Travelling is probably my favourite modern luxury. It is an experience that I feel extremely grateful to be able to share with my young son; afterall, there are no greater gifts than those of rich experiences and exposure to new places, people, and cultures. That being said, I am the first person to admit that I like my kid way more on land than I do on a cramped airbus flying high in the sky. The reason for this is simple: At 15 months, he is in that stage between being content to nurse and snooze for the whole flight (0-6 months is AWESOME for this), and being physically capable of sitting quietly with an iPad watching Bubble Guppies for an extended period of time. My guy wants to walk, crawl, play, throw things, and sing – and he wants to do all of those things with absolutely no regard for his surroundings. Good times. But air travel is a means to an end, and if you want to escape the mundane and go somewhere exciting, then you, my friend, are just going to have to deal. But don’t worry, after 8 plane rides with my wee one, I’ve figured out a thing or two about flying with little rascals, so I have decided to share my knowledge with my homegirls. After all, we mamas have to look out for each other and I think that sharing tips and anecdotes from our experiences is the best way to do it! So here are a few travel do’s and don’ts that you may want to take into account for your next family vacation.
DO travel in a pack – the more hands on deck, the smoother the whole experience will be. (Grandparents are excellent entertainment for little ones!)
DON’T skimp on diapers. One for each hour of travel is a good rule of thumb; you never know when a 3-diaper-poo-explosion is just around the corner.
DO start packing a week before your trip. You are going to feel like you’re bringing the whole damn house; you kind of are. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but not trying to do it all the night before will help keep anxiety levels at bay.
DON’T expect special treatment. Should you get it? Yes. Will you get it? Probably not. (example: your kid falls asleep in the stroller in line to go through security… too bad, you’ll have to take him out anyway.) Just roll with the punches; the whole ordeal will be over soon.
DO bring your baby carrier. It frees up your hands while you’re navigating through the airport and may even allow you to flip through a magazine if your baby conks out on the flight.
DON’T bother bringing toys that your kid loves to whip around because they will inevitably wind up hitting an unsuspecting passenger a few rows in front of you right smack in the head.
DO bring books. Lots and lots of books. They might be a little heavy, but their ability to distract makes them worth their weight in gold. (Alternately you can download some books to a kindle or iPad, but I find they don’t keep babies engaged as well as old fashioned cardboard books do).
DON’T pre-board. It’s tempting to get in and get settled, but I have found that the less time spent on the plane, the better! I’ll take being last to be seated anyday for 20 less minutes of wrangling a restless toddler.
DO smile a lot at surrounding passengers. If you are nice to them they will be more likely to engage in a game of peek-a-boo (or hand you back a toy that was launched in their direction).
DON’T feel the need to bring special “care packages” for people on the plane. This trend is bullshit. Crying kids on a plane is just a reality of travelling. We have all been witness to it; hell, we’ve probably all even been that very kid! Obviously do your best to keep your kid quiet and happy, but an occational outburst is pretty normal – people just need to chill.
DO bring snacks. Load up your diaper bag with finger foods that will keep your little one occupied. Mum Mums, blueberries, grapes, steamed carrot sticks, crackers, cheese – seriously, pile it in. This is not for hunger, this is for distraction. Just do what you gotta do to keep that little mouth occupied.
DON’T worry about liquids restrictions. They will let you bring all kinds of milk and water on board as long as it’s for the baby!
DO purchase a seat for your baby if you’re a baller. I am not one, but I often wish I was for this very reason (well, for lots of reasons). If you buy your baby a seat, you can bring your car seat on board and strap him in there, making him more comfortable, and therefore more likely to sleep in flight.
DON’T rush yourself. Pre-baby travel was easy peasy and allowed you to have an attitude of “all I REALLY need is my passport and credit card” and “I checked in online; I can show up 60min before departure”. That is no longer your reality. Be organized, leave early, give yourself time for emergency diaper changes, impromptu feedings and properly checking in your 18 bags.
DO bring a change of shirt for yourself in your carry-on. Something is inevitably going to get smeared all over you in flight.
The biggest “DO” of all is DO KEEP TRAVELLING. Is it a pain in the ass? Yeah, it kind of is. Is it well worth the trouble? Absolutely. The memories you make during family vacations will stay with you forever and instilling a love of travel in your child from a young age is a gift they will thank you for a million times over in the future.
BON VOYAGE – I swear, you can do this!
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