Tips For Packing And Traveling With A Baby Or Toddler
We all look forward to getting away whether we are going to visit with family, relax on a beach or hit the slopes. However, along with the happy anticipation, travelers also share concerns about packing and what the airport and flights might hold in store. Add a baby to your travel plans and your happy anticipation is often replaced with anxiety and your normal travel concerns can turn to outright fear and dread.
Traveling with an infant is never going to be as easy as traveling without them, but proper planning and preparation will make your trip easier and more enjoyable. Here are some tips for packing and surviving enhanced airport security.
- Packing The Suitcase
- Packing The Carry-On Bag
- Clearing Enhanced Airport Security
- Dressing For Travel
- Infant Carriers, Strollers, and Car Seats
- At The Airport
- Surviving The Flight
- Things I Wish I’d Thought Of Sooner
Packing The Suitcase
Babies need lots of clothes, diapers, supplies and gear to make it through the day. Be sure to pack everyday items that you take for granted. You’ll be tempted to bring only the bare minimum, but not having enough clothes, wipes, bottles, or sippy cups can make for a more difficult, less comfortable trip.
Lighten your load by having your baby supplies delivered to your destination by Babies Travel Lite, www.babiestravellite.com. With over 1,000 name brand products at competitive prices you can shop online for all the things you will need and have them waiting for you at your destination be it a hotel, vacation home or Grandma’s house. This is a great way to make traveling easier.
There are three things that you should always do whether you’re traveling for two days – or two weeks.
- Plan for your trip well in advance. Visualize how your trip will unfold and try to anticipate your baby’s needs. Make sure you’ll have the right clothes in the right size. Think about what gear you might need. Either arrange to have it waiting for you at your destination, or if you’re bringing it, make sure you have specialty bags so your gear is travel ready.
- Create a packing list and use it. List everything you think you’ll need. Include even the most obvious items so nothing gets left behind in the final rush. Check off each item as you pack. Before you lock the front door review the list one last time to be sure you didn’t miss anything.
- Prepare for the unexpected. It may be easy for you to adjust; it’s not so easy for your baby. Weather forecasts are often wrong and indoor temperatures are unpredictable. Pack a variety of clothing to keep your baby comfortable in case it’s hotter or colder than you anticipated.
If you’re traveling by air, don’t overlook airline baggage restrictions. Check with your carrier about the limitations, restrictions and extra charges that might apply, and pack accordingly.
Packing The Carry-On Bag
In addition to worrying about what you’ll need when you arrive, you need to make sure you have the necessities while en route. You must be prepared for unexpected delays and unanticipated problems with your children. Be happy if you’re lucky enough to arrive with your baby bag still full. At a minimum, always make sure you have, at least, the following when you board:
- Full bottle or sippy cup – Accessible for take-off and landing
- Diapers – 24 hour supply
- Baby Wipes – Minimum 40 wipes
- Formula – 48 hour supply (don’t forget the bottled water if you use powder)
- Extra Bottle – One clean bottle just in case
- Baby Food & Snacks – 2 day supply (don’t forget the spoon!)
- Change of Clothes – 2 complete outfits
- Medicine –All required medication & consider bringing some Tylenol or Motrin
- Sweater or Light Jacket
- Gallon Zip Lock Bags – Minimum 3 bags (great for holding soiled items)
- Baby Lotion – Great way to hide smells in case of an on board baby emergency
- Toys for your child – Think about how you’ll amuse them in the airport and on the flight
Clearing Enhanced Airport Security
Traveling alone or with your partner clearing airport security can be a major annoyance, but add a child or two and clearing security can become disastrous. Here are some tips that will improve your chances of avoiding disaster. Keep in mind that the only thing that is certain about the specific security regulations that impact the traveling family is that the regulations are subject to change without notice and that even if you understand the regulations, enforcement may not be consistent. Always check with your airline or check www.tsa.gov before you travel because the rules can and do change constantly. There is currently a ban on bringing liquids, cremes, and gels through airport security check points. Each traveler may carry through security individual items that are no more than 3 ounces each and all of your items must fit comfortably in a quart-size, clear plastic, zip-top bag (which you must supply). This rule has significant impact if you’re traveling with a small child. Here is a quick survival guide.
