One of the main sources of discomfort for infants traveling on airplanes is the change in cabin pressure when taking off and landing. This causes pressure in the ears, and can be quite painful for the baby, particularly if the baby has a stuffy nose. Prepare for this by planning to nurse or give a bottle or pacifier to the child during take-offs and landing to help alleviate the pressure.
Younger babies (under 6 months) tend to sleep on planes, and many are lulled by the engine noise. If your baby is awake and fussy, use a Baby Bjorn or other baby sling to walk up and down the aisle to give the baby a change of scenery. Bring along an age-appropriate new rattle, book, toy, or stuffed animal to keep the baby amused, and don’t forget cool teething rings for babies needing something to chew. Airsickness bags can make an on-the-spot hand puppet—just draw a face on the bottom of the bag and amuse your child with endless games of “Peek-a-Boo”.
When it’s time to eat, it is fairly easy to nurse on the plane. Although there was an incident in 2006 where a nursing mom was ejected from a plane, which caused widespread protests, it is perfectly fine to nurse your baby on the plane. You might want to bring along a small pillow for extra support, since the ones provided by the airline are fairly small and slippery. You can improvise and use few rolled up airplane blankets or baby blankets from home, and use an extra blanket for privacy. Book a window seat if would like maximum privacy. If you are using bottles, it is easiest to use the pre-measured, individual servings of formula. If using powdered formula, measure it out beforehand in individual baggies or in a container with compartments made just for this purpose. Bring along a small, soft-sided cooler for anything that is frozen or must be kept cool.
You can thaw out frozen breast milk in hot water using an airsickness bag. Ask the flight attendant to pour some hot water into the bag (make sure they are usually plastic lined and won’t leak). Put the frozen milk in, slosh it around, and wait for it to thaw or warm up. Another idea is to get a collapsible bowl at a pet store and use this as your bottle warmer, along with hot water from the flight attendant.
If you are traveling solo with baby, you may be able to get an Escort Pass for your spouse or other helper to help you take things to the gate. Airlines vary in their rules about this, and post 9/11 there are many that no longer allow this. Some only allow it for people helping disabled individuals, or for unaccompanied minors. Call ahead to find out if your air carrier will issue an Escort Pass or has staff to help you if you need it. Sometimes, other sympathetic passengers and flight attendants will help out, but don’t count on it. Instead, do a dry-run at home before you leave to make sure you can manage everything by yourself if worse comes to worse. Pack up the baby and the luggage and walk around the block to see how you will manage the luggage and the gear.
Getting Through Security
It seems as though every airport is different when it comes to how to checking families with children. We’ve experienced everything from fairly intrusive pat-down searches to just walking on through without even so much as a glance beneath our stroller. Usually, it is somewhere in the middle. To be safe, plan to be at the airport early to be prepared for delays getting through security. If your baby is in a sling or back-pack type carrier, you may have to remove him or her and hold the child out in front of you as you walk through. The stroller will usually have to be emptied and screened manually by a checker. Some airports do not require that you remove the child from a front or back-carrier, but you will have to send a car seat carrier and folding stroller through the X-ray machine. Be prepared for either event.
The current regulations restrict liquids to 3 oz containers or less, but baby food, formula, and breast milk are exempted if you are traveling with a child who needs them. Right after 9/11, one mom on the news reported having to chug breast milk out of her baby’s bottle to prove that it was, in fact, breast milk and not something else. Thankfully, they seem to have abandoned this breast-milk testing practice. Be sure to pack things in see-through plastic bags, so that the security personnel don’t have to rummage through everything and contaminate pacifiers, nipples, and teethers when searching your bag.
Try to wear comfortable, slip-on shoes when traveling, since you are now required to remove your shoes when you go through screening. If you're carrying a baby, it can be difficult to bend down and lace up your sneakers when you come out, so that's one less thing you have to juggle.
The lovely Elizabeth of Table 4 Five nominated my blog for "Best Travel Blog" so please click here and vote for yours truly! Thanks, Elizabeth. You need to sign up first, but it is free. Be sure to click that box that says you are over 13, or it might not let you sign up.
Thanks also to Patti of Strollerderby for writing about my travel tips for traveling with infants on that uber-cool site. If you're here via Strollerderby, WELCOME! I've been getting a lot of new visitors based on Patti's write-up. More traveling tips for parents will be coming soon.
