Taking that first flight or road trip with your baby can be as nerve wracking as a junior high school dance. Who hasn’t been affected by a screaming baby at 30,000 ft? No lie, when you travel with a baby or toddler, you need to be uber prepared. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a pleasant experience. Set yourself up for success with these easy family travel tips.
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The first time you take your baby to travel on an airplane, you’ll probably wonder, Is everyone on the plane going to hate me? This is a common fear when travelling with your youngsters.
Realize a good percentage of the passengers are parents themselves. The majority of feedback you’ll receive will be positive. And if it isn’t, don’t worry about it. Travel is stressful at the best of times and with a baby or toddler it’s even more so.
For successful plane travel, be prepared with food, distractions and blankets to keep your little darling comfortable. Remember, you need to make sure you’ve got all your baby travel essentials with you in case you get delayed somewhere.
Many find breastfeeding or giving a baby a bottle during take off and landing helps their ears to equalize. It’s that chewing motion that helps unplug ears, so if gum isn’t an option, consider harder to chew food like small bits of beef jerky for toddlers.
Worse case scenario is your child melting down mid-flight. What are you going to do? The best you can is the only answer. The calmer you are, the less agitated your baby or toddler will be. All flights eventually end. Keep in mind this too shall pass.
Airport Security With a Baby
Did you know the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (the group that runs and monitors airport security screening in Canada) has an online wait time indicator for many Canadian cities? Check it before leaving your house so you know what you’re getting into.
Many Canadian airports also offer a family and special needs lane. This lane is for passengers who need more time or help with their belongings to get through security. If you’re toting a stroller or travelling with very young children, you fit into this category. They don’t advertise this lane, so ask about it once you arrive at security.
Travel Activities for Toddlers
Entertainment consoles on the back of seat headrests just might be the very best air travel invention ever. If you’ve ever had the misfortunate of those blessed devices not working, you know the importance of having several travel activities for toddlers and young children up your sleeve.
Whether you’re travelling by plane or car, pack oodles of toys, books, snacks and other distractions. Some parents make an activity kit for each child and keep it a secret until they’re seated. Others dole little treats out one by one at a set time, like every half hour. Some activity bag suggestions:
- Dollar store trinkets
- Deck of cards
- Printable colouring sheets (go double-sided)
- Activity Sheets
- Slim books
- Reusable sticker books
- Pipe cleaners
- Etch S Sketch
- Silly putty (realize this can get stuck on seats, but I’m still a fan)
Baby Jet Lag
Jet lag is one of the most dreaded aspect of long distance travel. The bad news is that there’s no pill you can give your baby to mitigate its wrath. The good news is that most babies and young children adjust to new times changes faster than adults, making baby jet lag not as big of a deal as your jet lag will likely be.
The best way to overcome jet lag is to get yourself on the new time zone as soon as possible. Try to shift feeding and sleeping hours at home prior to your departure. Getting fresh air and exercise does wonders in helping everyone in the family adjust to a new time zone.
That said, be prepared to rise and shine earlier than normal. See if you can’t sneak in a daytime doze along with the little nappers in your crew, though try to keep your regular eating and sleeping times as much as possible. If you know there’s no way you can sleep, take it as an opportunity to sightsee while your baby sleeps in their carseat or stroller. (We had the best time exploring The Strand area of London at 4 a.m. when our daughter was six months old.)
Bedtime rituals signal it’s time to go to sleep. If it’s your practice to bathe your baby every night before bed, ensure you’ve booked accommodation with a tub, as not all hotel rooms offer them. Sleep props can be hard to tote, but you can download white noises from your smart phone. Embarrassingly, I packed the liner from a blackout curtain in my suitcase well beyond the years my daughter required it. I needed it! Draping it over a curtain rod or securing it with duct tape to the walls ensured our room stayed pitch black when we needed daytime rest.
Airport Baggage Claim Woes
There’s no end to airport baggage claim horror stories. In a single year, my luggage was either lost or majorly delayed on no less than four flights! First things first: Take a picture of your luggage on your phone right before you leave. This way you won’t have rely on the chart at the airport baggage claim desk and can even email it to them. Ensure you’ve tagged it appropriately with your home address and as an extra precaution, attach one of those paper baggage tags available at the check-in counter with the address of your travel destination.
I no longer sweat it if my luggage doesn’t arrive because I now purchase a travel insurance plan with trip cancellation and baggage benefits before travelling. This way, if my bags are delayed more than 8 hours, I’m compensated $400 which is more than enough for toiletries until my luggage arrives. And baggage coverage (for when luggage gets lost or stolen) will reimburse me up to $1,000 in the plan I usually purchase. I also like getting this cancellation insurance because I can recover non-refundable trip expenses should I have to delay or cancel my trip due to one of the covered reasons in my policy. And it’s worth considering travel insurance when on a family adventure as well, because we all know how frequently babies and children get under the weather!
Travelling with a baby all boils down to being prepared. Go ahead and check your luggage, but have enough baby food and their favourite cuddly toys in your carry-on. Make sure everyone’s vaccinations are up to date and download a handy travel app like TripWise so you can quickly find the closest medical facility should someone need attention. Seeing the world through your baby’s eyes is the very best thing about travel. What are you waiting for?
Disclaimer, I’m a brand ambassador for Allianz Global Assistance (Canada) and receive financial compensation for these posts. As always, all information shared is my own opinion.
Have you ever travelled with your baby? What are your best travel tips?