Thanksgiving is a time for food, family, football, and shopping. The long holiday weekend also kicks off the busiest time of year for long distance travel, increasing road and air travel by up to 54%. Roads are congested and airports are packed. The holidays can be stressful enough with the pressure of blending families and spending time with in-laws so traveling with a little one can feel more overwhelming than usual. To help make you feel a little more at rest and ready for your travel plans, here are some tips to hopefully make things go a little smoother for you.
Tip 1: Travel with a baby carrier
Whether you are traveling by plane or car, I highly recommend having a baby carrier. When you are traveling, your young child will be in unfamiliar environments and often with unknown people, which can raise their fear and anxiety, even if they are too young to accurately articulate that to you. Having them close to you in a carrier will ease their worries and give them a sense of security. If you are traveling by plane, carry your baby through security and onto the plane in the baby carrier. Security will not make you take it off, however, be prepared they will most likely test your hands for explosive residue. The test is quick and painless and basically entails them wiping a strip of thin material on the palms of your hands. While they test the strip, you will have to step aside until they clear you, so keep an eye out on your baggage as it comes through on the belt! The only way I can get my daughter to sleep on the plane is by putting her in our carrier. I absolutely can’t say enough wonderful things about my Ergobaby 360 Four Position Baby Carrier. I take it everywhere I go any time I travel but use the carrier of your choice. Trust me, it is so much easier to have your hands free so you can roll your luggage, hold your boarding pass, or another child!
Tip 2: Bring something for your baby’s ears
Have you ever noticed that when babies cry during a flight it’s typically during the beginning or the end of the flight? During take off and landing there is a lot of air pressure causing your ears to pop. This can also happen on a car ride, especially if you are traveling through hills and varying elevations. Adults can easily open and close their mouths or do other tricks to take the pressure away, but babies cannot. Therefore, make sure you let your child nurse or have a bottle ready during those times. If it’s not feeding time or your child is a little older, have them suck on a pacifier. Bring extra pacifiers in case they fall on the floor!
Tip 3: Prepare a special travel bag
Your diaper bag is probably packed with everything you need. Just make sure to have extra diapers and wipes, antibacterial spray to wipe down the seats and windows around you, an extra change of clothes, and items to keep your little one busy. We generally take coloring books , crayons, books (small paperbacks so they don’t take up much room and don’t weigh down your bag), bubbles, and a tablet to play games and even watch a favorite show (gasp!). Yes, when you travel with a little one, a little extra TV watching is OK! If you have an infant, hopefully they will just sleep most of the time, but you can always bring some favorite, colorful, musical toys to keep their attention when they are awake! If your child has a favorite toy, stuffed animal or blanket, make sure to bring it with you to comfort your child. To make your child feel like traveling is special for them, buy a new book or download a new app just for the flight or roadtrip. If you are traveling by plane, bring an empty bottle or sippy cup so once you pass through security you can fill it with water since airplanes tend to dehydrate you and liquids still are not allowed through security.
Tip 4: Be prepared for the worst
Be prepared that your child might cry during a long car ride or flight. Be prepared that there will be traffic or that your flight may be delayed. The majority of the people traveling with you or around you have been in your shoes before and will understand what you are going through if times get tough. Make sure you are prepared and try to travel during times when your child usually naps. Sometimes we cannot help it but try to book your tickets as far in advance as you can and try to get a non-stop flight during times that won’t affect your little one’s sleep schedule too much. Check in and print your boarding passes the day before and leave in plenty of time to get to the airport. Even if you just packed carry-on luggage you will still need enough time to check in your carseat and or stroller.
Tip 5: Have fun!
Traveling with little ones definitely changes what a vacation used to be for you. You will not be able to relax and curl up with a book or watch a movie. You will most likely be spending the entire time entertaining your children and taking care of their needs. With that in mind, if you forget something you can buy it when you land or get to the next town. If there is a snag in the plans, work out a solution and then let it go. Know that you are creating memories with your family and your children that will last a lifetime. You are healthy and you are safe and you are together. So have fun and if you can relax a little it’s a bonus!
Specific Driving travel tips:
*If you are renting a car, you can often pay in full in advance to get a discounted rate. *If you have AAA, you can also get a discounted rate.
*Spend the extra money and get a car one size larger than you would normally rent. You’ll need it for the stroller, pack n play, and other items to make your little one have everything in their home away from home.
*I always suggest using the same carseat your child is used to to for travel in another vehicle, however, you can rent carseats from most car rental companies for an extra charge, if you’d prefer.
*Consider sitting in the back with your child, if your travel plans permit, so you can have easy access to anything your child needs like a snack, a drink, or a toy. Plus it will keep your child feeling safe, secure, and entertained (which means happier) during a long car ride.
Specific Air travel tips:
*Do you know you can check a carseat and a stroller at no charge?
*Do you know that children fly FREE on your lap before age 2? (you still typically need to list them as a passenger and sometimes even require their own boarding pass)
*Do you know that many airlines will give you commemorative wings or a travel book for your child’s first flight?
*Do you know that often you can ask for a row to yourself at the gate if the flight isn’t full?
Specific Hotel travel tips:
*Many hotels will give you a crib or pack n play upon request but also bring your own sheet if you have room so your child recognizes the feel and smell of their own sheet. Newborns and infants should never sleep with anything in their crib, but if you have a toddler, pack your child’s favorite stuffed animal or doll and favorite blanket so they feel comforted in their new environment.
*Pack a top sheet from your bed to hang on the wall to use as a barrier in the hotel room if you would like some extra privacy after your child falls asleep.
*Ask for a room that is away from heavy traffic and elevators so your room stays as quiet as possible, especially if your child is napping or sleeping.
Safe travels and happy holidays!!