Monday, November 12, 2012

Traveling...with kids

I've been meaning to do this post for a while. With the holidays often come travel, so I thought now would be a great time to post some things I've learned from traveling with an infant, and then a toddler.

5 months old & heading to Aruba!

Jon and I love to travel and, although we've slowed down since Gia was born, we do still like to get away. Gia's been on 4 trips and she's only 2 years old! We've had some funny mishaps along the way--like the time Gia grabbed an old cup off the floor of the airport and just started drinking -- but mostly we've learned a lot about how to navigate through airports with kids.

So here are some tips to keep you sane and the baby happy:

  •  Navigating through the airport can be difficult. Some people prefer to babywear. It keeps both of your hands free and eliminates the need to collapse the stroller and then set it back up again several times.  But, Gia was always too heavy for me to do that, so we brought our lightweight stroller and gate checked it. (More on checking bags & strollers later.)
  • When you go through security, keep in mind that you have to collapse the stroller and put it on the conveyor belt so it can go through x-ray machine. You carry the baby through. For that reason, other than a diaper bag and the stroller, try to check every thing else. You will have to juggle the baby, the diaper bag, collapsing the stroller, opening it back up again, taking your own shoes off and putting them back on, collecting your belongings...  anything else will just be more stuff to juggle. 
  • If at all possible, rent a car seat at your destination. That's certainly the easiest option. Most destinations have that option available and it's very inexpensive. I think we paid $4 a day to rent a car seat.
  • If renting isn't an option, you can check the car seat at check-in. I bought an inexpensive travel bag for the car seat. It had wheels on the bottom and was well worth the money.
  • You can also carry the car seat on the plane and your child can sit in it for the flight. This is a great option as far as safety goes, but it requires you to have purchased a seat for the child. It also means you'll have to carry it through the airport with you. Not necessarily a bad thing, just something to prepare for. You are not required to buy a seat until the child is over 2 though. When Gia was under 1 we held her. Over 1 and it was extremely nice to have seat for her.
  • Check with your airline about checking items; sometimes babies are allowed to check a car seat AND a suitcase. Usually that's the case if you are flying internationally.
  • Pack extra clothes for the baby and a large ziploc or plastic bag to put messy clothes in -- and an extra shirt for you, just in case. 
  • Sometimes families traveling with children are allowed on the plane early. This can be a double-edged sword. It's nice to get on before everyone and not have to fight the lines, but keep in mind, you're on first. Meaning, you're on the plane--in one tiny little spot-- for a longer period of time. 
  • Bring Clorox wipes or organic cleaning wipes and wipe EVERYTHING (tray tables, arm rests, seats, etc) before you sit. (People may have looked at me like I was crazy when I did this, but I don't care. I'm not a germophobe, but planes are notoriously dirty and I didn't want my child getting sick on vacation!)
  • When kids are immobile, things are relatively easy.  We brought a ton puffs and Cheerios for the plane and they kept Gia busy for a while. I also bought her a few new toys and brought those too --anything she hadn't seen before was a huge help on the plane. Gia was a good napper and lucky for us, she fell asleep for a little bit of each flight. We just held her. 
  • Have bottles or sippy cups ready for take off and landing. This helps with ear popping and keeps ear discomfort at a minimum. (Pacifiers work too.)
  • Be prepared with extra everything. On the way home from Florida (when Gia was 8 months) we got stuck on the plane sitting on the runway for nearly 2 hours. So, for that reason (delays, etc) make sure you have extra bottles, formula, diapers and wipes. We were panicking a little because it was a whole extra feeding that we hadn't planned on dealing with. You can bring as much baby food and formula on the plane as you need. But, they don't have anything to warm the bottles on the plane, except hot water. 
  •  Airplane bathrooms are tiny but they do have changing tables. Don't attempt to change a diaper in your seat, lest you get yelled at by flight attendants. Not that I'd know. Ahem.
  • When kids are older, bringing a DVD player or iPad to entertain them is usually a good idea. Keep in mind, though, that they cannot be on for the first 20 minutes and last 20 minutes of the flight. Be prepared with other very fun and exciting things to do during that time, especially if your child doesn't understand why he or she can't watch Dora right now.
  • In this vein, I have heard that those seasonal window clings are a great thing to bring for kids to play with. We haven't tried it yet, but it does sound like a great idea.
  • Lastly, don't forget to leave yourself a lot of extra time. Airport lines take forever to begin with, and adding a baby to mix just means things will take even longer!

If you have any other tips to share, I 'd love to hear them!

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