4. If traveling by plane…
–Know exactly what your airline will allow you to pack. Most airlines allow you to planeside check a stroller and a carseat for free. DO THIS! You can always use your stroller to carry bags and wear your baby. Also, ask if there are empty seats on the flight before you board; you can bring the carseat on if there are!
–Bring a sling or Ergo/Snugli carrier on the plane. Walking babies calms them even in the air. Eowyn would only go to sleep in one of these on our last trip. Most planes have a spot where you can stand up in a darker, quieter area.
– Try to get a bulkhead seat. Either use a plane-issued bassinet or the floor so your baby/child can lay down and you can get a break from holding them.
– Note that a carseat might be unnecessary abroad. Most other countries don’t have the same carseat laws we do, especially if you’ll be getting around by taxi or public transit within a city.
– Note that strollers can double nicely as high-chairs!
5. In-flight or in-car comfort:
– Nurse, give a finger or paci to suck, or give a bottle on take-off & landing. For older children, let them eat a snack or chew gum as a treat. This makes their ears pop.
– Pack a first-aid kit in an accessible place, including teething tablets, pain reliever, saline drops, a nose squeegee, and tummy soothing medicine. Eowyn has gotten teeth on EVERY TRIP across the Atlantic!
– Pack some new books or toys- raid Goodwill, thrift shops, garage sales, the $5 rack at Wal-Mart, the “See Spot Save” aisle at Target. Some ideas: etch-a-sketches, coloring books, stickers, finger puppets in a drawstring bag, play phone or keys, travel-sized board games. (In a plane, you want fewer small pieces. In a car, this isn’t quite such a big deal.)
–Take toys out ONE BY ONE. Resist the urge to interest a contented child in a different book, toy, or game. You WILL regret it! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Save a few for the return trip, too, so the novelty hasn’t worn off.
– For babies, bring a bottle of (expressed) milk along for feeding on-the-go. VERY helpful in museums, airports, long walks… Keep it body-temperature by storing it next to your body or the baby’s. Breastmilk can sit out for up to 10 hours without any problem.
– If breast-feeding, buy a manual breast pump. I got an Avent Isis Manual Breast Pump off Craigslist for $15 in nearly-new condition. I’ve been so pleased. Pack it in your carry-on! Even if you’ve never pumped before, or have a great electric pump, bring a manual. You do NOT want to be stranded (especially in a foreign country in pain from a nursing strike or be unable to give your child a bottle– trust me, I’ve been there!)
– Check the laws in your state regarding breast-feeding in a backseat. I know this sounds crazy, but I just looked up the actual SC state law, just to see if it were true, and there IS an exemption clause for “children being fed.”**
Use your own judgment– but I can imagine this being super-helpful knowledge in case of a traffic jam or other slow moving traffic, when your baby has had enough and is HUNGRY. To check state laws, google “child passenger restraint law___ ” and fill in the state(s) in which you’ll be driving. I can’t find a law authorizing this in KY, for instance. Regardless, NEVER NURSE WHILE DRIVING!
6. Time zones. We’ve found that “going cold turkey” into the new schedule is best, as opposed to trying to gradually get there.
– If possible, travel east during the night. The child will sleep some since it’s “night” to him. When you get there, have him stay awake until his next nap, NEW TIME ZONE time.
Example: When flying to Europe, our plane left at 8 pm EST and arrived at 11 am Paris time. We kept Eowyn awake until her afternoon nap time, then only let her sleep the normal 2 hours. We then put her to bed at 8 pm Paris time, and didn’t go get her when she woke up around 11 to play, thinking that was her nap. She settled down after jabbering for a few minutes, and slept soundly ’til morning. Get your baby outside in the sun as much as you can during the day, and keep the room dark at night– this really helps reset their internal circadian (daily) rhythms.
– Traveling west will be harder on the plane …it’s a really really LONG day, literally. But then you’ll get home so tired that you fall into bed around 8 pm and sleep until morning. The next day you’ll all probably be back on your home time, just a little tired and needing to take a nap or go to bed early. The nice thing about this is that your baby will take really great naps.
– Load up on vitamins both before and after time zone changes to boost your flagging immunity! We love Airborne! Orange juice, or lemonade with cayenne & maple syrup are great. Cod-liver oil full of Vitamin D is great.
7. While there:
– Plan only one sight (or group of nearby sights) to see per day.
– Plan for nap-times. Either head back to the hotel for nap times, or plan on strapping your baby to your back, or in a stroller during nap-time. Eowyn naps great in a moving stroller or on my back, and this has enabled me to enjoy museums she would have found unendurably boring.
– Plan to let your baby down to crawl or walk or explore both morning and afternoon. There are public gardens and parks everywhere, and you’ll both enjoy the sun!
– Pack your own (baby) food. It’s just not worth the time of trying to track it down once you’re there. Even if your child is older, pack foods you know are safe and tummy-pleasing for him.
– Refuse to stress. If you’re tired, take a break. Nap. Sit by a river. ENJOY your trip.
**SECTION 56-5-6430. Use of restraint device not required under certain circumstances. The provisions of this article do not apply if a child being transported is being fed, has a physical impairment, or a medical problem or any distress which makes it impractical to use a child restraint system. Alternate restraint protection, such as safety belts, must be utilized if possible
Christina is a former teacher & choir director, and current stay-at-home mom to Eowyn (1 year) and wife to Ryan. She is passionate about equipping moms to think critically in order to raise healthy children full of faith, music and imagination.