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Deployment: Day 217
So, this year has been full of travel. It’s really made the deployment pass a little quicker. Unfortunately, the sheer exhaustion I feel while recovering from each trip has kept me from being quite as busy in the day-to-day as I planned to be when we first learned of P’s little excursion across the pond. But I think it’s a worthy trade-off.
A week ago, we traveled back to the US after spending a week in Greece with P. The trip included Sam’s 30th flight. Yes, our 20 month old has been on 30 different flights. And, unfortunately for meeee, 26 of them have been just me and SamBaby trips. No P in sight. This Greece trip was actually my first time having help while flying. P met us in Rome, and we traveled the rest of the way to the island as a family. I am really looking forward to making the entire trip to Japan together next month.
Through these 30 flights, I have learned a LOT about flying with a little one (just one little one, fyi, you should ask someone else for advice for anything involving two or more kiddos. That’s a whole different ball game). One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is do it early. Each flight, I have found, is significantly more difficult than the last. Not so difficult that it’s unbearable and not worth traveling. Of course not. But it definitely makes me wish for the six week old baby who accompanied me back to the US so many many months ago. I sometimes really regret not taking advantage of those early months and traveling more.
Anyways, back to the point of this post. Below, you will find my top five tips for traveling with and infant or toddler. I’ve had to learn through trial and error and I make sure to pay extra attention to everything detail, so I can be better prepared for the next trip.
A’s Top Five Wild Tips for Traveling with a Baby or Toddler:
Pack at least three full outfits for the kid and one for yourself in your carry-on. I don’t care if you’re flying domestic or international. Do it. If you don’t, inevitably, you will need that third outfit (I speak from experience here. Our first trip, a long haul from Korea, I brought seven and needed zero. Our second trip, two weeks later, I packed two and needed a third before our first layover). The photo below is from our trip to Greece last week. By the time we boarded our transatlantic flight, he’d thrown up twice and that third outfit was in reserve so he could get dressed just prior to landing in Rome. The same can also be said for diapers. It’s total overkill, but I always travel with at least a diaper per hour. You just never know when diarrhea might hit, and you do not want to be at 36,000 feet and out of diapers. I can’t even imagine the horror.
Snacks, snacks, snacks. Maybe you don’t have a child who is allergic to dairy like I do, but I’m sure you’e all been there when your toddler decides they will only eat [insert random toddler craving]. I make sure to pack his favorite snacks and plenty of them. Airplane food isn’t exactly known for being human friendly. Now, imagine trying to feed your toddler the airplane vegan meal (it’s the only dairy-free option) and I’m sure you can guess how well that goes over. Sometimes, I overpack (rarely, with each trip, I adjust what and how much I take to minimize my load), but I’d rather not risk running out on a long flight and having a cranky toddler on my hands. Also, a zippy cup or bottle or other no leak liquid containment device is an absolute must.
In-flight entertainment. Now, if you’re new here, chances are you landed here (see what I did there?) by searching “flying with baby” or “flying with toddler” and have already read about 19 other blog posts and articles on this very topic. I bet a lot of them told you to make sure you pack a favorite toy and something new and a puzzle and crayons and a sensory bag and blah blah blah. I’m here to tell you that you kid might touch two of those goodies and the rest will sit comfortably in your carry-on and you’ll kick yourself later for having so much extra. I find that for transoceanic flights, a single familiar favorite and a not so familiar toy are enough. On our flight to Germany in June, his toys were a race car and an egg of Silly Putty (obviously, he was super supervised with that one). He was able to color just fine with a pen and paper that I keep handy in the diaper bag for me. In the past, I always brought one board book, and baby bear is NEVER interested. I ended up packing the book in our checked luggage coming back to the States last week and we survived. Maybe, I’ll download a book I can read to him on my kindle app… Oh, and my personal life saver: the Kindle Fire and kid-sized headphones. We own these. Sam doesn’t watch a ton of TV, so when I let him watch, it’s an absolute peace maker and makes those long flights so much more bearable.
Carry-on, stroller, babywearing device. Now, this is all super subjective (as if the rest of my long-winded tips aren’t), but I find it’s a delicate balance to pack everything I might need while in the air, but not so much crap that I struggle to transport it, my baby, and anything gate checked in the airport/on a tight layover (what’s up, super run-on?). For baby traveling, I always checked the stroller at the check-in counter or left it at home. I especially made a point to not gate check if I knew I had short layovers (made that mistake once, too, and almost missed my flight waiting for the stroller to be brought up from the plane). Now, obviously, if you’re traveling with your carseat, you’ll need to bring your stroller. If I am traveling with a lap kid, I try my darnedest to arrange for a carseat on the other end, as any sort of checked carseat runs a HUGE risk of being damaged. Significantly less so if being gate checked, but still pretty high. On our trip to Greece, I had the carseat in a carseat backpack, with extra diapers inside, the diaper bag, the stroller, and an emergency ring sling. Everything could be rearranged to fit our needs (carseat stuffed in the stroller, baby in the sling; carseat on my back, baby in the stroller; diaper bag wherever), and it really made a difference now that Sam is a toddler and a little heavy. Definitely do a trial runs and see what you think you can manage. When your travel day arrives, don’t try to erase it all from your memory to reduce your trauma: LEARN what makes for easy travel for YOU!
Oh, and if you’re going to be gone more than 24 hours, just do yourself the favor and check a bag. No need to kill yourself over trying to pack in your carry-on (obviously, if you’re traveling with another adult, you could probably pull this off, but I’ve never made a full trip with another adult, so I can’t say that with any authority). I have found that even when my luggage was lost, it was still well worth the $25 to check a bag.
Lap baby vs. reserved seat for baby. If you have the money, buy your baby a seat. Especially once your baby hits about 15 pounds. There just isn’t enough room in those seats for you and a baby bigger than a newborn. Inevitably, you WILL be in your neighbor’s personal space, and likely it’ll be really uncomfortable when you’re trying to nurse or keep your kid calm because all he wants to do is run and touch everything in the bathroom. Plus, it’s a TON safer for baby, and you can get up and go pee while the kid naps without having to do any weird balancing acts that defy physics.
And a bonus:
Have fun and enjoy sharing the world with your child!! It’s so worth the trouble.