Whether by car, train, or plane, traveling with your baby for more than a couple of hours usually upsets daily routines. A good night’s sleep before going on a trip can help give both you and your child a good start. Make a checklist and pack ahead of time, so that you remember everything and are not in a rush right before you leave. Pack feeding supplies, diapers, clothes, some toys and books for entertainment along the way, skin care items, first-aid remedies, and essential oils for calming him. An umbrella stroller that is small can be helpful because it takes up less space. Make sure you have your travel documents, such as maps, travel guides, tickets, passports, and reservations. Save your travel checklists for future trips.
An advantage of traveling with your baby by car is that you usually have the flexibility to move in your own time, rather than the set schedules of airplanes, trains, or buses. You also have the luxury of space and freedom to put loose items that are not packed in the back seat or trunk. Because of this convenience, you may be tempted to take more than you need. Everything you pack will need to be carried into your destination, and unpacked when you return home. You may need to consider arranging space for big equipment, like strollers, pack and plays, and luggage, so clean out unnecessary items beforehand to allow for space and ease of movement.
If you map out your itinerary, then you can plan for feeding and diaper changes. Organize essentials that you will need along the way, such as food, drinks, wipes, and so on, so that they are easily accessible. Toys, music, and singing can help entertain children while riding. A luxury of traveling with your baby by car is the ability to make noise without bothering others. When Emi and Mari were toddlers, I made special “car boxes” from long flat containers with snap-on lids that included art supplies, toys, and games.
If you have two adults traveling, then one person can sit in the back seat with your child, especially if he is in a rear-facing car seat; you can also use a rear-facing mirror. Make sure that he is buckled in and comfortable with a neck support and has a blanket for warmth in winter, or that he is cool enough in warm weather. Check to be certain that your car is in good condition and tuned up to circumvent unnecessary car troubles along the way. Other basic equipment to pack include a GPS system, maps, and emergency car items.
Train and Bus Travel
Traveling with your baby on trains and buses has some of the same limitations as air travel, with variations. You have to meet their schedule, and you do not have the control to make stops for feedings or diaper changes. For local bus rides, subways, or short train trips, you need to move quickly, carry everything without delay, and keep your child in tow.
However, there are some advantages to traveling by train. Even though you are traveling with your baby in a more limited and confined space than a car, seat belts are not necessary, so you and your baby can have more freedom to move about. For long-distance travel by train, you can get a sleeper or family car (the price is lower if you reserve farther in advance), and the dining car provides a diversion for eating or playing games at the table. As with air travel, you carry everything that you need, so pack compactly and thoughtfully.
When traveling with your baby by airplane, you are at the mercy of the airlines—with their mechanical breakdowns and flight delays. Flying is a quick way to go a long distance, but the comfort and convenience can be challenging with a little one because of the unpredictability of air travel. In addition, more people are traveling these days, and airports and flights are busy and packed.
Plan ahead before the trip. Try to schedule your trip at times that are not peak travel times, such as before or after July 4th, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, if possible. Also, direct flights can reduce travel time, decrease the possibility of missing connections, and make traveling with your baby less stressful overall. If you live in a small town, this may not be an option. Check regulations for luggage and carry-on items, because they change often. Pack lightly, or at least take small items; you will have to carry everything you take. Take a change of clothes and extra food, in case there is a flight delay. See if it is possible to borrow a car seat, stroller, or pack and play at your destination to avoid having to travel with so much gear.
To prepare for your plane trip, give your baby healthy food, and for a few days beforehand, avoid foods that can cause gas or bloating, such as cruciferous vegetables, carbonated beverages, and artificial sweeteners. The pressure in the airplane causes restriction, so feed him calming and relaxing foods that are low in salt and sugar, and decrease the amount of animal foods when traveling with your baby to help him relax. You may wish to take your own baby food purees, finger foods, and bentos, because airport food is not predictable and not usually suited to meet the needs of young children.
Here are some tips to help air travel go smoothly:
- When checking in, see whether there is an extra seat for your baby, if he is under two years old and you did not buy him a seat. It will be helpful to have the extra space for him to move around.
- Going through security may be a challenge because you probably will have a lot of gear. Check to see if there is a special line for families.
- Waiting for your flight to leave is a good chance to help your baby or toddler get as much movement or exercise as possible. Rolling or crawling on a blanket, walking, or running can help release extra energy before taking off.
- Buy some water before getting on the plane so that you have it when you need it.
- Usually, families are first for boarding, so you can get on the airplane and get settled with your child before others board.
- Gate check your stroller, car seat, or any other special baby gear that you are carrying.
- Make friends with your neighbors so that you can have their support for taking care of your baby, whether they are actually lending a hand or just offering moral support.
- Even a short flight can seem like a long time for a wiggly baby, so pace yourself with your tool kit, which can include toys and books for entertainment, essential oils, acupoint pressure, and calming foods.
- Babies are sensitive to changes in airplane pressure, so give him something to suck on or drink when taking off to help relieve pressure on his ears.
- Make sure that he drinks plenty of liquid, because the humidity drops and the cabin pressure can squeeze his kidneys to eliminate fluid.
- The more you stay calm and cheerful, the better for everyone.