I had two requests from friends for air travel advice this week, as my husband and I have braved airplane travel several times with both of my little ones, and we just returned from a trip; so here is some advice for flying with your little ones in tow. I have an infant and toddler, so a wide range of help is here for you! (This will be specific to airplane travel, I will post on road trip travel soon!)
For traveling with little babies, 6 months and younger, a few words of wisdom:
1. Bring the Boppy pillow! When we first traveled with our oldest daughter she was barely 6 weeks old (I know some might have thought we were crazy, but I have only 1 first cousin, and she was getting married in Chicago, and we didn’t want to miss it! We did make sure Alli had her first round of vaccines though!). We stored the Boppy under the stroller until we had the stroller gate checked and then carried it onto the plane. When our little one fell asleep it was a nice cozy spot to rest her on that didn’t always involve our arms. In fact, here is a picture of her on the floor in front of our seat! The bulkhead seats have extra room in front of them and on a trip to Boston we took when she was 6 months old, it worked out great. Even during shorter flights she could lay across our lap a little more comfortably. And if you happen to have a seat free next to you, it is nice to lay it there or prop around the baby. And of course, if you are nursing while on vacation, you have your pillow buddy for the trip!
2. Make one of your carry on bags the baby’s suitcase. Whenever we travel on a plane one of the duffle bags is basically the items the baby will need for the trip. Maybe not every outfit, but all the other essentials—enough diapers to get us to our destination, plus 10 extra just in case, all the toiletries, including baby medicines, thermometer, wipes, bibs, burp clothes, clothes, a blanket, pajamas…if everything fits, then all of it. That way if our luggage was ever lost I would at least have what I needed for the little one, items I don’t want to stress about having to figure out how to get when we arrive at our destination. AND, I have it handy if I need anything while in flight.
3. Bring a change of shirt or clothes for the adults, in one of your carry ons. Changes in air pressure during take off and landing can cause digestive changes as well, and if your baby is anything like mine, she has been known to have an explosive poop or two. In fact, our first time traveling with our oldest, she pooped upon descent, and there really wasn’t much I could do as the plane was landing, but sit there until we touched down and beg everyone around us to let us off first so we could rid the plane of the baby poop smell! Luckily I was wearing her in a baby carrier on me, and that helped contain most of the poop, but my shirt was not spared, so having a clean one to put on did come in handy. And if it is a long flight, there are bound to be spit-up incidents or other mishaps.
4. Travel with a few toys. With tots under six months of age you really don’t need too much to entertain your little ones, but having a chew toy and something engaging is nice to pass the time. Or a book to read together.
5. Earplugs for other passengers. I have actually never done this, but recommended it to my friend who was going on a long, international flight; and it never hurts to try to make friends with the people who might have to listen to your little one for the duration of a longer flight! Starting off the journey with a token of respect, or just to get a laugh even! If you have a colicky baby it might not be a bad idea.
6. Breastfeed or give the baby a bottle during take-off and landing. The sucking motion will help relieve ear pressure for your little one. If they are sucking a pacifier, that can help too. Speaking of breastfeeding, I also travel with my pump. Just in case I need it when we travel, or if we have other family with us to babysit and my husband and I might have an opportunity for a child-free moment together!
The rest of the tips are good for babies and toddlers of all ages….
1. Bring two copies of your child’s birth certificate. They may or may not need this depending on the airline, and you don’t want to get stuck buying a seat. Also, keep one copy in your carry on and one in a checked bag so you have a back up just in case you lose the first.
2. Have Wet Ones, or other hand or surface wipes. I have always wondered if a plane is really cleaned that well or often, so with all those germs, and how frequently little ones put their hands or toys in their mouths, its better to have some sanity that your area is a little cleaner, especially when traveling with infants. You too often touch so many surfaces in the space around you. As soon as we stow our bags under our seats or in the overhead bin, I take out my wipes and try to do a thorough wipe-down of the arm rests, tray tables, window, and seats too if they are leather. Call me a germaphobe, but on the plane I am! I also like the pacifier wipes for when a toy lands on the ground under the seat and needs to be cleaned before it can be played with again.
3. The iPad or other portable electronic device is your best friend (mainly on long airplane flights). We downloaded some of our older daughters favorite PBS shows from iTunes and she was totally content to watch a few episodes in a row, and we were happy to have her occupied! Granted, this doesn’t work well till they are closer to 18 months and up, because they might not have a long attention span for watching much until then. With special kid headphones (that have a max volume control) it was perfect, quiet time for all of us. Various age appropriate apps are wonderful to pass time too.
4. Have activities for your little one, with a few novel, new and exciting toys too. Buy or borrow a new toy or two that is sure to keep their attention for a little longer than usual, as it is something new to explore. I don’t recommend toys with a lot of little pieces though, as you will spend more time picking them up off the floor for your child. Sticker books were great when we took my 22 month old on a 6 hour flight to Hawaii. She could stick them all over the back of the seat in front of her and they came right off later. Books are great too, but heavy to travel with sometimes.
5. Pack special snacks. Having a few new or special treats to eat will also provide for a more happier toddler. Don’t want their blood sugar to get too low! But I would advise against packing too sugary of snacks so that you don’t have a hyper little one dying to get out of their seat! I should also mention I like the chewy Annie’s Fruit Snacks for my toddler to eat during take off and landing since she is too young to chew gum to relieve air pressure.
6. Put your baby on the empty seat between the two adults. If you are traveling with a child under two who hasn’t purchased a seat, sit in the aisle and window seat, or book the aisle and window seats and if it is not a full flight, you have better odds of getting the whole row to yourselves. Now, if it is a full flight you might be out of luck, but for open seating flights who is going to ask you to move a sweet little baby in the middle of the row? If you pre-selected the seats, you can always switch with the person who had to buy that middle seat, because odds are they will not want to be in between you anyway! Here is our little one on our most recent trip, sitting in a seat by herself while the plane was boarding.
7. Use a car seat bag. We purchased one of the car seat bags with wheels once my oldest was no longer able to use the infant car seat. We would put her carseat and blankets, books, and other objects stuffed inside the bag—as this is a free bag to check! I know some people like to check their carseat at the gate, but car seats are bulky to lug through the airport, so unless you have an infant seat stroller travel system, it is a nuisance to carry around. After we check our bags we prefer putting my little one in the Ergo and using a single stroller for our toddler and our carry-on bags. We travel with enough stuff as it is!
8. Have a travel crib already at your destination if possible. Maybe you can have someone borrow one for where you are staying or call ahead and see if the hotel has one. Although I have to be honest and say not all travel cribs are the same, and if you don’t feel comfortable with what it could be, bring your own, but portable cribs aren’t a free bag to check. For this reason, we LOVE our GoCrib! It isn’t cheap, but the size and ease of this crib is amazing! It even fits inside our carseat bag with our carseat! Basically, it is an inflatable crib, with a camping mattress for the baby to sleep on. I’ll admit it is not the cushiest sleeping surface so we often put a comforter under it on the floor, but everything else about it is awesome.
When traveling with little ones you won’t travel light, but I prefer to be prepared. And thank goodness my husband doesn’t mind being a human pack mule through the airport! : )
What are your travel tips for going places with tots in tow?