Take a close look at your diaper bag. Well in advance of your departure date, inventory the contents of your diaper bag. There are things in your bag you don’t think about that will be an issue – hand sanitizer, sunscreen, diaper creme. When it’s time to travel, make sure all of the items that won’t go in the quart size zip-top bag are packed into your checked luggage so you don’t loose them at the security check point.
Liquid prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger’s ticket will be allowed. The name on the medication must match the name on the boarding pass. In addition, you may bring up to 4 oz. of essential non-prescription liquid medications. Make sure you check the size of your bottles so you don’t loose your medicine.
Infant formula or breast milk is exempted from the liquid ban. The formula must be presented for inspection and you must be traveling with the infant. Consider bringing enough powdered formula to cover you in the worst case scenario where your formula is confiscated and/or your flights are severely delayed.
Prepare for big crowds and long waits. Make sure you bring things for your child to play with, be prepared to amuse them while you’re in line, and also, make sure you have drinks and snacks. You could be in line for several hours without any way to obtain supplies.
Use disposable beverage containers for the drinks you have while you wait to clear security. You will have to throw it away when you reach the security check point.
Bring an empty bottle or sippy cup and purchase the beverages you’ll need for your flight in the airport after you clear security, but before you board. Remember your baby or toddler needs to drink during take-off and landing to avoid ear problems. A sippy cup or bottle is perfect for this.
Make a plan for how you’ll go through the security check point. It may sound ridiculous, but screeners follow strict rules that can create chaos for the unsuspecting traveling family. Not enough hands to take care of all that needs to be done, restricted movement and impatient people waiting behind you can turn the simple tasks described below into monumental undertakings.
- Babies must be out of infant carriers (yes even if they are blissfully and quietly sleeping)
- All children must be out of strollers
- All of your belongings must pass through the x-ray machine, or if anything is too big to fit it must be inspected
- Once a person passes thru the detector they cannot return to the side where they started (nope you can’t take one child through and go back for another)
- All pockets need to be emptied into a tray
- Shoes and belts need to be removed. Could be everyone or just a select few family members
- Everything needs to be reversed once your family and all your belongings have been cleared to proceed
- Screeners will not assist you with your belongings
- Screeners will not assist you with your children
Traveling with your baby or toddler requires thorough planning and much patience, but the reward is easier and more enjoyable travel.
Tips For Dressing For Travel
Remember, it’s more important to be comfortable than fashionable when flying. This goes for you as well as your children. Resist the urge to dress your traveling baby in something that is adorable but uncomfortable. Remember that it will be a long day for everyone in the airport and in an airplane seat; try to find soft fabrics, clothes without tight elastic and clothes that don’t have buckles or other things that will hurt when your baby sleeps in your lap or in his seat.
You should dress in layers in case your baby spits up or your toddler causes a spill.
Airports can often be chilly and some airlines seat families with children at the rear of the airplane where it happens to be hot. Dress your traveling baby in layers so you can better control their environment.
Avoid clothing that will make clearing security at the airport more difficult. Stay away from belts with large buckles and other metal accessories that will set of the detectors at the airport. Steer clear of shoes that are difficult or time consuming to get off and put back on—people will be surprisingly impatient as you try to take care of your family.
Infant Carriers, Strollers And Car Seats
If you are traveling with an infant and you didn’t buy them their own seat on the airplane, bring your infant carrier and check it at the gate, not the curb or the ticket counter. Having use of the carrier in the airport will make family travel easier for you and your baby.
Bring your stroller and check it at the gate, not the ticket counter. Most airports require long walks to gates, baggage claim and exits. The stroller will make getting around much easier. Also, by checking it at the gate you can have use of your stroller during any layovers. Consider purchasing a stroller bag to use when you check your stroller, to protect it from getting damaged at the airport or on the airplane.
Children or infants traveling in their own seat on the airplane may use an FAA approved child safety seat. Consider bringing your child’s car seat or infant carrier. Having your child or infant sit in their own car seat on the airplane can make family travel more pleasant for everyone.
If you’re bringing your infant carrier or car seat on the airplane, make sure you’re familiar with how to use a lap type seat belt to secure it to the airplane seat. All seats brought on to the airplane must be secure before takeoff. Trying figure out how to secure it, in tight quarters, while taking care of your child, is something you definitely want to avoid.
Baby Travel Toys
When flying with an infant, bring the blanket and anything else you normally use to keep them warm and calm. Bring a few of their favorite small toys for them to hold and play with on the plane. Familiar things can make family travel less traumatic.
