We are in the height of travel season and having just gotten back from a vacation with my own children, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned traveling with my children over the years. This will be the first in a series of posts based on different ages of children.
I started traveling with my children when they were between 2 and 4 months old. I live in California but my family is in Vermont (5-6 hours by plane and 2-3 hour car ride to my parents home). My husband’s family is in Singapore (approx. 16 hours by plane). I did both of those trips within the first 4 months of my oldest daughter’s life.
My first trip to the East Coast with daughter #1 was rough! I was exhausted to begin with and had no idea what traveling with an infant entailed. On the one hand, it is one of the easiest times to travel because they aren’t mobile and generally sleep most of the time. On the other hand, it’s also one of the most exhausting times for parents which makes it difficult.
Here are my tips for traveling with infants.
Try to minimize the amount of stuff that you bring and think critically about each item. The more you bring, the more you’ll have to carry with an infant in tow.
Things to bring:
- Baby carrier – The baby carrier allows you to be hands-free through the airport, awkwardly go to the bathroom, and eat. Also, for the most part your infant will be comforted snuggled up against you.
- Change of clothes – Bring this for yourself as well as your child. If your child has a history of blowouts or spitting up you may want to consider a couple of changes. Even if your child is pretty clean there is something about air travel that makes them clear their systems. Be prepared!
- Milk – Plan to feed your child during take off and landing. Babies often have difficulty equalizing their ears as the pressure changes and this helps alleviate any pain they may experience.
Things to leave (if possible):
- Car seats – If you don’t need this at your destination, leave the car seat behind. You can usually use the baby carrier in a taxi but check your laws.
- Strollers – In my opinion, the trouble and space strollers take up is not worth it especially when they are still young babies. I exclusively used my baby carrier and would switch off with my husband when I was tired. I found that while in unfamiliar territory my children were more likely to want the knowledge that mom or dad were close by.
Get a good night’s sleep before the flight.
Please rest as much as you can in anticipation of your flight. Your child will probably not sleep on the plane and there is a good chance that they may not even sleep once you arrive at the destination. Remember, your babies have probably not experienced airline travel before so it’s a whole new environment. It smells different, looks different and sounds different which will be either wildly entertaining to your baby or very disconcerting either way, you’ll need some rest.
Know that your schedule will be off and it will be ok.
I know this strikes fear into many of you but trust m
e, it will be ok. Just know that your children probably won’t sleep when you want them to, if at all. My oldest would not sleep in a new environment for her first year. She would not sleep unless I was right beside her. Even then, there was no guarantee that she would sleep.
If you are traveling somewhere with a time change you’ll save yourself a lot of headache by not over thinking what time zone you want your child on. In my opinion, you are only torturing yourself by trying to adjust them earlier or later or keeping them on their original time zone at your destination. Their new environment whatever it is will be enough to throw them off, why make your life even more complicated? When you get home, start moving the schedule back hour by hour and you’ll get back to normal.
Traveling is the perfect time, for us as parents, to demonstrate resiliency to our children. No matter how young our children are, they pick up on our stressors. If we are stressed about their sleep, eating or other things while traveling, they will too and that will make things doubly difficult. When they are older we can explain things to them but as babies our stress signals danger to them.
Traveling can be difficult in the best of circumstances but it can be done successfully with infants and small children. Give yourself plenty of slack and remember the most important thing your child needs is love. Everything else is really secondary because with love, there will be food to eat and sleep to be had, maybe not the way you planned but that’s ok.
Do you all have any travel tips that have worked for you? I’d love to hear about them.