We’re fast approaching one of the busiest travel seasons with Thanksgiving and Christmas almost upon us. Whilst we all love a good holiday, traveling, even alone these days is difficult enough, but with children, especially babies or toddlers is even more daunting, particularly if you are doing it for the first time. However follow the tips below to make the travel slightly less stressful...
PICK THE RIGHT FLIGHT
It seems like the most obvious place to start but picking a good time to fly is the easiest place to start. Go with a night flight if you can, especially for a long haul flight so your baby is more likely to sleep through, at least some of the flight and you don’t have to spend 10 hours entertaining your little one!
CALL THE AIRLINE AND RESERVE YOUR SEAT
Some airlines now provide SkyCouches on their three row seats (Air New Zealand have a great one), meaning you can pull the entire three seats out to create a bed. It’s not common but if the bassinet seats are taken or your toddler is over 15 months, try reserving a seat on a SkyCouch (if you reserve just one seat it's considered a 'Priority' seat and is $50 USD more. If you happen to get lucky and the flight is relatively empty and the staff are feeling generous, they might move people around to give you the entire row to yourself to give enable you to use the SkyCouch feature. Shout out to Air New Zealand who did this for me on a flight from Los Angeles to England when I was flying solo!
PACKING: CHECK IN
DIAPERS / FORMULA
If traveling somewhere hot, make sure you pack sunscreen and put it in your main case.
Be sure to pack a thermometer (incase your baby gets a fever when away), Benadryl and tylenol, Although I recommended taking a small version (100 ml or under) of both Benadryl and Tylenol in your hand luggage too.
TRAVEL SIZE CREAMS
I always like to use small travel pots when traveling that will last one week or two depending how long I’m going for. Johnson’s baby shampoo is available in small travel sizes, as are Neils Yard baby organic creams (Available in the UK). Alternatively you can buy some travel pots and use your regular creams and baby wash to fill the travel pots up with. These are also a good idea for your own liquids and save a huge amount of weight.
BOTTLES, BOWLS AND SPOONS
Pack extra bowls, spoons and a bib if your baby is on solids, as well as extra milk bottles and water bottles in your case.
TRAVEL STERILIZER BAGS
If your baby is under 6 months and you're still using a sterilizer, pick up a pack of sterilizer bags that can be used in a microwave to clean your baby's bottles.
PACKING: HAND LUGGAGE
Oh the hand luggage with a baby! It might feel like you’re packing as much hand luggage as your check in case! But be sure to keep it as light as possible with some of the following tips and only packing the real essentials. (Note you are allowed to travel with two carry on bags for yourself but when traveling with a baby you can also travel with a diaper bag as an additional piece, however I still recommend trying to keep it to two bags max to keep things as simple as possible!)
THE BEST HANDLUGGAGE BAGS when trAVELING WITH BABY:
Backpacks when traveling with your baby are really convenient, one of my favorites is Fact + Fiction’s backpack. It has separate compartments to make finding things easy once on board.
MARC JACOBS DIAPER BAG
ROLLER WITH BABY SEAT
ZIPPER BAG FOR DIAPERS AND CREAM
FOOD / FORMULA
-If using formula, use a travel formula pot to keep extra feeds in. This way on board you have them measured out and you can just ask for some hot water. Another good tip is to have one bottle with the right amount of formula in the bottle before you board, and once on board you can just ask for some hot water. Then your bottle is ready to go to feed your baby once on board, or even better at a cafe before you begin boarding so it's ready to go.
LIQUIDS FOR BABY
Make sure you pack any liquids for your baby in a large zip lock bag. They don’t have to comply with the 100 ml and less rule, but they will have to run them through security tests so have them ready to hand over in a bag.
CLOTHES FOR BABY
CLOTHES FOR YOU
Pack yourself an extra pair of thin trousers (so they don’t take up too much room) and a spare top. There’s nothing worse than getting spilled on or worse and having sit in it for a few hours or more! Ideal travel outfit with a baby is something similar to the above. Soft black trousers (these were from ASOS), a sweater, (leather jacket optional!) warm slip on mules and nice warm overcoat that can double as a blanket style cover if an overnight flight and you're headed somewhere cold.
If your baby has a regular book they like, bring that on board with you. It will help keep them calm, and bring a sense of familiarity for them. If it’s a night flight, bring their night book with you to read before you try and put them down or cuddle them to sleep if you don't have a basinet seat.
IPAD APPS / NETFLIX DOWNLOADS : PREPERATION
I am not an advocate for screen time for babies or young toddlers in normal circumstances but on a long 10 hour plus flight an educational app or children's educational episode might just save you at some point and I think a fair exception to the usual no screen time rule.
If you think you might need one, download it ahead of your flight as a last resort. If your child is at their wits end on a long flight, no doubt you will be too and one of the following might just save you:
RECOMMENDED APPS / SHOWS
Smart Rattle for two or under is a good app to amuse your baby for a little bit.
