Friday, December 6, 2013

Infant Travel - packing, surviving the flight and enjoying your trip

We just returned from a trip to Oklahoma to visit Kevin's family for Thanksgiving and I thought it would be helpful to write a post about our trip. This was Baby A's first big trip and I spent a couple of weeks before the trip reading online articles about traveling with an infant and asking questions of my Facebook friends to help me prepare. I am so glad I put in the time beforehand, mostly because it calmed my mind before the trip and I felt like I was as ready as I could possibly be. That being said, I tried to keep my expectations fairly low because I know babies are unpredictable and pretty much don't care if screaming throughout an entire two hour flight is considered bad manners (luckily, this did not happen for us). 

Here is a rundown of how our trip went and a few things we learned along the way...

Bundled up and ready to go...
>Allow more time than you think you need to get out the door!
Our flight was at 9:30am and we planned to arrive, as usual, about an hour before our flight was scheduled to leave. My mom dropped us off at the airport so we planned to be at her house 30 minutes before we needed to be at the airport, which meant we needed to leave our house by 7:30am. This meant that I told Kevin we needed to leave by 7:15am. Of course, none of this happened just as we planned and we left closer to 7:45. It was a good plan in theory, but we didn't really leave enough time to pack the luggage into the car AND as soon as I strapped Baby A into his car seat, I heard a certain noise that let me know he was in need of a diaper change before we could leave. So, what did we learn from this? 
  • Figure out what time you need to leave and plan to leave about an hour before that - Chances are, you will use up some of your buffer time with last minute odds and ends.
  • Pack the car as much as you can the night before - It will save precious moments in the morning.
  • Make breakfast the evening before - Or make a big breakfast the day before so you can have leftovers the morning of your trip. You won't have to get up early to cook or do the dishes.
  • Wake the baby up in just enough time to dress and feed him before you leave - This will ensure a happy baby as you travel to the airport and hopefully the baby will be ready for a nap by the time you board the plane.
  • Try to schedule your flight around baby's morning nap time - Most babies are happiest in the morning so he should be the most agreeable to this change in routine earlier in the day.
>Mindful packing (not the same as over packing).
I will admit that I overpacked for the baby. But, this was our first time traveling with him and I really didn't know what to expect and I certainly didn't want to be halfway across the country and realize we had forgotten something. We were lucky that my brother-in-law and sister-in-law had friends who let them borrow a pack-n-play, Bumbo chair, play mat and a few toys so we didn't have to pack any of that. I would highly recommend trying to do something similar if possible. If not, you can check your pack-n-play and just use a blanket for baby to play on when you arrive at your destination.                     

Now that I know what we used and what we didn't, I think I'll be able to wrangle myself in a bit next time. We carried his diaper bag onto the plane and checked his suitcase. We also carried on a backpack with a few items for Mommy and Daddy survival. Here is my recommended packing list for baby:

Diaper Bag (to carry on the plane)
-Diaper wipes
-Diaper cream
-Two pocket style cloth diapers and extra inserts (or disposables)
-Wet bag for dirty diapers/clothes (or grocery bag to store disposables)
-Changing pad
-A couple of quiet toys
-Tissues
-Hand sanitizer
-Large baby blanket
-Change of clothes for baby (just in case...)
-Hat and mittens (if you are traveling somewhere cold)
-Burp cloths
-Baby carrier

Baby's Checked Luggage
-Two outfits per day (again, just in case...)
-Pajamas or sleep sack
-Hooded bath towel
-Diapers and wipes (we use cloth for both)
-Wet bag to store cloth diapers
-Spray bottle to use with cloth wipes
-Cloth diaper detergent
-Baby Blanket
-A few of his favorite toys
-A couple of books
-Jacket, warm booties, hats (if you are traveling somewhere cold)
-Bib
-Baby grooming kit
-Any baby medicine you think you may need
-Baby soap and lotion (stored in a large ziplock baggie)
-Bag for dirty laundry
-Baby monitor
-Stroller and car seat 

Mom and Dad's Carryon Backpack
-Snacks
-Empty water bottle (to fill up when we get past security)
-Change of clothes for mom (I assumed if baby made a mess I would most likely suffer the consequences)
-Baby's birth certificate
-My purse

>Navigating the airport.
We chose not to purchase a ticket for Baby A and planned to wear him in the baby carrier or hold him in our laps for the flight. I packed his birth certificate so we could get his Boarding Verification Document when we arrived at the airport, per the airline's requirements. I wore Baby A through the airport, which made the whole process pretty quick and painless. Here's how we made it work:
  • Utilize the curbside luggage check - We checked our suitcases, car seat and umbrella stroller at the curbside counter. We didn't have to wait in line and they even printed our boarding passes for us. We brought an umbrella stroller because it was easier to pack and we stored it in a large garbage bag. I tied a ribbon around it so I could find it easily at baggage claim. We forgot to bring an extra garbage bag for the car seat, but they have them at the curbside counter so it worked out just fine. Not having to lug the stroller and car seat through the airport made everything so much easier!
  • Wear your baby - This was a lifesaver! I had both hands available to help with luggage (and hold my coffee!) and I didn't even have to take him off at the security gate. They took us through the metal detector instead of the regular scanner and then just scanned my hands for bomb residue. Baby A loves his carrier so he was a happy baby from arrival until the time we boarded the flight, which was great!
  • Choose your outfit wisely - I knew I'd have to remove my shoes at security and I also wanted something easily accessible for nursing so I wore a tank top, open cardigan, leggings, tall socks and boots. Boots were easy on and off through security and my feet were still covered and warm. I wanted to be prepared to nurse him at a moment's notice if he got fussy and the tank was easy to pull down and then I could cover up a bit with the cardigan.
>Let's fly, baby!

