Here are a few reasons why it's so great to travel with infants:
- Babies have no agendas. Unless you're balancing the needs of a baby with the needs of an older sibling (and that's an entirely different article), you can pop your baby in a sling or Snugli, and you have an entire afternoon to wile away at the museum. No arguments from the peanut gallery (pun intended).
- Babies sleep a lot. They'll nap in a stroller while you sip lattes at a sidewalk cafe, stroll through the countryside or shop for souvenirs.
- Babies don't need much to be content. They just want to be with you, even if you're doing some vacation activity they'll find hugely boring in a few years.
Of course, traveling with an infant is not all sunshine and rainbows. Babies cry on planes, need to have diapers changed in strange places and might not like having their routines disrupted if they're accustomed to a regular eating and sleeping schedule at home. But, there are plenty of things you can do to help ease the way and keep everyone smiling.
Before You Go
Bring baby to the doctor before the trip. Infants are more vulnerable to germs than adults. Before you head to the airport or check in to your hotel, stop by your pediatrician's office and have her or him complete a standard check-up. Plus, if you're traveling outside of the country, it is important to have baby's vaccines all up-to-date.
Overpack your diaper bag. It may be more to carry, but being extra prepared for delays during air travel will go a long way. Pack a few extra bottles, diapers, wipes, food and formula, plus changes of clothes for both you and the baby. You'll want something clean to wear if baby spits up mid-flight.
Spread all of baby's belongings/necessities among all your checked luggage. If luggage is lost, you don't want it to be the one bag in which you packed all of baby's gear. Remember though, you can buy diapers and formula almost anywhere, so don't panic if you find yourself without some of your necessities for a little while.
Pack blue painter's tape and binder clips. Nope, not for home improvement projects. Painter's tape is easily removable and can be added to any surface for baby proofing a room. Cover electrical outlets, tape up loose wires and secure any drawers or areas that you don't want baby to explore. Binder clips are best for securing baby's blanket to the stroller for wind and sun protection, as well as privacy while napping.
Bring clip-on toys and offer up special items. Clip-on toys can easily connect to a baby's outfit, making it easy to keep infants distracted while waiting in line or sitting at the gate. And when you really need baby to keep busy, offer up a special item that they don't normally get to play with, such as your cell phone. Try downloading a video for baby to watch while you wait.
In the Air
The 3.4-ounce rule. When it comes to airplane security, no one passes through with any liquid of more than 3.4 ounces, unless you have an infant. TSA restrictions are waived for milk/breastmilk in containers larger than 3.4 ounces. Additional screening is required, but you will be able to feed your little one on a cross-country flight. To make travel even easier, bring empty bottles (or just filled with formula) through security, then purchase bottled water on the concourse. The 3-ounce rule, however, still exists on medicines, lotions or anything else you may typically carry with you for your baby. Diaper creams, lotions or other items are available in travel sizes, and if you have a liquid medication you must carry, pour it into 3-ounce containers.
Give baby a bottle or pacifier during take-off and landing. The changes in air pressure during take-off and landing can cause pressure in baby's ears. Let the little one suck on a bottle or pacifier during these times. Both will help baby to swallow continuously, which helps to clear the ears. A bottle or pacifier will also help keep baby quiet during the flight so as not to disrupt the other passengers' flight.
Bring earplugs or other treats for your fellow flyers. Baby is bound to get fussy during a long flight. Keep the peace with your other passengers by offering them earplugs to drown out the sound of crying. If they don't accept, offer to buy their drink or snack when the flight attendant comes around. The gesture will say you're sorry for any discomfort you may have caused them during the flight.
Buy an airplane seat for baby. It's true that children younger than 2 years can be "lap babies" on airplanes for free, but it's much safer to have your child strapped into his or her car seat during take-off, landing and turbulence than in your arms. According to the FAA, most car seats are just as safe in airplanes as they are in motor vehicles. Plus, having baby in her own seat allows mom to spread out in her own seat -- hands are fully free to read a book!
Book flights with as few connections as possible. If you do need to book a flight with a layover, choose one with a relatively long stop to avoid having to run through the airport with your child and all your baby gear. Also, find out if there is a play area at the airport for little ones. Read our tips on the best ways to keep your kids busy at the airport.
Keep your stroller with you until you board. Maneuvering through a crowded airport loaded with bags and your innocent one is tough enough, so bring your stroller and use it to hold everything, just as you would on any outing with baby. Airlines will allow you to gate check your stroller, so you'll have it up to until you depart and immediately upon landing.
Let everyone else off the plane first. Sure, if your baby is crying, and people are giving you the stink eye, you might want to get the heck off the flight. However, with all of baby's toys, snacks and necessities, you don't want to risk leaving something behind. Use the time to gather all of your belongings. When you're done, there will be more room to make it off the plane quickly and easily with baby.
On the Ground
Designate a diaper-changing station at your destination. Bring a box of wipes, put a disposable changing pad on top of a towel, and stack a bunch of diapers in one area. With everything already set up, there will be no rummaging through suitcases in search of diapers, wipes or creams.
Don't begrudge the baby's naps. It's tempting to "go, go, go" on vacation, sightseeing as much as possible to pack it all in. But it is important to rest almost as much as your baby does. Rest while baby does if you can, and if you can't, try traveling during that time. A long car ride or busy flight can be a lot easier if baby can sleep straight through it!
Consider booking a condo. Standard hotel rooms might be OK for a night or two, but if you're vacationing for a week, a condominium or vacation home rental is key. You'll have a full kitchen for mealtime and storing snacks and drinks, a washer/dryer for the inevitable baby laundry you'll have to do and separate bedrooms for parents and baby (if you're accustomed to sleeping apart at home). Don't forget to ask about cribs or Pack 'n Plays, too!
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