This week we are talking all about travel with little ones. My daughter was just under 7 months old when she flew for the first time and it was just me and her. I was pretty used to a double team defense strategy, so being on my own with her for her first flight was a little scary, but we found some helpful tricks for traveling with a baby beforehand. I’ve also added a few to my list from friends and family.
1. Baby wearing
It is super helpful if your baby is already used to being worn, so if baby wearing isn’t a normal part of your routine, maybe practice for a few weeks before the trip. You can use a structured carrier like an Ergo or Lille (my personal favorite) that has a strong waistband, lumbar support and padded shoulder straps, or a lightweight ring sling or wrap like a Moby. Baby wearing in the airport frees up your hands for important things like coffee and can help to keep your baby calm and relaxed. You might be asked to lower the carrier or wrap for takeoff and landing, but you can wear them in flight as well. If you’re traveling with a baby and a toddler, you can wear the baby and keep a hand on the toddler. We won’t judge you either if their dinosaur “backpack” also has a leash, because…well toddlers.
2. Travel Light
If you know you’ll have access to a washer and dryer where you’re going, pack as little clothing as you can for the trip. If you’re checking bags, limit your carry-on to just the things you’ll absolutely need and maybe an emergency outfit for each of you. Pack snacks, formula or breastmilk and diapers in whatever bag will be under the seat in front of you. Be generous in the diapers you pack in your carry-on, but plan to buy the rest at your destination. Breast pumps and diaper bags don’t count against your two-bag limit for carry-ons for some airlines, but call ahead of time to make sure.
3. Give Yourself Plenty of Time
Plan to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your departure time. It’s common to have to bring a birth certificate or shot record with you to do an age verification at the ticket counter and that can take a few minutes. Be sure to check with your airline ahead of time to see what documents you might need. Security lines are also unpredictable, so think ahead. If you’re baby wearing, you’ll have to send your carrier through the x-ray machine and carry the baby through the metal detector with you. If you’re traveling with pumped breastmilk or formula, it will likely be tested by TSA so that will add a bit of time too.
4. Nurse or Feed During Takeoff/Landing
It might help your baby’s ears if you nurse or feed them a bottle during takeoff and landing. Sometimes a pacifier is enough, but being able to nurse or take a bottle could be a little more helpful when their little ears need to pop.
5. New and Interesting Toys
Pick up a few new toys and save the best ones for the bottom of your bag. Give your baby or toddler a new toy to unwrap as often as you can on the plane. When my daughter was 7 months we got her an O Ball rattle and she loved it. When we flew again when she was 16 months, she got to have her very own package of Post-It Flags to stick wherever her heart desired. Think of all of the things they’re usually not allowed to play with at home, and get them their very own for the plane. You could also pack a calculator for them to push buttons or a small Color Wonder book or Magnadoodle. Avoid tiny toys that can get lost and if you take a favorite blanket or lovey, be sure you have a spare or two. Trust me on this one… may the bunny lovey of 2016 rest in peace.
6. Car Seats for Toddlers
It’s always best if your toddler can have their own seat, even if they are under 2. If they have their own seat, you can usually bring their car seat onto the plane, just check ahead of time to make sure it fits. Buying a strap and wheels for it will make it easier to get through the airport. Keeping them contained in the seat they are familiar with will make things smoother for everyone. They might even be more inclined to sleep and everyone loves a sleeping toddler.
Be sure to check back later this week for a post with tips for road tripping with babies and toddlers, because that can be a whole different beast. And if all else fails, recruit your postpartum doula to travel with you!