July 13, 2018. By Lori Patterson:
Whether getting away for a few weeks or just a few days, vacations are a much-needed reprieve for any family. Flying with babies and infants, however, can make the process of getting to-and-from paradise a bit daunting. Luckily with advanced preparation and a few tips and tricks, the stress of traveling with a baby can be relieved. We have combed the internet and interviewed our in-office “experts” to compile a list of travel hacks and reminders to assist with your next family getaway:
Your Baby Will Get Heavy: Chances are, if you are heading to the airport your baby is at least a month or two old (most airlines do not allow infants under 14 days old to travel without a doctor’s note). Feeling light compared to older children and checked bags, do not underestimate how heavy your baby will feel after being held for hours on a plane ride, even if you are seated. Invest in a compact carrier that will not be cumbersome and will allow you to not only zig and zag through security lines, but will also provide support during the long naps your little one will be taking in your arms. Our favorite is the Bebamour hip seat. Unlike bulkier carriers, this aggrandized fanny pack can easily be worn and taken off without the assistance of others. The Bebamour has handy storage pockets for passport/boarding pass, snacks, diapers, and wipes on the go and at just under $25, it won’t break the bank or be a guilty addition to your existing collection of carriers.
Seat Selection: Easy access to the aisle is a must for quick escapes during a toddler meltdown or much needed diaper change. If possible, grab an aisle seat. Since travelers typically do not prefer a middle seat or traveling next to a child, there is a good chance that the middle seat in your row will remain vacant giving you a little extra room to play. If you choose to purchase an extra seat, or if the plane is not full, you may be able to bring the car seat along too. If over the age of two, you will be required to purchase a ticket for your little traveler, and then you can bring a car seat as well which is recommended. The car seat must be FAA approved and in the window seat for easy exit for other travelers. The car seat works great for toddler security while providing a bit of comfort from home when keeping with a routine helps more than you might realize. Count on exiting the plane last as you will need extra time to extract the toddler, car seat and toys. Despite adding time to your journey, a longer layover is recommended. You will need extra time carting extra items through the airport and will want the opportunity for your toddler to walk around a bit to burn off energy, hopefully allowing them to sleep throughout the next leg of your trip.
Keeping the Baby Busy and Toys Clean: Strap an activity mirror on the tray table and a teething necklace around your neck for endless hours of sanitary entertainment inflight. A small car seat safety mirror with toys attached will be within reach of your little one while sitting on your lap providing them with a fun way to explore without your having to constantly pick up toys from the airplane carpet.
A silicone teething necklace is also a great idea for traveling in general. You can loop other toys around it (you will want to pack plenty) to prevent falling, and can also use the necklace for the same purpose by linking it to a highchair or shopping cart. Furthermore, these can be tossed in the dishwasher, washing machine, or microwave sterilizing bag to disinfect.
Ears and Altitude: Children are especially susceptible to ear pain associated with changes in cabin pressure. Do your best to prevent this by timing bottles, snacks, feedings to times of takeoff and landing when pressure changes are most dramatic. Food for baby is exempt from the 100ml travel rule, but do be prepared for these items to be inspected. Sucking and chewing motions are the most helpful way to avoid ear issues. Bottles, crunchy snacks, and food pouches make great travel solutions. Keeping snacks healthy will help ensure that your child feels well post-flight, avoiding any gassiness that may be associated with flying or schedule changes.
Pack Their Favorite Items: Do not underestimate the power of the blankie, the teddy bear, or the favorite pajamas. Finding a way to fit your child’s most comforting item into your travels will not only be helpful en route, but will also be a solace when they are sleeping in a new location such as a hotel or guest room. If these items are bulky, vac-less compression bags may be helpful for efficient packing. To stow the additional items needed for smooth travels, carry a diaper bag that works like a backpack. Choose a pack that has plenty of external pockets for easy access to baby wipes and other necessities.
Be Nice: Being polite to fellow passengers and flight crew can go a long way during and prior to a flight. Requests made in a pleasant and grateful manner will yield a better response. You may wish to request an upgraded seating class, a row with vacant seats, or to be allowed to bring your car seat onboard as an unchecked item. If you happen to be in an open seating flight and it is not sold out, it will be handy to have the car seat at your side for a place for baby to rest. The car seat will also provide a sense of familiarity putting your little one at ease.
Luckily airlines are starting to come around to accommodate travelers of toddler age and older, providing a larger age-appropriate free movie selection and kid-friendly snack boxes which include busy toys such as Wikki Sticks. For these children, headphones rather than earbuds will not only be a more comfortable way to enjoy onboard entertainment but will also block out some of the louder sounds that may be frightening to first-time travelers. A screen may not be provided onboard so a tablet or phone with familiar downloads are convenient quick fixes when toddlers begin to get antsy (do not feel guilty on this one…screen-time for sanity is more than ok when limited or for the benefit of public welfare!)
Lastly, don’t forget the diapers! It is recommended that you carry two for short, domestic flights and likely more for longer flights. Additionally, Overnight diapers provide extra absorbency and may be more comfortable for your little one on longer or turbulent flights when access to the changing table is limited. Be prepared with at least one diaper per hour to ensure you have plenty on hand in the case of a delay.
Along your travels you are sure to create your own travel-hacks and lists such as those found at smartparentadvice.com. The many combinations of personality, family needs, and destinations are endless. We hope that some of the tips included here can help yours.