These days, air travel is stressful enough…harder still when you add a fussy, demanding, sleep-deprived toddler into the mix.My husband and I traveled extensively (through Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, France, Italy and Canada) with our first baby and are now planning some fun trips now that Baby #2 has arrived. While I’ll admit travel is very different that it was before, I don’t want to stop traveling and give up on that spirit of adventure just because I’m a parent. I want to travel with my kids and show them the world…even if the’re too young at this point to remember it. That said, I don’t want to cart a bunch of baby crap all around the world with me. What to do?
As any parent can attest, flying with a infant, baby or toddler can be a real challenge, but I’m convinced that with a little preparation, patience and some helpful travel gear, you can turn that nightmare red-eye flight into a bonding experience. For those like-minded parents who choose to bring the babes on their next adventure, here are a few tips when traveling with your baby or toddler.
FLY NON-STOP, DURING SLEEPY TIMES:
When booking your flight fly non-stop and schedule your flight during that drowsy time when baby might be more likely to sleep (think nap time or nighttime red-eye flights). Before you fly with your infant(s) – if the kids are not already passed out – take them out to the playground or park (or just let them run around the airport) to really exhaust them before you board. If they’re physically tired, you up your chances of them resting on the flight.
If you’re flying with a partner, try to sit separately, so you get a window and they get an aisle seat. This way you maximize your chances that the middle seat will be open and you’ll get a free seat without having to pay for one. Another option is to sit separately (in different rows) and take turns with the baby. This gives the other partner a chance to rest, enjoy a movie and come back to the little one feeling refreshed.
If you think the plane will be packed, consider buying an extra seat. Airline policy allows children under 2 years of age to sit in their parents laps at no additional charge. This is great in terms of saving money, but it’s a tight squeeze for a squiggly monkey with an abundant source of energy. If you’re able to, splurging for that extra seat can make all the difference on long or crowded flights.
How do you travel light but still have all the necessary baby gear? Baby’s Away is a company operating in over 25 States that offers rentals for all your baby needs, from cribs, to car seats, carriers to high chairs and everything in between. No need to schlep heavy baby gear, they will send it directly to your final destination. One of my favorite items they have is the BOB jogging stroller, an all-terrain stroller that is amazing for active parents all road conditions. With it’s large wheels and shock absorbing technology, The Bob allows you and your family to access places with a stroller that would otherwise be impossible…hikes along rugged woodland trails, trips to snowy ski resort towns or vigorous jogs around Central Park for example. I’m totally in love this stroller, but, despite all it’s great benefits it’s far too heavy to travel with, so renting (and having it delivered to your travel destination) it is a great option for the traveler.
Baby’s Away is a great service but there are delivery fees, so you have to be sure to crunch the numbers and ensure it makes sense financially depending on the length of your trip.
Amazon.com is also a go-to. When I traveled to Portland with my daughter, I discovered that it was cheaper to buy a new Graco Pack n’ Play and have it delivered to a girlfriend’s house than it was to rent one. If you’re staying in a hotel (or even a vacation rental like Airbnb) call ahead to ask if they have a crib available to guests traveling with infants. More accommodations are rolling out the red carpet for young families, offering helpful amenities like baby bathtubs or toys.
When comes time for airport security, I wear my baby in my carrier (although that means there is a secondary screening process where they swipe your hands but it only takes a minute). If I’m carrying on my luggage, I’ll typically gate-check the stroller so I don’t have to wait around at the carousel after my flight. If you have a fancy stroller or car seat that you’re checking, a Gate Check Bag Cover can protect your baby gear against dirt, grime another hazards from flying.
Since my hands are typically full, I try to minimize the things I need to remove from my carry-on bag (ie. Laptop, liquids,) by packing those items in my checked luggage. I dress with security in mind, with slip on/slip off shoes and simple wardrobe. Remember that when traveling with babies, you’re are allowed to take breast milk, juice, formula or baby food through security and are exempt from the typical 3.4 oz liquid limits. Just separate the formula/milk from the other liquids and notify the TSA agent (ps. you do not need to travel with your child to bring breast milk.) Read more about TSA rules.
BEFORE YOU BOARD:
I like to do one final diaper check before we get on the plane. It’s much easier to change diapers in a big bathroom with the KoalaCare changing table than it is in those cramped airplane toilets. Before you board let the kiddos run, run, run. Now’s the time to get out as much energy as possible. Send your spouse ahead with the gear, and you board at the last minute with your child.
NURSE DURING TAKE OFFS AND LANDINGS:
Nursing is great during take off and landings, since the nursing suction keeps their little ears from popping. For a little privacy, Bebe au Lait cover-up is a great thing to have so you’re not flashing your fellow passengers. If you’re not nursing, bottle feed or let you baby use the pacifier to ease any ear pain with take-offs and landings.
WHAT TO PACK IN YOUR CARRY-ON DIAPER BAG:
Preparation is key. Mama is like a boyscout – always prepared for the blowouts, the hunger pangs,the unexpected spills. I like to pack the basics:
diapers (1 for every hour of flying)
complete change of clothes for the kids and change of clothes for you
snacks (sandwiches, vegetables, string cheese, pretzels, Cheerios, etc.)
But most importantly, toys to keep the toddler busy. My daughter’s attention span rivals a gold fish’s. She is amused by something for 10 minutes… then on to the next thing. This means packing a plethora of toys and surprises that can keep her amused (crayons, sticker books and activities every 15 mins.) For babies, often mundane objects like the airplane plastic cup, the on board magazines or a simple spoon can keep them entertained. I like to visit the local dollar store before my flight and pick up a bunch of toys to tinker with. Another idea is to gift wrap everyday items you may find in the house. This element of surprise will keep the kiddos occupied while on the plane.
Pack the right diaper bag. I prefer a backpack, so I have my hands free. I’m currently using the Skiphop Chelsea Downtown Chic diaper backpack. It’s black, sleek, fashionable and has a ton of pockets. Staying organized, so that everything has a particular place, can save you time and frustration when you’re in a rush and are trying to find something.
DON’T BE SHY:
If you need help, ask the flight attendants and fellow passengers. In my experience, people are wildly helpful and sympathetic to your parental plight. From helping hoist a heavy bag in the overhead bin, to just offering an extra set of hands, fellow passengers can be a life saver!! It’s not always easy traveling with the kiddos, so don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.