This is the first post in a series from guest blogger Jessica Menon over at Gypsy Momma. She’s a well-seasoned traveler and she brings her expertise on family travel to us here on the Onya Baby blog. We hope that her tips will help make your holiday travels sail more smoothly.
Minimizing Stress of Summer Travel with Little Ones
Summer is always an exciting time to explore your city, state, country, or the world with babies, toddlers, or kids in tow. Warm weather provides us with more options for things to do outdoors with little ones, from hiking to beaching it.
Whether you are setting out with baby on a day trip to a local beach, or jetting off for a safari in Kenya, planning ahead with the following summer travel tips can help you to enjoy fun in the sun safely and comfortably with your family:
Pack light. Summer is particularly conducive to packing light, since you don’t have to lug around lots of warm clothes for baby – mittens and boots, thick blankets, etc. When it’s hot, it’s also not pleasant to be lugging around heavy bags. Just choose one or two of baby’s favorite toys and/or books to pack along in a carry-on or diaper bag. There should be plenty to do and see to keep baby engaged en route and at your destination.
Focus on packing clothes that are breathable and lightweight for both you and baby – for everyone’s comfort and to lighten the load. Always make sure to pack a lightweight jacket or sweater to layer, and one or two warmer outfits in case of unexpected cooler weather, or over-air conditioned airports, planes, and restaurants.
Choose a lightweight, breathable baby carrier. I personally try to minimize use of strollers when traveling, even with my twenty-four pound eighteen-month-old. I find strollers to be cumbersome when I travel, especially through airports and to destinations that will be crowded or will not have adequate sidewalks. I love to travel with my babe in a carrier to help keep baby close for breastfeeding, comfort, and security while traveling.
I particularly love my Onya Baby Outback baby carrier. It’s lightweight, made of air-mesh lining which helps to wick moisture away, and keeps me and baby cool. Plus, it’s comfortable, with leg padding for baby and shoulder and waist straps for me. It also has a little “sleep hood” that easily pulls out and lulls my toddler to sleep, and provides great sun protection for her face. It’s fantastic for travel because it comes with an integrated chair harness so I don’t have to worry about lugging around a high chair or booster seat!
Keep breastfeeding. When it’s hot and baby is sweating, it’s easier to get dehydrated. Breast milk is the best way to hydrate baby and replenish nutrient stores. Plus, if you are traveling and baby or toddler picks up a bug causing diarrhea or vomiting, especially if you are traveling in a foreign country, breastfeeding is the best treatment for a baby’s or toddler’s dehydration from the loss of all those fluids. Just make sure to keep yourself hydrated, too! If you are breastfeeding or not, it’s never a bad idea to bring a long a few packets of powdered Pedialyte to rehydrate an older baby over the age of one.
Carry a water bottle for both you and baby. I use, and particularly love, “scrunchable” water bottles that roll up and take less space in my bag once the water is gone, especially when I am traveling on planes with limited carry-on space. Check out the BPA-free Bubi Scrunchable Water Bottle or the Vapur bottle, which my toddler can easy suck water from.
If you are traveling out of the country with questionable potable water, make sure you fill your bottle with purified water and practice water safety. We simply boil large amounts of water, then store it in our refrigerator and fill up our bottles when we’re ready to go.
Slather on the baby-safe sunscreen. I like California Baby SPF30+ Sunscreen Stick, which is water resistant and hypoallergenic. I like this brand because it is PABA free and chemical-free with highly micronized non-whitening titanium dioxide offering UVA-UVB broad-spectrum protection, and the stick makes it easier to glide onto baby’s skin. I also use it on myself. California Baby also makes this in lotion form which is a bit more messy…a little goes a long way.
Also pack along a wide-brimmed hat with an under-chin strap that won’t fly off Baby’s head. We were recently at the beach in Chicago on a very hot, sunny, and windy day, and Veda’s hat wouldn’t stay on. Good thing she was covered in sunscreen.
