Traveling with children under age 2 (or any age) is a daunting proposition and can cause a great deal of anxiety if you’re not prepared. And therein lies the key; Preparation. When my little guy was born back in July, the countdown to getting his first passport stamp began, but so did the painstaking research into what we were going to need to make his first plane ride as seamless as possible. Here are some tips and lessons I gleaned from my own research and experience, as well as a few from other family travel experts:
Before You Get to the Airport
1. Baby Gear Rental Companies
If you’re traveling with children somewhere in North America, look into renting baby gear to ease streamline the packing process. Loose Lips Magazine contributor and new Mommy Jessica Proctor was recently in Palm Springs (the same week we were as it happened) and rented a crib and high chair from Desert Baby For a mere $40 a week this company dropped off and picked up the equipment from the doorstep of her AirBnb!
2. Don’t Overpack Your Checked-Baggage
I admit it, I was so guilty of it this. My son was born in the summer and I was gifted so many adorable outfits that he couldn’t wear because he was so little and since I was finally heading to the sun, I brought them with me. All. Off. Them. Let’s be real. He ended up wearing maybe 8-1o outfits during the 8 days we were there. An outfit a day is fine, plus a couple of extras for any possible “blow-outs.”
3. Pack Your Diaper Bag Carefully
Just because you’re traveling with an infant doesn’t mean Airport Security are going to go easy on you. If you bring your own formula/breastmilk (yes, you can do this), do yourself a favour and place it in one of those giant freezer bags for easy inspection. Do the same with your diaper creme, and anything else in liquid form. Here are a few things you should absolutely include when packing your diaper bag:
- Plenty of Diapers
- Diaper Creme
- Baby Tylenol – Frequent flyer Beth Claridge never left home without it
- 2-3 onesies for any necessary outfit changes plus one full outfit in case your luggage gets lost
- At least one outfit change for you (You can pack this in your own carry-on)
- Plastic bags to place any contaminated clothes
- Change Pad (Airplane and airport bathrooms are gross)
- Anti-bacterial wipes (Airplane seats are even more gross!)
- Teething toy, soother,
- Burb Cloth
- Blankie for snuggling up
- Toys you don’t care about (because let’s face it, something’s getting lost along the way)
- Muslin Baby Cover – These are perfect for breast feeding, swaddling (if you’re babe is into that), or as as a blanket.
- Freemie Cups – New Mama @criscortijo just took her little one on a long-haul flight to Peru and like most new moms, she had to pump every few hours. This product allows you to do it discretely.
3. Cover Your Bases with Travel Insurance
I have the insurance conversation with every one of my clients because I think it’s downright irresponsible to travel without it, especially if you’re traveling with children anywhere in North America. While many credit card companies offer travel medical it can be quite limiting, with lengthy lists of pre-existing conditions that would prevent coverage. Plus, if you miss your flight, are delayed or miss a connection, travel insurance is there to cover the costs. If you’re traveling with your wee ones, you don’t want to take any chances with substandard insurance. Ask your travel agent about the type of coverage you need and travel with peace of mind.
4. Book Seats Ahead of Time
In the past you may have played the whole “I’ll-take-my-chances-at-check-in” game to avoid paying for advanced seat selection, but trust me, you don’t want to deal with that mess when you get to the airport. You are at the mercy of ground staff, and not to throw them under the bus, but it’s not their responsibility to seat where its most convenient for you. So unless you want be stuck in the middle seat, miles from the bathroom or separated from your travel partner, always pay the extra and book your seats (with me!) ahead of time.
5. Try to Book Flights According to Babies Sleep Schedule
This is not always possible, and often, we are at the mercy of carrier schedules. However, if you’re traveling overseas, red-eye/overnight flights can be easier in terms of your baby adjusting to jet-lag. Your baby can sleep through the night (if you’re lucky enough to have one of those little angels) and wake up in the morning in destination. Some moms find it’s easier to book their flights in the morning because their babies are fussier near the end of the day and into the evening hours.
6. Invest in Good a Travel Stroller
My smart minimalist friends prefer to use baby carriers when they travel, but consider either investing in a good travel stroller or rent one when you’re in destination. Strollers can double as a high chair and, if you’re traveling in a hot climate, having a miniature furnace strapped to you 24/7 is no fun. We use a Mountain Buggy Umbrella Nano Stroller – It only weighs 13lbs, folds up small enough you can store it in an overhead bin, and takes seconds to fold out.
7. Check-In 24 Hours Before Flight
Similar to seat selection, some people don’t bother checking in online 24 hours in advance, but there has never been a more crucial time to get into the habit than if you’re traveling with children under age 2. You want to avoid standing in as few line-up’s as possible, so pre-pay for your baggage, make sure your seats are selected, and if you haven’t brought your own snacks, consider purchasing your meals ahead of time (if you’re traveling with a low cost carrier) so you don’t have to worry about anything other than keeping your little one occupied on board.
At the Airport
8. Arrive Early
I know, I know, I’ve just told you to check-in 24 hours in advance, so why should you have to arrive early? Because going through security with children under age 2 can be a stressful experience. And you never know if you’ll have to make a trip to the bathroom (or multiple) for a “hose down.” Arriving 2.5-3 hours before an international flight will give you plenty of time to drop off your bags, get through security and make the little one is as fresh as a daisy for their flight. Remember to pre-pack your milk and any gels or creams (diaper creme) in plastic bags (I used giant freezer bags) for quick inspection.
9. Board Last!
You know when they announce that anyone traveling with children or in need of assistance may board first, ignore that. Unless you have a grave concern about overhead space, you don’t want to pro-long the amount of time babe spends in close quarters. Use the “divide-and-conquer” method if you’re traveling with your partner. Have them go on board first with the carry-on, and you can follow later. Before your seated, make sure to have those secret weapons like snacks, fun toys, or GASP, a pre-loaded iPad tucked away below the seat in front of you rather than up above. It’s all about easy access.
10. Take a long, deep breath
Give your babe a bottle or the breast during take-off and landing. The sucking motion will help them equalize those little ear drums. Your little one might cry at one point during the flight. They may even scream for a brief moment. But remember, it’s only a moment in time. And while there may the odd dirty look, people do have more compassion for struggling parents than you might think. Chances are, many of your fellow passengers are parents themselves. Don’t be afraid to move around the cabin (when it’s safe of course), make friends with the flight attendants, and above all, breathe. It’s going to be okay.