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Traveling With Infants

With the holidays fast approaching
–especially that Family Gathering Marathon, Thanksgiving
– it’s time once more to start thinking about the
dreaded Holiday Traveling. Last year I wrote up some tips for
getting through it all and thought that they bear repeating, so
here they are. Much of this was passed on to me by my Mommy Focus
Group when I first started flying with Madeleine, but some of this
was learned the hard way. For the purposes of simplicity, I’m
splitting kids into two groups – babies who aren’t
mobile and toddlers who are. So I’d apply this article to
anyone just barely crawling or younger; tomorrow I’ll cover
getting around with mobile kids.

First, the good news. Traveling with a newborn, while daunting, is
actually easier than traveling with an older baby or toddler.
Newborns and young infants sleep a lot and you don’t have any
meal or snack planning to take into account.

The bad news, though, is that young infants are wildly
unpredictable, aren’t usually on a schedule yet that you can
plan around, and generally have the potential to make the trip a
nightmare for your whole family and a plane full of strangers.

Before you take off, think ahead. If your
child’s old enough to have a nap or bedtime routine,
reinforce that before you leave; these routines make bedtime much
easier in a strange place. Also think about bath time: if
you’re going to be someplace longer than a day or two, baby
will need a bath and chances are there won’t be a baby-sized
tub. So you may want to take a couple passes at taking a bath with
baby in the big tub, or using the sink.

If you’re driving, you’re in luck. Babies don’t
need to stretch their legs, so rest stops are dictated solely by
baby’s hunger. You can choose to pump a supply of milk ahead
of time or bring formula with you so you can “feed on the
go”, or you can stop and nurse each time. On a driving trip,
I liked to stop and nurse, but we never had more than a couple
hundred miles to go. You can find a bottle warmer online
that’s got a car adaptor, or you can simply put a cold bottle
of milk in an insulated bag when you head out; breast milk is still
“potent” for six to eight hours at room temperature, so
usually the bottle would have just reached warm enough by the time
Maddie needed it. Make sure in the car you bring baby’s
lovey, if he’s got one, nap blanket, etc; these things will
make naptime much easier if he usually resists naps. We also found
it handy to have one of those href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FFisher-Price-Deluxe-Auto-Mirror-Lights%2Fdp%2FB0000789TD%2Fsr%3D8-2%2Fqid%3D1163043486%3Fie%3DUTF8%26s%3Dhpc&tag=1mother2anoth-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325"
that enable you to see a
rear-facing baby from the front seat. It entertained Maddie and
meant one of us didn’t always have to ride in the back seat.

If you’re flying, God bless you. Here’s what you need
to know:

Children under two years old fly free. Tell them ahead of time
you’ve got an infant who will be flying on your lap so
it’s in the notes. Show up early to check-in; they’ll
try to put you in a three-across seating arrangement, and give you
the middle seat for free. If that happens, you can bring the car
seat on the plane and give baby her own seat. You’d strap the
car seat in rear-facing, just like in a car.

If that doesn’t happen, you’ll be holding kiddo the
whole time. I suggest bringing a sling or soft carrier on board
with you, which will make it easier for baby to get to sleep
without you killing your arms for five hours. For take-off and
landing, the FAA recommends not wearing the baby, but simply
holding her in your lap. Otherwise, wearing her is a great help.

Basic airline regulations say that with a child flying free, you
are allowed to gate-check a collapsible stroller – this can
be an umbrella stroller, or an infant car seat with a collapsible
stroller base - and carry a diaper bag without it counting towards
your carry-on allotments. I had one attendant give me grief about
the diaper bag, so now I print out the allowances and carry it with

As of this writing, airport security will allow you to carry
breastmilk, formula, or baby food on the plane. If you’re
doing formula, you can pre-mix it or buy bottled water in the
waiting area to carry on with you; you’ll want the formula
ready before the attendants come by with a drink cart.

Because here’s the biggest tip for flying with an infant: get
them to nurse during takeoff and landing. It’ll equalize
their ears and they won’t cry from pain. Sometimes keeping
Maddie hungry to coincide with a takeoff was tricky, but definitely
worth it.

