Travel with Tots

14 Dec

When my older daughter was 7 weeks old, my husband and I packed her up and flew to China. While checking in at the airport, a woman in front of me cooed and mentioned how she had flown with her daughter at 6 months. I instantly implored her to tell me any tricks she had, to which she responded, “Well, I just had to relax about her grabbing everything and hope she wasn’t going to get sick.” That information was about as far from the advice I was hoping for as it could get! I thanked her, and then went back to mental images of a screaming baby and irate neighbors on the 25 hour trip.

Three years and over 30 flights later (with at least five being transoceanic), I have a whole range of tips for any new mother who might happen to ask. As an expat family, we travel back and forth between Colorado and wherever we are living, as well as holiday trips. During our most recent trip (our youngest first at 6 months), I traveled alone with both girls. While no tip is guaranteed to work, I have found the following to at least sooth my mind and make me feel as if I am doing something.

Birth to six months:

  • When checking in, ask the airline representative if the plane is full. If it isn’t, ask if they can put a hold on the seat next to you.
  • Change diapers right before boarding the plane.
  • Always give something to suck on during take-off and landing.
  • Pack at least one change of clothes for the baby and an extra shirt for adults.
  • Book seats at the rear of the plane. You are closer to standing areas and the noise from the engines both sooths the baby and drowns out the her cries.
  • Most airlines require babies to use an infant seatbelt (attached to the adult’s) whenever the seatbelt light is on. Try to have it on when the baby falls asleep so you don’t have to wake her if it comes on later.
  • Think about booking the bassinette seat, but remember that the bulkhead seats have no under seat storage, the armrests don’t raise and they have huge screens directly above the bassinette on planes without in-seat entertainment.
  • Bring a front carrier in case you need to stand and sway for hours at a time.
  • Give saline nasal drops to keep breathing free in the dry plane environment.
  • Remember one or two favorite (but quiet) toys, but don’t over pack. My babies didn’t need variety when that small.

Six months to one year:

  • Remember the first six tips listed under birth to six months.
  • If using a stroller, always ask if you will be getting it back at the gate. Ours was once sent straight to our destination when we had a four hour layover in the middle!
  • Bring your own food with plenty of small finger foods for entertainment.
  • Bring a large variety of small toys- some new and some favorites. Consider wrapping them individually to add a few extra minutes of entertainment.

One to three years:

  • Again, bring plenty of finger foods, books and toys. Good choices include raisins, lollypops, stickers, coloring books, an AquaDoodle or MagnaDoodle, and anything with buttons, magnets or Velcro. Keep all treats in a non-transparent bag so you can pull them out as you choose instead of as demanded by a bored toddler.
  • Always order the child’s meal as it comes before the others eliminating the need to share tray space.
  • Consider using an i-Pod with favorite tunes as well as kid-friendly headphones that limit the decibel level to protect young ears.
  • For older kids, consider bringing a portable DVD player in case the plane doesn’t have in-seat entertainment. Stock up on old favorites as well as new movies and shows.
  • Think about giving paracetamol/panadol to “take the edge off”.

Above all, RELAX (take homeopathic stress aids if you like)! It is nearly impossible to control whether or not your child screams or sleeps and the screaming will always be harder on you as a parent as you try to sooth. Think about bringing a bag of earplugs to pass out as a kind gesture.

Please add any additional suggestions!

Kalley is a mother of two girls. Prior to 2010, she worked as a teacher; currently the girls are her number one job. She and her family live near Zurich, Switzerland. Kalley also has an inconsistently updated cooking blog, Culinary Adventures.

2 Responses to “Travel with Tots”

  1. natasha devalia December 15, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    Hey Kalley,
    Great Post! It’s a special one for me because I remember the detailed email you sent me over a year ago, with travel tips for little ones – stickers, favorite and new toys are all good tips, and to take both the stroller and the carrier. I agree about double checking that you’ll get the stroller at the layover. Just a point on that though, a few times we had short layovers, not enough time to wait around in the plane for the stroller to come out – we asked the staff at the initial port, to send it all the way through. We put the children in carriers and ran to our connecting flight.

    One tip to add from experience: As soon as you get on the plane, let the babies scream and shout. We got two seats freed up on a fifteen hour flight because a couple of people decided to move away from the noisy kids! So all four of us slept in a seat of our own. Yes, that was before they turned two. Now we HAVE to buy them seats.

  2. pascalinap December 17, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    Very useful information! Thanks for sharing Kalley!
    I never forget to pack in my hand luggage a moisturizing face cream because when my baby was 2 month old, her cheeks became bright red after several hours in the dry plane environment.

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