Before taking off a journey to the next town or the next continent, you should stop to consider the age and developmental issues for your child, health considerations, and your child's personality. You should also consider how well you handle stress, because there will be stress, no matter how meticulously you plan ahead. The key is to be prepared, keep an open mind, and keep your sense of humor intact. If you can do that, you will be way ahead of the game.
As a family, Frank, Alex, and I have visited 21 countries and 18 states together, so we are veteran travelers. Alex has been traveling since he was six weeks old, and has racked up quite a few frequent flyer miles in his six years of life. Many people think that traveling with small kids is just not worth the trouble, but our experience has been that it is worthwhile, fun, and rewarding. Every trip has been a new adventure, whether Alex was a newborn, toddler, pre-schooler, or now that he's a worldly-wise first grader.
One of the reasons that travel is so important to us, is that about a year before Alex was born, Frank's mother passed away. She had worked and saved her whole life, so that when she retired, she could travel the world with her husband. She retired, and the two of them went to Australia. A month after they returned, she died. The lesson for us was that we should not put off traveling, that we should make it a priority in our lives to see the places we've dreamed of seeing, and to make our son a part of those memories.
We take advantage of every opportunity to see a new place, whether it's a short drive or a long haul. It's something we love, and has been overwhelmingly positive for all of us. Every trip has been a teaching opportunity and learning experience for all three of us. We try to prepare in advance by reading books on the place we're visiting, watching shows on PBS and the Discovery Channel, and finding age-appropriate books for Alex on the country. We try to learn a few words of the language, so that we know the basics of "please," "thank you," "hello," and "excuse me."
Now that you've decided to take the plunge and take a trip with your baby, start packing! I took my first solo trip with my son when he was 8 weeks old, to meet my husband at a family funeral in Arizona. With baby Alexander in the Baby Bjorn in front, a backpack jammed full of “necessities” strapped to my back, pushing a stroller and infant car seat, and pulling our rolling suitcase, I felt confident that my next job could be as a sherpa. For such little beings, babies require about 10 times their weight in gear. Before you hit the road, remember to pack:
In Your Carry On/Diaper Bag:
An extra set or two of clothes for baby, and an extra shirt or sweater for you. The one time you forget this, you will inevitably face the biggest, poopiest disaster of all time. I speak from experience on this.
Diapers, wipes, diaper rash ointment. Pack more diapers and wipes than you think you will need—anticipate delays.
Disposable changing pads – Huggies makes a disposable changing pad that can be used once and thrown away. We found that small adult Depends chair pads worked the same and the generic brand was less expensive than the Huggies. If you don’t care for these, make sure your changing pad is removable and not attached to your diaper bag. Airplane restrooms are tiny, so you will need to take the pad out and make it fit the space.
Plastic bags to dispose of the mess. Newborn and small diapers can be put in air-sickness bags if you forget your plastic bag stash. It could be helpful to pack each diaper in its own plastic bag so you are certain you don’t run out. The best bags for this purpose are the long, skinny ones that the newspaper comes in, which can be twisted and doubled over to guard against smell.
Whatever your baby eats. TSA regulations permit baby formula, breast milk, and baby food in carry-on luggage, so long as you are traveling with your child. This is an exception to the ban on liquids over 3 ounces, and you have to declare this with the security officer at the gate. Pack these items within a clear plastic bag so that you can readily show them.
Favorite toys, blankets, teddy bear, or pacifier or other soothing tool.
A new toy to distract the child. My son’s favorite toy was a colorful “Floppy Fellow” doll up until he was about 6 months old. He loved playing “Peek a Boo” with this toy and would give us big smiles whenever he appeared. We had one we traveled with and one that was left at home. Rattles are also a favorite of the under-1 year old set.
If your baby is teething, bring some teething rings and biscuits for her to chew on.
Medications needed for you and/or your child, prescriptions, and your pediatrician's phone number.
Bottled water and a snack for you. You mayhave to purchase these at the airport, since FAA rules regarding liquid carry-ons have changed. Most domestic flights no longer have meal service (except in First Class), so be prepared.
Carrying Lewinsky purse to Clinton reception; probably passive
aggressive way to show I still hold a grudge. Should seek therapy, I
This was the first of a series of messages, or "tweets" that I sent out via Twitter today about our trip to San Francisco for a reception featuring a speech by Bill Clinton. The occasion was the launch of the Millennium Network a support and fundraising group for the Clinton Foundation. I am a long way off from ever being a live-blogger, but these little 140 character blips via instant messaging, I could handle.
