I’m sure most new moms are already aware that traveling with an infant is infinitely harder than traveling alone. Even going to the store can be a major production – with bottles, diaper bags, diaper wipes, diapers, more diapers, and burp cloths – it can be difficult to get out of the door in less than an hour.
Considering your destination in this very short trip will actually have all of these items for sale if you happen to forget anything, it should be a fairly stress-free journey.
But what do you do when your destination is miles and miles away from your home? What do you do if you’re traveling in a plane 30,000 miles above the nearest store or if you’re in a minivan where the next food, gas, or lodging is many miles down the road? Here are 12 tips to help you cope with your first significant journey away from home…
- A full bottle (or breast) is your baby’s best friend. Babies do not like the change in air pressure on the ascent and descent in a plane any more than you do. They can’t chew gum – but they will probably take a bottle. Pacifiers can help too, but I found that my son was better with something a little more substantial.
- Gate check your stroller! Most airlines will allow you to gate check strollers – which will allow you to bring them to the gate with you and check them as baggage on the gangway. Not only does this help you get to the gate faster, but it’s also a good way to have fast access to your stroller as soon as you get to your destination.
- Making a connection? I always try to buy straight through flights and avoid having to make connections in unfamiliar airports. But I live in a large city, so this is usually pretty easy. If you need to book a flight with one or more connections, be very aware of the timing between the flights. Also, take a look at a map of the airport to get an idea of how far the gates might be. Leave yourself more time than you think you need. Give yourself time to go to the bathroom, change your baby’s diaper, and grab a bite to eat.
- To lap or not to lap? Most airlines will allow you to hold your baby (up to 2 years old) on your lap during the flight. This can save you a lot of money – but consider the length of the trip and the amount of available laps for the baby. If your flight is 1 to 2 hours, a lap baby might be fine. I always bought seats for my babies if possible, especially if the flight was more than four hours. And if you’re going to spring for the extra seat….
- Bring the car seat on the plane! Make sure you check your car seat to see if it’s certified for use on a plane – there should be a sticker on it somewhere that indicates that it is approved by the FAA (or check online). We had to fight with the flight attendant once to get our car seat on the plane – but since it had the sticker on it, we won. We placed the car seat in the window seat and our darling son slept the whole way from Los Angeles to Indiana. And I was free to read SkyMall cover to cover. It was a win-win. The additional bonus? You will have your own car seat during your stay at your destination!
- Keep Calm and Carry On. Given the growing issues with baggage fees and other fun fees of flying, maximizing your carry on space is essential. Your diaper bag will be essential to this process. But keep in mind that you still need to meet the standards for traveling with liquids. So, buy travel sizes of any liquids you will need, such as baby shampoo. If you use formula for your child, consider buying the individual powdered packets. You can buy a water bottle on the other side of security and take that on the plane with you to mix the formula. If you are breastfeeding, be aware of the regulations on liquids. Breast milk CAN be carried through security, but you must declare it. Be sure to look up the regulations before your trip. Crying over spilled milk is perfectly acceptable if the milk in question is expressed milk that has been dumped by the TSA. Don’t let that happen to you!
- The Mile High Diaper Club. Airplane bathrooms are small, cramped, and unpleasant little boxes in the best of times. Diaper changing on a plane is possible, though far from easy. Don’t even think of trying to diaper your baby and use the facilities yourself in the same trip to the bathroom. If you really need to go, take care of your own needs first while someone else watches your child. In most planes, the diaper changer is located above the commode. There will barely be room for you, the diaper bag, and your baby.
- Turbulence? Quite frankly turbulence bothers me more than it does my kids – although my older son has the disturbing habit of asking “Is the plane going down?” every time we hit some bumps. Smaller children will probably not notice – but they may notice if YOU are nervous. Turbulence can be dangerous if you have a lap baby, though. A mother in front of me on a flight actually lost hold of her daughter when we hit a particularly bad patch of turbulence. The baby was ok, but it scared everyone in the rows behind her.
- Who doesn’t love a crying baby? You will probably become THAT parent at some point during your trip. You know, the one with the baby that won’t stop crying. Just remember that the flight will end and that the crying will probably end well before the flight does. You may get some dirty looks or an unkind comment or two, but these are not people you will ever see again. Focus on the happy faces who are coming to greet you at the airport when you get where you’re going.
- Navigating on the other end. Whether you have loving relatives coming to greet you or if you’re renting a car and driving to a hotel, make sure you know where you’re going. Take a minute to look at the map of the airport in the onboard magazine – or stop at the gate when you arrive to ask. Keep in mind that you may need to board a shuttle or a bus to get to a rental car location – with your stroller, luggage, car seat, baby, and carry-ons. If you are renting a car, you will be very thankful that you brought that car seat at this point. You can usually rent car seats with the cars, but they can be grungy, gross, and EXPENSIVE.
- Under a New Roof. Hotels and motels often offer cribs or playpens for babies. You can also consider bringing one in your checked luggage. If you are staying with friends or relatives, be sure to arrange to borrow a crib/playpen or make some other arrangement for your baby. Hopefully, your child won’t mind being in a strange place and will sleep, well, like a baby. If not, give yourself and your child some time to adjust. But keep in mind…
- Grandmas are Wonderful. If you are visiting grandma, you probably won’t have to worry about having extra hands to help out. After all, you flew all the way across the country to be with family during the holidays – allow them to help. Get some rest while they coo over junior!
What tips do you have for parents embarking on their first trips with their children?