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22 Tips For Traveling With A Baby/Toddler

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(Traveler #3’s first time on the beach in Hawaii at 4 months old)

It’s already December!  Where has the time gone?  I’ve been so busy preparing for Traveler #4’s arrival and then now attending to Traveler #4 AND Traveler #3 that I have had zero time to do anything else.  Here’s the public service announcement for the day: Do not move when you’re 8 months pregnant.  Don’t even THINK about moving. Moving does not jive well with the nesting instinct that hits you that late in pregnancy!

Anyway, now that the holidays are coming up, Mr. T and I have been brainstorming where we should celebrate it this year.  We love to go abroad this time of year to escape the consumerism here and also because we’re convinced other countries do the holidays better than the U.S. does.  That said, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the thought of traveling with an infant and a toddler intimidates the bejeezus out of me.  To complicate things, Traveler #4 is still waking up 2-3 times at night so… this may be the first year in a while we may just stay local for the holidays – we’ll see.

Thinking about traveling, however, has reminded me about this post I’ve been wanting to write for a while.  We (unexpectedly) traveled a lot with Traveler #3 so we picked up a few tips along the way.  Traveler #3 has been to 8 countries, 4 continents, and 4 states. Off the top of my head, she’s gone on planes, trains, ferries, buses, taxis, a helicopter, a submarine, a stretch limo, ridden on a camel and a horse drawn carriage, and rode on a segway (while strapped to Mr. T). This kid has done more in her 2 years than many will do in their whole life!  If this wasn’t my kid, I’d be envious of her adventures.  After all that, here are some of the tips we picked up while traveling with a baby/toddler the last couple of years:

Before the flight

  1. Invest in Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check so you can speed through security with your kids.
  2. Try to time the flight time so that it’s during the baby/toddler’s scheduled nap time.
  3. To save some money before your baby is 2 years old, don’t purchase an extra seat for them.  Let the airline know you’ll have a “lap infant” on the flight and maximize your chances of getting an empty seat next to you by picking an aisle and window seat in the way back of the plane for you and your spouse and keeping the middle seat empty.  Chances are, if there’s extra seats available on the plane, they will be in the back and no one likes to sit in the middle anyway so you’ll increase your chances of having an empty middle between you two.
  4. Fly Southwest if you can.  They let you bring your car seat on the flight (even if you didn’t purchase an extra seat for the baby) as long as the flight isn’t full.
  5. Ask the airline ahead of time for a bassinet for your baby.  Each airline’s bassinets have different height/weight limits so you’ll want to check to make sure your baby can fit in the one for the specific airline you’re flying.
  6. No matter where you go, assume you’ll need 1.5 to 2 times the amount of time at your destination than you would have needed pre-baby.

What to pack

  1. Forget bringing a breastfeeding pillow on flight (it’s so bulky!) – just wear the baby in a baby carrier. It’s the easiest way to get in and out of the plane.  As a side note, each airline has its own rules regarding the baby carrier. Some will let you wear the baby during takeoff and landing and some will insist you take the baby out during this time.  It drove me nuts when this happened (I’m speaking to you, Air Canada!) when the baby was already asleep since I’d have to rock Traveler #3 back to sleep afterwards and she wasn’t a good sleeper.  The airline insisted this was necessary for safety, but my opinion is that if something were to happen, I’d rather the baby be strapped to me!
  2. Consider whether or not you really need to bring a stroller on the trip.  While a stroller is good for lugging around all the extra “stuff” you’ll need to travel with, it is often a lot easier to see sites, get in and out of taxis and public transportation, if the baby is in a baby carrier.  If you do decide to go with a stroller, my favorite one is this one (I actually prefer the travel stroller for everyday use since it’s so much lighter and easier to collapse).
  3. Consider bringing the baby/toddler’s “bed” with you so they are used to sleeping in the same environment (and therefore, are more likely to have uninterrupted sleep during the trip).  When Traveler #3 was a baby, we brought her bassinet with us.  Now that she’s a toddler, we bring her travel playpen.  She knows when she sees it that it’s her bed and has no issues falling asleep. We hemmed and hawed over whether to spend the money on a travel bed for her, but I’m glad we did since it made it easier for her to be in a new environment.  Plus, this playpen collapses small enough that you can fit it in the overhead bin!
  4. Bring enough diapers to get you through the first few days of the trip, but you can easily buy more diapers upon arrival (FYI, we found diapers at pharmacies abroad vs in the U.S. where they are in supermarkets and drug stores) unless you’re going to some super remote or 3rd world place.
  5. Bring enough baby clothes to get you through the first few days, but don’t overpack.  Instead, bring some detergent and wash the baby clothes as you go.  Their clothes are so tiny that it’s super easy to wash.
  6. Bring anti-bacterial wipes since you may not always have access to wash your hands.

At the airport

  1. Get to the airport with plenty of time leftover so you can feed, burp, and change diapers before boarding time.
  2. Be prepared to show a birth certificate upon check in if you don’t have a passport for the baby yet.

On the flight

  1. Feed the baby upon take-off and landing in case the air pressure changes impact them. If you have a toddler, give them snacks during takeoff and landing for the same reason.
  2. Bring new toys that will entertain the toddler. When Traveler #3 was a baby, she could entertain herself playing with one of her baby wipes. Once she past that stage, we brought small toys for her to play with.  She also took to our cell phones.  Nowadays, we just hand her the iPad and she’ll sit there for at least an hour watching videos.

At your destination (or in prep of arrival at your destination)

  1. As much as possible, stick to the baby/toddler’s nap schedule on the trip. This makes the transition back home almost non-existent.
  2. Download a baby monitor app so you can leave the room without worry.  Over the course of a few days, Mr. T and I tested a few different apps (most of which sucked) and finally found one that worked well and was reliable: Cloud Baby Monitor.
  3. If you have to sign up for a tour, consider getting a private tour. In a lot of countries a private tour isn’t that much more expensive than a group one, but you’ll have the advantage of doing things on your time which helps a ton when you’re at the whim of your baby/toddler’s schedule.
  4. It is possible to rent baby equipment at your destination (google this!) if you don’t want to bring it with you. I haven’t tried renting but it is nice to know this is a possibility.
  5. It is possible to hire babysitters abroad. I just recently discovered this option so I haven’t tried it yet, but again, it’s nice to know this is something hotels can help you arrange.
  6. Be prepared to change your baby/toddler without the use of a changing table.  In a lot of countries, we actually couldn’t find a changing table at all so we changed her on benches, chairs, or in the car.  We also carry these disposable pads to make diaper changes easy wherever we are.

Here’s one last bonus tip: if you think it’s just going to be “too hard” to travel with a baby, don’t let that stop you from going!  It was totally new to us when Traveler #3 was born and everyone told us we’d have to take a (long) hiatus on traveling after the baby, but we decided to go anyway.  Along the way, we figured it out and over time, it’s only gotten easier.  Now, I just need to take my own advice and figure out how to tackle traveling with Traveler #3 and #4 (I’m still trying to figure out how to just deal with both kids at home right now).

What tips do you have for traveling with babies or toddlers?

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