Travel with Kids — Without Losing Your Mind
Travel with kids can be a real holiday-killer. Remember the days of being able to watch a movie on the flight, or breeze through the airport without losing five pacifiers between check-in and the security line? Neither do we.
To get you traveling again with some semblance of confidence, we’ve put together The Swaddle Team’s top tips for traveling with baby in tow. Some of it is common sense, but when you’re traveling with an infant or traveling with a toddler, that can sometimes be in short supply.
Bon voyage and best of luck.
Tips on packing when you travel with kids
Pack for a desert island.
When it comes to carry-ons, only take the essentials, though that’s admittedly a long list, and pack the stuff you absolutely need in a pinch in the outer, most accessible pockets. We’d suggest your standards — wet wipes, pacifier, a snack, burp cloth, diaper — whatever it is that, if the need were to arise, you would not want to be rummaging through your entire carry on to find in the middle of the boarding line.
Make your suitcase into a marsupial.
Koalas have the right idea: You’ll need a pouch. You’re not going to want to stand and feel around in the overhead bin every time your child needs something. Pack a smaller pouch inside your carry-on which you can take out and keep under your seat once on board. This can hold all of the supplies you’ll need on repeat throughout the flight: diapers, more wet wipes, changing pad, burp cloths, a change of clothes, hand sanitizer, a small plastic bag with a few clean nipples.
Get more packing tips on The Swaddle.
Tips on sleeping when you travel with kids
Make sure they’re well-rested.
“When you or your baby becomes overtired, the body is stressed,” writes Dr. Marc Wiessbluth in his book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Chemical changes then occur to fight the fatigue, and this interferes with the ability to easily fall asleep and stay asleep — that is, the baby gets a second wind.”
But not a good second wind. A cranky, crabby, Exorcist second wind that increases the chance of being That Family on the plane. A well-rested kid is going to be a happier, calmer, better-behaved one. So don’t listen to anyone who gives you that much-proffered advice that you should tire your baby out before a long flight — that advice is flat-out wrong.
Make a nest.
Just like adults, kids might find it difficult to sleep in an unfamiliar environment. Maybe a stranger is snoring next to them, maybe someone’s reading light is blinding them, maybe they’ve inherited your neurosis about sleeping in public because, like you, they sleep with their mouth open and god knows what could fly in.
So, pack a little snuggly toy or a swaddle that smells like home. If they don’t have to actually be in your arms to relax, you might get a little shut eye, too.
Tips on feeding when you travel with kids
Screw the Environment.
Seriously, pack so many disposable items you forget the word green. You don’t want to arrive at your holiday destination with 20 smelly bottles to wash, and most likely, everything is going to fall on the floor anyway. You’re going to want to treat everything that came off the flight like it’s teeming with Mersa bacteria, so you may as well just throw it away if you can. Products like disposable formula bottles and nipples are too expensive for daily use, but for peace of mind both during travel and upon arrival, they’re worth it.
Embrace fast food.
No, we’re not actually talking about McDonald’s here, but rather those small, easily-eaten pre-packaged snacks. If you’re someone who usually likes to make all your baby food at home, we get it; but desperate times call for desperate measures. Just buy the prepackaged food — in a disposable packet — and get over it.
Make a fashion statement.
If you’re breastfeeding, your travel outfit should include a big, old scarf. It can keep you warm, and double as a boob-cover so you don’t completely scandalize your fellow passengers.
Tips on entertaining when you travel with kids
Dangle a shiny object.
In the figurative sense. We recommend packing a toy pouch (more pouches!) full of new toys, so everything seems super exciting. Finger puppets, cloth books, and small stuffed animals all make good travel toys, as they are light, easy to squish into a suitcase, and don’t require parental supervision.
Some of us have hard-and-fast bans on screen time. But some rules are made to be broken. No one wins Parent of the Year in an aluminum can careening through the sky. We say, use whatever means of distraction and entertainment get you through the flight.
Tips on being comfortable when you travel with kids
Interrogate the airline.
Nicely, but interrogate all the same, to find out all the details of the airline’s and arrival airport’s policies before the trip. You don’t want to roll up at the gate with your stroller, only to be told you must gate check it because it’s too big for an overhead bin, only to be told upon arrival that said gate-checked-stroller is waiting for you all the way at baggage claim… and you hadn’t planned to carry a 20-pound kid plus your carry-on bag all the way across an airport.
Check on everything from check-in (online check-in for babies is typically not allowed) to how to reserve a bassinet on long flights.
Tips on surviving when you travel with kids
Zip it up.
Pack a box of Ziploc bags, either in your carry-on or in your pouch. Your baby will spit up; things will fall on the floor where 1,000 feet have trod. Anything soiled — that isn’t disposable — goes in a plastic bag and back in the carry-on — without ruining the rest of your belongings.
You will literally never see your fellow passengers again. Has your toddler befriended the disgruntled hipster across the aisle, saying ‘Hi’ to him every 30 seconds? Let her. Are you getting death stares from everyone who isn’t sporting a screaming accessory? Give them your best defiant stare back. It doesn’t matter what they think.