Traveling with a baby or toddler

Jackson and I are heading to Virginia this weekend, and it’ll be our first mother/son solo trip.  I’m really looking forward to it, but would by lying if I said I wasn’t  a little nervous about the flights without having Ryan there to help.  As I started planning and packing it got me thinking about the first time we flew with Jackson, when he was about four months old.  At the time I scoured blogs, Pinterest and various other sites for the best tips, tricks and hacks for flying with an infant.  Since then Jackson is a regular at the airport, with 12 flights under his belt. So I thought I would share what we’ve learned along the way and what has worked well for us.

I hope this list helps some of you as you’re planning  your next trip with a little one!  But remember, every family and child is different, and what works for us may not work for you – do what feels comfortable and you’ll get through it without a hitch!

Packing…

  • Pack the kids stuff in a separate bag
    • I also organize Jackson’s clothes in zip lock bags – either by outfits, or by type of items. Kids go through so many clothes and need so much that having it organized and in a separate bag makes it easier to access and find things quickly.
    • That said, this is much easier when both parents are traveling and you have more hands.  I’ll still be using the zip lock bags on this upcoming trip, but will have to use one suitcase since it’s just me.
  • Don’t forget your sound machine or monitor
    • If you use a sound machine at home, bring it with you on vacation!  You want to keep the sleeping situation as much like normal as you can.  And don’t forget the monitor if they’ll be sleeping in a different room than you.
  • Make sure you have the essentials items with you or at your location
    • You never know when you’ll need them so make sure these are in your bag: Tylenol/Motrin, thermometer, diaper rash cream, nail clippers, nasal aspirator, sunblock, extra blanket
    • Throw in an extra bottle, a sippy cup, and pacifiers
  • Have diapers and any large items shipped to your destination or buy once you arrive
    • Diapers and wipes take up SO MUCH room in suitcases, don’t waste that space and instead have them shipped to your destination or purchase once you arrive. Throw a few in there in case you get in pinch, but don’t bring a week’s supply.
  • Check your destination before lugging a Pack ‘N Play
    • Most hotels have cribs or Pack ‘N Plays available for no additional charge. And if you’re staying with family and they don’t have one see if they can borrow one from a friend…most people know someone who has one.
    • And if you do have to bring your own sleeping situation I highly recommend a travel crib over the heavy, bulking Pack ‘N Play.  These are so much easier and lighter to travel with.
  • In your carry-on bag
    • Birth certificate or passport for baby
    • Have a change of clothes for your baby, and it wouldn’t hurt to have an extra shirt for yourself (you never know what can happen!)
    • Diapers, wipes, bottle, formula/breast milk, their favorite snacks, pacifier, blanket, bib, zip lock bag for soiled items
    • A new small toy/book

 

Flying…

  • Try to schedule flights around nap times
    • If your baby is on regular nap schedule schedule your flight so it falls within those periods, it’ll help to ensure your baby sleeps through most of the flight. I still do this, even as he gets older and takes fewer naps.
  • Bring your stroller…and gate check it
    • Most of what I read actually said not to bring your stroller through the airport, and instead check it with your luggage.  Jackson didn’t love me wearing him so this was never really an option for us.  But what we quickly learned is that with a stroller you get to skip security lines, often receive special treatment, and having a place to stick that heavy diaper bag is clutch
    • If your baby is still in an infant car seat I highly recommend a Snap ‘N Go stroller for the airport…they are extremely light, easy to fold up and durable.
  • Board first with an infant, or last with a toddler
    • With an infant this the extra time gives you the chance to settle in, get comfortable and organize everything you’ll need during the flight (bottles, blankets, etc). But with a toddler that extra time just sitting on the plane can be the hardest and longest part of the flight. We now prefer to be the last on to minimize boredom and agitation.
  • Book a window seat
    • If baby starts crying you can turn into the wall to muffle some of the noise. The window also gives you something to distract toddlers with, pointing out those clouds, mountains, etc.
  • Rent a car with a car seat, use car services with car seats, or have a car seat at your destination
    • With an infant carseat take it with you, pop it in your stroller and gate check it with your stroller.
    • If you’re traveling to see grandparents, or somewhere you’ll go often over these first few years it’s worth it to have a car seat at this destination.
    • I avoid bringing our convertible car seat at all costs.  It’s huge, heavy and bulky and I don’t necessarily trust that it won’t get thrown around when I counter check it.  Uber now offers UberX and Uber Black Cars with car seats in select cities…and it’s fantastic. We rely on this in NYC and have not been disappointed.
    • This may be a little controversial, but if we’re traveling somewhere Uber doesn’t offer carseats we rent a car with a carseat. The risk here is that you don’t know if the seat has been in an accident and the seats are not always freshly cleaned. But we haven’t had any issues and have always felt the seats are safe and protecting Jackson.

 

Hotel vs. Airbnb…

  • Deciding between an Airbnb rental or a hotel
    • We’ve stayed in both and there are pros and cons to each
    • Hotels offer more amenities which means you don’t have to bring as much – you would be surprised how many have cribs on hand, baby food available, strollers, and even bottle warmers!  And you can always call reception in a pinch to get warm milk sent up to you.
    • But depending on the hotel you may be in a regular room sharing that small space with your child. This doesn’t sound too bad, until you put them down at 7pm and all of a sudden you’re sitting in a dark hotel room, whispering to each other and trying to figure out what you’re going to do for the next few hours.
    • Now we always try to make sure we have a suite, a balcony, or some kind of separate area for us to hang out in when Jackson is taking a nap or down for the night.
    • With an Airbnb you don’t have the amenities, but you have more flexibility on the space.  And it’s much easier to maintain your regular routine.  You have control over how many bedrooms there are, ensuring there’s a separate sleeping area for your baby.  You also have a kitchen to heat bottles and prep food.  Some even offer cribs, high chairs and the basics.

What do you think about this post? Let me know!

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