Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Traveling with baby (packing)

If you're approaching the first trip with baby and you're anything like me, you're probably making lists and fretting over forgetting something. Since I've now made at least 30 trips with my 18-month-old, though, I'm just too tired for lists these days! But I'll provide some sample packing lists, which have changed as Cora has aged.

For a five-day trip with Cora at 0-6 months:
-10 outfits
-6 onsies/pjamas
-6 paris of socks
-25 burp cloths (she used to spit up a lot!)
-(8*5=) 40 diapers
-a refill pack of wipes
-a large handful diaper trash bags (I don't have time to count all those!)
-breastpump in Medela bag, with pump-and-save bags and charger!
-5 bottles and nipples
-nursing shawl
-at least two blankets, one thin and dark to create shade for a nap
-travel-sized baby shampoo, lotion, and wash cloth
-sunscreen & hat
-children's Benadryl, Tylenol, thermometer, and medicine dropper
-a couple of interesting rattle toys and soft books
This stage is hard because you're probably a new mom and still trying to get a handle on feeding and naps at home, both of which harder on a trip! The strategy with little ones is just covering their necessities. They don't really need to be entertained yet. I always traveled with a Medela breast pump, just in case. I travel with one bottle for each feeding during the day. You may choose to travel with fewer and wash them throughout the day. I also traveled with all the burp cloths I would need because washing while traveling is stressful to me. I'd rather pack to many and wash them all when I get home. Bring blankets for tummy time or nap time.
My essential travel gear at this age: a baby Bjorn (or similar), an inflatable bathtub, a tent for naps or nighttime in rougher conditions! We also brought an ipod shuffle/speaker to play music, so that she could fall asleep with some familiar sounds.

For a five-day trip with Cora at 6-12 months:
-8 outfits
-6 pajamas
-6 pairs of socks
-one/two pairs of shoes
-5 burp cloths
-10-15 bibs
-(6*5=) 30 diapers
-a refill pack of wipes
-diaper trash bags
-enough formula for the whole trip*1.3 (you use formula faster than you'd imagine!)
-4 bottles
-one sippy cup
-3 spoons, 3 forks (wash as needed)
-10-15 jars of baby food (enough to last the trip)
-also consider these cool tubes of baby food!
-at least two blankets, one thin and dark to create shade for a nap
-travel-sized baby shampoo, lotion, and wash cloth
-sunscreen & hat
-children's Benadryl, Tylenol, thermometer, and medicine dropper
-toys and books! more important as baby ages
This is a hard age. They're still having breast milk/formula, and they're adding in solids, they need more entertainment, and they're mobile! We took Cora to Europe for 3 weeks at 7-8 months. Difficult, but it can be done.
My essential baby gear for this age: an Ergo carrier (better weight distribution for babies 18-30 pounds), the inflatable bathtub, the tent, and the ipod shuffle/speaker.

For a five-day trip with Cora at 12-18 months:
-6 outfits
-6 pajamas
-6 pairs of socks
-one/two pairs of shoes
-10 bibs
-two spoons, two forks (wash as needed)
-straws (for a thirsty kiddo who can't handle a regular cup and sippy cup is dirty)
-sippy cup
-2-3 juice boxes
-2 bottles (yes, she still drinks milk from a bottle...)
-(6*5=) 30 diapers
-a refill pack of wipes
-diaper trash bags
-nonperishable snacks: goldfish, crackers, banana chips, etc.
-two blankets, one thin and dark
-travel-sized baby shampoo, lotion, and wash cloth
-sunscreen & hat
-children's Benadryl, Tylenol, thermometer, and medicine dropper
-toys, toys, toys! (so important at this age!)
This age is hard because entertainment is crucial. (Notice: every age is hard, just a different sort of hard, ha.) I carry a tote bag devoted to toys to use on the plane, in a restaurant, and any other situation we might be faced with. I'll do a separate post on toys. Milk and food we buy on the go.
My essential gear for this age is the Ergo baby carrier, a tote bag for toys, and the ipod shuffle/speaker. I don't bother with the tent because she is old enough to just let us know when she's up. I don't bother with the bath tub because she can stand in a shower now.

For all ages, I use packing cubes like these and these. I have 7 in a variety of sizes for outfits, onsies, socks/shoes, diapers, toys, etc. Keeping all the little baby things in separate cubes helps keep me organized and sane. Have a bag of some sort (even a plastic trash bag) for dirty clothes.

One last note on packing for travel with baby: Try not to be intimidated! Your first trip, in particular, will be difficult. You'll forget something. The baby will cry in some embarrassing situation. Naps will be missed, meals will be missed! It's okay - you'll survive and so will baby. Every time you take a trip, you'll get better at it.
Any other tips from traveling moms/dads/caretakers? Please, chime in!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Traveling with baby (by plane)

In the first 18 months of her life, Cora has traveled close to 60,000 miles by plane, and several thousand by car and plane. So, some of my friends have pegged me as a go-to person for traveling with baby advice. I don't know that there is any perfect way to travel with a baby or toddler, but since it's an intimidating prospect, I thought I'd offer a few posts (this being the first) on my "advice," such as it is. Keep in mind that every child's different. Every time you travel, you'll learn something you should do next time.

