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My husband and I are seasoned travelers. When we were first married my husband worked for the airlines and so we could travel for free! I so miss those days of spontaneous trips and frequent travel! We used to travel 8-10 times a year, but have cut back in the recent years. We are very comfortable with traveling, but throwing a baby in the mix definitely makes things more interesting/complex.
We have traveled with baby Don twice before this trip. Once when he was two months old and when he was 8 months old- both were driving trips 4-6 hours away. We definitely learned the hard way with those trips and so we applied those things for a successful international trip.
Here is what worked for our 11 month old-
- Think of the airplane ride in 5-10 minute increments. What can you keep them occupied with for the next 5 minutes? Once they are bored with that, move on to the next 5 minute activity
- Activities- For our plane ride there, Don slept for 1 hour and for the rest we worked hard to keep him occupied. He screamed for about 5 minutes but was awesome for the rest. Here are activities that worked for us-
- Books. We brought with us a board book with animals to pet- we went through this a few times. Pat the Bunny is a favorite (and so classic!)
- Apps. I downloaded free baby apps on my phone and tablet so we could play those together. I like the Fisher Price free apps (my baby is really into animal noises right now and there is a great one for that)
- Snacks. My baby loves puffs or oranges right now, but I have heard of older kids liking raisins. Just give them one at a time and really draw it out. You can bring baby food on planes (which I did), but I never wanted to deal with the mess of eating or the inevitable diaper change so we didn’t use them. They were more of an emergency option 🙂
- Water. I made sure to have my baby’s sippy cup filled up with bottled water after we passed customs so he could have something to sip on (aka one more thing to do)
- Toys. I used an old puffs plastic container and put toys in it. I wrapped each one in ribbon or string so he could pull one toy out of the bin, unwrap it and then play with it. This is a somewhat messy option, but my baby did love playing with a matchbox car on a string. I have heard wrapping toys in wrapping paper, but I thought that sounded messier and I am still at the stage of putting everything in the month and eating paper is still not my favorite 🙂
- Snapchat. This is a random one, but the app Snapchat has a function where you can turn your face into silly things like a cat or it puts sunglasses on you. Very entertaining for a little one!
- Headphones. We purchased these kid headphones because they have AWESOME ratings, are affordable, and they limit the sound (aka, there is a limiter on how high the volume can go up so you don’t blast their tiny ears). They fit my 11 month old just great! He isn’t much of a TV watcher, but we started a video and within a few minutes he was asleep. Success! Embarrassing confession- I finished watching the movie with the same headphones so they really fit a variety of head sizes (insert laughing until I’m crying emoji)
- Surroundings. This one is obvious, but pull out the card from the seat back and look at the pictures for deplaning in an emergency. Open the window before takeoff and point out the workers and tell your baby what is going on. At the end of our plane ride there, we were all a little over it. We were circling over the airport for 45 minutes waiting for clearance to land when Don got a little cranky. We luckily were sitting next to the sweetest grandma who held him and he loved staring at her and all of the other passengers he could now see on the aisle
- For our plane ride back home, Don slept for 98% of the 4.5 hour ride. It was BLISS! I watched a whole movie while he slept in my arms. Here is what worked for us to get him to sleep
- Breastfeeding. During takeoff and whenever he briefly woke up (planes are SO annoying with all of the overhead announcements!) I would feed him and he would go straight to sleep. I do feed him immediately before sleep normally, so try to recreate your bedtime routine
- Pajamas. Don sleeps in these Zippadee Zip pajamas (we LOVE them because they restrict his arm movement a bit, but he can still rollover, crawl, and stand up in them). He had them on in the plane and slept SO well
- Blanket or Nursing Cover- I used my lightweight nursing cover (no longer available) as a blanket over his face to help eliminate distractions/ make it more dark for him
- Sedation- this one is controversial, but talk to your pediatrician and/or pharmist and see if/what dosage they recommend for helping your baby sleep on the plane. I personally couldn’t imagine how awful a plane ride would be with a screaming baby the whole way, so I did use some medication. I did some research and here is what others recommend:
- Sedation tips-
- Get the proper dosage for your age/baby’s weight. This is REALLY important to get right
- Test before the plane ride. Lots of kids get more hyper with Benadryl, so you have to test beforehand! My child sleeps 2 hours every morning and on Benadryl he didn’t sleep at all. So we ended up using the Dramamine. I get plane sick so I didn’t mind the idea of it helping him sleep and potentially avoid being motion sick. This worked like a charm, especially on the second plane ride. We gave him 1/2 of a tablet
- For landing and take off, make sure to protect their little ears! Have you ever had your ears not pop on a plane? It is so painful! Don had no problem, but I made sure he was nursing or sucking on a pacifier through the big elevation changes.
