Learning to cook … one kid at a time

Tips for Traveling with Small Children November 12, 2011

Filed under: Parenting — gastromami @ 3:07 pm

We arrived in Miami (or MyNami as Ren calls it) late last night.

This was, I believe, Ren’s 12th trip on an airplane & Fiona’s 2nd.

Amazing, actually, how much that little boy has traveled – no wonder he is obsessed with “avi’s”

The first time I flew with Ren I packed so much stuff for the flight it was, looking back, hilarious.

I mean how many toys does an infant really need?

I do think I have learned a few things – and still have more to go! – but after both an inquiry from an old friend recently and The Feminist Breeder’s recent Twitter comment about “carseat, no carseat” etc. I realized that there are a lot of tips that I do have to offer:

1.  It is FREE to check baby items!  Baby items include strollers, carseats & portable cribs.  Most airlines have a limit of 1 item/child but we have been allowed to check 2 items a few times or just compromised by checking 1 item at baggage check and 1 item at the gate.  I would recommend buying a protective bag for your items – they run between $15-$40.  I also use these free checked items to store my toiletries in gallon ziploc bags and/or other heavy items (shoes for one) in the seat of the carseat – it frees up both space and weight in our suitcases.

2.  CHECK THAT CARSEAT!  I assure you, if the plane goes down, a carseat is not going to save your child;  (sorry to be grim but that’s the truth!)  You want to make getting through security, the airport, waiting & boarding as easily as possibly so you want to limit what you carry to what you absolutely “need.”  One time, thinking it would help Ren sleep on a late flight, we hauled the carseat onto the plane, held up other passengers installing it and all it served to do was put Ren’s feet in the perfect position to kick the seat in front of him – and he ended up sleeping on us anyway.  Not.  Worth.  It.

3.  Strollers:  We are lucky that there is usually one available for us at our destination from family or friends.  Also, I have yet to travel alone with 2 kids and I’m sure that I will want to use my double stroller (and gate check it) then.  But for now we eliminate the need for that large piece of baby equipment and prefer to carry our children in carriers!

4.  (Good!)  Baby Carriers:  A GOOD baby carrier (not a crotch-dangler) is our #2 most important piece of “baby equipment,” second only to a good and safe carseat.  For traveling with infants I prefer a stretchy wrap (a Moby or Sleepy Wrap) to keep my child cozy, warm & close to me.  For older babies and toddlers we have two carriers, a Beco and an Ergo .  Both of these carriers allow us to wear our kids either in the front or on our packs.  The Ergo is perfect for nursing a baby both discreetly and while you unable to stop and sit to nurse.  You can also keep your kids in the carriers through security which is invaluable since security is a hassle in and of itself at this point – even without two small children.

5.  Don’t take anything you don’t absolutely need!  Most kids under 1, due to the white noise and motion of the plane, go right to sleep during takeoff and mine are usually good to go for a flight that is 2 hours or shorter.  Just pack a few favorite toys – I usually try to “hide” them a few weeks before the trip so they are both confident in using the toy and missing them!  Some crayons, a teether (for babies), favorite shows downloaded on an iPhone with children’s headphones, and puzzle books are usually our best bets.  We also pack one bag with necessities:  the bare minimum number of diapers, favorite toys, the iPhone & food, that we keep within reach and pack extra clothes, extra diapers & first aid items in a separate bag “just in case” that we can stow away.

6.  Food!  Pack some favorite snacks & a special treat or two:  Ren loves dried apples & for a treat I pick up some food leather from Whole Foods.  We also pack sandwiches for the family – it saves a ton of money, it saves walking all over the airport to find something that everyone can and will eat, and by planning to eat a meal either while waiting or on the plane, we are helping fill up time!  We also always carry empty water bottles with us to fill at the water fountains.

7.  Nurse during takeoff and offer drinks to older children.  This helps eliminate ear pain due to the change in pressure and also helps lull your baby to sleep.  I really try to plan a nursing schedule on days I’m traveling so that the baby will be hungry enough to eat but not too hungry that she is flipping out if there is a short delay before takeoff;  I nurse about 1 hour – 90 minutes before our planned departure time.

8.  If you can pre-book, try to get a bulkhead seat or seats in the back.  Bulkhead seats will allow you a little bit more space which is extremely helpful if you are traveling with a lap child.  The airplane is also louder in the back due to the engines so the white noise will be greater and will help muffle any loud crying!

9.  If traveling overseas you can book a bassinet for free.  You need to book your ticket over the phone but overseas flights are equipped with attachments for airplane bassinets in most bulkhead rows.  These bassinets are available for lap children and hook right into the wall.  Not only do you get the extra room of bulkhead but a safe place for your baby to nap, play or be changed!  Oh, and they are free!

10.  The airline is there to help!  Just ask if you need anything – crackers before takeoff, some water for your water bottle before landing, help with your luggage if traveling alone with children.  The flight attendants and airport personal are there to help!

Have fun and safe travels!


2 Responses to “Tips for Traveling with Small Children”

  1. Danielle (Shuttleworth) Edwards Says:

    Gretchen this is great! Jonathan and I are adopting a baby and have to go to California to pick the child up. We will be there for about two weeks with the newborn and then are flying back home. I didn’t know that you could check a baby item for free! We were going to rent a seat in the car when we got there so we wouldn’t have to lug it on/off the plane, but now I think we will just check it! I am going to go get a Maya wrap or sleepy wrap today! Thanks for the good advice – I am a new mom and have been wondering what I will really need!

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