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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tips for Traveling with Baby

Airplane travel with baby is a lot more fun than traveling alone

You would think that traveling with a baby is a nightmare. I thought it would be. But I have taken 4 round trip flights with Baby T, and it’s surprisingly easy. Traveling with baby definitely keeps you busy, but it makes the time go by faster and you’re at your destination before you know it.

The first time I traveled with Baby T, he was about 3 and a half months old. I was nauseous for about two days before the flight because I was so nervous. We were traveling alone. Just the two of us. No one to help us out. I was freaking out. Well, it ended up going without a hitch. He nursed a lot--for most takeoffs and landings. And slept the rest of the time. And the layovers were simple. Getting through security was a little crazy, but when is it not? These days, you practically have to strip naked and remove everything from your bags anyways, so what’s an extra baby, stroller, car seat, and quart sized Ziploc bag filled with meds thrown in the mix?

We flew again for Thanksgiving, when Baby T was 6 months old. This time, I had Big T with me. Which helped, because Baby T was turning into a squirmy little worm. Everything went well, except for a few freakouts on Baby T's part. On the plane. Which wasn't fun, but what can you do? That was the start of one of Baby T's nursing strikes, and I think one of the main issues was that I was so paranoid about Baby T’s ears that I forced him to nurse during every takeoff and landing. And I think he was like, “Mom, quit it! I’m so not hungry. Get your damn boob out of my face!” (And just in case you’re doubting this, Baby T probably really does talk like that. He gets it from his mom. We have to work on that.)

We traveled again at the beginning of March, and then for our big vacation at the end of March. This time, Baby T was crawling and pulling up on things. This made him extra squirmy, but also let him get out his extra energy at the airport between flights. Yes, I was the mom letting her baby crawl all over the filthy floor, kicking muffin crumbs out of the way and pulling used water bottles out of Baby T’s hands, and apologizing when he went crawling like a maniac, giggling the whole time, towards a man using a laptop. (Computers are an obsession of his).

It’s actually fun and exciting traveling with Baby T, and he is a people watcher, so airports and airplanes are his favorite places. And I have to admit--it’s really fun to be Baby T’s mom and watch him melt strangers’ hearts with his sweet smile. His favorite thing to do on the airplane is stand in my lap and peek at the people in the rows behind me. If someone smiles or waves at him, he puts on the charm. If nobody pays attention to him, watch out—crankopottamus!

Here are some tips from my travels that have helped me immensely.

Entertaining Baby:
  • Bring a variety of toys and books to keep baby busy--but know that baby's favorite toy will probably be a water bottle or the safety card in the seat in front of you, and you will probably never pull out any of the toys you brought.
  • Keep in mind that a new toy will probably last a little longer than one your baby has played with over and over again--even if it's a favorite. This is where my Quiet Book came in handy!
  • If you do end up pulling out a toy, be prepared to learn new tricks and make a fool of yourself in public. One of Baby T’s new games [certain to invoke hilarity] is when Big T puts Baby T’s toy in his mouth, shakes it around, and growls like a dog.
  • If your baby eats solids, bring a snack trap filled with puffs or cereal. Even if your baby has not quite mastered the snack trap yet. This provides hours--literally HOURS--of quiet determination as baby fishes for snacks.
  • If you have ever been that person who, when your airplane seat is continually kicked by the child behind you, has turned around repeatedly and given that child/parent dirty looks, sincerely send out a karmic apology to that family. Realize that your child will now be the one kicking and patting the seat in front of you and there’s not much you can do to stop it. Offer a weak apologetic smile to the passenger in the seat in front of you.

