At the tender age of five months, Juna is already a seasoned traveler. We have made three trips by plane and one long drive so far, and through trial and error, I have learned a thing or two! I thought I might share what worked (and didn't...) for us in hopes of saving other mamas out there from the stress of the unknown.
Traveling by plane? Here's what to expect.... lap infants under 2 need proof of age in the form of a birth certificate or shot record (yep, even my little peanut needed this). Antibacterial wipes are essential for sanitizing the yucky plane so I don't worry when Juna inevitably decides she needs to touch everything within arms' reach. I love this Latch On Nursing Cover Strap that transforms any blanket into a nursing cover, so baby can be cozy while she eats. Our family likes to travel light, so we leave the heavy car seat and stroller at home. I put Juna in the Moby, which allows me to be hands free. The wrap also came in handy when I accidentally left my blanket in the car and needed a nursing cover. When going through security, baby can stay in the wrap/carrier but TSA will pull you aside to swipe your hands. They will also test your breastmilk or formula (over 3 ounces) so be prepared. We either rent a car with a car seat or use a car service and request a (rear-facing) infant car seat to get us to our hotel. We purchased a convertible car seat for my parents so we are covered any time we go to visit Marmee, JarJar and Nana. This seat is safe, inexpensive and will last through toddler-hood: Evenflow Car Seat. Dress baby in an all-in-one footie to avoid losing those teeny, tiny socks, and scope out the family restrooms so you can change baby (do so about ten minutes before boarding).
Timing is everything with infants, so if you can, book a flight that coincides with a nap time. Reserve seats in the back of the plane (louder, and closer to the bathrooms). If you're traveling with another adult, book an aisle and window seat in hopes that no one will take the middle (if they do, you can always ask to switch). I like to sit near the window so I can nurse more discreetly. If you're on Southwest or similar airline, take a whole row and put the baby on the aisle as people are choosing seats. Trust me, no one will want to sit next to what they assume will be a crying baby... When the plane takes off, either encourage baby to nurse, take a paci or bottle to help their little ears adjust. Juna usually will fall asleep in my arms at this point under her cozy blankie and will sleep for at least a couple hours. Yes, your back and arms will be sore the rest of the day from holding the little one, but trust me, you will not regret letting baby sleep for at least part of your flight. When baby is up, be sure to have her favorite toys or books handy. Save the big guns (for us, it's her Sophie) for when your baby gets really fussy. Offer a paci, bottle or nursing session when you start your descent to your destination. Our first flight, Juna cried pretty hard on the way down, so I learned to latch her on before her ears start to bother her. Since that first plane ride, we have had zero crying or fussing on the plane, and Juna loves to fly!
Traveling by car? TRAVEL AT NIGHT WHEN BABY USUALLY SLEEPS. My mom and I learned this the hard way when we left in the afternoon. Juna was only five weeks old and cried for four of our six hour drive to Sacramento (seriously). Now, we leave around bedtime so Juna slumbers for the full six hours. We have a white noise machine to attach to the car seat to assist Juna in falling asleep . Bring the car to the mechanic's before your drive so you know your vehicle is in good condition and not sans headlights (true story). Leave with a full tank of gas to avoid unnecessary stops. Be prepared: Baby may freak out. Don't take him or her out of the car seat while driving, as was recommended to me by an ill-informed driver. It isn't the end of the world if Baby cries; trust me, we survived 3.5 months of colic! Also, stock up on caffeinated beverages for your driver, or if you are behind the wheel and are a nursing mom, bring gum to help stay alert on your drive. A word to the wise.... don't drink too much to avoid unnecessary bathroom breaks.
Once you have reached your destination, do your best to stick with your baby's routine/schedule. If we miss a nap, Juna goes into full meltdown-mode, leading to some up-till-four-a.m debacles (yes, this happened. Twice.). I have an excellent app on my iPod to keep track of Juna's naps and feedings. We keep Pacific time when going back east as best we can. For a couple weeks before we left, I also put a soft blanket underneath Juna while she napped (tucking it into the crib of course) and brought that to Chicago with us. I put it under her for all her naps so it smelled like home and also swaddled Juna so she would feel safe in this new place. I only left the hotel once in order to protect Juna's naps. It was worth it. We were able to go easily back to her naptime schedule upon our return to LA. We co-sleep on the road, but also request a porta-crib for our room so she can play or relax in a safe place. If you can afford it, consider getting a two-room suite so baby can nap without both parents needing to sit silently in the dark for an hour or two. Remember to bring your baby monitor if you use one!
Cloth diapering presents an interesting conundrum while traveling. When in Sacramento, I bring our gDiapers with the compostable, flushable inserts. My mom doesn't mind if we use her washer/dryer for our dipes. When in Chicago, we went the disposable route. Juna got a diaper rash and I was seriously disturbed at the amount of garbage we left, so next time we're at a hotel, I'm going to try hand-washing and see how that goes. Pumping is also a challenge (who wants to travel with those heavy electric pumps??) so I got a manual pump for our trip as we had to leave Juna with a sitter for a few hours to attend a wedding. Practice with your manual pump before you leave; it took awhile for me to get the hang of it!
Traveling with a baby can be tricky, but being prepared can prevent many an issue. Juna can definitely sense when I am nervous, so I try to stay calm and remember that most of our fellow passengers are sympathetic to the travails of infant travel. My first flight with Juna was a solo trip, and I had two lovely people offer to help with the baby on the plane. One was a mommy of a two-year-old, who very generously reminded the people around me how challenging it is to travel alone with a baby during Juna's huge landing meltdown. Babies are so cute, even the fussiest ones are easily forgiven!
I wish you safe travels this holiday season. If you have any travel trips, feel free to comment and share! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Joyous New Year to all!
|Goodnight Moon, Virgin America Style.|