Grace Davis wrote about the new breed of "Citizen Journalists" who used Twitter to let the world know of the earthquake in Mexico City this past week before the shaking had stopped, scooping the USGS and all the major news services. So, I thought I give this citizen journalist thing a whirl, and decided to twitter my way through Bill Clinton's speech. I sent this one out before we left. Frank had suggested that I carry the purse that I bought from Monica Lewinsky's handbag company, just as she was riding the coattails of infamy off into the sunset.
I have mixed feelings about Clinton, because I haven't completely forgiven him for looking squarely into the camera and saying, "I did not have sex with that woman" knowing full well that he did. I felt that he let the entire country down, and because he couldn't keep his pecker in his pants just a little longer, ruined his legacy and caused us 8 years of George Bush. So, yeah, I guess I'm still bitter about that. I have never met a President, so I thought the opportunity to see one live and in person was worth it and give a donation to charity was a worthwhile thing to do.
Hope Secret Service detail does not notice "made by monica" label on purse and kicks me out as potential rabble-rouser.
After leaving the house, I sort of had misgivings about bringing the purse, and thought maybe I should just let it go. Still, the inside joke between me, Frank, and my Twitter friends was just too funny for me to give up. Luckily, no one was checking bags to get into the event, which I was a little surprised by.
Inside event. No Bill yet. W/MomBlos Mary & Alix.
We arrived early, and walked into a nearly empty ballroon at the Fairmont. We got glasses of wine and found some cookies on a table, but no other food. We hadn't eaten dinner, so this was kind of a let-down.
Note to organizers of events that occur during dinner hour: cheese and crackers would be nice.
We ran into Mary Tsao and Alix Mayer, two mombloggers (MomBlos) that I know from the Silicon Valley Moms Blog and their own very popular blogs. We were invited to this event by another Silicon Valley momblogger, Sarah. It was nice to see familiar faces. I asked them where Sarah was, and they said she was off having her picture taken with Bill Clinton. She was one of the organizers of the event, so she was gettng a special audience with Bill.
Mayor McHottie just arrived.
We were chatting, when Alix or Mary noticed that Mayor Gavin Newsom was standing about 5 feet away from us. Our friend CityMama dubbed him "Mayor McHottie," so I had to let her know via Twitter.
Stealth paparazzi attempts by MomBlos fail.
Because we are geeky mombloggers, we were too embarassed to go and ask Mayor Newsom for a picture, so we pretended to take pictures of each other with him as the background. It seemed as though everytime we tried, some bald guy would walk up and block the shot. We thought that if Grace Davis were with us, she would have gone up and just asked him. We should have stickers made up that say, "WWGD?" for "What Would Grace Do?" Unfortunately, we gave up, so the best I could get was Mayor McHottie talking to a little old lady with his head down.
I wrote a series of Travel Tips for Parents for the Parents' Club of Palo Alto & Menlo Park Newsletter a while back. I thought I'd update them here from time to time. If you happen to be in Palo Alto on Monday, April 16, I'll be speaking on a panel about travel with kids at Parents' Place at 7:00. Free to PAMP Members, $5 for the public. When is it safe to travel with my baby?
If you are contemplating taking your infant out on his or her first trip, you may be wondering at what age it is safe (or appropriate) for your child to travel. Continental Airlines has a rule that infants who are less than 7 days old cannot fly, Delta and affiliates have 8 or 12 day restrictions that can be waived with a note from a physician, but other airline websites are silent on this issue. If you have a newborn, ask the airline when you make your reservations whether the airline has a rule on this, based on the age of your child at the time the trip will occur. Infants may normally travel only with someone over the age of 18, or with the child's parent or legal guardian. American allows infants to travel with someone 15 years or older. Since the requirements vary, be sure to check with your air carrier when you make your travel plans.
We took our first trip with our son when he was 6 weeks old, after
consulting with our pediatrician on the risks involved in traveling
with a newborn. Our pediatrician advised against traveling outside the
state until after the baby had his first round of vaccinations, and
advised us to wait until the second round for travel outside the U.S.
