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Tips for Traveling with Kiddos

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Please welcome back our friend Monica Shulman of Ciao, Chessa! – a blog about art, photography, living in New York City and inspiring things…And make sure you check her out on Twitter!

My baby has become quite the traveler since she was born just two (almost) years ago and while it should get easier, I always feel stressed when we’re getting ready for a trip.  I will never forget the anxiety that I felt the first time we got ready to take her on a plane (when she was just five months old) or the first time that I traveled with her alone (on a nearly 12-hour flight to visit my family in Argentina when she was just seven months old).  I think about that long trip by myself and I still can’t believe I did it (and my mom did it with my little sister and me)!  We recently went on a trip that was much closer in distance but not at all less stressful since traveling with a little one is usually intense. So I got to thinking about all of the things that made our life a little easier in anticipation of our travels.

1. When to schedule the flight

Whenever possible you should plan to take your trip during your child’s nap. It’s a wonderful thing when the plane is taking off and your baby is all snuggled and about to fall asleep. When we went to Argentina I was very nervous because I was traveling alone with her and the flight was so long but it was overnight and by the time we got on the plane she was so exhausted that she slept the entire flight. And, if at all possible, take a direct flight! It’s infinitely easier. Even so, your baby might not sleep.  One time we thought we planned it perfectly and she was awake the entire time and fell asleep just in time for the landing.  Another time she freaked out because she was jolted awake by another baby crying that sparked a symphony of cries with all the other babies on the plane.

2. When to take the car seat

Ultimately you have to do what works best for you and what you feel most comfortable with but if your baby is under two years old you can take them as a lap child for free (just be sure to tell your airline because they make a note of it on your ticket and boarding pass) and if you’re going away with your baby and the flight is relatively short then I highly recommend it. For one, you save on the airfare and when they’re that little they probably want to be in your arms the entire time anyway. I took my baby on a flight and held her in her carrier which was very comfortable for me and for her.

However, I also found that getting a separate seat was much easier. It was helpful to have the extra space and my daughter always loved her car seat so taking hers was a no-brainer for our family — when she was really small we just brought the stroller adapter for our car seat and checked the stroller at the gate and carried the car seat on the plane. Now that she’s a little older we changed our tune and learned the hard way that the girl just doesn’t want to sit in her car seat on the plane! We went on vacation a few weeks ago (that’s us in the picture below on the morning of our trip) and the car seat was a huge hassle. She sat in it for about 20 minutes and then she just wanted to sit with her dad or me. Like most things when you’re a parent, you make a plan and then things works out the way they’re supposed to so again, you just have to do what you think will work best for you and your child.

3. Where to sit

Whether traveling alone or traveling with my husband, I always choose a window. If the baby is asleep it will be annoying to have to get up for someone else to get out. Also, someone once told me that they opted to buy an aisle and a window when traveling in a plane that has three seats in a row. Chances are that a person won’t take a middle seat as a first choice so you and your partner can sit at the ends and if the plane isn’t full, there’s an extra seat for your baby. If the plane is fully booked then you can take the middle seat and sit next to your partner.

I also really like sitting in the first row so you can get off of the plane as soon as it lands and so you have the extra legroom. Plus when the baby is older you don’t have to worry about her kicking the seat in front of her.

4. Bring activities for your child to do

Be sure to pack a few of your child’s favorite things (books, lovies, blankets, whatever works) and if she’s older, a few new things, as well. On our most recent trip we brought two of her favorite books plus some new crayons, a coloring book and a new sticker book. She was so happy to have them and so were we since it kept her occupied for over an hour before she finally fell asleep. We also travel with our iPad but it’s a last resort for us. We bring out the iPad if we’ve exhausted every other possible distraction and activity — it’s our “big guns” and it usually comes out of the bag if we sense a meltdown coming on or some other epic nightmare like she ran out of puffs (see below) or she’s just bored out of her mind and can’t stand the plane anymore.

5. Bring snacks

When my child was an infant and I traveled with her I remember spending almost an entire flight nursing her (plus this helps with the pressure in their tiny ears). At that time, the snacks were mostly for me. Now that she’s a big girl I’m like a traveling snack bar. Milk, puffs, cheerios, cheddar bunnies, fruit, juice boxes, cereal bars, tiny sandwiches, cookies…you name it, I’ve got it in stock. I try not to give her too much to choose from and just take things out as needed but it always helps to have them. Extra milk and drinks really come in handy too for popping ears on the plane too.

6. Ship your stuff before

I love diapers.com and when we’ve traveled domestically I try to ship everything we’ll need like diapers, extra cups, wipes, etc. before hand. Otherwise, you can also plan to visit the local Target or drugstore as soon as you arrive. I’m already bringing so much stuff that it helps to know I’ll pick up these essentials when we arrive at our destination.

7. Pack a mini-travel case for you

On top of the usual stuff I bring for myself like hand cream and lip balm, I always bring a clean t-shirt or two for myself in case the baby gets sick, spits up, etc. plus a cozy cashmere scarf that can double as a blanket for the baby.

8. Pack a mini-travel case for the baby

I usually travel with a small diaper bag and a pulley suitcase to carry on. I feel like a gypsy since I had a kid and this is never more true than when we travel on a plane. With the stroller and (maybe) the car seat it’s a lot of stuff to push around. In our pulley suitcase, along with the activities for the baby and the snacks, I bring at least ten diapers — and, while that’s way more than she ever needs in a day you just never know if the baby will get sick, your flight will be delayed or the mom next to you ran out of diapers and you want good karma. I usually put a few diapers, a small pack of wipes, a burp cloth, a tube of Acquafor (our favorite), some anti-bac and a disposable cloth to use underneath her for changing in a big ziplock so I can pull it out of my diaper bag for quick trips to the restroom. I can reach for the extras as needed. I also bring two changes of clothes (I usually need to change her at least once on a plane) and an extra sweater for her. If this sounds excessive it probably is but I always find that it’s better to be safe when it comes to traveling with a child. Diapers leak and baby’s have been known to spill on themselves so an extra set of clothes is important.

So, those are my tips! Do you have any of your own?

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

More stuff than I could ever imagine taking anywhere!

Hugs and thanks to our girl Monica for another out of this world awesome guest post!

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