We’ve come full circle it seems.
On the same day exactly a year ago, Anya and I boarded the plane for her first ever trip abroad! She was a few days shy of turning 3 months old. A wee babe who loved to nurse all the time and was happiest snuggling with mommy.
I remember I was both excited and anxious. I had no idea what to expect. Traveling across the ocean on a 17-hour long trip that involves long plane rides and layovers can be daunting enough. To be doing it alone with a baby, I knew I had to be prepared for anything.
I packed for every occasion and for every possible need Anya could have on this 3-week long trip to Armenia. All sorts of outfits (because, of course, a baby still needs to look good!), blankets, carriers, toys and books, socks of all color, hand pump and such, diapers, and a “toiletry bag” filled with a comb, thermometer, tylenol, butt cream and even baby hair gel. Where did I think I was taking her???
And then I packed an almost suitcase sized backpack full of more things for the road. All the just-in-case’s, including 5 outfit changes for Anya and one for myself! (To be fair, those were the explosive poop days. So yea, I had to take that into consideration!)
Needless to say we didn’t need most of those things; not on the road and not during our stay in Armenia.
In the year since, Anya has been on numerous flights (20 to date), both domestic and international.
Armenia - age (almost) 3 months
Greece & Cyprus - age 5 months
Cyprus & Armenia - age 9 months
LA - age 1 year
Cyprus - age (almost) 15 months
So my advice to you is...
1. Travel with baby!
My husband and I love to travel. We met while traveling, we started to date while traveling, and we have spent the past 8 years traveling at every opportunity we get! We even have a mini list and a competition of who’s been to the most countries (he’s currently beating me by one). So when Anya came along, we knew some parts of this would have to adjust a little, but we weren’t about to give it up. I would like to think that we’ve done a pretty good job of this so far!
And my number one advice to all parents who love to travel is to keep doing it! With baby! Travel as much as you can afford to with your little ones, especially when they’re really little, because:
- Babies get to travel for free until they’re 2 years old, so you may as well take advantage of that!
- All infants ever want to do is nurse and sleep (and poop), so it’s super easy to travel with them. Note: I cannot speak for formula-fed infants, as that may require carrying many extra pieces, such as water, bottles and other paraphernalia that breastfed babies don’t require.
- The smaller they are the lighter they are, and, therefore, the easier they are to babywear.
2. Babywear! Babywear! Babywear!
I know what some of you are thinking: “But I had a giant 11lb baby and he’s too heavy to carry all the time!”. Moms used to tell me this all the time (and mind you, my baby wasn’t tiny either). I heard this when our babies were newborn, and when our babies were 6 month olds, and I still hear the same sentence now at 15 months plus. Guess what? My baby was also 11lbs, 15lbs, and 20lbs at some point, and I still carry her at 22lbs today. And hikers carry backpacks as heavy as most 5-year olds! So, I don’t buy this excuse!
Babywearing is the best invention of all time! And it is an absolute necessity when traveling.
- It is much simpler to babywear at the airport than to take a stroller, at least before the toddler age. With strollers, you have to take your baby out at security, fold the stroller, put the stroller on the belt, then open the stroller on the other side to put baby back in. If you are traveling with a baby under 6 months old, this means you have a full weight stroller, which most likely has a two-handed fold. Therefore, if you are traveling alone with a baby, you have to hand your baby to a stranger on either side and/or explain to said stranger how to fold and unfold your stroller for you. Either way, it’s a pain! If your baby’s strapped onto you, you won’t even need to take him/her out of the carrier in most airports. And you have both hands free at all times to take care of whatever else you may need to do. Easy and convenient for everyone!
- Because nursing in the carrier is a life saver! You are in line to go through security at the airport and baby starts squirming and screaming because he/she is hungry. Don’t be alarmed, though! If you are babywearing, all you need to do is adjust the carrier and nurse baby while still doing the same things you would otherwise. In the carrier! When you have mastered nursing in the carrier as a mom, nothing can stop you. This is the sole reason why we could go on a 10 day road trip through Greece with a 5-month old, and never once stop mid sightseeing to feed the baby. Nursing while walking around the Acropolis? Been there, done that!
