Now that you have packed without the kitchen sink and a few other items, here are some tips for the actual process en route to your destination. (This is by no means an exhaustive list…just a few things that I’ve learned in addition to what I normally read on blogs when I researched traveling with a baby.)
I begin with my favorite: baby–wearing. I honestly don’t understand why some people are against baby-wearing. B loves it and I love it. I don’t wear him 24/7, but fairly often when I’m moving around a lot and I want him with me or he needs to be along for the ride. It keeps him close and allows me to have my hands free to do other things. Until the past month, I used the k’tan wrap with him. When we were traveling and I was unable to lay him down anywhere (like at youth events), he would sleep in the k’tan wrap. Recently we invested in a pikkolo (pictured above and below). B loves being on my back. Nick enjoys using this one, too, and even took B along recently for a game of putt-putt.
Baby-wearing works for practically any and everything, but I definitely recommend it when traveling in an airport. Supposedly, you should be allowed to walk through security checkpoints without removing your child from your carrier/wrap (as long as you don’t have a jacket on underneath the carrier). However, I think this just depends on the airport workers and their current mood at any given time. Regardless, the benefit is worth it to have your hands free to present your passport/license and boarding pass, grab your carry-on items, remove and replace your shoes, and all those other fun processes airport security requires of us. We’ve traveled through an airport before with a stroller, which is also handy to hold all of your carry-on items, but security officers will make you remove your baby from the stroller at checkpoints, which to me requires more work than simply unstrapping/unwrapping them from a carrier/wrap/sling. If you’re traveling with a stroller, I suggest still baby-wearing while placing all your belongings on the stroller. You can wait to check the stroller gate-side, which allows you to have a handy way to transport items until the moment you board the plane.
Carabiners are your best friend. I strongly dislike carrying multiple bags, especially now that B is too heavy to be carried in his car seat. It just doesn’t work juggling a 20+ pound child with 6 bags dangling off of my shoulders and forearms that swing around to hit B in the back, constantly shifting my weight completely and endangering me of dropping my kid. Enter the glorious carabiner. I simply attach water bottles, lunch bags, you-name-it to the carabiner already attached to my main bag/purse, place the strap across my chest and back, scoop up my child and take off. I also have a large carabiner hook that attaches my backpack (and practically anything else) to the stroller.
Flying: Sucking during take-off and landing. When I started researching and seeking tips for flying with a baby, everyone practically screamed this bit of advice at me. If your child is awake, get them sucking during take-off and landing: nurse them, give a bottle, a pacifier, etc. This will help their ears pop during altitude adjustments. B has slept through 7 out of the 8 take-offs and landings when we’ve flown with him. If your baby is asleep, let him or her sleep! During the one time where B was awake, he didn’t care to suck on anything, and it wasn’t time for him to nurse, so he just sat and looked around at everyone. I think the surrounding sights and sounds were enough to entertain him and distract him from any pressure in his ears.
Long Car Rides = Bonding Time. I’ve found that when B is in the car for a long time, he simply gets bored (don’t we all?). If he’s sitting alone, he occasionally fusses until I sit by him. Having some attention and a riding mate is generally all he needs to change his mood. Since I get nauseous easily, I often pop a dramamine in my mouth, grab a few toys and books, and enjoy some bonding time with my baby who can’t wriggle away for the time being. I also save a few special toys only for time in the car, which helps the items seem all the more fresh and appealing to B. And don’t limit yourself solely to items that were created to be toys (something else I learned from my mother). Some of the most random items make the best toys to occupy B’s attention (lotion bottle, eyeglasses case, pill bottle, etc.) Use your imagination!
Addendum: I recently took my first longer road trip (2.5 hours) where it was just B and me in the truck. Not being able to join and entertain him in the backseat, I prepared a bag of “fresh” toys that sat in the front seat by me. I started him with a toy, and once he dropped it or thew it, I simply reached into my bag and provided him with another toy. The experiment worked fairly well. We went through the entire bag in 40 minutes. He then fussed a little before taking a nap for another 40 minutes. We stopped for a Sonic blackberry sweet tea for me and a nursing/diaper change for him before we finished the final leg of our trip, making it through the bag of restocked toys a few miles before arriving at our destination.
Mini on-the-go diaper bag. In addition to your main diaper bag, I recommend having a smaller bag that holds 1-2 diaper changes and wipes. If you’re needing to get in a tight space for a diaper change (like an airplane bathroom), it will be easier to carry a smaller bag than, in my case, my backpack filled with everything on the planet I could ever need.
I got this small black and white bag at Wal Mart originally as a lunch bag. After purchasing my thirty-one thermal, I converted this bag into my on-the-go bag. When we go in restaurants or gas stations, I simply hook this bag to my purse with a carabiner. It easily contains two cloth diapers and covers along with some wipes. When empty, it flattens and stores in my backpack perfectly.
Give yourself extra time. When we are traveling with B, we try to give ourselves extra time for literally everything. You never know when your baby will need to eat, when you’ll need to change a diaper, when you’ll need to change another diaper, when you may have to stop and calm a crying baby, etc. Things just take a little longer with a small child. That’s our new norm now, and we know it. We almost always plan to arrive somewhere much earlier than when we need to arrive. The gap of extra time removes pressure and helps me keep a good perspective when hiccoughs do happen.
Anticipate Adventures. I’ll talk more about this in a future post, but I wanted to mention it now. No matter what preparations you make for traveling with your baby, the most important thing you can have prepared and arranged is your mind. You can plan. You can prepare. You can pack perfectly and compactly and have everything how you want it. And things can still go differently than you anticipate. Instead of viewing these moments as problematic, view them as adventurous curveballs that teach you to depend on Christ, help you to laugh, and remind you that you really are not in control. These are healthy moments, often where sanctification occurs. My husband helps me laugh when B has a dirty diaper while we taxi on the runway for take-off, when B spits up all over the three of us (and we all need new clothes!), or when B decides he doesn’t want to eat when everyone else does, but is hungry when we need to be driving down the road. Imagine the worst thing (in your mind!) that could happen, and then know that even if it happens, it is still okay. You will survive, as humiliating or catastrophic as things may seem at the time. It is all an adventure. Anticipate those moments and laugh when they come. I am told that our children are watching us, and one day they are likely to mimic our responses to “challenging” situations. I pray they find us adventurous and joyful despite any circumstance we encounter.
Again, please share your thoughts and tips. I’m still learning and am enjoying hearing from you!
- Travel Tips Part 1: Everything but the Kitchen Sink (jamileegainey.wordpress.com)