By Plane
The biggest struggle for plane travel is baggage, in my opinion. You need to be able to get through security, boarding, and settling into your seat without too much baggage juggling. I usually pack a small rolling suitcase (my luggage), a small duffel (Cora's), a diaper back/purse, and a backpack. I carry Cora in a Baby Ergo carrier. I used a Baby Bjorn until she was about 18 pounds, then I went to the Ergo. A baby carrier is an absolute necessity, especially if you're traveling alone with the baby. I try to avoid taking a stroller or car seat, but if I'll need them at my destination, I check them at the check-in counter. I also check my rolling bag and duffel. (Being Gold status at American means my bags are free, so be informed of any checked bag fees. Stroller and car seat should generally be free, on any airline.)

While at the check-in counter, I ask if there are any other seats available that might give me some extra room, like two empty seats together. As long as you're nice, the airline employees will usually be nice to you! American often reserves a row for handicapped or baby travelers, so it's definitely worthwhile to ask.

I head to security with Cora in the Ergo, a diaper bag/purse, and backpack. Be aware that you'll need to take off baby's shoes and jackets, as well as your own. You'll also have to take the baby out of the carrier and run the carrier through the x-ray machine. You can take liquids, like milk and juice, but store them in a bottle or sippy cup. TSA will run a chemical test on them, but it's totally sanitary and saf. If you're flying international, most airports will also allow baby liquids, but the UK will require that you take a sip of any liquids you bring on, to show that they don't contain hazardous material. Don't ask me why the UK just doesn't do a chemical test!

Once at the gate, I make sure all both of my bags are ready for the plane. I know I'll put the diaper bag in the overhead bin and the backpack under the seat in front of me. I make sure the backpack has these items:

-full sippy cup
-bottle, ready to go
-small tupperware of snacks (strawberries or cereal)
-cheese stick, Cora's favorite filling snack
-several books for Cora, especially liftable flap books
-small spiral notebook and pencil, for Cora to draw
-stickers, for when the drawing gets boring
-other plane toys - I'll post separately on toy strategies
-a blanket
-my book
-my cell phone

The diaper bag has the other essentials that I want with me but that I won't need access to immediately on take off. If I have to change her diaper on the plane, I'll have to get up anyway, so I leave her diaper-changing things in the overhead compartment, along with:
-a dose of children's Benadryl - you never know!
-extra juice
-extra snacks
-empty bottle
-change of clothes
-my purse items, like wallet and camera

Once I make sure everything's in place, I'm ready to board the plane, with Cora in the Ergo. I find my seat, put the diaper bag above, put the sippy cup in the seat pocket, slide the backpack underneath, and plunk myself into the seat. Whew - we made it! I take Cora out of the Ergo, and set her on my lap.

If you get this far, you're as ready as ready can be, and now it's just a matter of surviving. Small babies will need to nurse or suck on a bottle at take off and landing to pop their ears, although I think take off is most important. Plan carefully, so that your baby will still be sucking 5 minutes after the wheels have lifted from the ground. If you're nursing, heaven help you, because it's hard in those narrow seats! But it can be done. I was never good at keeping the shawl on while nursing on the plane, so you might have to just do your best and be okay with showing a little boob. Other passengers will live, and no one will be obnoxious enough to complain about you nursing a baby. Older babies (8 months+) can do just fine with a sippy cup to pop their ears.

If baby falls asleep during take off or landing, I say leave him asleep! Even when Cora was small, 9 times out of 10, if she fell asleep during pressure change, she was totally fine when she woke up.

The time between take off and landing is the real challenge. All I can say is the difficulty depends on your child. If your child can walk and is used to going wherever she wants, whenever she wants, you're going to have the flight from hell. If you have training time before you leave on your trip, schedule time during the day for your child to sit in her high chair for 20-30 minutes. She must stay there, but you can sit next to her, giving her books to read or toys to play with. If she can't stay in a high chair for 20-30 minutes, well, you have a problem. Try to do this every day until your flight. If she can stay in the high chair for 20-30 minutes, you will probably be alright on the plane. All children have a short attention span, though, so you'll need to rotate toys every 10 minutes or so on the plane.

Once you can move about the cabin, you can take baby for a walk, but don't plan on being able to do that the whole flight, because flight attendants and other passengers need to use the aisle too, and there's rarely a place to stand that's out of the way.

Hopefully, you'll only have to entertain baby for up to an hour before it's nap time. Cora still takes 2 naps a day, so whether it's a morning or afternoon flight, she generally sleeps 60-90 minutes on the plane. If it's a long flight, and your kiddo can't calm down, I think it's totally okay to resort to children' Benadryl. If under 2, give a half dose. When Cora was little, we'd put a half dose in her take-off bottle. It makes them tired quickly, and cranky, so they'll probably cry as their settling down, but if the crying lasts fewer than 5 minutes, most passengers don't mind too much.

We'll talk plane toys strategy and packing strategy another day, but those are my first thoughts for traveling with baby by plane.