Traveling with babies is not the easiest thing to do… I’ve traveled alone inter-island but never on a flight that lasted more than an hour. So, this was new. Baby Waipuna and I hopped on a flight to California from Maui… flight time was between 5 and 6 hours. It was challenging… at times sweet… and mostly just exhausting… but so worth it to see my ohana in California!
Let’s talk logistics!
**I will post links to the products that I use, so that you know what I’m talking about as I describe why and how I travel.**
Documentation. Traveling with documentation is a MUST. Any airline can refuse to let your baby on if you don’t have documents proving their age and that they “belong” to you… i.e. birth certificate. I’ve found that half of the time, I never get asked but the other half of the time, I do. My last name happens to be different than my kids at the moment, so it’s especially important for me to have those documents showing I gave birth to them. ha ha! The passport is needed if you are traveling internationally. One tip for documentation is to scan all of your documents and email them to yourself – or if you’re not comfortable with that – upload them to a private dropbox or other online “drive” so that you can access them if you lose your documentation while away from home. I also like to print a photocopy of important documents and I carry one in my carry on (hidden away in a deep pocket) and the other in my baggage (also hidden).
Strollers. If traveling with an infant, I highly recommend bringing the stroller because it serves as a cart for all of your carry ons. When traveling domestically, I just use the caddy that was made for the car seat I have. When going to Europe, I bring the BOB (jogging stroller) with the car seat attachment so that we can get over cobblestones easily when we go walking through the streets of old Europe.
If traveling with a toddler that has their own seat on the plane, I recommend getting a car seat caddy that the car seat straps to – effectively creating a stroller for your child. This set up will not have extra space for schlepping your stuff so you may want to have a rolling carry on bag that you can put your hand bag or backpack on if it’s heavy. It’s always better to roll things than carry them! Strollers mean you don’t have to carry your kids. AND, it’s a familiar place for them to sleep comfortably.
Car Seat. That leads me to the car seat. With my baby girl, she’s still in an infant car seat so I have the stroller caddy that the car seat attaches to (or the BOB car seat insert). She is still flying for free so we don’t have a seat for her and she is a “lap child” – with my toddler… it’s a completely different story! He is so active that flying with him was an absolute nightmare. The terrible twos, were truly terrible. Jackson would take his seat belt off, bang on the window, bang on the seat in front of us, or spit at the people behind us. He couldn’t sit still and would crawl under the seats and into the aisle every chance he got. Fortunately, this occurred on short inter-island flights. One day, a flight attendant asked if I was bringing the car seat on board… what?! Can I do that?! I exclaimed.
It was night and day. Jackson was strapped in. He could sleep. It was a familiar place for him to be. It smelled familiar. Obviously, this won’t work if your child HATES their car seat, mine doesn’t especially like it BUT this was the best solution for us. (I will blog about toddler travel tips another time – or this blog will be much too long)
NOTE about Car Seats and Strollers – If you LIKE to carry your child and don’t want to mess with car seats and strollers at the airport or on board, check them (but use a bag! For that matter, use a bag on your stroller and car seat if you gate check them too). They are FREE. A lot of baby “stuff” is free baggage BUT a pack’n’play or crib of any kind is considered baggage and you will have to pay for it. Personally, on this trip, I brought my KidCo. pop up sleeping tent but I’m also currently obsessed with my Guava Family travel crib. The pop up crib is small so if you want a substantial portable crib that can withstand a baby / toddler pushing up against it, rolling around, etc… I would recommend the Guava crib. What I love is that it is the perfect size to be a carry on. I usually pop up into the stroller if baby is in the carrier or I wear it on my back as a backpack (see below). It’s super easy to set up and break down too. I’ve taken it to the beach, the park, hotels… all over! Another thing I love is that there’s a side zipper. A few times I’ve slept on the floor on a futon and when baby would wake up, she just rolled over to me to nurse and then I rolled her back into her crib. This is becoming a novel so I will blog SOON about my Guava Crib and give you more details!
Toys, Teethers, Pacifiers, Food, Liquids. You need to bring stuff to both entertain your child and keep them chewing, sucking or moving their jaw in some way at take off and landing. My 8-month-old is still too young for technology, but too old to just sleep the whole time. She bores easily of toys so I brought several and changed them out one at a time when she bored of them. On take-off and landing I put baby on the boob (or a bottle) and if she was no longer interested but we were still changing altitude, I would take out the pacifier or teethers for her to chew or suck on. My last resort was food since the swallowing action would also help to clear her ears.
Anti-bacterial Wipes, Hand-sanitizer and Essential Oils. I always wipe down the entire area once I sit down. Tray table, arm rests, window, seat, seat belt… anything that I think baby is going to touch. I read somewhere that airplanes only get a sanitizing wipe down once every THREE months – yikes! It’s always good to have wipes on hand for any messes. I also make an essential oil blend that I spray into the air around us… if the person next to me doesn’t mind.
