My fourth child was 10 weeks old when my husband and I traveled with him to San Francisco. It was a much-anticipated destination and even though I was not naive to traveling with kids, the idea of taking such a young baby filled me with apprehension. I tried to prepare my husband and myself for all the possible dilemmas that might occur. Air travel with baby? Oh dear.
But at one point, on the verge of canceling the trip, I went to lunch with a friend who reminisced about traveling to Napa with her 3-month-old. She listed all the reasons that vacationing with a younger baby was easier than when they were older and more opinionated. By the end of my chicken sandwich, I was convinced that we could make our vacation a reality.
Other moms are a wealth of information and by asking around you can garner great tips on how to survive traveling with a baby. Here are a few of the ones I picked up along the way.
Set Realistic Expectations, Make a List and Plan, Plan, Plan
One of the most important things you can do to have a good trip is to set realistic expectations. Rather than traveling for a vacation or to visit family, having a baby along adds a variable that influences every part of each day. Make sure to give yourself room to change plans or take more time when it’s needed. If traveling with a spouse, talk about what realistic expectations might look like for each of you. Make a commitment to have grace with each other and your child.
If you are traveling internationally, you will need to see if there are any immunizations that are needed for your area of travel. Some of these must be given well in advance, so do this early. When making reservations with hotels, inquire if cribs are available; then you don’t have to lug around a pack n’ play. On our California vacation, we were able to reserve a crib for all 10 days of our trip. It was nice when we arrived to our room after touring all day, to have a crib already set up for us. Before you start packing, check the weather for where you are going. Even if it’s warm, remember to consider if you and Baby will be in air conditioning. Airports are known for being cold, so bring a blanket to keep your little one snug.
In preparing for your trip, keep a running list out, where you or your spouse can add things that you don’t want to forget. Give yourself plenty of time to pack and bring extra clothes for you and Baby (it’s unpleasant to walk around smelling like spit up, so be prepared!) Pack smart for your infant. Your diaper bag can be a life line. Include all the items that you may need during transit: medicine, pediatrician’s number, diapers, wipes, bags for soiled items, change of clothes, toys, pacifier and holder, breast milk or bottle, burp cloth, changing pad, toys and books. Delays are common when traveling, so don’t be caught shorthanded and go hands free by using a backpack.
What Local Moms Say
Kari VanHoose is a mom of a 6-month-old boy named Eli. She recently made her first solo flight with the baby. She says, “People helped a ton! Everywhere we went there were other moms who said they understood and there were good Samaritans who helped out as well.” Some of Kari’s tips include marking “baby in arms,” when ordering your ticket if you have a child younger than 3, so as not to purchase an additional seat. If there is enough room on the flight, most attendants will allow you to have an extra seat, but don’t assume one will be available. If your airline doesn’t list your baby on your ticket, be prepared to show identification — a birth certificate, insurance card or passports are all acceptable. Kari says she dressed Eli in a zip-up sleeper for quick changes and traveled in the early morning so he would nap during the flight. Kari checked her stroller at the flight gate, for in between flights, but she carried Eli on the plane in a sling since her hands were full with a nursing pump and diaper bag. She suggests sitting in an aisle seat in the back of the plane so you can get up and down easily as needed. She also says to remember to pack snacks since there is often not much time between connecting flights, but also in case of delays.
Kelly Farkus, mom of three girls, all of whom she traveled with before 6 months old, says, “You must be flexible or you will be completely stressed out the whole time.” She encourages parents to minimize as many changes during the trip as possible. If you can’t regulate sleep times, then at least keep your child’s eating schedule normal.
Elbie Foote, mom of two, says that her oldest child was 4 months old when she first traveled with her. Elbie was self-conscience of her baby’s behavior and how it might reflect on her parenting. She says that now as a more experienced parent, she realizes that all babies are fussy sometimes and most people understand that. She says when she took a 22-hour flight to South Africa with an 11-month-old, they bought a little DVD player and Baby Einstein movies, in addition to books and toys. She reminds moms to bring a nursing cover and be prepared to nurse, or give a bottle during take-off and landing to help Baby’s ears.
Our trip to San Francisco had challenging moments, but it was an adventure I’m glad we chose to make. I was impressed by how a baby can bring a sense of community to a group of strangers. Wherever we went people oohed and aahed over our little one. Conversations were struck up with ease and many were eager to help us. It wasn’t all rainbows and ice cream, but as Kari VanHoose says, “Relax, nothing ever goes perfectly.” Enjoy the imperfections with your little one and savor the world through a baby’s fresh eyes.
Mysti Koontz is a writer and mother of four.
Eric Kirkendall, M.D., at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center offers suggestions for keeping Baby healthy while traveling:
• Bring hand sanitizer and wipes
• Request a seat change if the person beside you seems obviously sick
• Pack a thermometer in case you need to take Baby’s temperature
• Pack Infant Tylenol
• Keep your pediatrician’s information handy in case of an emergency