When flying with a toddler, buy a few new toys to pique their interest. Let them see the toys for the first time at the airport or during the flight. Wrapping might seem like fun, but the Transportation Safety Administration advises against traveling through the airport with wrapped presents.
Hide a couple of favorite toys a few weeks before your trip then pull them out on the airplane or at your destination for an added surprise.
Here are a few toys that parents have found work well on airplanes.
- Favorite teddy bear or soft toy
- Crayons and coloring books
- Small plastic toys such as cars, dolls or animals (Fisher Price Little People work well)
- Travel Magna Doodle or Aqua Doodle toys are great
- Toddler electronic games – V Smile or Leapster have great battery life and many different games they can play.
- Portable DVD player with DVD’s – Great for the amusement value, but you must be aware of the battery life and manage the flight and your child’s expectations accordingly. You might try to save this as the last resort.
At The Airport
Try using a backpack as your carry-on so you can have your hands free to tend to your baby. A backpack with wheels can give you the option of wheeling your gear through the airport when it’s more convenient.
Purchase the beverages you’ll need for your children on the airplane. With the liquid ban in place, only infant formula, breast milk and juice are allowed through security. You should purchase water to fill sippy cups and milk for bottles before you board the airplane. Whole milk is usually available at the airport in coffee stores. You can bring an empty thermos through security and fill it before you board the airplane. Being dependent upon flight crews for your beverage needs is risky.
Most airlines don’t pre-board families with small children anymore. If your airline doesn’t, ask the desk clerk at the gate for assistance placing your car seat in your seat on the plane before they start boarding. While you’re at it, ask them to place anything else that is bulky in an overhead bin. You should also ask if you can gate check your stroller just before boarding instead of at the airplane door. This will leave your hands free to navigate your child to his seat on the airplane.
When you are first on and last off the airplane you can usually get additional assistance from the flight crew.
Utilize the long walkways in the airport while you wait for your flight and during layovers. Supervise your child as they burn off some energy exploring the airport.
Always change your baby’s diaper right before boarding the airplane. Changing diapers on an airplane is definitely more difficult.
Surviving The Flight
Many babies and children experience pressure in their ears during flights, especially during take off and landing. Encourage your child to suck and swallow by taking a drink. This should equalize the pressure. Try to ensure they are thirsty by not giving them a drink close to takeoff or landing. Chewing gum or a soft piece of candy works well for older kids.
When you arrive at your seat on the airplane think about what you will need while you wait to take-off and immediately after take-off but before you can move about the cabin. Make sure all of your necessities are at your finger tips. Drinks, snacks, wipes and a few toys are usually a must. Use the space in front of your seat, including the seat pouch.
Airplane air conditioning can cause babies and young children to become dehydrated so always have a full sippy cup and encourage your child to drink often.
If you are a breastfeeding mother, be careful not to get dehydrated. Take a few sips on a regular basis to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Keep track of the time back home so you can keep your traveling baby on their normal schedule. Try to adjust feeding and sleeping times gradually. Traveling babies don’t adjust feeding and sleep times easily, if at all.
Things I Wish I’d Thought Of Sooner
If your baby normally has their formula or baby food warm, start working to get them accustomed to what they’ll be able to eat while at the airport and on the airplane. Getting formula or baby food heated will in all likelihood be impossible. Better that you get them adjusted before you’re traveling.
Buy specialty baby travel gear that will make the trip easier. Visit a site like Babies Travel Lite, www.babiestravellite.com, to purchase special travel bags for baby gear, special bags for on the airplane, a variety of products that make taking a car seat and your kids through the airport a breeze and other specialized travel products.
If you’re traveling with a recently potty trained toddler consider putting on a Pull-Up immediately before boarding the airplane to avoid any on-board accidents. No matter how dependable your toddler is you must remember that on a flight there are often times when you are not allowed out of your seat or all of the lavatories are full.
Bundle your changing supplies together before you leave for the airport. Place a few diapers, wipes, disposal bags and disposable changing pads into a 1 or 2 gallon zip closure bag so when you need to do a diaper change you’re not searching for what you need. This will make diaper changes in the airport and on the flight much easier.
Traveling with a baby is always difficult and following the above tips will not eliminate the pain or trauma, but being prepared and learning from the experience of others will definitely enhance your family travel experience.