- Most babies want to sleep attached to you. In fact, most babies just want to be attached to a human, preferably one of their parents, at all times. Babywearing takes care of this as well! So you don’t need to be stuck and tied down to baby’s nap schedule. You can go about your business, while baby happily naps in his/her favorite position and location!
3. Bassinet seats are great, but empty seats are better!
If you have a good sleeper, bassinet seats should be your go-to (so long as your baby can fit in them)! Get it, demand it, use it. Anya has not been much of a good sleeper, ever really. So, bassinet seats were always great in theory for us but never justified in practice. She would either wake up and freak out that she was in a confined space looking up at a “fasten seat belt” sign, or she just wouldn’t ever sleep in the first place. We quickly learned that having an empty seat next to us was even more valuable! The baby has room to play and sleep. This is even more critical when your baby is very mobile. They don’t want to sit, and you probably don’t want to walk up and down the airplane for the entire duration of a flight. So having a little more room goes a long way! And if you have a baby like mine who gets soo excited and stimulated in airports and on airplanes, you definitely want to have more than just your lap to hold the baby in!
4. Nurse during take-off and landing.
Anya has been on 20 flights at this point, 7 of which have been 10+ hour long flights. Not once has she cried uncontrollably during take-off or landing. I always make sure to start nursing as the plane is gearing up for take-off, and then again when the conductor announces that the plane’s about to start the descend (and anywhere in between depending on the length of the flight). Why this works?
- Nursing is comforting, and, therefore, cures all things that are bothering baby (at least in our case it does)
- The sucking motion helps the ear pressure adjust (similarly to adults sucking on a piece of candy or chewing gum).
If you are not nursing, I’m sure a bottle of formula, milk, water or even a pacifier will do the trick!
5. Road trip with a hand pump.
Again, this is for breastfed babies only. But if you are nursing a baby who is not eating solid foods yet, and you plan long drives on your upcoming trip, take a hand pump with you! You can’t always stop when necessary, and the baby doesn’t understand what it means to wait until you reach a rest stop (we learned this the hard way). In order to avoid lots of inconsolable screaming and stress while driving, take a hand pump with you, pump in anticipation of baby being hungry in an hour or so, and there you have it, a bottle ready at your fingertips! Why not take previously pumped milk with you? Because the last thing any mother wants to do is dump breastmilk. And since you can’t predict how your trip will go, it’s better to pump closer to feeding time. Also, it’s not so easy to transport already pumped breastmilk, so if you’re traveling by plane and then by car, you definitely don’t want to take breastmilk with you!
Another reason a hand pump might be useful on your trip is when visiting family. Again, if you have a little one who nurses on the clock, and you would like to take advantage of the grandparents and go on a much needed date night with your partner, you can pump and leave breastmilk for your little one!
And, in a worst case scenario, if you do end up with a clogged duct or mastitis on your trip (I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, but it can happen), you will be grateful for that hand pump!
Of course, no one's stopping you from taking your hospital grade electric pump on your upcoming trip, but who wants to do that?
6. Be prepared for poop explosions and vomit!
Eew, gross! Yes, yes it is! And the last thing you want to do is be stuck in the same stinky outfit for 17 hours. Or for your baby to be stuck in the same poopy outfit for that matter! So, especially during the early days, take outfit changes, for you and your baby! Hopefully, you won’t need any of it, but, if you do, you will be grateful you did!
7. Toddlers <3 snacks!
Traveling with a toddler? Take lots of snacks with you! And I mean LOTS! Our go to snacks are cheerios and raisins. Our toddler loves them, and, when handed to her one at a time, a little bag of cheerios and raisins can go a long way. Plus, they make for a pretty healthy and nutritious snack. So, entertainment and food in one? Yes, please! Also, they never go bad, so taking them on a long trip is not an issue.
Of course, I have more tips, but these cover the most helpful ones that I have personally used in practice! If you’d like to hear more, let me know and I’ll be happy to share. I hope you enjoy your travels, and I hope they are all smooth sailing, with or without baby!
Do you have any baby travel tips? I would love to hear about your tricks!