Saturday, January 3, 2015

How to Travel With an Infant

We have had the opportunity to travel a lot while we are living in China. We are so lucky to be so close to so many great places to visit. (Gotta love those frequent flyer miles!) 
 When we had Samantha we knew that we still wanted to travel. I am a big believer that babies can be adapted to your lifestyle if they are trained accordingly. (Unless you have a Satan baby, in that case, good luck.) 

Our first trip with Samantha was taken when she was about 2 months old. We went to the Avatar mountains in China which was about a 2 1/2 hour plane ride there and back. 

That first trip was a trial run and Samantha did great. That encouraged us to keep traveling, and since then Samantha has been to Hong Kong, Xian, Beijing, Thailand, the United States and Bali. In February we will be going to Tahiti and Cambodia. People ask me how we travel with a baby and I have compiled a list of tips and tricks that we have picked up along the way. 

The Obvious- 

1. Make sure your baby is sucking on take-off and landing to help their little ears pop. We usually hold off on the bottle until we are taking off. Pacifiers work well, also. Another tip regarding this is if you are using a bottle, make sure to use a smaller nipple than usual so that the sucking takes longer. 

2. Things to remember to pack- If you are traveling internationally you will want to make sure to include formula, diapers, wipes, and baby soap. When we went to a very rural part of Bali I am so glad we had been prepared because I never saw any baby products. If you are traveling within the United States you can save on carry-on luggage space by buying diapers and such when you arrive at your destination.

3. What to make sure your diaper bag includes- an extra pair of clothes (I am sure you know this already, you master Mother, you!) I always bring a binkie- and an extra. Formula to last you your plane ride and PLUS some. You never know if you will be stuck in a terminal or your plane will be delayed. Make sure you are stocked with milk for your little, in case a change of plan occurs. Toys, toys and toys. Although, this last trip Samantha wanted anything other than a baby toy. We ended up relenting and letting her chew on the barf bag for a few minutes. (Proud Mommy moment, right there!) I also always make sure to include a blanket. Planes are so stinking cold these days! 

4. Make the flight attendants your best friends. Talk to them, thank them profusely and make sure to get on their good side. They can be your life saver! When I traveled to the United States ALONE with Samantha (12 hour plane ride) she refused to sleep for the entire plane ride. I needed to go to the bathroom a couple of times and the stewardesses were more than willing to hold her while I did so. They also always offered me warm milk for the bottle, an extra blanket, pillows and water for myself. Also, some airlines offer free baby food, and toys! All you have to do is ask! 

5. Call the hotels and make sure that they know you are traveling with an infant. This can work to your advantage. One hotel we stayed at included a crib that was set up when we got there.  They also had a baby bath, bottle sterilizer, baby soaps and other baby amenities. Also, the good thing about telling them ahead of time is that they have the crib available and set up when you get there so you don’t have to wait.

6. Don't have a baby carrier? Get one. Now. Wearing your baby is the best and easiest way to travel with a baby. We hiked the Avatar mountains with Samantha strapped to us and homegirl had a great nap. We also rode elephants through the jungle while she bounced around happily in the carrier. This idea will either sound brilliant to you, or you may think we are absolute bananas. Either way, wearing your baby can be a travel game changer. Especially when you are traveling internationally and aren't sure what the ramp/handicap access is like. (Tip: Anywhere outside of the United States, its not good!) 

The not so Obvious- 

1. Kids under age two fly free domestic, but flying internationally it is 10% of the adult fare. This is even if your baby is going to be a lap child. 

2. Did you know there could be an option to get a baby bassinet when flying internationally? Check your airlines website for rules and regulations regarding flying with an infant. We always call the airline after booking the ticket and tell them we want the seat with the bassinet. If you need a bassinet check to validate that they have this option.

This photo is not Samantha. 

 3. When you arrive, do you want the stroller at the gate or at the baggage claim? It is always good to have it at the gate so you do not have to carry them longer than necessary. Talk to them about this right when you check in at the desk. They will give you further information on who to give your stroller to. 

4. When we check in for our flights we always ask if there is an empty seat next to us available. We have really lucked out on a number of our flights and have been able to bring the car seat onto the plane with us so that we didn't have to hold her. I believe it is up to the cabin crew to decide if they let you do this, so try and butter them up when you are asking. 

Don't worry, Grandma. We were totally watching her. 

5. If you are traveling internationally and use bottles you may want to bring liquid dish soap and a bottle brush to make cleaning them easier. I usually use a small Madela newborn bottle and put some soap into it. (Don't forget to use the saran wrap under the lid to prevent leakage!) Double bag them in Ziploc bags with your bottle brush for easy access. You can also use travel toiletry bottles for your soap. 

6. My friend introduced me into packing laundry detergent to hand wash things while at the hotel. (liquid works best, obviously). I know it may sound a little ghetto but it may save you from packing a million things! Being able to pack light and wash your baby clothes/bibs/blankets in a hotel tub/sink is the way to go! Especially if you are using those airlines who charge you a ton of money for each checked bag. 

The Perks- 

Get me to the front of the line, sucka! Most places will accommodate travelers with infants. We usually get to go through immigration first. 
You also get to board the plane first along with the fancy first class fliers. This allows you to set up your nursery for the next few hours and to put your carry-on in a bin close to you.

The biggest tip I can give you on traveling with an infant is to be prepared and don't hesitate to ask for help. People are truly willing to give you assistance if you just state your problem.

I am not going to lie to you. Traveling with an infant isn't always easy. It takes preparation, determination and patience. But, it is so worth it! 

I know Samantha won't remember these trips but we will have great pictures to show her when she grows up.