Posted in Blog, Mother, Shawna

Have diapers, will travel

My husband and I are separated from our family by a continent and an ocean, so introducing our little one to her grandparents meant two flights, lots of planning and even more luggage. Here are some things we learned along the way that should make traveling with your little passenger a little bit easier.

What to take

Wheels: If  you have an easily collapsible stroller, then bringing it might make your time at the airport easier, but if you have a larger stroller (as we do), the difficulty of disassembling and getting through all the security points may deter you from bringing it. We opted to leave ours at home, and brought along a baby carrier instead. We did have a stroller waiting for us at the other side. Think about how long your stay is and whether you need the stroller enough to warrant the hassle.

Seats: Car seats are a legal requirement in the majority of destinations. A lot of the infant car seats have bases which can be left behind. We decided to take the base to make it easier to get in and out of cars at our destination. Don’t forget you’ll need to use a car seat if you plan to take any taxis or shuttles as well.

Most airlines don’t require you to purchase a seat for children under two, but some offer seats at a discounted rate if you opt not to have them in your lap the entire flight. If you do buy a seat, you can bring your airplane-approved car seat on board. If not, the seats can be checked, usually without an additional fee.

Bags: At the moment you can take a bag for the baby as well as your hand luggage, though security procedures could change again, so check with your airline. If you are breastfeeding and your baby has yet to start solids, it is pretty simple: Bring mom! If you’re bringing an older baby, you can bring baby food in resealable containers, though it can be easier to take on store-bought baby food. If you are breastfeeding with an older baby, it might be a good idea to pump some milk beforehand, as you might have the same problem that we did: a very distracted baby who didn’t want to nurse! To make in-flight nursing easier, bring your Boppy cover without the pillow. You can stuff it with coats or complimentary pillows to create a familiar feeding cushion which would otherwise have been far too large to carry.

Distractions: Some very good advice we got before our first flight was to buy a new toy which your baby has never seen to distract them with on board. A toy which has been hidden for a while works just as well. Also, for infants who are eating solids, taking some finger foods wonders in terms of distraction: cheerios, rice rusks, fruit – anything that lets them work on their pincer grasp.

Paperwork: For international travel, you will need to make sure you have a passport for your baby. The photos that are needed have some restrictions, i.e. that the child has both eyes open and lips closed, so make sure you check on the requirements and go get pictures at a time of day when your baby is most likely to be in a good mood and awake! Also call ahead to the passport photo location–not everyone will take baby passport photos due to liability issues.  Seattle’s Neighborhood Service Centers can process your baby’s passport. Both parents have to be present, or the absent parent has to give permission in writing. It generally takes 4-6 weeks for the passport to arrive, but you can pay more to expedite it.

There are specific immunizations for various parts of the world which you would need to discuss with your doctor. Even if you’re going somewhere requiring no particular immunizations, it might still be a good idea to make sure that your child is up to date with normal vaccinations and maybe get a flu shot.

At the airport

Seats: If your child is not yet sitting up, it might be possible to book a bassinet at the bulkhead. There are height restrictions on these; on our KLM flight it was 26 inches. Even if you cannot get the bassinet, you still might want to pick certain seats. Bulkhead seats have a little more leg room and you only have people behind you. When you check in, ask whether there are any spare seats that might give you more room to work with.

Check-in and Security: When you get to the airport, go straight to the person at the service desk. Security restrictions on traveling with people under age 1 mean that you often can’t use the auto check-in screens. At security, if you are taking milk in a bottle or solids they might make you taste it. I mean it! You have to get a spoon out, taste the food and also sip a bit of sweet baby milk. So make sure you have a clean spoon on hand and be prepared for a slight delay!

At some airports now (including SeaTac), they have play areas and nursing areas so do a bit of research if you have a layover.

On board

Some airlines let you board early with a baby. We preferred this method as it let us get all set up (bags away, boppy stuffed, baby settled) before the rest of the passengers came on. However, there are people who prefer to wait until the last minute so you are on the plane the shortest amount of time with your wee traveler.

Once you are finally on the plane, make sure to wipe down the seats, tray and anything the little one might touch with anti-bacterial wipes. This will hopefully reduce the chance of anyone coming down with something either on the trip or when you get home.

Babies often have trouble equalizing their ears on take-off and landing so it is a good idea to try and nurse at these times. I found this difficult as she was really distracted, but the bottles of milk I had on hand made it all a little less stressful and awkward.

As we all know, going between timezones and being on planes for long periods of time is tiring. And if your little one has started to follow a regular sleeping pattern, expect to be a little at odds for the first couple of days.

All that is left to say is: Traveling with a baby can’t be too bad as my husband and I are about to embark on the transatlantic journey yet again in a couple of weeks! Anyone have any suggestions on toys guaranteed to entertain a 10-month-old infant for nine hours?

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  1. Jennifer says:

    Thank you so much for the great information! My husbands entire non-immediate family is located in Japan and here we are in Seattle! I know we will be taking our wee one to the “homeland” eventually and all of your advice is PRICELESS! Thank you so much!

  2. Awesome post, Clare! This will help tremendously on my upcoming trip to the UK (Flying solo with K – Yikes).

    I wanted to add a little tip I received from somebody. When traveling with babies, you can call the airline right after your booking and reserve bulk head seats (instead of waiting till you check in).
    Also, some airlines allow you to request an “infant hold” on the seat next to yours. This means that they will try their best to keep that seat vacant if the flight is not full. This doesn’t cost anything to you. You can request this by calling your airline.

    Safe travels!

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