Thursday, July 19, 2012

traveling with the pants

Motherhood tends to bring out my penchant for thorough research. And let's be honest, I don't really need an excuse at all to go on a good ol' google research mission, but being a new (and often clueless) mom definitely ramps up and feeds my need to turn to the web for answers. But! Even though any little thing can give me the itch to research ("ooh I wonder if Jeffrey Donovan is single!"), my current research project is actually a very worthy and important one: tips for flying/traveling with the Pants. I may quite possibly have read every blog entry/article that exists on the WWW that relates to some aspect of traveling with small children. The hubs and I are taking the Pants to LA in a week. Excited? Yup. Terrified? Utterly. Even adults can't sit still through a 6+ hour flight. How are we possibly going to manage taking an extremely active and curious 11-month-old on the flight to LA? Well, I don't know. And even if we do everything right, I'm aware of the possibility that if she wants to fuss and cry (and make everyone on the plane despise us), then that's what she'll do. But I will do everything in my power to prevent that from happening and to keep her entertained, occupied, full and happy. So the below are the fruits of my research labor. They have not yet been tested, so I'll try to post again after the trip and give my thoughts on what worked and didn't work. Let me know if you find it helpful, or, even better, if based on experience you totally disagree! (Also, this is obviously tailored to a kid Pants' age and may or may not apply to younger/older kids, but one thing I concluded from my research is that it seems that this age might actually be the hardest for traveling. yay.)

1. Get to the airport way earlier than you need to. Extra time at the airport with a baby sounds miserable, but it's way worse to be rushing to catch a flight with a baby, a stroller and a carseat in tow, not to mention the luggage. Once you pass security, you'll have time to regroup, feed the baby, entertain her, put her to sleep if necessary, buy anything you might need, etc.

2. If you didn't buy the baby a seat, as soon as you get to the gate, ask the airline employee if the flight is full. If not, they may give you an empty seat for her. If you can't get a seat for the baby, make sure you sit near the window. If you're in the aisle seat and baby falls asleep, but then the person next to you needs to go to the bathroom, guess what? You're going to have to get up and risk waking up the baby.

3. Think carefully about what time to fly. Some parents find that flying redeye is awesome because the baby just sleeps the whole flight. Some parents have found the complete opposite, that the baby is super tired but uncomfortable and can't fall asleep so she basically screams the entire flight. Again, there's no way to predict, but think about this before you book the flight. It's probably safer to fly a day flight if you don't think your baby will sleep through the redeye.

4. Babies often don't need toys to be entertained. Be creative on the flight - sometimes two cups from the flight attendant is all you need to buy 20 minutes of peace.

5. If you're going somewhere in the U.S. that isn't an hour away from the closest supermarket, you don't have to pack baby food for the entire trip. Buy it when you get to your destination to save the effort packing (and your luggage will be lighter). A lot of hotels these days will accept packages for you in advance of your arrival (from places like or amazon).

6. Call the hotel ahead of time and request a crib and a fridge. Some hotels even have high-chairs, so ask them what they have.

7. Don't use the rental car company's carseat. Bring your own. You don't know how old they are, they're probably nasty, and you can bet that they didn't follow manufacturer instructions in the case of a recall. It's a pain, but it's probably best to just bring your own carseat.

8. Baby jetlag - well, apparently it's easier to go west. So that's good for us flying out to LA, but it'll suck when we come back. The advice is all over the place on this one - some say if it's not that much of a difference, just stick with your home time. Some say to try to keep baby up (in other words, if baby's bedtime is 7pm, keep baby up till 7pm LA time, which is 10pm at home) and that the baby might be sleepy the first morning but will eventually adjust. I'm still not sure what to do since we're only in LA for 4 days, but I'm sure in the end I won't have much say, because if the Pants falls asleep, you can be sure I'm not waking her up! The one thing they did agree on is that sunlight is the best way to reset your internal clock, so once you get to your destination, try to go outside to help baby (and you!) adjust.

Carry-on packing list

  • Stroller and carseat - gate check
  • Copy of birth certificate (if your baby is: 1. close to two yrs old or is ginormous and could be mistaken for two, 2. you didn't buy baby a seat, and 3. the airline wants to confirm)
  • Cash! Last thing you need is to really need something and be told, sorry, we only take cash
  • Toys, preferably light and quiet - bring the baby's favorites + some new ones that she hasn't seen before so it'll grab her attention for a while. Examples: balls, finger puppets, stacking cups, links, plush animals, blocks. Some blogs also suggest wrapping the toys in wrapping paper to add an extra minute or two of peace.
  • Books 
  • Sticker book and/or post-its - kids love anything sticky (side note: sometimes when the Pants wakes up at 5:30 and the hubs and I are not ready to start the day, we throw a pack of post-its at her and it buys us 20 minutes, even though we have to sleep with one eye open because she tries to eat them)
  • Small photo book with pictures of your family - babies love pictures!
  • WAY more diapers than you think you'll need, and pull-up diapers in case the plane's bathroom doesn't have a diaper changing area (you should test the pull-ups before the plane ride to make sure they fit baby - you don't want leaks happening on the plane)
  • Wipes (LOTS)
  • Diaper changing pad
  • Formula - if your baby drinks formula, the best way to bring it on-board is to use the Playtex nurser bottles with the plastic drop-in liners so you don't have to deal with bringing liquids on-board. While the TSA officially allows liquid formula, there are lots of stories of security people giving parents a hard time, so you might as well avoid the stress if you can. Measure the formula powder, put into the drop-in liners, roll the liners up, put in a zip-lock bag. Once you're on-board you just need to ask the flight attendants for water, and you're done.  Bring a lot more than you think you'll need, taking into account the possibility of delays
  • Playtex nurser bottles and extra liners (the Playtex bottles are good for vacation in general because there are less parts to wash)
  • Baby food
  • Spoons, forks, bowls
  • Lots of snacks. Examples: puffs, rice crackers, fruit (that isn't too liquidy like bananas or grapes)
  • Sippy cup
  • Straws
  • Scented diaper disposal bags, extra zip-lock bags
  • Hand sanitizer/anti-bacterial wipes (they definitely do not wipe down the trays after every flight)
  • Blankets (airlines rarely give out blankets for free now, and the cabin can get chilly)
  • Extra baby clothes, including sweatshirt, hat & socks for baby
  • Extra set of clothes for mommy and daddy (self-explanatory)
  • Baby's first aid kit - advil, thermometer, nosefrida, etc.
  • Carrier
  • A big flexible carry-on bag that you can easily shove things into and take things out of 
  • Last, but definitely not least, iPad ( me - this one is tried and true)