Traveling With Baby

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Hi Friends!

It's been too long. Since we moved to Japan, life has been "go, go, go" and I am finally feeling like I can sit back and breathe again. This is not a fitness or nutrition post, and I was going to apologize for that, but then I remembered that that's my name at the top of this blog and I can write about whatever I want and you don't even have to read it! Lol

We have done quite a bit of traveling lately and many mama's have asked me for tips on traveling with a baby. While I am no expert, I am happy to share what has worked for us. I know when I was preparing for my first solo trip with Eleanor, I was searching all kinds of places for tips and tricks!

Here's a list of where we have traveled with corresponding hours of travel and Eleanor's age.

US to Japan; 26+ hrs; 5 months
Iwakuni to Osaka via Shinkansen (train); 6 hrs; 7 months
Japan to Guam and back; 10ish hrs; 8 months
Iwakuni to Tokyo via Shinkansen; 8 hrs; 9 months
Japan to the US and back; 26+ hrs; 12 months
Japan to Australia and back; 19+ hrs; 12 months

This might seem like a lot to some, but this is nothing compared to what's to come and what others have done. So again, I am no expert. This advice is from a mama who breastfeeds, has only ever flown alone with baby, has made mistakes, but also survived :)

Eleanor and I on our most recent trip to Australia! Already sweating as we are checking into our first flight. 

For Flying/Train:

1. Lower your expectations. Have expectations for an upcoming trip with baby? Go ahead and do yourself a favor and just drop them at least 5 points 😂 Some might think this is negative thinking, but I think the lower your expectations are, the happier you'll be when things go better! There are going to be tough times. It's not going to be easy. But it IS possible! Give yourself some grace, give your baby some grace and remember that no matter what happens, the end result is the same. Don't worry about the person sitting next to you when your baby starts to scream. You'll [probably] never see them again!

2. Sleep when your baby sleeps. I know, I know. This was my least favorite advice as a new mom, too. But it actually applies here, okay? Hear me out! Just sleep. This includes the night before! Don't pull an all-nighter to try to get ahead of the time change (if there is one). This might have worked pre-baby, but you can't just assume baby and you will sleep on the plane. During the flight, at least try to close your eyes while they sleep even if you're not tired. Rest up! It could be the only 30 minutes they sleep! I humor myself and bring a book to read every time I travel and not once have I been able to open it lol I do always have my eye mask and neck pillow though because this mama needs darkness to sleep! You can't risk being exhausted, especially if you're traveling alone.

3. Bring a stroller. This is apparently a controversial topic in the travel blog world, but this is my blog (lol) and I say DO IT from age 6 months on. Under 6 months, baby is content in a baby carrier and a stroller would just be too much to open and close through security, at the gate, at baggage claim, and so on. But, 6 months+, your baby is getting heavier, and you both might want some space before and after being on an airplane where you have to hold them in your lap. Plus, it's a great bag carrier if you need it! I have been eying this stroller for awhile that fits in the overhead compartment of an aircraft so that you don't have to check it at the gate. This is crucial for international travel IMO. It has happened to me twice now that I gate checked a stroller and it got sent to baggage claim, leaving me to hold Eleanor while waiting through the loooooong customs line after a loooooong flight. Woof.

4. Wear your baby. The Wild Bird Ring Sling has been my go-to since Eleanor was a teeny tiny baby up until now (12 months) and I'm sure beyond! I have the single solid and the Modal...I love them both! However, I did sport the Tula when she was 5-8 months because it was an almost guarantee she would sleep in it. It has the head cover attachment which Eleanor loved. Baby wearing is crucial for having two hands! Especially if you are traveling alone and don't have a stroller or if you have to check it.

5. REQUEST THE BASSINET SEAT. Maybe you knew this was a thing, maybe you didn't. I sure didn't before our move to Japan! The bassinet seat is located right behind the bulkhead (the part that separates first class from business and/or behind the restrooms in larger aircraft). After take off, the stewardess will install the bassinet for you and will take it off during the final descent. A few things to note: you will have to take baby out of the bassinet whenever the seatbelt light comes on. The arm rests do not come up on these rows. You will not have under-the-seat storage (because there is no seat in front of you). I have never been able to get Eleanor to actually sleep in the bassinet, but it is a great place to change diapers (but be considerate--if it's a stink bomb, go to the bathroom! Side note: stewardess will not take diapers as trash, you will need to throw them away in the bathroom), to store things in, and the extra legroom is obviously GREAT.

SO, here's what you do: After you book your plane tickets, call the airline and ask to reserve the bassinet seat. They won't be able to guarantee it (at least from my experience), but they will put the request on your profile. A week before the flight, call again and make sure it's on your profile. Ask what type of aircraft you will be flying on, then look up said aircraft to see what rows are the bulkhead/bassinet compatible. When you check-in the day of your flight, you might find that you're in the bulkhead seat (yay!), but you might not. Don't give up hope! Go straight to your gate and talk to the stewardess about switching your seat. They usually save these rows for those traveling with infants or the disabled, but some people reserve them just for the extra leg room and the stewardess is often times able to get them to switch. Wow, say stewardess one more time, Chelsea 😅

6. Bring 5 more diapers than you think you'll need. This doesn't really need an explanation. You know how many diapers you change in X amount of time. Bring 5 more than that because you NEVER KNOW. Delays happen. Cancelations happen. $h!t happens.

7. Bring extra clothes. 3-4 outfits for baby and 1-2 for you. How many depends on how long your travel time will be. For baby, bring jammies for sleep time and comfy clothes for the rest. For you, no matter the travel time, definitely bring at least one extra shirt and I highly recommend another pair of pants. Leggings don't take up much room!

