Travelling first time with a baby may seem like a huge challenge to new parents. What to pack, how to organise, how to ensure that baby is comfortable during the journey. Thinking about all this can be a bit overwhelming, As a couple you may have traveled without a care in the world: you didn’t have to think about where to eat, what to wear, where to rest etc, but having a child changes it all. Even if you are not too fussy, there are a few basic things you will have to ensure to have at hand for baby, like food, water, clothes etc, depending on how old is your baby.
Recently we did a 15 day Europe tour with baby A and though I had my doubts but it was quite a smooth vacation for the three of us. Baby A had a lot of fun and was very comfortable during the whole trip. The first time we traveled with baby A (flew with him) was when he was 5 months old. Since the we have traveled quite a few times and here are some of my pointers for an easy travel.
Make your Air Travel smooth
First I want to mention a few points about airlines which many mums are not aware of. In my discussions with fellow moms I have realised that, mums are not always aware of these below mentioned
- Carry your stroller: with you if you are going someplace where you will do a lot of roaming around. In fact carry it even if not doing that, a stroller will be very handy when you are lugging around a baby bag, camera, coats, wraps etc. Having your hands free and the baby safely in the stroller can make a world of a difference to your trip. Most airlines allow fold-able strollers to be taken right up to the boarding gate, confirm with your airline checkin. Don’t worry as the weight of stroller and car seat is not clubbed with your total baggage weight allowed.
- Express Check-in: Parents travelling with infants are allowed express check in at most airports. But there is no sign or instruction hanging for that, neither is anybody going to offer it to you. Ask for it. Instead of standing in a queue with a small baby, ask the staff around the counters for an express check in, they will let you in. Babies and toddlers are not good at waiting in lines, thus the express check in is offered.
- Front Row Seat: Arrive a bit early and at the check in counter please mention that would like the front row seats. Passengers travelling with toddlers and infants are given the front row seats with more leg room and bassinet option. But do note, these are mostly first come first serve basis. Also once the plane has taken off, ask for the bassinet.
- Baby Food and Water: All airlines allow baby food and milk, water etc. Check with your airlines for the rules and carry what you will need during the journey in your cabin baggage. Although these are allowed but these will go through extra checking. At Charles De Gaulle Airport, France and at Rome’s Orly Airport we had to take out the entire contents of the bag and place all liquid items separately in trays. Be prepared for it, so that you are not left overwhelmed with items strewn all over the check in conveyor belt and a plane to catch. Put your food items, milk, etc in separate transparent zip lock bags so that you may easily take these out and quickly repack your bag once the security check is over. Keep your own dress, shoes etc metal free and fuss free (avoid lacy / strappy shoes/ belts) as much as possible.
- Metal Detectors & Baby: Babies do not need to go through metal detectors but they will have to be taken out of their stroller / carrier. It is easier if two people are travelling together, one person can quickly go through security check and hold the baby while the other gets through, if travelling alone, ask for help.
8. Breast Feed or Bottle Feed Infants: Infants should be breast fed or bottle fed during take off and landing as the sucking helps with the pain of ear popping. Now I give baby A milk in his sippy cup during take off. Actually it is the action of sucking that prevents the ear popping.
The Itinerary- Keep it Light
Take care to keep your itinerary light when you have a baby with you. Remember you have to be ready for the unexpected, they may just not cooperate with all your plans. Also babies will tire easily, and having a cranky baby on hand is the last thing you want.
- Routine: babies and toddlers are happiest when they are in their routine. I realized this after our first travel at 5 month old. We booked an extremely early hour flight at 5:00 AM, so that we can make the most of the day, and as a result, we ended up waking a sleeping baby at 3:00 am in the morning. Baby was happy and playing for the first few hours, but post that he got very tired and cranky because he was not used to this kind of routine. He was over tired, exhausted and cranky. Try not to usurp baby’s routine too much if possible, i.e. Nap times, feed times, try and plan around these as much as possible.
