We love to see families getting out and traveling with their little ones. It’s a great gift to show your children different places in the world, and a maker of many wonderful memories. We’ve already shared a two-post series (one, two) with some great tips and tricks for traveling with children here on our blog, written for us by world-traveler and mom, Jessica Menon over at Gypsy Momma. Traveling with children can be challenging during the best of times, and, if you’re unprepared, it can be a tough trial for all. Here are some general tips to help make the trip and transition from home to away and back again easier for you and for your baby.
Before you leave, talk at length with your child about how you will be traveling, what you will be doing and what you expect from them. Talk with them about what they will need to do in the plane, at take-off and landing, for instance. Helping them understand what to expect will help make the journey easier for everyone.
If you’re going to be flying:
- Give your child your breast, a bottle or a drink during take-off and landing. The swallowing will help “pop” their ears and adjust to the change in air pressure.
- Try to schedule your flight around nap time or bedtime. This is a really good way to get the best odds that your child will sleep in-flight. However, the excitement of flying, the change of scenery or the lack of comfortable lie-down space in the plane might make sleep a bust. If that’s the case, move on to Plan B:
- Bring a gagbag of new items that your child with. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on this – go to the dollar store and grab things that will suit your child’s interests. Dole them out as slowly as you possibly can during the course of your trip. One small word of caution: don’t pick anything that comes with lots of tiny pieces. Believe us when we tell you that you do not want to be spending a large portion of the flight retrieving roll-away pieces from said tiny-piece kit from under neighboring passenger’s seats. Nobody loves that. Nobody. If you can, stick to items that don’t roll away very easily. It will make your air time so much easier. Again, trust us on this one. Also, those little sick bags can be puppets, or play I Spy or another fun photo-spotting game in the inevitable SkyMall catalogue or airline magazine. Use your imagination, let your child use his, and you and your child will find things to play with in the seat back in front of you.
- Make friends with at least one of the flight attendants. You’re very likely to find at least one very nice and helpful attendant on the plane. They really do want to help make your trip easier, and help keep your child happy, because they also know that a more contented child will be surrounded by more contented other passengers. They will, if the need arises, probably allow you to quickly take your child to the washroom if s/he needs to go when the plane is still on the ground, or maybe even bring an extra snack or drink of water or juice if she can.
- Bring and use your baby carrier! It will be a lifesaver for you in the airport, and make getting on and off the plane much easier. You can wear your baby in-flight (your baby can nurse and nap in it, and you’ll still have your hands free), and, of course at your destination when you’re all still exploring after your little one’s legs have gotten tired. You will be required to take it off during take off and landing, but you can certainly wear your baby in flight.
If you’re driving:
- Be sure to bring a travel potty if your child is learning to use the potty.
- Try to leave around your child’s nap time or bedtime, or, if you can manage it, leave very early in the morning (before your child’s normal waking time). Your child is much more likely to sleep for at least some of the journey if s/he is tired.
- Expect that it will take a longer time for you to drive from home to your destination than it did before you had your child traveling with you. Your child will need to get out and run around some, and you might find that everyone is happier if you stop and let them as much as possible.
- If you can spend some time sitting in the back with your child, it might make the trip easier to your child. Is your child nursing? It’s uncomfortable and not the safest thing to do, but it is possible to lean over your baby’s car seat to nurse her if she needs it.
- Borrow some audio books from your local library, or purchase some. They are often so well done and entertaining, and can provide a welcome story-time break during the journey.
When you get there:
- If your child has a hard time falling or staying asleep in an unfamiliar place, stay in the bedroom or bed with them to help them feel more comfortable. If you already share a family bed at home, continue your sleep arrangements. If your child is sleeping in a big bed and isn’t used to this, try placing a rolled towel at the edge of the bed under the top fitted sheet. It will form a lump at the edge of the bed and keep your child from rolling out. You can also place a shirt or other article of clothing of your own in the bed with them. It will be something that smells of you, which is a familiar and comforting smell. Something to remember: your child is excited and in a new place. S/he will probably have a harder time settling down and falling asleep that they would at home.
- Does your baby have a lovey or special something? Bring it. Keep it on a string or tether so you don’t lose it. Or better yet, bring a double, if you have it. Have ready a fun and exciting adventure story ready for your child just in case the lovey goes missing. For instance: the lovey has gone on a solo adventure. Fun! And just hope lovey comes home again. Do your best, it’s the best you can do.
- Remember this: it’s absolutely OK for you to embrace technology while traveling. Load some child-friendly apps on your phone or tablet. Bring a portable DVD player or your laptop and some DVDs. Whatever you’ve got, bring it. It will give your child something to play with and give you some quiet time while they do. Hopefully.
When you get home:
- It might take some time for your child to get acclimated to being back home. Give your child some time to readjust.
And one last important tip:
- Your expectations can make or break your travel time and your holiday. Try not to expect your child to behave as they normally would. They are in a new, exciting and very different situation. Be there to play with them, explain the journey to them, distract them and comfort them. They need you to guide them. Remember: the actual travel time is finite. Just do your best. Concentrate the most on what you’re doing together, and the fun you’re having. That’s the key to making great memories.
Did we forget anything? Please help us make this post even better by commenting below with your suggestions and ideas. Thank you!