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Planes, Trains, Automobiles & Boats: Summer Travel Tips

By lindsay

By Lindsay Pinchuk, Founder, Bump Club and Beyond
With the first BIG summer travel weekend/week upon us, I thought nothing would be more appropriate than to share some of the tips I have learned myself over the last 21 months of traveling with my daughter, as well as some of the great tips that were shared at our annual “Everything You Need to Know About Traveling with Your Baby” event both this year and last, sponsored by our friends at Britax.

My biggest advice is to roll with the punches no matter what the situation.  As you may remember from when J was five months old, or her reprise from when she was just over a year—you can’t always control what happens.  (But don’t forget to bring extra clothes for BOTH mom and baby! Take it from one who knows.)
As you gear up to travel this summer and beyond with baby, here are a few resources for you:
1.  Travel Gear Checklist:  Click here on our resource page for a downloadable list of all of the travel gear discussed at our travel event.  Included is a list of what to pack in your travel diaper bag.
2. TSA Guidelines: Know the rules before you go.  A couple of suggestions in regards to using these:

  • Print them out and keep them in your bag.
  • Per travel expert Colleen Kelly, if you have a question, email the airline.  When they respond, print out the response so that if anyone questions you, you have their response in writing.
  • Just know that sometimes it all depends on who you get at TSA.  If there is a family line, us it as usually they are familiar with babies, breastmilk, formula, etc. (See more below about security logistics.)

3.  Here are the links to the rules and regulations for traveling with kids and babies on some of the bigger airlines.  Check them out before you fly (or before you book your ticket.)  In our experience alone we have found that Southwest is the most kid-friendly. (Just sayin’.)

4.   The first time that you take the baby on an airplane, it can be intimidating.  From a logistical standpoint, there are many ways which you can navigate the airport and plane ride successfully.  Here are a few pointers/suggestions (Please note: these are just what I find work for me…they may not be for you or everyone and are merely suggestions.)  Figure out what works best for YOU and you can modify from trip to trip.  Remember, every trip is a different adventure.

  • When you get to the airport get dropped off curbside and check everything you can to make your trip into the airport as simple as possible.  On most airlines, you can check two free baby related items (car seat, pack N play, stroller etc.).  Keep in mind, less is more.  If your family drove to the airport, take the baby/kids inside and wait for your significant other to park the car and you can go through security together so you can have some added help.
  • If you can, bring the car seat on the plane with you.  You never know how it is going to get tossed around if you check it.  Keep in mind there are a few theories here.  If you have a toddler over two, you have to purchase a seat, so you can use a product like the Britax Car Seat Travel Cart to get your car seat through the airport and on to the plane.  If you have a toddler who is still a lap child, but did not buy them a seat, you can either: 1)Check the car seat at the curb.  Make sure you have it in a good travel bag in order to prevent damage. This is the Britax Car Seat Travel Bag, JL Childress makes a couple great ones too. 2) You can bring your seat through security and if there is an empty seat, use it on the plane.  If not, you can gate check it.  IF you gate check it, make sure you use a gate check bag like this one from JL Childress. If you have a infant/newborn that you will be holding on the plane, you can wheel them through the airport in their infant car seat/stroller system and check it all at the gate, carrying the baby on to the plane. The other option is to check it all before security and use a carrier, however you never know how long you may have to walk, so having the car seat/stroller is a good option. Again, if you have the car seat and there is an empty seat, you can use the car seat on the plane.
  • For security: Your baby/toddler will have to come out of the car seat/stroller/carrier.  If you can, try to find a family security line.  As mentioned before, they often seem to know the rules and are much more patient.  If you are traveling alone, take everything of yours off and put them in security bins before you take the baby out.  Take the baby out last.  Someone will help you put the stroller through the scanner.  Be prepared, they may test any baby-related liquids or food.
  • When boarding:  This is a personal preference.  In our family, we like to board last to be on the plane for the least amount of time.  Some people like to board as early as possible to get settled. Some nursing moms have told me they get on first and pump in the bathroom before take-off.  Again, personal preference.
  • During the plane ride:  Try to feed the baby on take off and landing, it helps to relieve the pressure in their ears.  Even though Toddler J does not take a bottle anymore, I try to give her snacks (which she loves) so that she is swallowing and hopefully relieving the pressure on her own.  We often bring our iPad and load it up with games and videos that we know J will like.  This is a great activity for long-hauls.  Snacks help too.  Cindy Richards from Travelingmom.com shared a tip last year which Hollie from Babygizmo.com reiterated this year:  wrap up presents and old toys before the plane ride.  Every 10-15 minutes, give baby/toddler a new “present” to open!  You’d be shocked by how this occupies a little one.

5.  While I LOVE to travel and LOVE to take Toddler J with, keep in mind that sometimes traveling with a little one is not necessarily a vacation (unless you have help), but often a change of scenery.  Here are some adjustments that we have made to our travel logistics to accommodate our newest family member on trips and keep it enjoyable for us:

  • If you’re staying in a hotel and you can, get a suite.  Babies go to bed early and if you are all in the same room and don’t have a large bathroom or walk-in closet, you will be going to bed early too.  Don’t forget, all you have to do is ask when you check in.  What’s the worse they say, no?  Per travel expert, Colleen Kelley from Family Travel with Colleen Kelly, you can also ask for a handicapped room and roll baby’s crib into the bathroom.
  • Rent a house, condo or apartment at your destination.  This will give everyone more room and privacy, and often can be a lot less than a hotel.  Check out sites such as VRBO and Home Away.
  • I know a lot of us are sticklers to routine with baby…but make sure to enjoy vacation too.  Just know that if you get off schedule, you WILL be able to get back on once you are back home.  It just may take a little extra work and a few days.

6. Lastly, here are some of our favorite apps to help make your travel adventures easy, enjoyable, and FUN!

  • Pack N Go Deluxe: Pre-written packing lists for kids of all ages. ($2.99)
  • metrO: Navigates the public transportation systems of 400 cities. (Free)
  • Sunday Drives: Turns a long boring ride into a serious adventure. (Free)
  • Mom Maps: Helps you find kid-friendly places in most major cities. (Free)
  • HoteTonight: Last-minute discounts on hotel rooms. (Free)
  • Gate Guru: Navigate all major airports with this revolutionary app. (Free)
  • MyTSA: Forget the printout above, this app tells you what you can and cannot bring through security. (Free)
  • Draw and Tell HD: A kids’ drawing app to keep even the youngest ones occupied. ($1.99)
  • Postino: Create and send real postcards from your favorite travel destinations. (Free app, $1.99 to send the postcards in the mail.)
  • Yelp: Instant reviews on anywhere in any city.  A must for any vacation. (Free)
  • ZuiTube: A kid-friendly library of pre-approved videos that will keep everyone occupied while traveling! (Free)
  • TripCase: Keeps all of your travel information organized in one place. (Free)
  • TSAwait:Tells you the wait time at TSA checkpoints all over the country. ($.99)
  • Best Baby Monitor App:Turn your iPhone, iPad, or Mac into a baby monitor while traveling. ($4.99)
  • Foodspotting:Find a restaurant based on what you and your family is craving!(Free)
  • SitOrSquat:When nature calls…use this app to find a clean place to use the bathroom and take care of business. (Free)

Most important—HAVE FUN!  While travel is a completely different experience once you bring a baby along for the ride, it is also a blast.
Safe travels!

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