The primary health risk to infants is that their under-developed immune
systems make them more susceptible to viruses than adults. Before you
travel with a newborn, consult your pediatrician. Not all would agree with this assessment, and some might be more cautious. Be sure to
ask your pediatrician for an assessment of risks associated with your
specific travel plans, based on your child’s medical history and your
When is it best to travel with my baby?
Aside from health concerns, parents should be aware that some babies travel more easily than others. Examine your child’s personality and your own. Think about your child's personality: Does your child fall asleep in the car seat or only in his crib? Is she flexible with schedules or rigid and scream when taken out of her routine? If your child is extremely sensitive to strangers, noise, or new environments, you may want to consider waiting until they are older. If they like "white noise" they will probably sleep on an airplane. Every baby has a different tolerance for new experiences, and whether or not your child travels well may depend on these factors. Trust your instincts and your judgment.
Consider how you are feeling, both physically and emotionally. How good are you at coping with crying/stress/travel problems that might arise? The first few months post-partum are difficult adjustment periods for many parents, due to sleep-deprivation, erratic schedules, and the stress of handling the changes in the family due to the lovely new arrival. Travel can be physically exhausting and stressful, so if you have a choice, you may wish to wait until you are up for the task yourself. Traveling with a baby requires a lot of lifting and carrying, so be sure that you have completely healed after the birth.
Sometimes, regardless of the risks or travel-readiness of the child or parent, you have to travel with them due to family emergencies, social engagements you must attend, or just to get out of the house. Looking back, it seemed much easier to travel with my son when he was an infant. In fact, some parents think this is the best time to travel. The upside of traveling with very small infants is that they are somewhat easier to manage. A baby under six months old is not as wiggly as an older child, doesn’t demand to be walked up and down the aisle, doesn’t try to escape from his seat every five minutes, kick the person in front of him to the rhythm of "Elmo's World," and doesn’t ask, “Are we there yet? Why aren't we there yet?”
You might consider booking a short trip while you are pregnant, to be taken about 3-4 months after your baby is born. By then, you may want to get out of the house, but be too intimidated to take the plunge, or stuck in a rut. If you've planned a trip to see Grandma ahead of time, you force yourself to jump in and see how it goes. Ultimately, it is your call as to when to begin traveling with your baby. Don't be afraid!
A year ago, Jill and Pamela each approached me and asked if I wanted to write for their newest venture: The Silicon Valley Moms Blog. Today is the one year anniversary/birthday/blogaversary of Jill & Pam's Excellent Adventure, so please go over and wish them well. I have a post up there describing what it has meant to me to be part of that group. Maybe Sanjaya will come by the party and sing Happy Birthday to you, along with that dude from Justin.tv.
Thanks to Grace Davis, I am now totally hooked on the Twitter Web 2.0 crack. I'm by no-stretch of the imagination a real-time blogger or one who can economize on words, so it is somewhat freeing to write a sentence or two about what is going on right now. Plus, I like getting the messages on my phone when I'm at work. It's cheap entertainment, if nothing else.
Speaking of entertainment, the funniest news story I have read in a looong time was yesterday's story on Keith Richards snorting his dad. How does one ingest one's father? By grinding up his ashes and mixing with a little blow, evidently. I was simultaneously horrified and wracked with laughter at this news. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for Keith), his publicist is now saying that it was a hoax, according to the very reliable news source, MTV. If you ask me, that makes it even funnier. I don't think that Keith Richards will need to be cremated, since I'm convinced that one day he will just spontaneously combust. If it is a joke, maybe he got the idea from the episode of Nip/Tuck where Catherine Deneuve's character had the ashes of her dead lover put into her silicone breast implants just to piss off the wife. Or maybe he actually did it. Who the hell knows?
Many thanks to Beth of Techmamas and Silicon Valley Moms Blog for awarding me a March PerfectPost Award! This award is given each month by other bloggers for writing that they enjoyed. I've been inspired to give it a few times, but I've never received one. Beth bestowed this on me for the post called "Kauai, The Garden Island." I'm just thrilled, I tell you, thrilled. Thanks, Beth!
The Perfect Post Awards were started by Petroville and Suburban Turmoil as a "power to the bloggers" award, by bloggers and for bloggers. For a list of all of this month's winners, check out their sites. Be sure to check out Beth's new site, Techmamas, only up a couple of weeks, but already tackling some big issues surrounding technology and parenting.