Make sure you bring a well-stocked diaper bag on the plane with
you: odds are that the flight will be delayed, you’ll need
more diapers than you think, and baby will have a blow-out poop and
need fresh clothing.

On the plane or during a long car ride, have small, QUIET toys
available for them. Something that won’t distract the other
passengers or the driver. Even the barf bag on the plane is
interesting to an infant, so don’t stress about bringing
everything. Make sure, thought, that you’ve got the
“special toy” or lovey close at hand.

As far as being away goes, it takes a lot of planning; I’m
not going to kid you. If you’re staying at a hotel, Marriots
and Best Westerns have always had good Pack N Plays for me and my
girlfriends; some hotels will only have the older, unsafe rolling
cribs. Call ahead and ask to make sure. You may also want to bring
your own Pack N Play sheets since hotels may simply offer you a
twin sheet and tell you to “tuck”. If you’re
staying with family or friends, ask them to check around and try to
borrow a Pack N Play; it’s one less thing to have to lug with
you on the plane. As a matter of fact, when we last flew to visit
family, we had a borrowed Pack N Play at both sets of
grandparents’ houses so Maddie could nap wherever we ended
up. This was hugely helpful to us. And while we’re talking
about hotels, I strongly encourage you to look into renting a
“suite” hotel room instead of a regular one. For about
the same price, you can get a suite that has a separate bedroom and
even a kitchenette, which means you’ve got some place to go
after baby goes to sleep so you’re not stuck trying to watch
television in the dark with the sound off. And between the
kitchenette and the free breakfasts, you’ll keep food costs
down. Check out places like href="http://homewoodsuites1.hilton.com/en_US/hw/index.do"
target="_blank">Homewood Suites
, href="http://www.marriott.com/residence-inn/travel.mi"
target="_blank">Residence Inn
, or href="http://embassysuites1.hilton.com/en_US/es/index.do"
target="_blank">Embassy Suites

If your child’s on a schedule or routine, try to stick to it.
Consistent naps – even if one is caught while driving around
for forty-five minutes – will make everyone happier. Also,
remember your baby’s new to this whole thing, and try to plan
“break” times when she’s not surrounded by
family. So much new stimulation all the time can be overwhelming.
Maddie met her ten cousins all at once one Thanksgiving and had a
great time, but we were sure not to put her in the “whole
family” situation for too long.

On that note, bring along a couple familiar items that will help
your baby “retreat”. We traveled Maddie’s bouncy
seat and her Gymini playmat; the bouncy seat unscrewed very flat
and lightweight, and the playmat took almost no room. I used one of
our carry-on wheelies any time we went to a relative’s house,
and packed it with diaper bag and toys. Wherever we were, she had a
familiar place to hang out and regroup. The bouncy seat had the
added bonus of being a place to “park” her when I 1)
needed my hands free, or 2) sensed she was tired of being passed
from person to person; people aren’t as likely to ask to hold
the baby if she’s happily strapped in to a piece of

Bringing baby’s “sleep stuff” is a must for us.
As Maddie got older and began to have a blanket and stuffed animal
in the crib, we brought the whole menagerie along so the crib would
“feel” familiar to her. We also brought an MP3 player
and portable speakers so she’d have her lullaby music while
going to sleep. And knock on wood, we’ve never had trouble
getting Maddie to go to bed in a strange room.

While packing your toiletries, pack baby’s as well.
Don’t count on using hotel shampoo for her bath; if your
infant’s skin is sensitive it’ll backfire on you. Bring
a trial size of her regular bath stuff. Also, make sure you always
travel with infant Tylenol or Motrin, and with a rectal
thermometer. Having a baby spike a fever at 2 a.m. in a strange
city, then try to find an all-night drugstore, is no fun.

I’m sure there’s more, but I think this has probably
scared/overwhelmed you enough for one day. As long as you realize
that you now are “those people” that everyone dreads
seeing in the airport, you’ll be fine. Make full use of your
checked baggage allowance, tell yourself that you’ll get
through it, and realize everything just takes more time now, and
you’ll come out the other end exhausted, vowing never to
leave the house again, but with great pictures and great memories.

And everyone will have seen what an adorable baby you have and
really, isn’t that what it’s all about?


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