This is what I was most worried about. We definitely had our moments, but things went well for the most part. Bonus of traveling with a baby-NOBODY wants to sit with you. Seriously, nobody. We were on two flights that were almost completely full and still nobody sat with us. I'm sure our row was the last resort. Honestly, before having a baby, I wouldn't have sat in a row with a baby unless I absolutely had to, so I understand. Everyone around us was so sweet to us, though, and commented on how well he did. I was prepared with a few free drink tickets just in case. Here is how else we prepared and what we learned along the way:
  • Choose baby's outfit wisely - I know that accidents are possible at any time with babies so I wanted to make a potential costume change as easy as possible. I dressed Baby A in a footed sleeper and just threw a hat and mittens on him for the car ride to the airport. He was perfectly comfortable in the sleeper for the flight. I had an extra sleeper in his carryon just in case. 
The baby managed to take this picture of his feet while playing with my phone.
  • Nurse during takeoff and landing - Sucking during takeoff and landing can help baby's ears with the pressure change and it also helped Baby A to fall asleep for much of the flight. You could also offer a bottle or pacifier. One note - don't start nursing too early. Baby A was getting restless so I started nursing him before we were even rolling down the runway and he pretty much conked out before takeoff. I tried to hold him off longer, but I was trying to avoid a full blown meltdown. 
  • If you think you'll need something, keep it close by - Baby A had a cold so we put some tissues and wipes in the seat back pocket for easy access. I also kept the water bottle and snacks right under my seat so Kevin and I could grab them when we started feeling snacky.
  • Accidents happen - Remember that part about bringing an extra outfit? Yeeaaah, about that...we almost needed ours. Baby A was lying in my lap after nursing to sleep and I felt something warm and wet on my leg. I didn't want to wake him, but I gently lifted him up and he was barely wet at all and neither was I. I guess a tiny bit leaked out. It was dry by the time we got off the plane. I never thought I would be the kind of person to be okay with a certain amount of pee, but I guess I am. 
  • Go with the flow - Baby A normally takes a morning nap around 10:00am, but with the excitement of air travel, he was a little too wound up to take a full nap on the plane. He fell asleep during takeoff, but woke up shortly after so I just took him out of the baby carrier and played with him a bit. After a while, I put him back in to try one more time for that nap. He fell asleep pretty easily so I let him sleep in the carrier and I had my hands free to read a magazine. For the sake of other passengers, whenever he was a bit fussy on the flight I just nursed him and he kind of dozed in and out. I thought I would be uncomfortable nursing without a cover in such close quarters, but it didn't bother me at all and nobody seemed to notice. I could have used a cover, but the plane feels so cramped and uncomfortable already that I didn't want to add to it. Just follow your baby's cues and do what feels right. The flight will be over before you know it!

>Enjoy the trip!
Other than a nasty cold that hit both Baby A and myself, we had a great time visiting with family, exploring Tulsa and eating lots of yummy Thanksgiving food.
  • Respect baby's schedule, but not too much - I am home with Baby A all day at home so I know his schedule pretty well. We tried to be home for most of his naps, but I knew he could take a nap in the car or baby carrier if we wanted to get out of the house. We went shopping with my sister-in-law on Black Friday and I just let him fall asleep in the baby carrier. Other than that, he did take most of his naps at home in the pack-n-play. We did try to stick to his regular bedtime.
  • Beware the time change - We flew from the Eastern Time Zone to the Central Time Zone and I never once thought about the time change...until Baby A woke up at 6:15am on our first morning in Oklahoma. We adjusted his naps based on his early wake up time and he slept until 7:00am the rest of the trip. Still a bit early for him, but it worked. We also put him to bed earlier than we do at home because babies do not understand time zones. I wish I had thought of the time change factor before we left, but it wouldn't have changed anything, I just would have felt more prepared for it.
  • All the comforts of home - As I mentioned, we had a pack-n-play, Bumbo chair and play mat for Baby A waiting for us in Oklahoma. I also packed a few of his favorite toys so he would have something familiar to play with. As for nursing, try to find a comfy area where you can set up a nursing station while on your trip. I packed only nursing-friendly clothing so it would be easy and comfortable to nurse Baby A in front of company. I just threw one of his small baby blankets over us because he is so easily distracted right now. The slightest noise or movement is enough to pique his interest.
  • Get out and explore - Baby A and I go for walks almost every day at home so we made sure to spend some time out and about while on vacation, as well. We all walked around downtown one morning and went in some shops and I even wore Baby A in his carrier while I ate Mexican food, which is a lot more difficult than it sounds! We also went shopping and walked around the neighborhood. Give yourself time to explore your new surroundings - chances are baby will love the new scenery as much as you do!

Do you have any fail proof tips for traveling with children? Share them in the comments!