8. Schedule long flights for nighttime (red eye) if you can. This increases your chances of baby sleeping and making life easier for you. The cabin will be dimmed for a majority of the flight, people will be more quiet and you'll have less interruptions. If you have a shorter flight, schedule it for nap time for the same reasons. It might not be as dark or quiet, but baby will at least be tired!

9. Bring toys that your baby either has never seen or hasn't seen in awhile. I like to hide a toy that I know she loves a week before leaving, and then I buy a new one while we are traveling for her to play with on the way back. If you child is older, you can download a new movie or show they've been wanting to watch. Check out these sweet headphones I saw some kids using on our most recent trip! Definitely going to snag some for when E is older.

10. Snacks. So many snacks. For you and for baby! I don't know about you, but I don't like risking it on the airplane meals. There are some things (like rice, noodles, fruit or pre-packaged foods) that I will gamble on but other than that I stick with my protein bars, nuts, dried fruits and jerky. If you're exclusively breastfeeding, you're going to be hungry and you will need to stay nourished! And bring foods/snacks that you know your baby will eat if they are eating solids.

11. Bring refillable water bottles for you and baby. Ain't no one got time for $5 bottles of water! I haven't been to an airport that didn't have water fountains to fill up water bottles. And, if you ask nicely, the stewardess will fill your water bottle up for you on the plane! Again, if you're exclusively breastfeeding, it's important that you are staying hydrated! Your baby will likely nurse more than ever on the flight, and flying/traveling in general tends to dehydrate us so drink up!

12. Nurse on take off and landing. Or don't. I've done both and Eleanor has never seemed to have an issue with her ears popping. If you aren't nursing your baby, a bottle or sippy cup has the same affect, or even a snack! Anything to get their mouth moving.

13. Other things to have in your carry-on besides the obvious: medicines (don't try any new ones though!!), oils (Stress Away for me and Copiaba for E, can I get an Amen), familiar lovie/blanket, Wet Ones hand wipes, disinfecting wipes (for plane, toys that fall on ground, everything), plastic bags for poopy diapers/clothes,

14. Look for play areas at your airport before arriving. Especially if you have a long layover somewhere. This is obviously for older kids, but most airports have little play areas for the kiddos to burn some energy before/between flights and you will be able to find out which gates they're at beforehand by searching the airport website!

For Stays Away From Home:

1. Lower your expectations. Again, lower 'em at least 5 points lol Your baby will probably not sleep as well as at home, but don't let that scare you! There are things you can do to make them more comfortable 👇

2. Airbnb if you can. From my experience, Airbnb's are usually more affordable, have more space and accommodations than a hotel room. You can have separate spaces so that you and your travel buddy can enjoy each others company while baby is sleeping in another room. While I cherish those memories of Chris and I sharing a bottle of champagne on the World's tiniest porch in Guam, it was SO NICE to have our own room AND a living room at our Airbnb in Brisbane. It's not always possible to find and Airbnb, but just remember it is an option! Use this link to save $40 on your next Airbnb booking!

3. Travel crib. This is the one we have. Many hotels and Airbnb's have cribs that they can put in your room for you, but some don't and this is a great option! It is super light and easy to bring along. Side note: you can filter your Airbnb search to show only places that have cribs!

4. Bring crib sheets, blankets and/or sound machine from home. Try to keep bedtime as normal as you can, by bringing and reading a familiar book, using the same soaps and lotions at bath time and having familiar smells and sounds.

5. If you have a hotel room, put the crib in the darkest place and far away from your bed. Sometimes there is good sized closet that you can stick it in, leaving the door open of course. If you have a light sleeper, having them further away from your bed can help prevent waking them up when you have to pee in the middle of the night!

For International Travel (time zone change):

1. Yep, lower your expectations. I read somewhere that the body adjusts at the rate of 1-2 hours of time difference per day. So if you're traveling to a time zone that is 12 hours different than yours, it will take 6-12 days to adjust. Thats for an adult. For babies, they say it's one day per hour of time difference. However, I have found that Eleanor is usually adjusted to Japan or US time (12-13 hour difference depending on time of year) in 10 days. Basically, they will be tired. They will wake up ready to go at odd hours of the night, and be ready to sleep in the middle of the day. That's okay! If they are up in the middle of the night, try to keep the lights dim and read books or play with other non-stimulating toys. Keep the TV off, give them a snack and just play with them until they start showing signs of tiredness. Try to keep them busy during the day and keep naps short/normal. I know they say to never wake a sleeping baby, but if there is exploring to be done, this is my blog and I say it's okay :)

2. Schedule your flight to arrive in the morning. This will help you all to stay distracted and therefore awake in order to adjust to the new time zone. If you are arriving in the evening, don't fret! Check into your room, get that baby into the bath and right into bed time. If your baby is like Eleanor and doesn't sleep on the flight(s), he/she will probably go right to sleep!

3. Bring a travel stroller that reclines (or that you know your baby will sleep in). The Mountain Buggy Nano Stroller I hyperlinked above (and here) does recline! Personally, I don't let Eleanor's sleep schedule dictate my schedule when we travel. I know that if she's tired enough, she'll sleep in her stroller! There was one day in Australia that she didn't take a single nap. I was waiting for the meltdown and it never happened! I was amazed lol she was just having too much fun I suppose! I realize not all babies are like this and may need their own space/bed. Do what's best for you and your baby!

That's all I got, folks! If you are a fellow parent with a tip or trick you think I missed, comment here or shoot me a message on Instagram and I'll add on to this post!

Happy Traveling!

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