Create Sympathy. Apologize to those sitting around you if baby ends up being fussy, crying or disturbing them in some way. Give them ear plugs! Let them know they can approach you, if something is bothering them. Engaging them in conversation makes it easier for them to handle any mishaps if they should arise. I’ve found people are then more helpful and understanding. A friend of mine, suggested we bring a gift for the flight attendants. Chocolate is nice. It’s lightweight and easy to transport. After you sit (so that they know where you are sitting), hand them your gift and say “I’m traveling alone so thank you for whatever you’ll most likely be helping me with on this flight.” I’ve never done this but several of my friends say it makes a world of difference.
Get Up and Walk Around. You’re not supposed to congregate in the galley area of a plane so pick your timing wisely. I fed baby, put her to sleep and then went through all of our toys… then, I got up to walk around and rock her. It was nice for her to have a change of pace and to observe and be in a different environment for a little bit. This is also an opportunity to use the restroom (yes, it’s tricky but doable!), chat with flight attendants, buy snacks, stretch your legs…
Baby Carriers. See my blog about TSA Travel Tips (linked HERE). I like to wear baby through TSA and if baby is sleeping you might even be able to get seated on your flight without waking baby. The only problem is… they won’t let you wear a wrap or baby carrier that has shoulder straps while the plane is taking off. My solution? The baby-wearing shirt! I love my soothe shirt and it is absolutely the easiest thing I’ve found for traveling with baby. And, they will let you keep baby in the shirt during take off. I also bring my Ergo everywhere I go. It’s a great alternative and once your baby is larger than 15 lbs you can’t use the soothe shirt anymore so a carrier is the way to go!
Stuffed Animal or Blankie. My son never had a blank or stuffed animal, his comfort was a pacifier… on the other hand, my daughter is very attached to her bunny. She sleeps with bunny at night and whenever she gets bunny, she knows it’s time to sleep. Bringing bunny on our trip was essential. I hid bunny until it was time for bed. When I brought bunny out, she immediately put her thumb in her mouth and calmed down to get ready to sleep.
Change Diaper Before Boarding. Changing a diaper in the airline restroom is challenging. You need to put the seat down, sit on it and change baby on your lap. It’s definitely do-able but it’s nice to reduce the number of times you’ll have to change baby by one. Change baby right before boarding so that you’ve got a fresh diaper and a happy, clean baby… at least to start! lol
Boarding First or Last? This seems to be a personal preference. I think what you choose might depend on the demeanor of your children. Personally, I like to board FIRST. When you have children under the age of 2, you are allowed early boarding and you don’t have to be rushed. I always have a stroller and car seat, so I like to take my time breaking them down and boarding. Also, you don’t run the risk of not having space for your things in the overhead baggage area. If your child is ultra high-energy… or perhaps you don’t like confined spaces… or you just don’t like sitting for long periods of time… well, then you can board last. Again, you aren’t rushed and this option allows your baby or toddler to play a bit longer “on the outside” before strapping them in and confining them to a 2 x 2 area.
Nursing Scarf & Pareo. My nursing scarf is AMAZING. It’s a scarf! It’s a nursing cover! It’s a blanket! I can’t remember where I found this magical piece of clothing but I looked on Amazon and they sell it there too. Link HERE. I love that this one piece of fabric is easy to bring on but serves so many purposes. There’s a hole in the scarf that you can put your head through for it to act as a nursing cover. It’s also super lightweight and takes up very little space when you roll it up. A pareo or sarong is nice for several reasons. Again, they are lightweight and thin – and also very versatile. A friend of mine always brought a pareo and put it beneath her feet so that baby could “crawl around” on the floor. lol We tried it a few times with Jackson… the flight attendants do not like it… but it did keep his attention and seemed to be a fun distraction.
Pillow. I cannot live without my pillow. First of all, not all flights have pillows these days. AND, sometimes they even make you pay for one! What?! Anyhoo, I always bring an “airline sized” pillow on the plane with me. I use it as lumbar support for day flights and for night flights, I’ll use the one provided by the carrier behind my back and my pillow for my face.
Pack Your Diaper Bag Right. You’ll want to keep your diaper bag at your feet so that you have access to everything you need for baby. Here’s a blog about what I keep in my diaper bag (link HERE) … it might give you some good ideas. When I was pregnant with my first, I posted on Facebook and a bunch of mommies contributed to what would later become my diaper bag list.
Dress Baby Right. Make sure it’s not too difficult to change baby’s diaper. Easy access is always better. Having said that, dress baby in layers. If baby is hot, you can take a few things off or if baby is cold you can layer things on. Heat escapes most from your head so make sure you have something to keep baby’s head warm. I would always bring a beanie for my baby boy and a warm headband for my baby girl. This also covers their ears and protects from the noise. It’s nice to bring mittens and socks. I always put mittens on my baby’s hands because strangers LOVE to grab baby’s hands! WHY DO THEY THINK THIS IS OKAY?? For some reason, mittens aren’t as inviting as little baby hands but if a stranger still feels the urge to touch her little mitten, I take it off. Make sure baby wears SOFT SOLE shoes (my favorite linked HERE) – when baby is trampling all over your lap, you will be cursing the hard soled shoes you bought for them.