Of the billions of people who have walked the earth, most of them have never traveled more than a few miles beyond their birth place. If you are reading this, you are among a very privileged few with the opportunity to explore all of God’s great earth and meet so many beautiful people. So save your pennies, plan your time and don’t let fear hold you back from giving the gift of travel to your children. The thought of traveling with a baby can be daunting for new parent so here is some encouragement from our own experience, with help from an online community of moms.
- Screaming baby on the plane
more likely to fuss during takeoff and landing, when air pressure changes cause discomfort. The easiest way to alleviate this discomfort is through sucking: nursing, bottle or pacifier. With any luck, a younger baby will simply fall asleep. Older babies requiring more entertainment benefit from a small assortment of new toys. So, make a dollar store run in preparation or, like Josh prefers to do, simply make new toys out of convenient objects like a bag of airplane peanuts. Also bring some antibacterial wipes so baby can explore his/her surroundings.
- Security will be a huge hassle
Nobody likes to wait in those endless, snail-paced security lines, so a baby can actually give you (and others nearby) a pleasant distraction from the wait. Use a baby-wearing carrier to keep your hands free for easier removal of shoes, liquids and laptops. As a bonus, the family will even be invited on a special trip through the old-timey metal detectors, in lieu of a body scan. Did baby distract you from fully separating your liquids or emptying your pockets? Fortunately, nothing cracks the exterior of even the sternest TSA officer like a smiling baby.
Traveling with breast milk? No problem. Just set it out as you would other liquids. At international airports, agents don’t blink an eye – they’ll simply have you step aside with them while they scan the bottle. If you don’t have the milk packed in something obvious like a bottle, consider alerting them to the contents as your bag is going through the scanner, rather than waiting for them to dig it out and attempt to identify. (I have been told that traveling with milk can be a little trickier when traveling without the baby, so prepare to be patient and maybe with some baby pictures)
- Managing Mountains of Luggage
Not only are you travelling with an extra person who’s incapable of carrying their own luggage, you have to carry the person!
The bad news when packing is that babies require frequent clothing changes. The good news is that baby clothes are small and compressible. Instead of a ton of extra cloths, pack bibs and layers that can help minimize clothing changes.
But what really creates the mountains isn’t the tiny baby clothes, it’s all those big, bulky car seats, strollers and beds? Baby-wearing is an easy way to eliminate the stroller (We’re still traveling sans stroller at 10 months). Many other items can be rented, borrowed or purchased cheaply at your destination. Consider keeping a Pack N Play at a frequently-visited family member’s home, renting a car seat along with the car and using a crib from the hotel. If little one will be flying as a lap baby, the car seat can be checked at ticketing (for free), meaning you can at least move through the airport with a light load.
If you end up traveling regularly, a variety of lightweight, portable baby gear is available from inflatable beds to gadgets that allow your carry-on bag to easily carry your carseat or even your child.
- It will all just be too stressful
Babies pick up on stress. The more you stay relaxed, the better chance baby will too. It helps to make sure you are prepared. This could mean creating a check list, packing in advance, getting up extra early the day of the flight – whatever it is that will help you personally to feel more prepared. Nothing creates stress like running late, so definitely plan extra time.
I always assume we’re going to leave half an hour late. When planning our departure time, I set a goal time ½ hour earlier than needed and work backwards from there to determine our pre-departure schedule. For example, if we need to get of house no later than 11:00a.m., than I plan to put the baby down for a nap by 8:30a.m., so he is awake by 10a.m. and we have time for a snack, diaper and clothing change before a 10:30 departure. Which will be 11a.m. in reality, because the baby will, off course, immediately poop his diaper. Then we end up shoving last minute items into our bags and double-checking that the doors are locked, and the air conditioning is off. (Oh wait, I was supposed to be explaining why family travel isn’t stressful. Oops!)
- Travel will be a waste of Money
Children under two fly for free or reduced price, making the investment easier to stomach. So that means you don’t have to question going because “baby won’t remember the trip.” You’re only paying for mom and dad’s memories. Yes, travel with a baby will be different than solo travel. Days will be shorter and the pace will be slower. Sights will be missed. But even though your baby may not fully understand what they are seeing, it is always a joy and a gift to discover the world through a child’s eyes, whether near or far.
What did we miss? Please share your tips or travel success stories!