Erik and I have traveled quite a bit since Scotlyn was born. In just 18 months we have traveled around the U.S. by car and by plane and have taken two long trips overseas. We’ve learned a lot (and are still learning!) about what works and what doesn’t. Below are some of our travel tips and gear suggestions…
I’m not going to sugar coat it: traveling with an infant or toddler is challenging. But there are some things you can do (and things you can purchase) that will make the experience much more enjoyable.
The most important thing you can do to prepare for any trip, whether it is a short commute across town or a two and a half week trek across the ocean, is to adjust your expectations.
1. Expect the unexpected.
This means what it means. No matter how well you plan, something WILL happen that you don’t expect when you don’t expect it. An illness. A blowout. A meltdown. A tantrum. An unfriendly or ridiculous TSA agent who decides it is their job to check every.single.item in your diaper bag.
2. Expect delays and make room for them.
Don’t fight the delays or try to ignore them, just let them happen. For example: your child will probably explode all over themselves and their car seat right when you all packed up and ready to load them in the car (this happened to us in Scotland . . . we had to strip her, put her in the tub, clean up her car seat, re-santize the tub, then head out, much later than anticipated). Your child may start melting down at the security checkpoint at the airport. Your child may want to nurse right as you are about to board the plane. Regardless of what happens, it’s important that you are prepared so that your and your traveling companion(s) don’t allow yourselves to be overcome with stress. If you aren’t mentally prepared, you will find yourself throwing your own fit because things haven’t gone the way you planned. Which basically will put you in the same category as a spoiled toddler. Which isn’t pleasant for anyone. Don’t be that person. 😉
3. Don’t push your baby or tot.
A friend of ours gave us a great principle to live by: the 30-minute rule. Stop a few exits before the kid has had enough of the car seat. Leave the party 30 minutes before your kid is showing signs of being tired. Feed your child before he/she gets hungry. Change your baby as soon as he/she needs to be changed. Don’t push it. Remember, twenty extra minutes feels much longer to your babe or tot.
4. Don’t ever, ever, ever decide against taking a stroller.
Even if it’s just in the airport, you will need it. We did this once because we were going somewhere where a stroller was waiting for us and it was still a huge mistake.
All that said, here is a list of our favorite traveling gear.
Mountain Buggy Nano
I can’t emphasize the awesomeness of the Mountain Buggy Nano enough. It is worth every extra penny. For one thing, it fits in the overhead bin, which is really important because if you gate check your stroller, even if it is in a so-caled travel bag, it will most likely be damaged or soaked when it is returned to you. For another thing, it is super sturdy. Most umbrella strollers can’t handle city streets and bumps, this one can. There aren’t many options as far as colors but you can deal. You can get a special colored travel set from Kohls (all blue or all red), otherwise their standard is a black stroller with either a red or a blue shade.
This is awesome! It protects whatever you have, whether it be a stroller or a car seat. We have taken our giant, maxi cosi 85 car seat with us on many trips (car seat rentals cost about as much as a new car seat so we bring ours along) and it protects it so well that we can check it with the baggage … which is HUGE … no more lugging it through security and to the gate! There is no charge for baby gear so anything you can check will be helpful. I would imagine it would also protect a stroller when it’s checked but I have never tried it so can’t say for sure.
Okkatots Travel Diaper Bag
We love this bag because it’s a backpack, fits everything you need for long flights, has compartments for the little stuff (pacifiers, medicine, thermometers, etc..), and even has an insulated cooler on the side.
Fold Away bag for under travel stroller
If you are taking a giant diaper bag or traveling diaper bag, you will need a smaller bag if you want to fit the every day basics under your travel stroller. Get a soft, roll up/fold away bag that will fit in your luggage or something else that you can easily stuff with the daily essentials. You won’t need as much day to day as you will on the airplane. Something like this works well but you can get something at a much lower price point if you shop around.
Lotus Travel Crib
This is fantastic! Ten pounds, fits in the overhead bin, and doubles as a pack and play and crib when you’re on the go. When you’re in a new environment and it’s not baby proofed, it’s a blessing to have a place to put your baby where they can stretch out and play without you having to worry that they’ll get into some sort of mischief.
What to pack for the travel day(s)
Diapers and wipes
Sanitizing wipes for plane and rental car. Just like washing your hands, this helps prevent sickness. Sanitizing wipes are different than baby wipes, by the way.
Changing pad (one comes with the Okkatots bag).
Extra blanket or two
Pacifier, lovey, etc..
Something to entertain your kid. Tiny books, etc..
Snacks—FYI those super expensive food packets are usually worth it for trips. No fuss, no mess.
Nursing cover (even if you find you don’t usually need one, it’s harder to hide on planes).
If you’re a nursing mom, bring a large cup and have the steward/stewardess refill it constantly so you can stay hydrated.
I like this thermos for oatmeal. Great snack for a toddler but also great for a nursing mama. Bring some instant oats along and have the stewardess add water (or get some at a rest stop if you’re traveling by car) and in a few minutes it will cook and you will have a snack! I always bring a small container of natural peanut butter, too.
If your baby is under 6 months old, be sure to call the airline in advance to ensure you are put on a row where a bassinet is available. Booking an “infant in arms” is NOT enough. We learned this the hard way and I had to hold my 4 month old for an entire 9 hour flight—no break.
There is a stroller/special assistance line at most airports. Take advantage of it.
When you’re out and about and playing tourist remember to put your tiny tourist first and you will ALL be happier. A 4 hour trip usually takes 8 with a child under 6 months old. Expect it and deal with it accordingly.
Remember: the golden rule applies to babies and toddlers. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Don’t push your kid to do what he or she can’t. Happy baby = happy parents. Miserable baby = miserable parents.
With the right attitude, proper planning, and proper gear, the whole family can travel and have a blast!