We have taken our colicky, strong-willed, loud, fiercely independent and active daughter on (going on) 18 flights. Traveling with a baby is anything but easy. And when that child is colicky or strong-willed, the challenges are magnified ten fold. It sort of feels like walking a tight-rope 30,000 feet off of the ground with a tiny break dancer attached to your chest. There is no easy way to do it. You sort of throw yourself out there with a prayer and hope you don’t misrepresent the Lord by shaking your baby or yelling at your spouse in front of an audience of people. (Disclaimer: this is a joke. I’d never shake my baby in real life).
With the Holidays just around the corner, I thought it was an appropriate time to share some tips for traveling with your petite powerhouse based on our experiences so far. Beware that these tips are geared toward high-energy, colicky little ones…so they may not apply to all families.
If you have a traveling companion, remind yourself before even getting into the car to drive to the airport that you are on the same team. Repeat the mantra in your sleep if you need to. When the pressure builds while traveling, the temptation will be to turn on one another. But you will need each other. Now is not the time for a “marriage moment” – you are on a mission.
10 Tips for Traveling with Tiny People:
1. Well Packed Diaper Bag: It will help to have a well organized bag and know where all of the items are. Consider packing:
- Multiple Pacifiers
- 3-4 toys of various textures, colors, sounds (the mommy teething necklaces make great toy leashes + wearable distractions)
- Bottle (milk does not count as your 3.4 fluid oz and neither does the cooling agent)
- Purell wipes (wipe down the seats, arm rest, and tray table as soon as you sit down and keep wipes available in seatback pocket just in case)
- Pacifier wipes (to wipe off run-away pacifiers and toys that will be mouthed. Also keep in back of seat pocket)
- Diapers (3 in diaper bag and 3 in another carry on)
- Arm and Hammer scented diaper bags (crew and passengers will thank you. Expert level: sometimes it’s easier to just change the diaper in your lap. We’ve done it 3 or 4 times. You have a helper sitting next to you and you’re sitting down – so many risks minimized)
- Diaper rash cream (put extra cream on the baby before the flight since there’s so much sitting and awkward positioning for long hours. This will eliminate some discomfort)
- Tylenol (give right before takeoff – landing is more painful than takeoff for baby ears)
- Lavender Essential Oil (Rub a bit on the bottom of baby’s feet before takeoff and put a few drops on the chest area of mom’s shirt. I wear a light scarf and spray it with lavender and use it as a nursing cover, a blanket for baby and/or warmth for me).
- Hand-held fan (Often the AC in the plane does not run when parked on the tarmac – you can use the safety brochure in seat back pocket but the old school fans with the handle work really well if you can get one)
- Tablet (an hour of screen time will not create a serial killer in your child. Shaking your baby or getting into a fist fight with your spouse 30,000 ft. off the ground may require some inner healing, though. So just let them watch Veggie Tales. It’ll save your family a lot of grief in the long run).
- Plastic Water Bottle (buy one in the airport. For some reason that crunchy sound mesmerizes babies.)
- Snacks (puffs, yogis, whatever the favorite is. Purées can get messy – but note that they do not count toward liquid limits for TSA)
- Extra baby outfit
- Extra shirt and make up for mom (You will be a human napkin and you may want to look/feel cute when you see family for the first time in a while. Do yourself this favor. It’s nice to have a trashy travel shirt and then change in the bathroom to feel fresh and clean to commence your vacation).
- 2 Blankets – one for airport ground (only works if baby is immobile), and one for the baby.
2. Teamwork makes the dream work: Divvy up tasks. We have found it helpful for one of us to be responsible for IDs, birth certificate, tickets and collapsing the stroller, seeing that all items get on x-ray belt through security, etc. and for one of us take responsibility for the baby and diaper bag (claiming breast milk, etc.). Because our baby is nursing and super clingy to me as mama, I act as primary baby holder/manager and my husband plays the assistant role through security and while we were in the air. He is primary baby caregiver on the ground through terminal and baggage claim.
3. Stroller: You can try to wear the baby. I tried – my baby was simply too active and would not handle such restraint. We settled on bringing a stroller and gate checked it. If the baby is not yet walking or crawling, go ahead and wear him/her. It’ll ultimately be easier as it’s one less piece of equipment.
4. Car Seat: You can rent one, we’ve rented before and we were extremely disappointed in the one we received upon getting to the destination. None of us felt safe or comfortable, yet we were stuck with the gear at that point. Might as well bring your own – they check it for free to your destination and many airlines will bag it for you, though you can buy nice bags on amazon. If the car seat is built to sustain a car accident, we can only hope it can survive the throes of bag handlers.
5. Pennies for Peace offerings – This isn’t an absolute necessity, but consider saving some pennies for “just in case” gifts for your neighboring passengers. It’s a kind gesture we picked up from one of our friends. Reserve some emergency money to buy everyone (of age) surrounding you a premium beverage (😉) if your baby goes crazy.
6. Loosen your grip – Don’t put your hope in maintaining a schedule of any sort during the travel day if you can help it. The time with your family and memories made in the process are more valuable than a nap will ever be in the long run. So, if you’re a schedule person, try and loosen your grip for the sake of memory making. You’ll be glad you did it in 10 years.
7. Mama gets the Window Seat – Nursing moms have the challenge of trying to latch and feed the flailing little break-dancer during take offs and landings (Nursing, bottle feeding, and pacifier sucking all help minimize ear pain for baby). The window seat allows the traveling companion to lean forward and provide a bit of a privacy wall to minimize flashing opportunities.
8. Pace your tricks – Expose the baby to one toy at a time. One video at a time. One breast at a time, etc. Wait to bring out the next trick until the baby starts fussing. By properly pacing these tricks you just might make it to your destination without utter meltdown. Do not introduce a new toy or distraction if the baby is happy.
9. Breast Pump and Phone Chargers – you want to pack these in a carry on if possible. One time, the second leg of our flight was canceled and we were stuck with just our carry-ons (which included 6,982 diapers and 0 phone chargers). Phone chargers will ensure that you maintain a charge to reschedule a canceled flight and get an uber to a nearby hotel if necessary. (Yes ubers will take you with a baby aboard). If you are still nursing a lot and you want to have a night off on vacation, consider packing your pump. Pumps do not count toward your two carry-ons since they are considered a medical device.
10. Expect the meltdown and Ignore rude comments – If you expect the worst, you will not be disappointed. And it’s not really fair to assume your tiny human, who is full of wonder and energy and curiosity, will sit still and quiet for an entire plane ride. If people are that desperate to avoid babies on planes, they should drive or charter a private jet. We are talking about a few hours. In the grand scheme of life – that is not much at all.