So how do you survive first time travel with a baby? Whether you are traveling an hour away or packing up to go cross country there is no shortage of anxiety in planning the trip - not to mention the travel itself. Here are seven nuggets on traveling with baby to boost your confidence:
1. Start packing at least 1 week in advance. It's a no brainer, but you'd be surprised at how much stuff you need to bring for your little one and how many "last minute" trips or Amazon orders you have to make before your trip. Create your list, or use ours, and get going!
(It was this very hassle that gave us the idea to start Totts. If you want to eliminate the hassle of packing we’d encourage you to check out our customized boxes.)
2. Follow the “rule of 2s and 3s”. For luggage packing, I always pack two day outfits and 2 night outfits for the kiddo for each day. It's amazing how fast you'll go through clothes. If you are traveling by plane stick to a rule of 3 of each clothing type. Spit ups, food spills and blow outs always seem to happen on the road.
Want to save on luggage space? Eliminate the need for over packing by using travel size soap. These wash and go bags are nifty when it comes to pre-treating stinky clothes.
3. Take a practice run. This is a good way to calm the nerves especially with air travel. On our first trip with the baby we actually practiced who would hold/carry what going to the airport, during security, boarding and deboarding the plane. That may be a bit extreme (crazy?), but at least having a game plan will make you feel much better in navigating the load through the busy airport, train station or bus terminal. Here’s how we tackled it on our first international trip:
Mom: One hand pushed the stroller with a hooked on car seat via adapter and diaper bag on top. On the back carried the car seat backpack bag and in front the baby in the carrier. Other hand free to push the carry on luggage. (Yes, that may have looked ridiculous but it worked!)
Dad: A hand for each luggage, laptop bag on top and wearing the travel crib as a backpack.
No matter how you go about arranging the load, planning a “bag assignment” can help you get through the airport and to check-in without needing a trolley and with just a bit less stress.
4. Ask. Just ask. Airlines in the US have noticeably stopped offering pre-boarding for families, leaving us to board with the rest of the passengers. This can add undue stress onto any first time parent flyers. However, there is a way around that: just ask. Don’t be afraid to ask the front desk staff about possible pre-boarding. The worst you can get is a no (which hasn’t happened yet in my experience) and the upside could be scoring an empty seat next to you on the plane. Even if the airline policies have changed, these are still people (many of them parents!) who know what you’re going through and are willing to help.
5. Offer plenty of distraction food. It’s the best solution for any baby and adult who is combating boredom and fussiness (‘hangry’ ring a bell?). For a younger baby distraction food takes the form of breastfeeding and bottle feeding. One time, I think I nursed for an entire flight. For older ones it’s offering a variety of snacks and dispensing them slowly.
Depending on age here are a few good standbys: Baby Mum-Mums, cereal puffs, Cheerios, rice cakes, raisins, veggie straws, clementines, bananas, and an apple (a whole one for the tyke to gnaw on-- it lasts awhile with our hungry hippo). Whatever your child likes, make sure it gets his stamp of approval before bringing tons of that snack on the trip (we learned that one the hard way).
6. Bring milk with you. This one is an obvious one if you’re breast or formula feeding, but when your toddler is on whole cow milk don’t expect it to be on the cart with the sodas and drinks: airlines generally don’t offer it. Luckily, you have a few choices here, you can bring milk from home in a thermos or container to keep cold, you can purchase shelf milk in small cartons (Horizon and Organic Valley offer these products), you can purchase milk at the airport before boarding or luckily you can now get powdered toddler formula. Powdered formula may be a good “in case of emergency” backup should you be stuck on the plane or delayed a number of hours.
Unfortunately no one has solved the issue for parents on successfully passing TSA with milk and without the extra security measures. As you plan your travel get to the TSA line with plenty of time, make sure all your powders, liquids and bottles are stored in one place for easy access, and take a breath. It’s not a fun experience, but let’s be honest it wasn’t fun before you had kids anyways so no harm no foul.
*THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP*
7. Make sure your focus is on time together as a family. Yes, trip logistics are important and every parent wants to do their best to keep baby from melting down on the plane. The reality is that no matter how much you plan there will be good days and bad days, and you will have your share of each. Planning does help tremendously (trust me), but there will be things that will be out of your control and something will go wrong. Traveling with a tot makes you stretch as a parent, roll with the punches and takes you out of the nice cocoon you’ve built. Focusing and worrying about the journey can only make you lose sight of your goal-- to spend this precious, fleeting time together and build lasting memories not just for your baby, but for you as parents. Even after the worst flight in the world I still get up and want to do it again (okay, not the day after, but a few weeks later), and that’s because those trips are the highest highs and the tallest peaks in my early years of parenthood. So enjoy!