For today’s Motherhood Monday post, I’d love to talk about traveling with a baby (and hear your tips). We just got back from a week in San Francisco, and we also took Toby to California last Christmas. During those long trips, we learned a few things (on the fly!) that helped us travel more smoothly and with fewer freak-outs. :) Here are 10 things that we discovered make traveling with a baby much easier…
On the plane:
1. If you’re traveling domestically within the U.S., babies fly free until they’re two. They just sit in your lap. (Note: Be sure to give the airline a head’s up when you book your flight.) If you’re flying internationally, you have to pay some extra taxes for the baby, but it’s much less expensive than buying a full ticket, of course. (Note: You can also purchase a full ticket for your baby and have them sit in a car seat next to you, which would be an awesome option, if you have a bigger budget.)
2. Fly during naps or at bedtime. Flying with a sleeping baby is exactly 1 million times easier than flying with a baby who wants to bounce, walk, crawl, sing, screech, and play for the entire flight. We try to book flights leaving around 7:30 p.m. (Toby’s bedtime), or, if it’s a short flight, around lunchtime, and then cross our fingers that he’ll curl up on our shoulders and nap.
3. Feed during take-off and landing. Babies don’t know how to pop their ears, so it’s helpful to offer a bottle (or boob:) when the plane takes off + just as the plane begins to descend (which is when you’ll notice your own ears popping), to help ease the ear pressure.
4. Sit apart on the plane. This is a random tip (and sounds counterintuitive), but we swear by it: If you’re traveling with your husband/wife/partner, don’t sit together; instead, get two aisle seats far apart on the plane. Here’s our story: When we arrived at the airport for our San Francisco flight, Alex and I realized that we weren’t sitting together on the flight. It was too late to change our seats, and I was bummed at first, since I figured it would make the flight more difficult. But we were actually surprised to find that it made things MUCH easier for all three of us. Alex and I agreed to switch off with Toby every hour. It was GREAT for us (we each got frequent breaks to sleep/read/eat/watch TV/etc. and weren’t on co-baby-duty for the entire flight) and GREAT for the baby (it was fun and refreshing to see mom/dad each time we switched and kept things interesting throughout the long flight).
During your stay:
5. Consider renting an apartment/house. Hotels have their perks (indoor pools! room service! ice machines!) but the rooms are often quite small, and with a baby, you need space. Our friends went to L.A. a few years ago and stayed in a beautiful hotel, but they laughed afterwards about how, once the baby went to bed, they were stuck eating sandwiches in the bathroom. :) Renting a apartment or house lets you watch movies, cook dinner and even invite friends over after the baby is asleep. And house rentals are usually really budget-friendly! Check out homeaway, airbnb or vrbo for great options.
6. Skype babysitters. When we were planning our trips to California, we asked friends and relatives for babysitter recommendations. Then, before we left, I interviewed the potential babysitters on Skype from our New York apartment; I would even hold Toby up to the computer to say hello! It was a nice way to “meet” them and feel comfortable about them before leaving on our trip. And it was GREAT to have babysitters for a few evenings during our vacations. We loved spending the days with Toby, of course, but at night, Alex and I were excited to go out to romantic dinners without a baby in tow (and it really helped make the vacation feel like a true break). Toby was fast asleep anyway, so we felt fine leaving him, and the babysitter would just hang out and guard the fort. :)
What to pack:
7. Car seat + stroller frame. We’ve had a great experience with a Graco car seat and a Graco stroller frame. (The stroller frame lets you turn the car seat into a stroller.) In the airport, you can load the stroller up with both your baby and your bags, and then you can check the car seat and base for free* right at the gate. During your trip, you can use the car seat in taxis and rental cars; and then you can turn it into a stroller for walking around parks and museums. (P.S. For older babies and young kids, the GoGo Babyz Travelmate looks awesome.) * You typically can check 1-2 baby items for free on flights, in addition to your regular bags.
8. Baby Bjorn travel crib. I’ve mentioned this before, but the Baby Bjorn travel crib is amazing. It’s comfy, light and incredibly easy to pack/unpack, and Toby sleeps comfortably and soundly. We initially hesitated to splurge on it, but now we’re so glad we did; it’s so helpful and easy when traveling. (A side note: We also use it in New York when going to friends’ houses for dinner or movies, so we can take Toby with us and put him to bed while we’re there.) I’d highly recommend it.
9. White noise for your computer (or phone). Toby is used to sleeping with white noise, but we didn’t want to schlep our heavy noise machine along on our trip. So Alex was psyched to find this awesome white noise CD. We just downloaded it on our laptop and played it in the bedroom. Bonus: You won’t have to tiptoe around at night, since the white noise will block out any noise you make, as well as any startling street noise or house creakings that your baby isn’t used to. (P.S. This made me laugh:)
10. Order Diapers.com to your destination. We typically order a box of diapers, wipes, whatever we might need during our trip from Diapers.com. Bonus: Delivery is free, and the box always magically arrives the next morning. (I don’t know how they do it:) That way, you don’t have to carry everything on the flight with you (and can avoid trekking to a grocery store as soon as you land).
I hope this is helpful (and doesn’t seem overwhelming when it’s written out)! Traveling with a baby definitely has its crazy moments, but it can be wonderful, magical and revitalizing, and I usually find that the handful of things I’m most worried about (chaotic flights; crying in the car seat)…don’t actually happen. Overall, I’ve found traveling with a baby to be easier than I had expected, which was a nice surprise! :)
Do you have any favorite family-friendly destinations? Do you have any advice about flying or traveling with little ones? Baby items you swear by? Any major travel triumphs or disasters? I would LOVE to hear your thoughts…