Last month, I traveled home to Kansas City with my husband, parents and 6-month old. I have never been more terrified in my life and packed pretty much everything except my kitchen sink. Due to my lingering fear, I started planning for this journey two weeks in advance. This included googling ‘traveling with baby’ checklists and blog posts. Between the ideas I picked up from the world wide web and my own experiences, here are some tips for traveling with your (non-walking) baby.
Plan in Advance
Start your checklist a week or so in advance. Every time you think of something, add it to the list. As you’re packing, cross them off. What mom doesn’t love a good checklist! If you’re traveling somewhere that you can ship to, consider sending diapers, formula, and anything else you might need to bring in bulk in advance, to save precious suitcase space.
Allow Plenty of Airport Time
One of the many joys of traveling with a child under 2 is that you get to stand in line so you can get them a boarding pass. When I arrived at DIA, I assumed that I had to go to the main check-in counter to claim this ticket (not curbside). We all know that traveling through Denver is never quick and easy. On the way home, I realized that you can obtain this boarding pass at the curbside line – at least for Southwest Airlines. Call ahead to see if this is a possibility, as it will save you at least 30 minutes. The next dose of fun begins with a line that’s typically longer than a line at Disney World, but definitely not as fun: DIA security. Have your formula and/or breast milk in a separate bag and be prepared to hand it to the TSA officer so they can check it. Then step back and breath, because you have no control.
This means for you and your baby. Comfortable clothing is a must for both of you. If you are nursing, wear a nurse-friendly top and bring an extra change of clothes for both of you, in case baby decides to regurgitate while mid-air.
Check Large Baby Items
Some will disagree, but if your kiddo is over a few months old, you do not need to schelp your carseat and large stroller all the way to the gate. Save yourself. Check these items upon arrival and wear your baby or put them in a small, fold-up travel stroller (I did both).
Apologize with Earplugs
Before we left, my husband insisted that we buy earplugs for our fellow passengers, in the event that a meltdown ensued. So I did. Thankfully, we did not have to hand them out, but it’s a nice peace offering should you need one. Most people are nice and understanding, but it’s a nice gesture to let them know that you understand that nobody enjoys a crying baby.
Nobody likes a hangry baby or mommy. I kissed my feeding schedule goodbye for the day and just fed my son whenever I felt it was necessary or I needed something to distract/entertain him. All of this work does a number on mommy, so make sure to have food for you, as well. You’re already in a stressful situation. Don’t make it worse on yourself (or your husband) by letting yourself get hangry.
As soon as you arrive at your destination, set up your room to make it feel as ‘close to home’ as possible. That way when bed or nap time comes around, you’re not scrambling to get it ready. Settling in will help you remain organized (and sane) during your visit. Designate a baby-changing area, equipped with wipes and diapers. Again, this saves you from chasing down a diaper bag upon the first blow-out. And last, find a ‘kitchen’ area where you will keep bottles, dishes, baby food, snacks and formula. If you’re in a small space, the best area for this might be the bathroom. I purchased this portable drying rack & bottle brush which was $10 well spent and I can use it anytime we are away from the house for a day or night.
Sleeping During Travel
I really don’t want to talk about it, but I will. The first night (probably due to exhaustion from the day’s travels), my boy slept great, just one wake up. The following 3 nights, he slept like a newborn. I really don’t have any advice on this except to TRY and stick to your same routine at night. And if at all possible, DON’T sleep in the same room as your baby. Turns out, my son is a noisy sleeper. His favorite thing is to bounce his legs up and down in his sleep. So basically, nobody slept well on our trip. But such is life and we powered through it and still managed to have a great time.
Now, go enjoy! Toss out all your old ideas about what a vacation should be and embrace the new craziness that is traveling with a baby. Laugh at the fact that you’re at the local playground by 6am and dinners with friends are now 4pm happy hours. Consider all the gear and baby-lugging as great vacation exercise, then you’ll savor going back home to “regular” life that much more.