Summer is finally here! And for many of us, that means a family vacation is just around the corner (hallelujah)! Traveling with kids can be challenging – traveling with a baby even more so! Don’t let a fussy baby ruin your relaxation time. Use these tips to get prepared to have a great trip!
Flying to your destination? Here’s a few tips:
Consider buying an extra ticket. It’s tempting to save money and only buy one seat, since most children under 2 can fly for free if they sit on your lap. However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) notes that the safest place for your child on an airplane is in a “government-approved child safety restraint system (CRS)” …in other words, a car seat that has also been approved for aircraft travel (it should say so on the tag).
You can just hope that the flight isn’t full and a seat will be free for your CRS…or you can buy that extra seat. We especially recommend this if you’re the only adult accompanying your baby. Sitting with your baby in your lap for 3+ hours in a confined space isn’t fun for anyone. With an extra seat, you’ll both be more comfortable.
There are two other common issues when flying with babies: ear pressure during takeoff and landing and upsetting/annoying other passengers. To combat the discomfort during takeoff and decent, keep your baby sucking on something, like a bottle, pacifier, or toy, or try breastfeeding, to help relieve the pressure.
As far as keeping other passengers happy – you can only do so much. Bringing your baby’s favorite toys from home, helping relieve ear pressure, and making sure you’ve got extra supplies to keep their belly’s full and diapers clean should help keep your baby happy during the flight. But there’s bound to be a few tears shed or screams let out…and you can almost guarantee a couple dirty looks from stressed out flight attendants and grumpy passengers. The best thing you can do is apologize, and mean it. Many people are understanding, especially if they’ve been in your shoes before. If you don’t get at least a little bit of empathy after apologizing to the surrounding passengers then just brush it off- focus on what your baby needs, not what other passengers want.
If you’ve decided to pile in the car for a road trip instead, make sure you plan ahead. Ask yourself these questions: does your baby sleep well in the car? Can you make any stops along the way? Do you have everything you need to make the ride comfortable?
Plan your departure time around your baby’s sleep preferences. If they sleep well in the car, leave right when they are ready for nap time. If not, leave immediately following a nap so they’ll be awake for the ride. Planning when/where you can stop on the way is helpful. Keeping the baby in their car seat for long periods of time is bound to make them fussy. Not to mention, you’ll need to plan for diaper changes and feedings. Leave with a little extra time to get to your destination so if you need to make some extra stops, it’s no big deal. And when packing up the car, leave the bag with your baby’s favorite cuddler or toy, diapers and wipes up front for easy access when you make your stops.
Well, you made it! But to make the rest of the tip a success, keep a few things in mind.
Unpack right away to get everything organized. After a long flight or car ride, no one ever feels like unpacking the mounds of baggage required to travel with baby. But getting it done first thing will save you time and frustration in the long run. Set up a changing station with everything you need (diapers, wipes, trash can, etc.) in one spot so it’s all readily available and you’re not searching through bags during a poop emergency.
Don’t over-schedule yourself, especially in the first few days. Your baby will need some time to adjust, even more so if there’s a time zone change. Work around their sleep schedules for the first couple days to get them acclimated. Make sure you’re keeping them awake (except for naps) during the daylight hours, and getting them to bed once the night arrives.
Of course, you don’t want to spend your entire vacation confined to your hotel room because of your baby’s nap schedule. You can plan some more low-key activities during nap times and just have them sleep in their strollers or a baby carrier. If they aren’t used to taking naps in the stroller, try it at home a few times before you leave to get them used to it! And if they’re good car-sleepers, plan your travel time around their nap schedule so they can sneak one in while you’re on route to your next activity.
Another thing to consider is the location of your hotel. If you’re going to be going back to your room frequently to put your baby down for a nap, keep that in mind when booking a room. You might save a little money getting a place a little farther away from the beach, but you’ll end up spending more time going back and forth than enjoying the sun and sand. Plus, getting a room with the view will make those nap times in the room a little more enjoyable for you.
Getting your baby to sleep as they would at home can be one of the trickiest parts of going away. This is another reason it’s so important to stick to their regular nap and feeding schedule. The more you can stay consistent, the easier it will be to get them adjusted to the different environment.
If you’re using a crib from the hotel, bring your own crib sheets so it will feel more like their crib at home. You should also call ahead to the hotel to make sure a crib will be available for you and that it complies with all safety-standards. If you’re bringing a pack-n-play to use instead, trying putting your baby to sleep in it for a few nights at home before leaving so they’ll already be used to it.
To get your baby to bed, use your already established bedtime routine. Feed them, bathe them, soothe and shush, and swaddle! You worked hard to get them in this routine at home, so one trip shouldn’t change that. With all their regular bedtime cues, your baby will be sleeping in no time.
The biggest tip we have for making this first travel experience with baby great is to go with the flow. Chances are, no matter how prepared you are, some things aren’t going to go as planned. Focus on taking time to relax, seeing a new place, and spending time with friends and family. It might not be the vacation you’re used to, but you can still make plenty of memories and enjoy the time away from home!
Do you have some good tips for travelling with baby? Let us know in the comments below!