Traveling With a Baby or Toddler
I recently returned from a ten-day vacation with my 18-month-old son. The trip inspired me to write about traveling with a baby or toddler. Traveling with children, or with a baby worn in a carrier, can be a lot of fun. Whether you are traveling by car or plane, I hope some of the following tips will make your family vacation a bit easier and more enjoyable:
Travel by Car
Factor in personality
If your trip involves a lot of driving, plan those drives for the time of day that will be easiest for your child. If your baby falls asleep easily in the car, drive during nap times or at night. If you have a child who does not sleep in the car very well (like mine), then drive when your child is well-rested and happy and have someone sit in the back with him.
Break up your trip
Although it may seem tempting to drive all day just to get to where you are going, sitting in the car for several hours at a time is a lot to ask of a toddler or baby. Look at a map and see if there is a good place for you to stop for the night. Two half-day drives might be a more pleasant trip for the entire family than a full day of driving.
Plan for extra time
Be sure to stop every hour or two to get some fresh air. If you have a toddler, pick a spot with some nice open grass where you can kick a ball or stretch out a blanket for a picnic. If you have a baby, these breaks will give you a chance to reconnect and nurse before you start your next stretch of driving time.
Prepare for boredom
If there was ever a time to splurge on small toys and interesting items, a long car ride is it! Pack a bag of toys so that you can hand your baby or toddler something new as needed. When she has gone through them all it might be time for a break from the car. Pack all the toys back into the bag and rinse and repeat! Remember that something as simple as a set of measuring spoons is often as interesting to a baby as any toy you could buy.
If you are breaking your drive up into segments, then allow for some flexibility. Find a few hotels, all an hour or so apart, where you will probably be able to get a room without a reservation. If your child falls asleep just when you were about to stop, you might want to drive further. If your baby is having a really hard time in the car, you might want to stop for the day sooner than you thought.
Travel by Air
A good sling or baby carrier can make airline travel so much simpler. Find a carrier that you are comfortable with that can be put on and taken off quickly and easily. This will leave your hands free while moving through security and pulling luggage. It also allows your baby to sleep easily on your chest during the flight.
Choose a window seat
If you have a choice, opt for a window seat. This will give you the most privacy for breastfeeding and your baby may be more likely to fall asleep. If you are traveling with a partner then have them select the aisle seat. If the flight is not too crowded, you may end up with the whole row; if it is full, then the person stuck in the middle seat should be happy to switch.
Protect from illness
Bring a few antibacterial wipes with you to clean the area around your seat. Breastmilk has antibacterial properties so a few drops in your child's nose or ear will help to protect them from illness.
The pressure change during take-off and landing can often hurt little ears. Nursing your child during those times will help alleviate some of the pressure. Since planes often taxi for several minutes before taking off, wait until the pilot has announced that the crew "prepare for takeoff", especially if you have a toddler who only nurses for a few minutes at a time.
Prepare for comfort
Bring along a horseshoe-shaped neck pillow. It makes a great makeshift nursing
pillow and if your baby falls asleep, it can be laid on your lap to comfortably cradle him.
During Your Trip
Keep some level of normalcy
Babies and toddlers are comforted by routine. Try to maintain something familiar such as always taking a bath before bed or reading a few books before dinner.
Make time to nurse or have a snack
When on vacation, time can really get away from you. Because vacations often involve countless distractions, moms might not pick up on hunger cues as they otherwise would. This can lead to having a hungry and unhappy family member. Make sure to take the time to nurse and have easy-to-grab snacks available for yourself and your children.
Make naps a high priority
Plan to arrange your activities around your child's nap routine. Everyone will be happier and have more fun if your child is well-rested. With toddlers who only take one nap, plan separate activities for the morning and afternoon. With younger babies who take several naps, try wearing your sleeping baby in a carrier while you go for a walk or a hike.
Remember to take time throughout the day to be completely present with your child so you can gauge how the
trip is affecting him. If you listen to your children and ensure that their needs are met, you may be
surprised by how flexible they are on vacation. Traveling with a baby or toddler is often easier and more
enjoyable than new parents expect. Take a little time to plan ahead, design your vacation so that it is
flexible, and enjoy your trip!
Jacqui is a Postpartum Doula and Breastfeeding Counselor. She offers breastfeeding advice and information at The Breast Feeding Blog.