- Last, if you are traveling internationally, make sure to get your passport 6 weeks in advance. We had to pay a rush fee because we needed it in 5 weeks. Learn from us :). Also, how cute are baby passport photos?!
For a work trip when Don was 8 months old, I was able to take him and my husband with me. We stayed in a small room and the only place for the pack and play was in the same room as us. It was miserable because he would see us and not sleep- he was up every hour on the hour and I was exhausted by the end of the trip. Or when he would go to sleep at 8pm we would have to be really quiet in the dark until it was our bed time. So for this trip I was adamant we have the following things in a hotel:
- Extra room- if you can afford it, try to get a suite or balcony so that after the baby goes to sleep, the party isn’t over for everyone else. We rented a hotel with one bedroom, a living room, kitchen, and a balcony. It was SO nice to put the baby to sleep in the bedroom and then have two other spaces to hang out. The location of our hotel wasn’t ideal, but it was the compromise to get a hotel room in our budget with the space our family needed.
- Pack and Play- make sure your hotel has a crib or pack and play you can use. Obvious, but definitely a deal breaker. If you have to be in the same room, drape a blanket over the pack and play so that it is as dark and isolated for the baby as possible (if you don’t normally sleep in the same room as your child)
- Wifi- a few of the rooms we looked at didn’t have wifi. With being out of the country I couldn’t imagine not being able to talk to the house sitter who was watching our dogs or just zone out on social media while the baby slept.
- Eat-in Capabilities- with a baby, eating out for 3 meals a day gets tiring for us (having to keep him happy while we wait for a meal to be prepared can be hard work!). So we made sure to rent a hotel with the option to eat at the hotel. Honestly, if your room has a mini fridge you’ll be able to at least have cereal in the morning which can save your wallet and sanity.
On the Go Tips–
- Camelbak- my husband has a Camelbak hydration backpack (it has a pouch for water that comes out a hose on the shoulder pads) that ended up being perfect for an on the go diaper bag! It was easy to carry around (as opposed to an over the shoulder diaper bag) and carried water so we wouldn’t get dehydrated. The best part was that our baby could drink out of it too!
- Baby Bjorn- we didn’t want to mess with hauling a stroller around, so we (mostly me) carried our baby around in the baby Bjorn. I love how easy it is to use and then he is contained and safe strapped on you, plus so compact to travel with! This was a $50 baby shower gift and one of the most useful! We have carried Don in it since he was a few weeks old and it is still going strong!
- Seasonal Clothing- because we were traveling to a warm place in the winter, I needed to buy clothes for our baby. The problem is that no one is selling summer clothes yet. I lucked out when I went to H&M and found last summer’s clothes on a deep discount. I bought them in the next size up so they will fit this summer and got a bunch of stuff from $1-$5 each (I got things like sandles, shorts, tanktops, a sun hat). Score! Plus, he looked very cute!
- Baby Powder- pack baby powder when you go to the beach so you can sprinkle it on your baby’s skin which helps the sand come off painlessly
- Sunscreen- if your baby is older than 6 months, make sure to put baby sunscreen on them in the hotel room before you go (that way you don’t have to worry about it later). We also tried to always have a hat and long sleeves on the baby so he didn’t get sunburnt
Our trip was so fun and it was a blast just to unwind and spend quality time with my favorite people! One of my favorite travel quotes is “We travel not to escape life, but for life to not escape us.” I am pretty sad it is over with, but even though it was a ton of work, I wouldn’t trade this last week for the world. Don was a little social butterfly and made friends everywhere. It was fun to see things through his eyes. He has learned to point and would point and stare at birds. I would whisper in his ear what a bird says and he would just grin. Anyway, my trip was amazing and I can’t wait to plan the next one! Do you have any travel tips that I didn’t include?