Typically I write about how participating in the Compact has affected my life. And how much money I spend on groceries and what food I throw away at the end of every week. And if I’m really lucky maybe something creative that might fit into a Compact lifestyle.
This post is about none of those things. In fact, this post really doesn’t belong here at all. But this is the only forum I’ve got.
Not interested in traveling with infants or small children? Don’t read any further.
Don’t worry, I won’t be offended. In fact, I probably won’t even know.
For everyone else, here’s the download…
A while back I was attending a breastfeeding support group for Toddler L. (At the time he was Baby L. Now he’s all growed up.) We talked about a lot of things besides feeding really small human beings. Travel, specifically flying, came up again and again. As we traveled more than anyone I know from the time Baby L was 5 weeks old I started to gather some pretty good tips. These are them. (Plus some I found just to make the list better. I’m all about being better.)
Packing/Before you leave…
◊ A backpack diaper bag can really free up your hands for kids, strollers, extra baggage, car seats and all those other things you are now responsible for.
◊ Extra diapers. If you typically need 3 diapers for a 7 hour period make sure your diaper bag has 6. It was pretty much a guarantee that Baby L would have a blow-out as soon as we got on a plane. Even if I had just changed his diaper before we left the terminal.
◊ As Baby L became Toddler L we found the blow-outs less frequent so it was more about lasting the duration. Over-night diapers can be more absorbent and therefore helpful for long flights. (Especially when changing tables are nowhere to be found.)
◊ A really good blow-out can require a complete outfit change. Extra baggies to store those dirty clothes are a must. I always have a roll of Nature babycare diaper bags for the diapers and the clothes. I love that they are small yet big enough for a little outfit and they are biodegradable.
◊ If you are using a convertible carseat I recommend the backpack style carrier. I have traveled alone with Toddler L and this allows me to push him in the stroller, carry the carseat on my back and still have another hand to pull a wheeled bag. It’s not elegant but it works well and gets the job done so I have everything I need. (Unload the carseat and the luggage at check-in, then travel light with kid and umbrella stroller through the airport.)
◊ Another option is the Sit-N-Stroll Baby Carrier. This gizmo is your carseat and stroller in one. Personally I’m not a fan because it puts the child close to the ground and it makes for a bulky stroller. But if you can borrow one it might be worth trying out for yourself.
◊ If you decide to purchase a ticket for your infant or toddler under two make sure to ask about child fares.
◊ Airport security loves the quart size Ziplock bag. So do I. Grab several, put one diaper, a couple of wipes and a disposable changing pad in each one. These are your individual diaper bags. You can take one of these with you for diaper changes and leave the big bag back at the seat. Use the ziploc for the dirty diaper and the bathroom won’t smell like a diaper pail. The disposable changing pads are not really environmentally friendly but they are a comfort (especially to new moms just getting the hang of everything) when working in tight spaces with lots of potential ick factor.
◊ When making your reservations try for the “free” seat. When my husband and I travel with a lap held child we book the window and aisle seat if the rows are three seats across. This allows us the chance of having that middle seat stay open. Often times a great check-in agent will child block that seat so it is reserved unless the plane is booked. This is no guarantee and it won’t happen on a full flight but it’s worth asking. If the middle seat does get booked by some unknowing flier they will probably be more than happy to take the aisle seat instead of sitting between you.
◊ If bulkhead seats are available to you definitely consider taking them for the extra room. Just remember that the arms don’t raise up which can be more difficult with sleeping infants and toddlers.
At the airport…
◊ Sling your baby. If at all possible wear your child through the airport. It leaves your hands free and makes getting through security so much easier. A baby in a carrier or stroller needs to be removed to get through the screening process. Typically (but not always), babies in a sling can be worn throughout. I’ve never been asked to take my son out of his Moby or Baby Bjorn. With your hands free from child restraint/carrying you can fold the stroller, place it wheels side up on the conveyor belt, put the infant carrier upside down on the belt and worry about your shoes and jackets and computers, and liquids and…
◊ Consider removing any decorative covers on infant carriers. The rollers on the conveyor belts are dirty and if it is going to be gate checked it will be placed in the cargo hold with hundreds of suitcases and who knows what.
◊ And don’t forget, infant and childrens’ shoes need to be removed at security as well. Yes, even those soft little shoes that are only two inches long. You never know what could be hiding in there.
◊ Take your milk with you. Anything that would be considered a liquid/gel (diaper cream, breastmilk, juice, medicine, baby food) can typically be taken through security in larger than 3-4 oz quantities. As long as security understands it is for the child they will let it go through. It’s helpful to tell them up front it’s in your bag so they know to expect it. At least this is my experience.
◊ When making your reservations consider requesting assistance at security. This can be noted as a special need on your booking and may be helpful if you are a novice traveler or traveling with multiple kids on your own. An extra pair of hands, a golf cart or even a wheelchair can help make the process run smoothly. Take any help offered!
