Trying to plan for a trip with kids can be a daunting task. Aside from the anxiety, it’s an unknown territory for first time moms. Fortunately, little miss Kinzah has done quite a bit of traveling in her (almost) two years of life so I’ve been able to pick up a few tips and tricks along the way. Aside from a few domestic trips within the U.S. and visits to see family in Canada, her first big international trip was this past summer at 20 months old. She visited five countries in two months! To be honest, this was the trip I was most worried about due to the long plane rides and our many planned excursions. Not to mention the dramatic change in environment and culture. You can forget about your daily routine and schedule that’s for sure… but that is a different post for a different day. Today I’d like to share with you some of the travel tips that have helped me keep my sanity while traveling with Kinzah.
Traveling with an infant
- Secure your seats. One of the very first things you want to do is secure your seating arrangement prior to the day of travel. Domestic flights don’t offer bassinets so I would highly recommend booking a window seat. It provides more privacy and something to lean on especially when nursing baby or calming her down. For those long international flights, it is (in my opinion) well worth the extra money to book the front row economy class seats that provide extra legroom and bassinets. Make sure to contact your airline and request your bassinet prior to the day of travel. Sometimes if you’re lucky you’ll get an empty seat next to you, it’s happened a couple of times and I was able to lay Kinzah down to sleep which gave my arms a much needed break. When she was old enough to sit on her own, Kinzah was the one who got extra excited about having her own seat!
- Carry on items. I would highly recommend checking your carry on item allowance prior to packing so that you know exactly what you have to work with. With a baby or toddler, you are generally allowed 1 personal item (your purse/baby bag) and 1 carry on item (roller bag or another purse/baby bag). I would recommend taking a backpack as your diaper bag so you can have both hands free especially if you’re traveling alone. Heres an example of what I would pack in each of my carry on’s as a guide:
- Diaper bag: toiletries, travel wallet (passports, pen, birth certificate and child travel consent form. This is important if you are traveling alone with baby especially on international flights. Customs will usually ask for proof of baby’s identity and proof of parenthood). One outfit change and one pj change for baby, five diapers, wipes, changing pad, 1-2 bottles prepped with formula/breastmilk, 1-2 bottles prepped with amount of water needed for formula. Baby’s water bottle, baby food pouches, snacks, pacifier, one toy, swaddle/muslin blanket, nursing cover.
- Roller carry on: Extra diapers ( five more), wipes, bottles prepped with formula, water, snacks, baby food, two more outfits (one outfit and one pj), carrier/sling.
Liquids and gels are allowed in your carry on’s for any child under the age of 2. TSA will take your belongings to the side and check them, but I’ve never faced any issues with carrying liquids for Kinzah.
- Checked baggage. Depending on whether your flight is domestic or international, and your airline, you may or may not have to pay for checked bags. Lap children are not given baggage allowance, but children with a purchased ticket get the standard checked baggage allowance of the airline. Carseats and strollers can be checked in at no charge. I generally have the carseat packed in it’s original box, or you can purchase a carseat travel bag, and check it in with my luggage since I do not use it on the plane. I keep my stroller on hand to use around the airport and I have it gate checked prior to boarding the flight. You can also gate check your carseat if your baby needs it while using the stroller after getting off the plane. I would recommend getting a protective travel bag for both your stroller and carseat to prevent potential damage due to rough handling.
- Baby carriers & slings. These are a life savor, especially when you’re at the ticket counter checking in, getting through security, rushing to your gate, on the plane, using the bathroom (Yes, I had my child strapped onto me when going to the washroom!), or when baby is getting fussy. Kinzah would fall right to sleep as soon as I put her in my sling and started walking around the airport. I would recommend getting something that does not have a metal ring or metal hardware on it so that you don’t have to take it off during security.
- Changing baby on the plane. You may not know this but there is a changing table on the wall right above the toilet in bathroom on every plane. Mind.Blown!
- Comforting baby while airborne. I am very thankful that Kinzah was not a difficult baby to travel with. I would usually nurse her to sleep for take off and she would nap the entire duration of the flight. You can also substitute nursing for a bottle. Sometimes she would be too curious about her surroundings to fall asleep so I would use a pacifier to help keep her ears from popping. If all else fails, try to take deep breaths and stay as calm as possible. Babies sense their mother’s emotions, and if you are getting frustrated that will only cause baby to get more agitated. Everything will be ok, your baby is crying… so what? She’s a baby! I’ve noticed that most passengers are very friendly and compassionate towards mothers especially when they see her struggling with a fussy child so don’t worry about being “that mom” with the crying baby. Also, don’t hesitate to take advantage of the flight attendants. They are there to help you with anything you may need and are always more than happy to do so.
Traveling with a toddler (under 2)
Most of the tips above apply to lap seat children (any child under 2). In terms of seating, for our international trip, Kinzah was still able to utilize the bassinet. The weight limit varies from 20-25 lbs, so be sure to check your airline’s weight restrictions before requesting a bassinet. The extra legroom space in front of the first row economy seats was a life savor on those long flights. Kinzah was able to use it as a “play area” where she kept herself entertained without having to stay strapped to the seat.
Finally, I would highly recommend booking a hotel room for the day if you have a long layover on an international flight. We did this during our summer trip during one of our longer stops where we were not interested in leaving the airport to go sightseeing. I can not tell you how much it helped us all recharge. We took a long nap, showered, ate and got ready for our next flight all from the comfort of our hotel room versus spending countless hours in the airport and then having to board a long flight.
I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful! I would love to hear about your experiences traveling with kids and what you do to make your journey as smooth and stress free as possible.