We recently traveled with our little guy and it was…. interesting. In short, he is not the best traveler. The first leg of the trip was by plane, the next leg was an hour in the car. T hates being confined, so trying to keep him on our laps and then in a car seat when he was exhausted from missing a nap during travel was the epitome of meltdown mode. Needless to say I really needed a stiff drink when we arrived at our destination.
I also learned a lot from the experience. Things to do the same–and differently– are listed here so you don’t make the same mistakes I did. Of course as the old saying goes: “Babies will be babies,” or something like that, so there is only so much that you can actually prepare for. Some of it you just have to do it and get through it. You’ll survive, your kid will survive, and your sanity? I still can’t account for mine. I will say that the process is worth the destination. Don’t let traveling with a baby scare you away from a much needed vacation (and I know you really need one.)
If you have a young infant, it doesn’t really matter what time you book a flight. Odds are that they will sleep through it anyway. I take that back, if your baby has colic, definitely don’t book it when you know your baby will be all tears all the time. Our doctor suggested avoiding travel at the beginning due to illness exposure, so make sure to check with your pediatrician well before booking or planning any travel. The last thing you want is the little to get sick.
We decided to book our flight in the afternoon during second nap time. We figured that at least T would get a solid first nap and be somewhat tired for the plane and would zonk out. Great theory, unless your flight is delayed an hour and you are left with an overly tired baby that is bouncing around the cabin, yelling for freedom. Lesson: It’s a good theory, but know that things might not work out the way you hoped. I still believe in travel during nap if possible is the way to go; most infants should be soothed by the plane’s engine droning.
Picking a seat
Because I am still breastfeeding, we decided to select the window and middle seat so that I could have some privacy while nursing and hopefully keep T away from the noisy drink cart while he [theoretically] slept. Older, more self aware infant? Book the aisle seat so you can have mom or dad walk baby in the aisle. Good distraction, and you might need it. If you are dual feeding/feeding only with a bottle, for the love of God bring those, too. It is a lot easier than breastfeeding in a tight and very public space, and can also be used for comforting during a car ride. The sucking during nursing or bottle feeding also helps pop little ears to relieve pressure during air travel.
What about buying baby a seat? It is the recommended safety standard, but most airlines allow infants under one year to be on a parent’s lap. On one of our flights, we lucked out and were the only two in a row of 3 seats, and I can say that if you have the bucks to buy a seat every time, DO IT. It was helpful to have the extra space and for one of us to be able to reach for a bag under the seat. On a full flight there ain’t no way you are getting anything under that seat.
For an infant, I prefer to check car seat and luggage as soon as we arrive. It’s less to carry and worry about, and you will need every bit of hand and space available to handle a baby in the airport. I always worry about our car seat getting beat up by rough handling, so I was thrilled to find this padded car seat bag. I even neurotically put bubble wrap between the sides of the bag and seat, just in case. The seat made it unscathed.
I prefer to travel with a stroller so that I can put my bag underneath in the basket. One of my mom friends prefers to baby carry through the airport and during the flight. Whatever is easier for you and keeps baby happy is the best thing to do. Smaller babies might do better being carried, but older infants like mine want more freedom and prefer to see what is going on. If you choose a stroller, get something light and compact. I have the Kolcraft Cloud stroller, which is lightweight and comes with a great sun hood PLUS snack tray across the front. There is also a pouch underneath. While not the cheapest umbrella stroller, its sturdy and has a few extra features I’m willing to put in a few dollars for.
Don’t forget a stroller bag; you will need to collapse the stroller and gate check it when you board the plane. You will get it back plane side when you land at your destination.
For a baby carrier, I swear by my Lillebaby. Yes I know, it is very expensive. Mine has stood up to multiple washings, travel, hiking, and every day use. It is also sturdy to support my baby much better than the cloth only carriers (and I have 3 varieties of those I use around the house).
I am hoping that this information helps you plan your vacation. Remember, you don’t really go on vacation, you just parent in another locale. Check back soon, I’m working on posts about how to pack for traveling with baby and how to survive a plane ride with an infant. The joys of parenthood!
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