◊ You may want to consider a child leash if you have a toddler that is prone to solo adventures. Crowded airports are no place to lose track of a little one.
◊ Traveling is thirsty work. Airplanes are notoriously dry and if your breastfeeding or not you and the kids need to stay hydrated. That doesn’t mean you have to pay top dollar for bottled water at the airport. Take empty bottles through security and fill them when you get into the terminal. The water fountains are usually quite good and any restaurants that have serve-your-own fountain drinks will have a water tab as well.
◊ Changing diapers can be a challenge. On a plane it is a downright pain in the butt. Take a few minutes just before your plane boards and change diapers in the airport. This doesn’t guarantee you won’t end up in the minuscule airplane bathroom with one too many people (or better yet, on the floor of the galley), but it may limit how many times it happens.
◊ The infant carseat/carrier can be used without the base in any car or airplane seat. Directions for safe installation with and without the base are typically written on the side of the carrier. If they’re not there look in the manual or online. Leave the base at home and travel with the carrier and a Snap n’ Go stroller for the most flexibility and safety. Infants under two can ride in taxis and shuttle vans without a carseat. Just remember, even though it’s legal it’s not the safest choice.
◊ If you are gate checking a stroller or carseat ask for a tag at the counter when you get to the gate. If you wait until boarding the plane it will hold up the line. Don’t expect early boarding for families with children. Many airlines have eliminated this nicety as their priority passengers are actually the frequent business travelers who want to get on first themselves.
On the plane…
◊ Fresh breastmilk (not frozen) can be put in the baby’s eyes, nose and ears to help fight the germs flying with you on airplanes. Unless you have really good aim I’d recommend using an eye dropper!
◊ One of my all time favorite tips came from a mom who was traveling with an infant from LA to JFK. She got on the plane, stood up and announced “I’m traveling with a small child, I have a box of earplugs, raise your hand if you’d like some!” You’d be surprised how many takers she had! Not only was she traveling with a sense of humor (a must when traveling, much less with kids), she nipped the crabby seatmates in the bud.
◊ If your baby uses a pacifier make sure you have a pacifier clip to keep it off the floor. My toddler may be crawling all over the floor at our feet but I really don’t want the baby’s pacifier to land there.
◊ Have your individual diaper change baggies handy. Airplane toilets are ridiculously small, I don’t think an adult, a child and a diaper bag would even fit. Also, stick a pack of wipes in the seat pocket for clean-ups. Just remember to take them with you when you leave. Now that Toddler L is older I have replaced the disposable changing pads with a washable one, but I still have a mini diaper pouch with just the essentials that I grab for changes.
◊ If your child is drinking regular milk and you want a bottle for take off and landing ask the attendant when you are boarding for milk. I have never had a problem getting milk when I ask at boarding, later the crew is dealing with bigger issues than saying hello and less able to help.
◊ A laser pointer can be a great distraction to young ones when flickered on the seat back in front of you.
◊ Ask the flight attendants where the changing tables are. This gives them the opportunity to offer help as well as let you know the options if no changing tables are available. You’d be amazed how many planes were built without changing tables. Some airlines will let you change a diaper in the seat, some won’t. Some times the best place is going to be the galley (kitchen) floor. Nice to have the disposable changing pads when that’s your option.
◊ If you book a seat for a child they must be properly restrained for take-off and landing. The FAA allows infant carriers, car seats, the Sit-N-Stroll and the Cares harness. The harness attaches to the airplane seat adjusting the seat belt to restrain the upper body as well as the lap.
◊ If you have a window seat you can take a blanket and pin it to your seat and the seat in front of you for a privacy screen.
At your destination…
◊ If you are away for an extended period of time consider hiring a nanny at your destination. I haven’t done this so don’t have many resources but if you have a nanny at home you could use the same methods to find one for your trip. Ask friends, family, a hotel concierge or online local resources.
◊ Buy diapers after you arrive, saving valuable suitcase space for make-up and shoes. Or baby clothes if that’s your thing.
◊ Check out local Craigslist and other used goods sources for swings, strollers, pack n’ plays, etc at your destination if you will be there for any period of time. Some things aren’t easy to travel with but sure make for a happier baby traveler.
◊ If you are renting a car while traveling plan to take your own carseat. It can be more difficult to travel with but it is worth the effort for the comfort of knowing what you’ve got. Based on personal experience you just never know the quality of what a rental car agency will provide. Just because the carseat is considered safe doesn’t mean it’s clean or in good repair.
Resources/References/Websites I found for you…
Babies Travel Light – have what you need sent to your destination be it hotel or Grandma’s house
Baby Equipment Rental Agencies – need to rent while away, here are some international resources
FAA Brochure – Childproof Your Flight
If you have tips of your own please feel free to add them in the Comments.
Safe and happy travels.