The holiday season is upon us, and for many it will not be long before we are off to Grandma's for a holiday celebration, to the slopes to enjoy the winter season, or to the beach to relax and celebrate the New Year. However, with the fun and enjoyment of travel comes the pain of preparing for the trip and the trauma of actually traveling to our destination.
Tips for Packing and Traveling with a Baby or Toddler
If you have small children, the pain and trauma are multiplied. In the Holiday Travel Survival Guide we covered how to pack and how to survive enhanced airport security. In this article we will share important tips about:
- Dressing for travel
- Infant carriers, strollers, and car seats
- At the airport
- Surviving The Flight
- Things I wish i'd thought of sooner
Dressing For Travel
- Remember, it's more important to be comfortable than fashionable when flying. This goes for you as well as your children. Resist the urge to dress your children in something that is adorable but uncomfortable. Remember that it will be a long day for everyone; try to find soft fabrics, clothes without tight elastic and cloths that don't have buckles or other things that will hurt when your baby sleeps in your lap or in his seat.
- You should dress in layers in case your baby spits up or your toddler causes a spill.
- Airports can often be chilly and some airlines seat families with children at the rear of the plane where it happens to be hot. Dress your children in layers so you can better control their environment.
- Avoid clothing that will make clearing security more difficult. Stay away from belts with large buckles and other metal accessories that will set of the detectors. Steer clear of shoes that are difficult or time consuming to get off and put back on-people will be surprisingly impatient as you try to take care of your family.
Infant Carriers, Strollers, and Car Seats
- If you are traveling with an infant and you didn't buy them their own seat on the plane, bring your infant carrier and check it at the gate, not the curb or the ticket counter. Having use of the carrier in the airport will make traveling easier for you and your baby.
- Bring your stroller and check it at the gate, not the ticket counter. Most airports require long walks to gates, baggage claim and exits. The stroller will make getting around much easier. Also, by checking it at the gate you can have use of your stroller during any layovers. Consider purchasing a stroller bag to use when you check your stroller to protect it from getting damaged.
- Children traveling in their own seat on the airplane may use an FAA approved child safety seat. Consider bringing your child's car seat. Having your child sit in their own car seat can make traveling more pleasant for everyone. This also applies to infant carriers.
- If you are bringing your infant carrier or car seat on the plane, make sure you are familiar with how to use a lap type of seat belt to secure it to the airplane seat. All seats brought on to the plane must be secure before takeoff. Trying to figure out how to secure it, in tight quarters, while taking care of your child, is something you definitely want to avoid.
- When flying with an infant, bring the blanket and anything else you normally use to keep them warm and calm. Bring a few of their favorite small toys for them to hold and play with. Familiar things can make traveling less traumatic.
- When flying with a toddler, buy a few new toys to peak their interest. Let them see the toys for the first time at the airport or during the flight. Wrapping might seem like fun, but the Transportations Safety Administration advises against traveling through the airport with wrapped presents.
- Hide a couple of favorite toys a few weeks before your trip then pull them out on the airplane or at your destination for an added surprise.
- Here are a few toys that parents have found work well on airplanes.
- Favorite teddy bear or soft toy
- Crayons and coloring books
- Small plastic toys such as cars, dolls or animals (Fisher Price Little People work well)
- Travel Magna Doodle or Aqua Doodle toys are great
- Toddler electronic games - V Smile or Leapster have great battery life and many different games they can play.
- Portable DVD player with DVD's - Great for the amusement value, but you must be aware of the battery life and manage the flight and your child's expectations accordingly. You might save this as a last resort.
At The Airport
- Try using a backpack as your carry-on so you can have your hands free to tend to your baby. A backpack with wheels can give you the option of wheeling your gear when it's more convenient.
- Purchase the beverages you will need for your children on the airplane. With the liquid ban in place, only infant formula is allowed through security. You should purchase water or juice to fill sippy cups and milk for bottles before you board. Whole milk is usually available at coffee stores. You can bring an empty thermos through security and fill it before you board. Being dependent upon flight crews for your beverage needs is risky.
- Most airlines don't pre-board families with small children anymore. If your airline doesn't, ask the desk clerk at the gate for assistance placing your car seat in your seat on the plane before they start boarding. While you are at it, ask them to place anything else that is bulky in an overhead bin. You should also ask if you can gate check your stroller just before boarding instead of at the airplane door. This will leave your hands free to navigate your child to his seat.
- When you are first on and last off the airplane you can usually get additional assistance from the flight crew.
- Utilize the long walkways in the airport while you wait for your flight and during layovers. Supervise your child as they burn off some energy exploring the airport.
- Always change your baby's diaper right before boarding. Changing diapers on an airplane is definitely more difficult.
- Many babies and children experience pressure in their ears during flights, especially during take off and landing. Encourage your child to suck and swallow by taking a drink. This should equalize the pressure. Try to ensure they are thirsty by not giving them a drink close to takeoff or landing. Chewing gum or a soft piece of candy works well for older kids.
- When you arrive at your seat think about what you will need while you wait to take-off and immediately after take-off but before you can move about the cabin. Make sure all of your necessities are at your finger tips. Drinks, snacks, wipes and a few toys are usually a must. Use the space in front of your seat including the seat pouch.
- Airplane air conditioning can cause babies and young children to become dehydrated so always have a full sippy cup and encourage your child to drink often.
- If you are a breastfeeding mother, be careful not to get dehydrated. Take a few sips on a regular basis to ensure this doesn't happen.
- Keep track of the time back home so you can keep your baby on their normal schedule. Try to adjust feeding and sleeping times gradually. Babies don't adjust feeding and sleep times easily, if at all.
Things I Wish I'd Thought Of Sooner
- If your baby normally has their formula or baby food warm, start working to get them accustomed to what they will be able to eat while at the airport and on the airplane. Getting formula or baby food heated will in all likelihood be impossible. Better that you get them adjusted before you are traveling.
- Buy specialty travel gear that will make the trip easier. Visit a site like Babies Travel Lite to purchase special travel bags for baby gear, special bags for on the airplane, a variety of products that make taking a car seat and your kids through the airport a breeze and other specialized travel products.
- If you are traveling with a recently potty trained toddler consider putting on a Pull-Up immediately before boarding to avoid any on-board accidents. No matter how dependable your toddler is you must remember that on a flight there are often times when you are not allowed out of your seat or all of the lavatories are full.
- Bundle your changing supplies together before you leave for the airport. Place a few diapers, wipes, disposal bags and disposable changing pads into a 1 or 2 gallon zip closure bag so when you need to do a diaper change you are not searching for what you need. This will make diaper changes in the airport and on the flight much easier.
Following the above tips will not eliminate the pain or trauma, but being prepared and learning from the experience of others will definitely enhance your family travel experience.
Check out Part One of the Holiday Travel Survival Guide Natalie Pechacek is the CEO and co-founder of Babies Travel Lite. She is mother of a 4 1/2 year old daughter and a 3 1/2 year old son. Natalie is a family travel expert who has authored articles, appeared on TV and radio, and has been featured in parenting magazines. Babies Travel Lite delivers baby supplies like diapers, formula, baby food, bath and sun care supplies and much more to travel destinations in the United States and worldwide. They deliver to hotels, resorts, vacation rentals, and even to Grandma's house.
In addition, Babies Travel Lite offers a variety of specialized and innovative travel gear for people preparing to take a trip. Customers can have these items sent to their homes before they travel making the airport experience easier and making the travel to their destination more enjoyable.
Visit the Babies Travel Lite Guide for more helpful travel tips and other useful travel information.