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Traveling with Baby

April 15, 2012

Traveling with a small child in tow can be very stressful due to the many unknowns which can occur.  The first time I traveled with my son was when he was six months so he was a little older.  He was in between nursing all the time and crawling – it was the perfect time to travel with him.  He was a charm to travel with.  Now granted, I had my significant other with at the time (one way, not the other way back) so it wasn’t too bad but it was still VERY stressful!  After lots of preparing with regards to packing, I felt well prepared to take on any disasters that might happen.  My friend over at Whole Parenting wrote a great post regarding her travels overseas with a little one, read it here.

I packed based upon a very diligent list that I pondered over for weeks before we left.  Each time another thought occurred to me that we might need this or that, I wrote it down.  Then as time reached closer I would re-evaluate the list and go over what I deemed seriously necessary, somewhat, and overboard not necessary.  I was pretty proud of myself in the end because we packed pretty light for having a six month old with us!  I saved the list on the computer and then was able to refer to it the next time we traveled and tailored it to D’s latest needs.

Here’s a list of the general items I found to be a life saver while traveling.  A good thing to keep in mind when packing the carry on bag is pack what you normally have in your diaper bag (if you have one) times two plus more “what ifs”, etc.  You can never be too prepared but just remember that it’s only a short amount of time and, in general, they will survive if you don’t have that particular item.

1.  Be sure you pack for the weather you might endure at your destination – wherever in the world you might be going.  And remember if you REALLY need something you can always pick it up at a store near where you’re staying.  

We were going to Minnesota in early September, so that meant ANY kind of weather could happen!  But thank goodness my Mom (whom we were visiting) was prepared and got us some items that we might need while there so we wouldn’t have to buy/pack them as well.  I also packed a sweatshirt for each of us to carry/wear on the plane as it’s always cold on the plane.  Also, make sure you have a light blanket for baby on the plane for multipurpose needs.

2.  Bring a carrier of some type for the airport.  

I found this to be a SAVIOR for me!  I had a shoulder bag thingy that had easy accessible pockets and was comfortable to wear while wearing my child.  I’ve used a Beco carrier for our travel needs thus far and LOVE IT!  We opted out on not bringing a stroller as there would be one on the other side of our trip if needed and it was just more stuff to add onto everything else we had!  Each travel experience calls for different requirements so it really just depends on your personal needs/preferences.  I traveled back by myself using just the carrier and didn’t mind it at all.  However, some people that were traveling alone might prefer a stroller as well to carry their bags etc., which is totally understandable!  It also depends on the child’s age big time!!  Next time we travel I’m sure I will re-evaluate things depending upon D’s age.

3.  Lots of entertainment!

I brought a variety of toys – most, if not all, were on strings (secure-a-toy – pictured here) so I could hold onto it before it fell onto the NASTY floor of the airport and/or airplane!  Bring a toy or two that they’ve never seen as it will be something new and exciting and worth it’s money in gold for the amount of time it will entertain them!  Books, teethers, shakers, etc.

As they get older, sometimes just stickers or containers work wonders.  My child LOVES containers and add something inside it to make noise while shaking and he’s set for a long while!  🙂  He was also VERY entertained by all the people on the plane – he even found someone who was willing to make faces at him which was just grand in his eyes, so it kept him entertained for quite some time!  Also, if you are traveling solo, keep your eye out for a Grandma and/or friendly woman and if things get desperate and you see her staring, ask her if she wants to hold/see the baby.  Believe me, it’s a lifesaver if needed!!

4.  Sanitizer, Clothes, Emergency stuff, etc.

I brought a zip lock bag filled with sanitizing wipes to wipe down EVERYTHING around our seats!  I love the CleanWell brand as it’s all natural and isn’t filled with all the crap that Lysol wipes have in them and work great!  This is a requirement and the least you can do when it comes to trying to keep your child healthy while traveling.  Also, bring a change of clothes and a bag to put the clothes in just in case you have a blow out, etc.  And an extra shirt for yourself  is a great idea too – you never know if you might need it (and will be so thankful if needed)!  You can never be too safe in this area!  🙂  Of course bring lots of diapers, wipes etc. as these would not be items you would ever find yourself without!  I found the changing table in the bathroom not as crunched as I thought it was going to be.  But you definitely want to cover it with something before laying the baby down on – who KNOWS what’s on that table!?!?!  I also packed some of those sticky place mat things for when we were out and about at restaurants while on vacation (and in general).  I use these ones here.  They are perfect for dining out and keep baby entertained too!

5.  Food, Snacks, Beverages, etc.

I can only speak from a breastfeeding perspective regarding milk but be sure you bring what you need to keep baby satisfied during your travels (and beyond)!  Bottles, scrub brushes, formula, water?, etc.  Plan for the possibility of  an unplanned layover and/or overnight stay, stuck on the tarmac etc.  Better to be way more safe than sorry in this area!!    Check the TSA’s website for the latest restrictions regarding formula, breastmilk, etc.  I DO know that if I had to travel with frozen breastmilk, I would have stored it in the middle of my check-in bag, in a cooler type bag, wrapped in newspaper (before putting in the cooler bag).  That’s the best way to ensure it will stay cool for at least 5 -8 hours.  As long as it doesn’t completely un-thaw it will be just fine!

If you need to bring a pump, see if you can take it apart further.  I had a Pump ‘n’ Style and it was detachable from the carrying bag so if I had to bring that I would have detached the motor part to save room.  There’s also the possibility of renting a pump at a reputable place upon arriving at your destination if need be (or emergency if something happens to your other pump while traveling, etc.)  I also packed a lightweight swaddle blanket to use to cover baby if it was cold/drafty and/or cover us while we were nursing.  You never know who you might end up sitting near – there are some pretty strange weirdos out there.  I don’t usually mind with regards to my modesty and breastfeeding but when it comes to being in a confined area for long periods of time, I prefer to just cover up and not have to deal with any weirdos or stares from people.