Smart ABC for age three or over teaches children the alphabet
Breath by Sesame Street for older toddlers works well to calm them down.
NETFLIX : Baby Bum is a popular educational TV show for toddlers. This can be downloaded and watched without wifi on board.
TRAVEL STROLLERS / PACKING YOUR STROLLER
Tell the staff at the check-in desk you plan do gate check in and they will tag all the pieces of your stroller and car seat for gate check in.
If you’re using a travel bag, make sure they tag the travel bag and not the stroller itself.
If you’re planning on taking your regular stroller with you, I highly recommend purchasing a travel bag for it. If you own an UppaBaby they do a great one (see photo above). It stops any damage that can occur when being put in cargo. The other benefit of a bag is you can actually fit additional items in there. Wet wipes and diapers can all put inside so you can save room and weight in your luggage. They don’t weigh your stroller when you check it in, so you don’t have to worry about it being over weight.
You can also check this in either at the gate or with your luggage. One benefit of taking the car seat with you to the gate is if your flight is looking quite empty, the airline often (depending on the model) let you take the seat on board if there is a spare seat next to you. You can have your baby in it for a couple of hours at a time (no more than this is recommended at any one time as it can damage your baby’s back).
It might seem impossible to take all this with you, however you can use the car seat to have your baby in and use a convertor to attach it to your stroller and then place the regular seat underneath the stroller.
If you want to avoid all the hassle of a large stroller (and do bare in mind you will have to put the whole stroller in parts through security) you might be better off investing in a travel stroller. They collapse really easily, can turn into a backpack or fit into a small bag, like the Pockit model above and will fit in an overhead locker. You then don't have to wait for the staff to bring it up to the gate once you land, and can be on your way as soon as you de-plane.
TIPS FOR GETTING THROUGH SECURITY
Some airlines don’t accept Global Entry such as Air New Zealand, however you can speak to security and more often than not they will let you go through the business / priority line if they have it to help you get through quicker.
If you don’t have global entry or even if you do, try and keep yourself as organized as possible ahead of time. Get your laptop and tablets in an easily accessible place to pull out and place in a tray.
STRIKING YOUR STROLLER
You’ll have to take your entire stroller apart and place all the pieces that will go through the conveyer belt on there, other pieces will be taken through security and tested. You will then have to carry your baby through the security with you. Once you get to the other side, reassemble your stroller, put your baby in there and then pack your hand luggage away.
BEFORE YOU BOARD
BABY WALKING? LET THEM RUN AROUND IF YOU CAN:
If they don’t have a space for children to run around, as a last resort you can take them to the nursing room before you change them, and let them run around there for a little bit. They’re usually (hopefully!) fairly sanitary and will at least allow your baby to stretch in a confined space before you go on board.
CHANGE YOUR BABY'S DIAPER / CLOTHES BEFORE BOARDING
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF PRIORITY BOARDING
Make sure you’re at the gate early enough to take advantage of priority boarding. Remember you’ll need some time to strike the stroller and pack that away so get there with ample time. You can then put your baby in a baby carrier, and be prepared to board saving the space over head for your luggage and getting situated before everyone else boards.
FEEDING YOUR BABY IS IMPORTANT WHEN TAKING OFF
Be sure to have everything to hand ready for take off. You’ll want to try and feed your baby with either formula or by nursing them to stop their ears popping as you take off. This is often why babies cry on board due to the pressure in their ears. If you’re nursing, have your cover ready, it will keep them calm and create a familiar environment. If using a bottle, make sure the bottle is ready and made up. If your baby doesn’t want either, and they use a pacifier, try and have them take this to create the same effect as feeding.
WHO’S DOING WHAT?
If you are traveling with your partner, family member or friend discuss ahead of time who is going to do what. For instance one of you should keep all the passports / ID whilst the other holds the baby. Therefore you won’t be scrambling and wondering who has your documents or wondering who is doing what.
Make sure just one of your party is responsible for taking the hand luggage pieces out, e.g., electronics and liquids, whilst the other is in charge of the stroller. Having these things figured out before hand will stop you both trying to do the same thing and making you more panicked as you go through.
-It might seem like an impossible task but people are generally so helpful when you’re traveling with children, especially if you are alone. Don’t be afraid to ask staff for help, at security to help put your items in one place whilst you re-organise, or even ask staff on board for help if you need it. Often they’ll even offer to hold your baby if you feel comfortable, to give you a little break. Remember it might seem like the flight is forever in the moment but the flight will end, and you will get to your destination for a wonderful holiday!
AT THE HOTEL
Lastly, don’t forget to ask the hotel for a crib when you check in as well as a fridge and microwave. Some hotels will even offer baby amenities, such as baby wash etc. You might not usually ask staff to help bring your bags up to the room when you are traveling solo, but when traveling with a little one and pushing a stroller it’s often worth the few dollar tip to have them help you out!
Enjoy your holiday and safe travels!