Traveling with infants is ridiculously hard. Yes, even for this LGBT family with two hands-on Moms who in their pre-Mom days both traveled over 50,000 miles a year.
We took our first air travel vacay with our 6-month-old daughter to New Orleans. We then went to Vail, Colorado for a ski trip when she was 7 months old and to Palm Springs, CA a few months later.
Beyond the obvious tips like feeding her a bottle or breast during takeoff and landing, here are my tips for traveling with an itty bitty in tow:
ONE: Use curb side check in
Nearly every major airport has curbside check in which is a lifesaver when you plan to check bags and baby gear. We opted to bring her car seat (free to check on airlines), so we unloaded her and popped it in our travel bag right at the curb along with our other checked luggage. My wife then parked the car and I chilled out with the baby outside of security, schlepping only her diaper bag. Curbside check in is free on American Airlines, but I advise tipping a few bucks a bag, because it’s just the right thing to do.
TWO: Book a Window and an Aisle Seat
Flights are more packed than ever, but middle seats are still the last to go. So try your luck and book a window and an aisle seat with the hopes that no one shows up in between. If they do, you can always swap with them or better yet, suggest they move to another row with an open seat so they don’t have deal with your crying little one too. If you do end up with an empty middle seat, they can lay down to nap or when they get older, stand up and play with the tray table which offers at least 30 minutes of entertainment.
THREE: Splurge for a Suite or Better Yet, a Whole House
Bambinos clearly nap a lot and go to bed early. That means that unless you have a little one who can sleep anywhere (we don’t), when they sleep you will be shackled to a room with the lights off, tiptoeing around in silence. Since this gets old after about nap #1, pay the extra money to get a suite or better yet, an Airbnb or VRBO condo or house. Your little one can sleep in peace and you can still feel human, sipping Cabernet and catching up on Netflix in the living room next door.
FOUR: Download a Baby Monitor App for Your Phone
Chances are you don’t want to dismantle your monitor and haul it with you. Download an app like Cloud Baby for $3.99 on the app store and then set up an old or extra iphone or ipad as your camera. The app slings a full-color image of your slumbering little love directly to your phone as long as you are in range of the sending unit’s wifi. The picture and sound are great, and it will make you wonder why you dropped likely $400 on a baby monitor in the first place.
FIVE: Find a Local Baby Gear Rental Company
Most destinations have companies where you can rent cribs, pack & plays, high chairs, bouncers and even toys. For a reasonable price per piece, they deliver the goods to your location, set them up, and then pick them up at the end of your trip. If you’re staying in a hotel, most have cribs, so just call ahead. Oh and always bring your own crib/pack & play sheet as well as any night lights, stuffed animals or travel noise machines to make it feel like home.
SIX: Research a Reputable Babysitting Service
Whether you are on a ski vacation and want to get out on the mountain every day like us, or desperately need one romantic dinner date out, most areas have babysitting services that are reliable, insured and ridiculously expensive, but worth every penny! In Vail we used Care 4 Kids and had the same sitter every day who got to know our little one, texted us plenty of photos, and made us feel beyond comfortable.
SEVEN: Skip the stroller
We gate checked our convertible travel stroller (each adult can gate check one stroller or car seat free of charge), but didn’t use it except to schlep bags through the airport. Our front carrier was much more convenient and felt safer whether we were weaving through drunken crowds on Bourbon Street or walking on snowy sidewalks in the mountains.
EIGHT: Bring beyond the basics
Beyond all the things any reasonable parent would pack, here are a few unsung heroes I’d recommend:
- Ready-to-use formula bottles: Although our daughter was still nursing, if you are stuck in traffic or delayed on the tarmac, pre-mixed formula in the diaper bag will get your through a hunger-induced screaming spell.
- Dish soap: Bottles won’t wash themselves on the road and you won’t want to opt for the bar soap in the hotel room.
- Laundry detergent: Bring a little bottle full of soap to wash out your little one’s clothes when she inevitably has a blow out or four.
- Snacks (for you too): Once they are eating food, veggie pouches and Cheerios are a godsend. But don’t forget that whenever your little one is sleeping you won’t have access to a fully-stocked fridge like you do at home, so bring snacks to get you through some odd times.
As a final thought for all the wanderlust-loving parents who are hesitant to take your little one on a plane or be away from the modern conveniences of our over-accessorized nurseries, just go for it.
Yes, she will inevitably cry on the plane and you will be overwhelmed by both guilt and panic, but trust me, many of the people on the plane are parents themselves and will smile at you with a knowing look that makes it suck a little less. And if anyone has the audacity to throw you some shade, who cares—because you are showing your little one how amazing this great big world is!