TREATS, SNACKS and LOTS of them!!!  Those squeeze packs of baby food are saviors for traveling!! Whoever thought of those has got to be millionaires by now, for sure!  We traveled with a few jars of baby food – OMG, never again!!!  Our little man LOVES veggie sticks so we brought lots of those and puffs too.  At the time, he was still exclusively breastfed except for a few little snacks at times so it was “pretty easy” to keep him happy.  However we did travel again when he was nine months and we just brought lots of snacks based upon his liking at the time at that worked perfectly!  Maybe even bring a snack they have never had (within their realm of food possibilities and you are sure they aren’t allergic to, of course)!  And a sippy cup of whatever their liking is at the time, filled with water.  The flight attendants always have bottled water on hand if you need some.

Also, make sure no matter what, that your child is nursing or sucking on something during take-off and landing to help their ears with the pressure changes.  Just like we chew gum, they need something to help their sensitive ear canals while flying.  Doing whatever you can to help prevent any ear issues or other illnesses while traveling will always make for happy parents and the best time!

6.  Other stuff

It might be a good idea to have some Ibuprofen/Advil or something of the like just in case, along with any other medications and teething gels in your carry on.  You never know!  The net-teether things by Nuby or Munchkin are also great as an instant soother – put ice, a piece of apple etc. in them when on the go while traveling and this should help them deal with the pressure/pain and keep them occupied too.

Make sure you know your insurance plan(s) as well and know what your options are when out of state.  Each insurance plan is different and you always want to know your options for the worst case scenarios.

Each Airlines is different so I would just bring a copy of their birth certificate just in case you might be asked to show one.  You’re better off being safe than sorry!

We didn’t travel with a car seat so I can’t really guide anyone regarding that but I do know that if you bring it through the airport, just like with a stroller, they will check it at the gate and have it ready when you arrive at your destination.  Some car seats are FAA approved so you can (should) be able to bring one on the plane if you would like (and have purchased the ticket to do so).  We have one that is FAA approved just in case we may ever need it while traveling but so far we haven’t needed it.  There has always been a car seat at our destination.  We own a Sunshine Radian Kids car seat and LOVE it (now called a Diono Radian)!  (FYI: I will have another post soon regarding car seats and safety.)  Also, be careful of rental car seats and their sizes.  Make sure you have a few options available since car seats vary SO much with regards to size etc.

There is also another option which is a shoulder harness extension that you can slide over the back of the airplane seat.  I personally have never used one of these yet but will probably look into getting one if we end up flying in the near future.  It’s called a CARES Child Aviation Restraint System, check it out here on Amazon.

Fly Southwest if you can – they are the easiest to travel if you have kids.  You will board after Group A but before Group B – so you are guaranteed whichever seats you need.  They also offer a $10 fee if you want to guarantee yourself a Group A boarding pass.  Or just make sure your child is screaming/crying during boarding and NO ONE will want to sit with you!  🙂  It worked for me!  hehehe 😉

TSA is pretty leinient when it comes to traveling with babies/toddlers/small children.  However, in my experience, they would never hold my child or help much with the luggage.  I have heard variations of stories so it’s really hard to predict one way or another what will happen.  I thought they would help me with regards to having a carrier, where to put the baby when I had to take the carrier off to put it through security.  But they wouldn’t even hold him while I was trying to get my stuff.  So I ended up just putting him in the bin for a moment while I strapped the carrier off and back on.  It was pretty funny, wish I had a picture of it!  I had to do what I had to do at the time and that’s what worked without him going on the floor…so that was next to best at the time.

However, the thing to remember regarding TSA is they each have their own ways, rules, etc. so nothing ever seems to be true across the country.  Going through security by myself with baby wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  So just be as prepared as you can be and have your liquid stuff in baggies before hand, etc. and it won’t be bad at all.  Worst case scenario is they have to search your bag, etc. and I’m sure after that they’ll regret ever asking!  LOL  (have a nice poopy diaper in there, hehe j/k).

All in all, traveling with a baby is an experience that we all have to go through at some point as a parent.  I definitely learned to be a LOT more understanding when it came to small children on planes than I was before.  I learned a lot from our two trips thus far and by talking with other Moms about their experiences.  Ask others what they found to be helpful and what they learned and you will be a lot more confident when it comes to travel day.  Best thing to remember – it’s not as bad as you will stress it to be so try and relax and go with the flow.  Enjoy your trip and make lots of amazing memories!! 🙂

7.  Traveling by Car or Train

With regards to other means of transportation for travel I really don’t have much experience.  We have taken one road trip (5 hours total) since D was born and it went really smooth and easy.  Best advice when traveling by car is to drive towards the end of the day when baby is most likely to be tired and sleep.  However, this probably doesn’t work when traveling long distances by car (or train).  If we had to do a long road trip I would probably end up giving in and getting some type of movie player for D.  As much as I try and keep TV watching to a minimum, there are times when a DVD (educational video of course) is just easier.  I would also probably pick up some fun music CD’s that we could listen to and sing along to during the car ride.  All in all, it really just depends upon the age of the child with regards to what kind of entertainment to keep the child occupied while being confined to their car seat.

What are some of your necessities when traveling with a baby/child?  Do you have any suggestions/advice to add regarding your experiences, etc.?  Please feel free to add more in the comments!  🙂

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