Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Tips on Traveling with a Baby


Before we had Junior, S and I were worried about two things: losing our luxurious weekend lie-ins, and continuing to travel around the world. As it turns out, Junior is a pretty good sleeper, and we now know that at seven months, he is a good traveler as well.

The key to traveling with a baby is PLANNING AHEAD. I'm quite well-organised even when we are close to home, so traveling abroad was more an exercise in what not to bring.

For comparison's sake, when we went to the Lakes, we rented a car and used the space to bring:

  • Stroller and carseat
  • Travel cot with changing table attachment
  • One week supply of instant formula in 200ml cartons (heavy!)
  • One week supply of nappies
  • Playmat and toys
  • Sleepsack
  • Clothes, muslins, sheets, blanket...
  • Calpol (baby paracetamol), thermometer, teething gel

For our Oslo trip, we brought:

  • Stroller
  • Two day supply of instant formula - in hand luggage and checked bag
  • Two day supply of nappies
  • Playmat and toys (about half the amount we brought to the Lakes)
  • Sleepsack
  • About half the amount of clothes and muslins; blanket
  • Calpol sachets, thermometer, teething gel

Following are some of the strategies and services we used to make the trip easier:

Car service reserved in advance both ways to/from Heathrow Airport; carseat provided. This was more expensive than a normal minicab to the airport, but far easier than trying to navigate the Tube with a stroller, two suitcases, and two backpacks. I have read that some minicab companies will allow you to bring your own carseat and keep it while you are away, but I'm not sure I trust them. Who is to say that the carseat we used didn't belong to someone who was lounging on a beach in Tenerife?!

Stroller folded in travel bag and checked in with our luggage. I carried Junior in the Ergo and was allowed to keep him on me going through security.

Heathrow Airport Reserve and Collect service for instant formula: this was brilliant. We only brought one carton of formula with us because we suspected (correctly) that we would have to open it at security and taste it (by the way: gross!) Once we passed through security, we picked up 4 more cartons of formula at Boots. This ensured that we had enough with us for the flight and any delays, plus enough on hand to last until we located a supermarket in Oslo. It also kept the weight of our checked bags lower since we did not bring it with us from home. The customer service reps were wonderful and it was very easy to use. Highly recommended.

Breastfeeding Junior at take-off. This was tricky mainly because economy airplane seats are not very comfortable, but Junior seemed to know instinctively that it would help relax him and he fell asleep almost immediately. We were incredibly lucky that he slept the whole way to Oslo (he woke up shortly before landing on the way home). We had a bottle of formula prepared just in case, but we did not need any of the toys I had packed for entertainment - and thankfully we didn't have to deal with changing dirty nappies on the plane. I am aware that we won't be so lucky on the 10-hour flight to California in October, but we're counting on getting a bassinet (please, Virgin, please!) which should help.

Nappies. We use Huggies at home, but bought Pampers in Oslo. Fortunately, Junior does not have problems with nappy rash so the change of brands did not bother him, although I found that the Pampers had a slightly worrying rubber smell :(

Portable changing mat with pockets for nappies and wipes. This goes everywhere with me and I am surprised at the number of mums who think the pockets are "such a good idea". It never even occurred to me to buy a changing mat without them! For this trip, I had to change Junior on the floor on numerous occasions, so having a mat was imperative.

Formula. This was one of my biggest worries. Junior likes Hipp Organic instant infant milk, rather than powder. The first supermarket we found sold NAN, but the second supermarket - incredibly enough - sold Hipp Organic! Junior was fine with both kinds, but I imagine it would be hard to find the exact same formula in other countries (it's hard enough to find in other parts of the UK). If your baby drinks powdered formula, it would probably be easier to bring your own.

Sleepsack and toys. Junior is fairly easygoing and seems to have inherited my ability to sleep anywhere, but I wanted him to have some familiar items for bedtime and playtime.

Calpol. We bought Calpol sachets, which are acceptable on planes (as opposed to the bottles, which may exceed liquid limits), but Junior did not need them. Some parents swear by a dose of Calpol to knock the baby out before flying, but we got lucky.

Change of clothes for baby AND mum in hand luggage - because you never know when the baby will spit up or smear banana all over you.

Both parents traveling together. This won't always be possible, but I was so glad not to be traveling alone with Junior.

Serviced apartment. We opted for renting an apartment, rather than staying at a hotel. This had several advantages, including full kitchen and laundry facilities. We did laundry halfway through the trip, so I did not have to pack as many clothes for Junior or myself, and we cooked about half our meals (cheaper and easier with the baby). It also gave us a place to hang out during the day while it was raining and/or Junior breastfed.

I can't say that I'm looking forward to a 10-hour flight with a baby, particularly since the chances are good that Junior will be walking by then, but at least I feel more prepared.

What other travel tips do you have?


aedredhead said...

The best tip that I read about, and used on our 10-hour flight from SF to London was to pack each thing for the baby in its own zipper bag so that it is easy to find the things you need on the plane quickly. So diapers were in one bag, toys in another, snacks would go in a third bag, change of clothes, etc. I would also highly recommend chatting up the flight attendants and ask which lavatories are equipped with changing tables. On the flight over, I thought the only one was all the way at the back of the plane--not such a big deal, but on the way home, I found out that the wc in front of our seats also had a changing table. Much more convenient! For longer flights, I also suggest asking the flight attendants to bring meals for the adults separately so that one can eat while the other holds baby. And make sure that they reserve the second eater's preferred meal choice!

fredda cassidy said...

Very thoughtful post. Here's a tip from Grandma: When you were a babe in arms my luggage was lost on two different long flights. I recommend moms carry on two simple changes of clothes for themselves rather than just one. I always had several changes for you on hand but I was super miserable in my banana coated maxi dress for 1.5 days until our luggage arrived ):

Piper Lei said...

I do agree with your tips. When travelling with a baby, there's no such thing as overpacking. You wouldn't want to worry when you're in the middle of the road.