Staying Organized and Managing Your Way Through Security and the Airport:
  • I find that having a big tote bag with dividers and a simple closure is convenient. I don’t want to use a bag that zips completely shut, because it’s a pain to have to pull out toys when baby is screaming in your lap and you only have one hand, and are trying to bend over and keep baby’s hand out of the hair of the person sitting in front of you all at the same time. But you don’t want a bag with NO closures at all, because then all your stuff can fall out. I use a giant tote bag (handmade, of course) with 3 compartments: one for diapers, wipes, and wetones (I stick my quart sized containers in this compartment), one for books, and another for toys, blankets, etc. It has one giant button so I can button the top together but still reach in and grab what I need.
  • Pack a lot more extra diapers than you think you’ll need, wipes, a change of clothes for yourself and baby, and an extra blanket in your carry on. If baby spits up (read: pukes) all over you, you can change your shirt and use a blanket to clean it up with. If baby poops all over himself, you can change him. If you miss your connection and get screwed by the airline and have to stay in a hotel for the night (take it from me, this does happen), you have extra diapers and wipes for the night and the next day.
  • I bring my biggest stroller and the car seat with me. I’m still using the bucket car seat, and even though I don’t have a travel system, it lays in the stroller. The reason I bring my biggest stroller is because I’m going to gate check it anyway, so I might as well be able to use it to carry as much as possible right up until I board the plane. I carry Baby T in a baby carrier. This way, he’s right on my chest where I know he’s safe. I don’t have to worry about him being knocked around by passengers rushing by, and he’s right where I can see and feel him. Then, I use the stroller as a luggage cart. When I board the plane (I try to be the first one on), I just fold up the stroller and leave it and the car seat at the end of the jetway (unless I’m bringing my car seat on board.) 
  • Wear your easiest slip on shoes, and no belt. You will have a ton of crap getting through security. Bending over to tie your shoes would just be a hassle.
  • Wear your baby if possible, especially through security. I have used both a wrap and an Ergo. Wrap is easy for popping baby in and out, but the Ergo is more versatile for me right now because I can easily pop him in a back or front carry. Most airports won’t ask you to take baby off to go through security. Just ask right before you step through the scanner: “Can I wear my baby through?” Usually they’ll motion you right through. NOTE: In the 4 round trip flights I have taken, I have never been asked to take baby out of the carrier. However, Baby T and I usually get an extra pat down. One of these pat downs took an extra 10 minutes, as I had to wait for a female attendant, and then she asked if I could undo the waist strap of my Ergo. Um, if I do that, my baby will fall out. So I had to pretty much undo the whole thing anyway. But that was once out of 8 security lines I have been through with Baby T. Wearing baby makes it much easier to grab your things on the other side. Also, Baby T stays calm and less squirmy in a carrier on my chest, so I try to wear him for as long as possible once on the plane.
  • You can bring an extra quart sized bag for baby. What I have usually done is filled this with meds. (I like to be prepared when traveling, so always have various infant Tylenols, saline drops, children’s benadryl just in case of an emergency, etc.) If you have meds, they don’t have to be in an actual Ziploc, so I carry mine in a zippered clear makeup pouch. If you do have meds larger than 3 oz (or bottles or baby food), they will make you open the container so they can test it. You need your hands free for this. Another reason to wear baby.
On the Plane:
  • When you get to the gate, ask if there are any empty seats near you. If possible, arrange to bring your car seat on board. Usually, they can work with you. This was huge for us. Baby T is not a fan of being strapped in the car seat, but he was able to sit in it for a while (while busy with the snack trap), which was a nice break from having him strapped to my chest. He also liked to stand up in it while holding onto the handle. Extra entertainment at your fingertips!
  • If you’re on a small plane, there may not be changing tables in the bathrooms. To prepare for possible emergencies, dress baby in multiple layers, and for pete’s sake, put something over his onesie. If he has explosive poop that leaks out the side of his diaper, you want as much fabric in between you and baby as possible! NOTE: a baby carrier hides any leaks from disgusted eyes in the airport. I dressed Baby T in pants that had a quick drying outer layer (like track pants) and an inner layer that felt like sweatpant material. Believe me, it helped hold in the explosive poop and dried quickly when the pee leaked. On my next flight though, I got wise. I used an overnight disposable diaper with a cloth diaper cover over that. Genius. No leaks. If your flight is not full, you can use an empty row and an airplane blanket to change baby’s diaper. If you do have a changing table in the restroom of your plane, don’t bring your whole diaper bag in there. Grab a diaper, the wipes, and go.
  • Try to give baby something to suck on during takeoff and landing. Swallowing will help prevent baby’s ears from popping. But relax. If baby won’t suck, he won’t suck. Forcing him will suck a lot more. Trust me on this one.
  • If baby starts screaming bloody murder, you can try these tricks. I have tried them, in this order. a). Try a new toy. b). Offer baby food or the breast. c). Put baby in the baby carrier and walk up and down the aisles. d). Look at your spouse or partner with desperation in your eyes. e). Realize that baby is probably just exhausted from all the stimulation and know that sometimes, there is nothing you can do. Relax. The sounds of the plane are drowning out most of your baby's cries. Who cares about what everyone else thinks? The calmer you are, the calmer baby will be. Sing, hold baby close to your heart, and know that you will be landing soon.


Sarah said... Best Blogger Tips

Perfect timing! I'm leaving for Boston for my first trip out of Bermuda with Sienna on Saturday. Your tips will come in handy :)

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