As the holiday season approaches, more and more families will be traveling with toddlers. If you plan on traveling with your toddler this holiday season, you better get ready.
If you had told me 2 years ago that I would be an expert at traveling with a baby/ toddler in tow, I would not have believed you. Fast forward to two years later, and my family and I have traveled on various occasions both domestically and internationally with our daughter, now only 19 months old. Truth be told, this is not because we necessarily wanted to, but we had to. Once courtship is over, the traditional sequence of things is that you get married and then you start having kids.
If you are fortunate or plan well, you will get to do some traveling before you start having kids. But, what happens after you have kids? Should you stop traveling all together? My answer is of course not. Short of hiring a traveling nanny, the only viable options some have are:
a) Don’t travel at all (wait until the kids move out and ship out)
b) Make sure all future vacations involve Mickey Mouse or other fictional character
A fortunate few also have this as an option:
c) Call mom, a grandparent or other family member to visit with the kids while the parents (you and spouse) go on a trip.
But what if you don’t have any family around, the next best thing is:
d) Saddle up the little one(s) and take them with you!
Here are some tips that will make your next trip with the baby so much easier (It does not have to be an oxymoron).
Buy the Ticket
If traveling by plane, make sure to tell the airline carrier that you will be traveling with an infant or toddler. Domestic flights to the continental United States will not cost anything extra for children less than 2 years old not using a seat. This is called “infant in arms”. However, if you chose to put your child in a car seat during travel (which would occupy a passenger seat), you have to pay the full adult fare. If traveling internationally, be prepared to pay 10% of the adult fare for the infant/toddler’s seat even though they will be seated in your lap.
If you are uncomfortable about the security of traveling with your little one in your lap during the flight, then ask the flight attendant for a lab belt attachment. Some air line carriers have this seat belt attachment available which connects to the standard adult seat belt.
Bring the Necessary Documents
When traveling with your little one, be sure to pack your child’s birth certificate. It is also a good idea to get the document laminated to keep it clean. If you are traveling internationally, make sure that you have your child’s passport. It does not matter if you are traveling with an infant, as long as you are traveling outside of the United States, all parties involved should have passports.
Even if you have prepared a list it is still possible to forget items if you don’t start packing early. A list is no use if it does not have the items that you need. Travel jitters, fatigue and the overall excitement of the trip can all impede the best intentions to have a well executed list. TWBT (Traveling with a baby or toddler) can make things 10 tens more difficult. But, the easiest thing that you can do is start packing early. Pack the baby’s things first.
Be sure not to forget items such as baby bottles, pacifiers, special toys, or books. Variety is the key. For longer trips consider uploading special children’s shows or programs on personal laptops, tablets or portable viewing devices. Diapers and wipes should be packed first. Figure the number of diapers that you will need for the trip by calculating the number of typical diaper changes in one day, multiplied by the number of days of the trip. If you are checking luggage be sure that you also pack a “carry-on bag” with some diapers, wipes, milk, food, a change of clothes and other essentials. Be sure to do this for both going and returning. When traveling to the domestic US however, you can save on travel space if you opt to pack light and replenish items such as diapers and wipes at local stores throughout your trip.
Big items such as strollers, play yards and car seats may be left at home if you plan well. If your baby is 25 pounds or less, consider leaving the stroller at home. Infant wraps and carriers are quite sophisticated. Many are designed to accommodate kids up to 25 pounds and sometimes even more (depending on the carrier). Less bulky than a stroller, baby carriers are a great alternative to use during travel. If you must bring a stroller along, consider traveling with a light weight alternative such as an umbrella variety.
If you do have to travel with the stroller, be sure to ask the airlines if they have a stroller bag or cover available for passenger use. Although, I have only seen this service available with international airline carriers, you should still ask. An alternative is to purchase your own stroller bag and have it on hand for all your travels. Taking the stroller without a stroller bag may seem tempting but, think of this: When the stroller is unloaded from the plane it can encounter everything from dirt, soot, grease, grime, rain or just a clumsy baggage handler. Do you really want your little prince or princess lying on a dirty stroller?
That goes the same for the car seat. Car seat covers are available for car seats from online merchandisers as well. But, you do not have to travel with a car seat either. Consider renting a car seat from a rent-a-car company if you are renting a car. If you will have access to a driver or chauffer at your final destination, ask if they have a car seat available for client use.
Alternatively, if visiting a destination where you have family and friends that have kids, consider asking your friend(s) to borrow their car seat or stroller if they are not currently in use.
Lastly, play yards, cribs and bassinets do not need to be dragged along on your trip if you are staying at a hotel. Most hotels have cribs and baby cots available for guest use. Make sure to call ahead to verify before you get to your destination.