- Downtime: This is again extremely important. You are not travelling with adults so may be it is a good idea to cut out a little on the sight seeing. Select the places which are really important and leave out a few. Plan your itinerary in such a way, that your child does not get over tired and exhausted. Doing one or two sight seeings and spending time leisurely in the hotel room with room service while the baby naps is not that bad an idea actually.
- Eating Out: While it is an experience to enjoy the local cuisine and street fare while travelling, try and stick to places which have a good seating arrangement, a baby chair etc. If your child is eating out already, it can be a great way to let him explore new flavors too. But be prepared that children may not eat as much while travelling. They are not really cut out to appreciate gourmet flavors at this age. Stick to French fries and chicken nuggets, kids of all sizes love these.
- Hotel Booking: Always mention that you have a child with you when you are doing any reservation. Although there are no charges for infants and kids but the hotel needs to be kid friendly. Hotels will not entertain your booking if you have booked a non-child friendly room, which usually have a little higher tariff rate than normal rack rate.
Packing it right:
- Tote Bag & a tiny Sling Bag: Carry one sling Bag and one medium sized, colourful tote bag which is fashionable and spacious too. Whenever you are out you should have baby diapers, wipes, water, milk/ food, some snacks, sanitizer, one set of clothes & a wrap; stuff these in the tote bag. I prefer ones which don’t even have a zip; easier to reach for a tissue when needed.
Put only the important docs (passposrt, money, cards, phone) in your sling purse. That way you don’t have to worry about the bag getting lost, stolen. All your important things are in the sling bag, held close to your body.
You don’t want to end up with vacay pics with both of you carrying huge, boxy diaper bags. Trust me on this, find a tote bag which serves that purpose.
2. Tissues & Sanitiser: Buy few small packets of these and cram them in all of the bags. Your handbag, the cabin baggage, back pack etc. With babies around you are gonna need these more than you can imagine. Make sure you only buy small bottles of these for travel.
3. Snacks: Carry snacks for the whole journey, you really need these. I bought a number of cakes, chocolates, biscuits, wafers, home made cookies and nimkins before leaving. Always keep a small assortment of these in your purse/ hand bag in a light weight container. Trust me when I say, when a cranky toddler wakes up bawling while you are at line at the Vatican, you will be more than happy to stuff the face of said toddler with colourful chocolates.
4. Toys & Entertainment: This is a very important part. Have an assortment of small, (preferably new) toys with you. Remember, do not give all toys to toddler / baby at once. Introduce a new toy when he/she is getting over restless.
For our 10 hour flight (plus a 2 hour layover), I had the following: 4 small cars, 1 small toy train, 1 Magical slate and 2 bedtime story books. The cars and the magic slate were in a small box in my tote bag all the time and these helped us get through quite a few train and flight journeys.
Also, keep these inexpensive, all 4 cars I had were priced at 100 INR each. One red car ended up being thrown in the river at Venice. Surprisingly, we came back with the other 3 and the train intact.
- Baby Medicines: Check with your pediatrician and carry the needed baby medicines with you. If you follow natural remedies, keep the required things handy. Also carry the prescriptions.
- Baby Food: I have not given Cerelac to baby A ever but this time I kept one packet of Cerelac with me as a precaution. Thankfully, baby A ate almost normally whatever food was available. Be ready with one alternate though if your child is of the age and refuses to partake any new food. (Fresh fruits are a savior in most cases and are readily available almost everywhere. If your child eats bananas then your life will be much easier.)
- Sippy cups and Bottles: Carry a couple of extra sippy cups and bottles as per the age of your baby. You may not get the chance to wash up always. I also carried a small bottle of Pigeon Instant liquid cleanser which is easier to use at times. You can get it here
8. Baby-wearing: This one is a no brainer. Baby Carrying is the best thing for travelling with a child. Our Soul Slings full buckle toddler carrier was equal to a Godsend. It is the easiest way to travel with an infant or a toddler and a must have.
With these tips in mind I am sure you will have a smooth trip and a fun vacation. Just remember to relax, and enjoy.
Until next time, lots of love. Smita