Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Traveling With Your Baby-Toddler-Child


suitcase ride


Don't be afraid to travel with your little one!  
We took our daughter on 7 roundtrip flights before her 2nd birthday.  We definitely learned a lot in the process, and were so glad we didn't miss those special moments with family and friends.  Here are some tips to help plan your fun low-stress family getaway.


Pick your travel times wisely
- Look for the fewest connections possible.  This will reduce your overall travel time and help avoid those long walks between terminals.
- Travel during awake daytime hours rather than aiming for overnight or nap times.  The likelihood your child will sleep while in a strange moving machine full of strangers is small (unless he's <6 month old).  Don't set yourself up for crankiness and exhaustion when your child fails to sleep .
- Try to avoid early morning or late night travel times which adds stress for whole family's schedule.

Choose the best seats on the plane
- Use SeatGuru.com to avoid crampy or noisy seats, or ones that don't recline.
- Choose window seat to give you best privacy (appreciated by nursing moms) and quiet when your child needs to relax.  Also great distraction/entertainment just looking out the window.

Save money by sharing a seat (<2 years old)
- This works best from newborn through early walking stage, and is toughest for active toddler or baby who can't rest in your lap.
- It helps to have two parents who can take turns holding child.
- Keep your car seat handy in case there's an open seat nearby for your child to use.  All airlines will accept car seats as gate-checked item, so just bring it to the gate with you and ask before you board if there happens to be an extra open seat.

Choose a kid-friendly hotel
- Look for recommendations on TripAdvisor.com, narrowing down to best "Family" hotels.
- If you can find a hotel with suite (separate bedroom), this goes a long way toward adding comfort for everyone, especially around nap/bedtime.
- Request a quiet room.
- Ask for a crib.  If you have a toddler ask for the dimensions to make sure it is big enough (some hotels only have small infant-sized cribs).
- Plan for extra bed for toddlers who are too big for crib.  See below 'in your hotel' section for advice on making it cozy.
- See if they offer roomservice and whether there are kid-friendly options on the menu (next best option would be restaurants very close by).
- Bathtub is great, but you can also improvise using the sink to clean infants and shower for toddlers.
- Swimming pool is a bonus.

Pack as light as possible
Here's what you will definitely NEED
- Diapers, wipes, bib, change of clothes on you at all times.
- Milk, water, snacks on travel day.  Use tupperware to compartmentalize food options.
- Pacifier if your baby uses one.
- New toys/books for entertainment.  Choose small, lightweight ones (i.e. paperback books).
- Comfort item such as blanket or plush toy for snuggling and (hopefully) napping.
- Nursing-friendly clothing and/or cover up
- Medications (Acetaminophen/Tylenol and Diphenhydramine/Benadryl are always good to carry just in case).
You MAY NEED these items
- Stroller versus baby carrier, especially if there will be lots of long-distance walking on your trip.  Consider borrowing/renting at your destination instead.
- Car seat if you will be driving (including taxi) at destination.  This is one thing that is much cheaper to bring than to rent from rental car company.  Consider buying a lightweight inexpensive seat for travel.  We chose this highly rated one from Walmart.com for $39.

You DONT NEED to pack these with you
- Crib.  Find a hotel that will provide you what  you need, borrow at your destination, or rent one (ex. TravelBabees.comBabysAway.comBaby-Equipment-Rental.com)
- Booster or other dining seat, use what's at the restaurant and improvise when in your room (parent's lap works great, or pillow on a chair with arms)
- Tons of books and toys.  Just a few will do.
- Daily vitamins/fluoride they can go without for several days with little consequence.
- Napkins, straws, tissues, plasticware.  These will be easy to find at any coffee shop, fast food place, mall, etc.


In Transit
- Wear your baby to free up your hands, such as Ergo or travel backpack. 
- Hang up a 'curtain' for privacy when nursing on plane (safety pin a small blanket between the seats)
- Make each distraction last as long as possible:
       1. Point and narrate what's going on around you, especially during take off and landing (window seat works great for this).
        2. Offer just 1 toy/book/activity at a time, saving the next for when that one is no longer entertaining.
        3. Take a walk up and down the aisles, practice saying "hi" to friendly faces and other kids.
        4. Bring out the more exciting options for last, such as fun apps on your phone (see my suggested iPhone Apps for Babies and iPhone Apps for Toddlers).

At your new destination
- Keep up your home routine as much as possible, especially waking, nap, and sleep times.  If you usually do bath and books before bed be prepared to continue this ritual.
- Set aside extra time for meals, keep snacks and water/milk on hand at all times.
- Bring entertainment (small toy or book) for downtimes, especially in restaurants where you usually will wait for your food.
- Ask waiter to bring out your food as soon as its ready, rather than trying to pace you.  This will help speed up the meal (2 hours is a long time to expect a little one to sit in a high chair).

In your hotel
- Set up dark corner/room of your hotel for sleep times, close curtains, hang a towel on side of crib that may be facing light source (be certain there is no risk of falling into crib or loops that could harm baby).
- Make a little sleep 'nest' for toddler in big bed, so it won't seem so huge.  We used extra pillows as a border and put familiar blankets, plush toys in middle.
little bed-within-a-bed for toddler
- Offer extra snuggling time and be prepared to break a few rules while traveling to help your child feel more secure and comfortable.
- Bring along soothing bedtime music (we use iPod with portable mini speaker)


Got Allergies?
- If your child has food allergies you will want to carry a card detailing this.  You will save  yourself energy having to shout out the specifics over noise of a crowded restaurant, and the kitchen staff find it very helpful to have the information passed to them.  We printed a few of our own and had them laminated.  Now we just pull it out and give to person taking our order.


Supplies we like:


Few crayons, a pen, and pad of paper.
 Some thin paperback books.


Bon Voyage!

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