Many people ask me, "can I travel with my baby?"
The answer is easy - YES!!
That leads to their next question, "HOW do I travel with my baby?"
Here are some tips which can help make traveling with your kids just a touch easier -
I read a story a few years ago where this couple from CA was flying cross country with their 14-week-old twins. They handed out little homemade goodie bags to every single passenger on the airplane which contained candy and a note saying: "We're twin baby boys on our first flight and we're only 14 weeks old! We'll try to be on our best behavior, but we'd like to apologize in advance just in case we lose our cool, get scared, or our ears hurt. Our mom and dad (AKA our portable milk machine and our diaper changer) have ear plugs available if you need them."
I love that story so much! It really captures the anxiety level that most parents have when flying with their kids. I personally would have probably preferred a couple airplane bottles of liquor vs. the candy... but I have never had much of a sweet tooth... and I suppose they might have run into issues with security. Well actually, airplane bottles of liquor are under the 3oz. limit so I guess they could have done liquor instead of candy... but I digress.
The goal is to keep your baby and/or older children occupied and quiet. My typical recommendation for people flying with your baby is - do whatever is necessary to soothe your baby while flying. If you are very regimented with a sleep/eat/play schedule, this is the time to throw it out the window. Feed your baby the entire flight if that's what they want to do. Let them fall asleep in your arms. Give your older kids "treats" that you would not normally give them. Also, something that my husband and I do is go out and purchase a couple toys (which are easy to travel with) and books before our trip, and keep them hidden until we get on the plane. If the kids are getting antsy/fussy we will pull out the new toys or books to distract them. I also do this with food - I buy fun little snacks for the kids and keep them hidden until I need them as reinforcement on the flight.
When you fly with babies, they let you bring your car seat and stroller all the way to the actual gate. If you have an infant that is still in a carseat, ask the nice man or woman at the gate if there are any empty seats on the flight. If there are, they will often let you bring the carseat on the flight and buckle it into the empty seat next to you. This usually makes flying a lot easier since many kids will actually fall asleep in the carseat. If you're not lucky enough to be on a flight with an empty seat, let your baby hang out in their carseat or stroller as long as you can before boarding and then check it at the gate right before you board the flight.
Also, another tip for flying - most airlines will allow families with small children to board before the majority of the plane boards. Don't do that. Why on earth would you want to be on the plane any longer than you have to be?!? Wait until everyone else has boarded the plane and then board last. This also limits the amount of time you have to endure the dirty looks from other passengers for bringing your baby on an airplane.
If at all possible, plan your trip to coincide with nap time. This will hopefully allow you to take advantage of quiet time and really rack up some miles on the road. If you have an older child, try to distract them. "I spy, with my little eye, something blue", sing songs, play music, count the number of red cars that drive by, etc. Tips from my airplane travel section above apply here as well. Pack fun snacks, drinks, activities, etc., keep them hidden, and pull them out as you need them. Another tip for car travel is to take breaks. As much as I HATE stopping when driving somewhere, it is really helpful for kids to be able to get out of the car once in a while to stretch. If you are traveling with a baby, take this time to stop, get them out of their carseat, feed them, change their diaper, and then get back on the road.
If at all possible get two adjoining rooms or a suite that has two separate areas. This will allow you to put your baby to sleep in one room, and then still have the lights on and be able to enjoy yourselves in the other room. Room service anyone?
Get a room that is not near the elevator, the pool, the gym, or any other common type of space in the hotel. This will help you have more control over the noise level in your room. Hotels are noisy and even if you have your door shut, inevitably your napping baby will be awoken by some teenager that is showing off for the lifeguard with his biggest and loudest running cannonball into the pool. (I am sure the teenager is lovely... but no one is lovely when they wake your napping child).
Don't travel with a pack-and-play or crib if at all possible. Many hotels have these and will allow you to use/rent them. More information about this in the "try to create a similar sleeping space" section below.
Try to recreate a similar sleeping space:
Your baby is probably used to sleeping in a quiet, dark room, with a white noise maker, and their favorite lovey (if they are old enough). They are used to the feel of their sheets, their own crib, and their own space. Try to recreate your child's sleeping space much as you can when at your travel destination. Most hotels will have a pack-and-play you can use/rent - and even sometimes a full-sized crib. Use these things to make traveling easier. I do recommend bringing your own sheet though. The sheets the hotel uses are often really rough. Also, by bringing a sheet that your child is used to you are helping to recreate their sleeping space. Bring your white noise maker. White noise is a very strong sleep indicator for most children and by bringing this along with you it allows you to recreate this strong sleep signal. Bring any blankets, loveies, or stuffed animals that they are used to sleeping with as these transitional objects make transitions easier. Traveling to a place that doesn't have electricity? Check out this battery-powered White Noise Machine.
Only bring enough diapers to get you there:
Diapers take up SO much packing space. Bring only enough diapers to get you to your location (plus a couple extra to allow for surprise blow-outs) and then purchase diapers from a convenience store once you get to your location. When we fly to Florida to visit my family, Papou & Granny go out and pick up a pack of diapers and wipes and have them at the house for us to use when we get there. If you have a nice family like I do, you can see if they'd be willing to do the same for you. Love you Papou & Granny!!!
Traveling with toddlers:
When my daughter was transitioned from a crib to a toddler bed, I was baffled at the thought of traveling with her. She was too big to put in a crib or pack-and-play in a hotel. However, the thought of her rolling out of a big hotel bed was enough to keep me up at night. I found these blow-up bumpers from One Step Ahead which were perfect!! Since they are inflatable they are easy to travel with, and once they are inflated your toddler can sleep in a big bed without falling out! Problem solved! Click here for a link to the bumpers.
Just do it:
I am a firm believer that you need to live your life with your kids vs radically changing it after having them. Yes, travel becomes "different", but don't stop doing it. The more you travel, the more your kids will get used to it and enjoy it... and the more well rounded your children will be. So just get out there, hit the road, jet set, swim in the hotel pool, play hopscotch at the airport terminal... and just ignore anyone that gives you dirty looks for traveling with your kids. Chances are their parents didn't travel enough with them when they were children. Just saying...
Don't forget to check out my article Best Travel Products for Infants and Toddlers - the Best Kept Secrets for a list of amazing travel products that can help make traveling with your kiddies much easier and more enjoyable.
Want to talk more about your specific travel situation?
My name is Amy Bonsiero. I am an Infant/Child Sleep Consultant and the founder of Mind Body Family, LLC. I help families learn how to soothe their infants, create loving and supportive environments for their children, create effective and realistic family schedules, and successfully get their entire families sleeping more soundly. Let me know what I can do to help you!