Whether it’s on planes, trains or automobiles, traveling with your baby is rarely easy. I speak from experience as we lived 12 hours away from our nearest family and friends when we had our first daughter. Fifteen months later, when we had our twins, the travel fun really began! I could have described every Family Restroom throughout the airport, the best places to stop along I-75, how to safely change three children in less than three minutes, and at which exits we could find our particular brand of formula.
So as we celebrate the arrival of Spring and our minds turn to vacations and weekend getaways, here are some travel tips that can make the experience better for everyone.
1. Preparation, preparation, preparation: The Boy Scouts definitely know what they’re talking about and when you’re traveling with an infant or small child, you can never be too prepared. If you’re arriving by car, you have the luxury of stocking your vehicle with everything you might need – snacks for adults and your baby, bottles or sippy cups, toys, a well-stocked diaper bag, baby wipes for spills, blankets, loveys and favorite CDs or music. Ziploc baggies can be your best friend, especially for blow out diapers or other messes. Think it out, make a list and ride ready.
If you’re flying, you need to be a bit more compact with your supplies, but definitely don’t rely upon an airport or airlines to have what you need. Never assume a two-hour layover will be just that, or that your checked luggage will arrive when you do. Carry everything you may need or you just may find yourself scouring the town at 1am, looking for open grocery stories. TSA regulations do make traveling with children a bit more complicated, so review the guidelines for liquids, formula, etc. When in need, a bottled water purchase can extend the life of your formula or juice.
2. Timing is Key: Long gone are the days when you and your family or friends could just decide to hit the road! With a child, you want to strategically plan your travel times. Car trips during the baby’s nap time or bed time work well. If you’re brave you might decide to drive through the night, but ensure you have someone on the receiving end to whom you can hand off childcare responsibilities, otherwise you may experience the longest 48 hours of your life.
Likewise, with flying, try to plan according to your baby’s schedule as much as possible — understanding, of course, that delays, layovers and well, stuff, just happens. If your child’s nap time is 2pm, a 3 o’clock take off time may be a nightmare, as you’ll have an overstimulated, overtired baby on your hands. Rather, aim for something that should have you comfortably seated on the plane and in the air when your child is ready to drift off to dreamland.
3. Let Me Entertain You: Whether it’s by air or by land, your child is not going to sit quietly the entire time and look at the scenery – even if you are flying over the Hoover Dam! Have your bag of tricks ready to go – books and toys (I recommend having a new stash of ones your baby hasn’t seen yet, and switch them out throughout the trip); age-appropriate videos if your child is old enough; new stuffed animals or soft, plush puppets. You want to avoid anything that is loud and noisy or involves pieces that can drop or be lost. We once flew with my daughter’s favorite farm animals and the battery-fueled chicken squawked the entire time, even from the overhead compartment. Needless to say, we did not make Facebook friends on that trip.
4. Attitude Really Is Everything: Let’s be honest – traveling with a child is probably not going to be the best time of your life, especially if it’s for the first time. But how you approach it will definitely influence the experience. If you are stressed, your body language will convey that as you’re holding your baby. He’ll sense your anxiety and react accordingly. Be calm, be pleasant and be prepared that everything will take a little longer– surprises will happen. Ask for help, from either the crew or agents in the airport and you’ll probably get it. I once had a pilot carry my son in his car seat off the plane!
When going by car, you may get that two-hour construction delay right at optimal diaper-changing time; your baby may cry for no reason other than pure boredom, but if you join in, everything just gets harder. Be positive, be prepared and know that if your child watches three hours of videos, exceeding the recommended amount of screen time, or has two snacks instead of just one, you are in survival mode and it’ll all be OK.
5. Safety First: Don’t let being out of your normal element prompt you to make unsafe decisions. Taking a child out of the car seat to breastfeed while on the road or feeding him an airplane snack that isn’t suitable for his age are things you wouldn’t do at home — so don’t do them when you travel. Don’t let new scenarios deter you from what you know is best.
So as you make plans to get out of town – be safe, be ready, and have fun. No matter what, it all makes for a great story one day.
~Happy Trails from the Baby Pibu team.