Protect baby from mosquitoes. Mosquito bites anywhere can be unpleasant and make for a cranky baby. They can also be very dangerous depending on where you are traveling in the world if malaria or other diseases transferred by insect bites is a risk. Protect Baby from mosquito bites by dressing in lightweight cotton long sleeves and pants. Cover as much as baby’s body as possible.
Use a baby-safe mosquito repellent on baby’s skin that is free of DEET, parabens, phthalates, PEG’s, Sulfates, Dioxins, Propylene Glycols, and synthetic fragrances. You can get them in spray, lotion, or convenient wipes for travel. Although there are many baby-safe all-natural mosquito products on the market, some to consider include: Burt’s Bees Herbal Inspect Repellent Spray, California Baby Bug Spray, Bite Blocker Herbal Spray, Bite Blocker Herbal Repellent Wipes, and Buzz Away Insect Repellent Towelettes.
For night time and naps, make sure baby is sleeping under a mosquito net. Jeep makes a netting that fits most standard play pens or cribs, as well as netting that fits over most strollers and baby carriers. If your family uses the family bed and you are sleeping in bed with Baby, you could consider bringing with you a mosquito net big enough for the whole bed. However, this can get big and cumbersome, and it would be preferable to instead make sure that your accommodations come with bed netting, screens, and/or air-conditioning to ensure the family’s sleeping area is protected.
Lastly, if you are traveling out of the country to a malaria zone, make sure to take Baby to a nearby children’s travel clinic. Among vaccinations Baby may need, s/he may also be old enough to be prescribed mefloquine, which is an anti-malaria drug the Center for Disease Control recommends for both pregnant women and babies.
Plan for both outdoor and indoor activities. There are many outdoor summer activities such as parks, festivals, outdoor concerts, beaches, and other activities oriented toward kids, not to mention biking or hiking with baby in tow. However, it’s always wise to have some back-up indoor activities planned, either to escape extreme summer heat or an unexpected rainy day. Check out children’s museums, indoor pools or water parks, or indoor markets or farmer’s markets for alternative options when the weather gets too extreme.
Embrace play with water. Always pack a pair of reusable cloth swimmers and one or two spare sets of dry clothes in the diaper bag. I also have several medium-sized cloth diaper wet bags I keep in my diaper bag for dirty cloth diapers or wet clothes and swimmers.
I recently took Veda to the Chicago Botanic Gardens, expecting fun in the sun, flowers, and dryness, forgetting about the fun waterfall, water fountain, and water sculpture features that kids love to splash in. Instead of telling Veda she couldn’t play in the water like some parents were, I was able to encourage her to play, get wet, enjoy herself, and not to worry because mom had a new pair of dry clothes waiting for her. It’s easy to get uptight sometimes. Let go, and remember—it’s just water! Enjoy the moment.
I’ve learned that thinking ahead and planning well for the climate I am traveling in allows us to kick-back, take it easy, and enjoy our travel and adventures once we’re there. Staying cool, avoiding burns, bites, and illness allows our whole family to enjoy our travels together.
For more tips on traveling with babies and toddlers, including packing lists, adjusting to jet lag, and keeping baby entertained on long flights, visit my blog, Gypsy Momma.
About Gypsy Momma (Jessica Menon)
Jessica and her husband both travel internationally for work, so they spend about 85% of their time away from their glorified storage unit, otherwise known as a home, in Chicago. Their eighteen month old, Veda, has been traveling with them since she was six weeks old to places including Paraguay, India, South Africa, Jordan, and Lebanon.
Jessica writes a blog, Gypsy Momma, based on her experiences traveling pregnant and with a baby and toddler. It is meant to inspire other travel weary parents, as well as to provide resources and information on packing, adjusting to jet lag, keeping baby happy and engaged on long plane rides, and also reviews of travel destinations and baby travel gear.
How about you? Do you have any tips you’d like to add?