more mountain passes than I could count or keep track of.  One of our longer stays was also in the small mountain town of Truckee, California where the elevation is about 6,000 feet, a far cry from our usual comfortable and damp sea-level living.

We took a couple of things into consideration (and preparation) knowing we were traveling with our newest (now 4-month old) adventurer, and we also picked up a few tips and ideas along the way to make high altitude travel most comfortable for babies.

Travel to and through High Altitude Destinations with Babies |

1. Be aware of changes in air pressure.

Changes in air pressure when flying is often discussed, but what about when driving? Do your ears pop when you drive over mountain passes? We hadn’t even considered it before our trip, but if our ears are uncomfortable, chances are, baby’s will be too.  Georgia often fussed as we were climbing and descending, so we made sure to pop her pacifier in her mouth to encourage her to swallow and clear her ears.  If your child doesn’t take a pacifier, you might consider giving them a bottle or stopping to nurse when you’ve reached a more stable elevation.  Sometimes just knowing why the baby is upset is helpful even if you can’t help or solve the problem right away.

2. Hydration

Traveling to high elevations can be extremely dehydrating, so to counteract that, everyone needs to pump up their fluid intake.  While in Truckee, I made sure to increase the amount of time Georgia nursed, and offered her “a meal” more often than usual.  Easier said than done when traveling with young children, but its also especially important for nursing moms to watch their caffeine and alcohol consumption as both can lead to dehydration, and then effect milk simply.

3. Skin Protection

At higher elevations, those damaging ultraviolet rays are closer and more intense, so its hugely important to protect baby’s skin from sun damage and burns.  We had hats for Georgia and always had the rest of her body covered, but I wish I had checked with her doctor before the trip.  Sunscreen before the age of 6 months is not advised, but I later read that it can be okay if adequate shade and protective clothing isn’t available.  Most of the time she was completely fine (indoors or tucked into the ergo with the sun hood out), but I wish I’d known about the sunscreen option for when were reached Picnic Rock during our hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail.  Would have, possibly, given me a little more peace of mind.

4. Baby Noses

When I travel to high altitude destinations, as well as desert areas like Phoenix, all parts of me tend to get dried out.  My skin is thirsting for moisture and my hair is full of static, but the most notable difference is my nose.  It gets dry and flaky, and can even bleed a little bit.  This is all uncomfortable, but something I can handle as a grown adult.  Babies and young children? Not so much.  Increasing the fluids helps, but we also pack (or pick up when we arrive–thanks to Grandma) baby saline to moisturize the nasal passages.  The added moisture helps clear Georgia’s dry, stuffed up nose, and was especially important before bed.

Do you bring along anything extra when traveling to higher altitudes? What are your best tips?

Affiliate links to the Wild Tales of…Store are included in this post to give you an idea of a couple of the tools we use when traveling. 

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9 thoughts on “Traveling to and through High Altitude Destinations with Babies

  1. We’ve taken the kids up to 14-15000 after acclimatisation at 10000 feet and even 17000 feet. Thumbsucking helps with pressure change, so does sucking hard candies. Even giving them a drink so they are forced to swallow and equalize pressure.

    I second the idea of large brimmed hats.

    Great piece.

    • Thanks, Paul! Really appreciate you adding those tips for tackling high altitude with kids past the baby stage! Thumbsucking for the the win, huh? 🙂

  2. I have never thought of this outside of an airplane! I am so glad you wrote this post. I don’t know if we are going anywhere that has a high altitude… but since we live at sea level even a slight increase I am sure could cause some of these issues. 🙂

    • Thanks, Jenny! We didn’t really think about it either until this trip with all the mountain passes. Definitely a reason to embrace the pacifier (for a baby) since we were cursing it days earlier as she woke up every hour in the night screaming for it! 😉

  3. These are great ideas! Living in Colorado, it’s extremely important for parents to take small children into consideration when travelling to higher altitude destinations. You also want to make sure you keep your baby warm so bring plenty of extra layers in case of a sudden decrease in temperature!

  4. Great tips, Kate! We are heading to a wedding in Colorado in June at 8,500 feet and I want to make sure the babe is comfortable.

    • You’re welcome, Molly! That is some serious altitude. I’m heard acclimating gradually (which I think you might already have planned) helps too. Let me know if you find anything else to be helpful & maybe we can add to the list!

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