Here are 8 tips for traveling with a baby based on my personal experience on a 3 hour train ride, 11 hour flight, and 6 hour bus ride (in addition to several shorter bus/train rides and flights) all within 2 days.
1. New Toys
Toys are good to have on long journeys, but the key is to bring new toys. A new toy will distract him at least a little bit longer than a toy he always plays with. Here you can find a post with pictures of the toys I brought for my 7 month old.
2. Use what’s around you
Oftentimes, the things around us proved to be better distractions than toys, even the new toys. Carter loved to inspect the seat belt on the airplanes and it kept him busy for at least 15-20 minutes–he would scratch at the belt and try to lift the release clip. He loved playing with the plastic cups after we drank our complimentary beverages, and the complimentary toothbrush, spoons, and straws. He also loved shaking pill bottles and chewing on medicine bottle lids.
Carter is still just nursing, but I started introducing solids to him when he was 5 months old so that I’d be able to use food to distract him. If he was really restless I would eat a snack myself and give him little pieces as I ate, usually apples, bananas, or crackers. And whenever we got airline food I would let him have pieces of what I was given. He had no interest in the baby cereal that we brought for him, but he loved everything else!
I know it sounds silly, and it’s much easier said than done, but if you’re stressed out your baby will be able to tell and he’ll be more on edge. I tried my best to enjoy the very long, uninterrupted time I got to spend in close quarters with Carter. We sang songs and played pat-a-cake. I took advantage of the the time I got to spend holding and cuddling Carter as he slept. One day he’ll be too old to rock to sleep so I’m enjoying all the chances I get now. Just try your best to not stress out because if you’re anything like me stress leads to headaches and a stressed out husband and if you can avoid either of those, everyone will be happier 🙂
5. No Expectations
I’ve learned to have no (or little) expectations, because then I can’t be let down. I don’t expect to have a well-behaved child. I don’t expect to sleep on a red-eye flight. I don’t expect to watch a movie or read a book. I don’t expect the time to go by fast. I don’t expect to be comfortable. Then, when good things do happen and I end up sleeping for two hours straight, reading a chapter in my book, or realizing that I only have 3 more hours of an 11 hour flight, I get excited and have a new burst of energy and stamina to handle whatever comes at me next!
6. For Popping Ears
Over the last six months I’ve started using essential oils, especially for my baby. I’m still learning a lot, but so far I have had several positive experiences. For popping ears on the airplane, I used melaleuca oil on myself and my baby, applied just behind the ear. It didn’t keep my ears from popping, but it was definitely soothing and I noticed a difference with Carter.
Nursing was also a huge help for popping ears. Whenever I was able, I would nurse Carter for take-off and landing. If he was too distracted to nurse, I would feed him little bits of food and that kept his mouth moving with sucking and chewing motions.
7. Personal Space
Sometimes Carter needed his own space. I definitely did not see this coming at all–I thought he always loved being held. With international flights, they assign passengers with babies to the front seats that have more leg room and they also have optional bassinets available for use. We would let Carter sit on the floor and play with his toys and our bags or we would sit him up in the bassinet and put some toys in there for him to play with.
I highly recommend reserving the seats in the front with the most leg room if possible. It was incredible how having leg room for Scott and I and a place for Carter to play on the ground for a little while made such a big difference in the comfort of our flight.
8. Practice, Practice, Practice
It doesn’t matter if you’ve done hours on hours of research regarding traveling methods or checked off shopping lists of toys and snacks to bring if you haven’t tried it out beforehand. For example, if your child already has a hard time sitting on your lap for long periods of time, then it’s not going to be any better when you find yourself on a plane. Here’s what I did at home to practice for what situations might be like on a plane:
I held or rocked Carter to sleep for naps and bedtime. This made it so he was comfortable in my arms to fall asleep and he was able to sleep comfortably for long periods of time. I also was able to learn how to sit and hold him in positions where I was comfortable enough to sleep.
For his play area at home, I would occasionally only give him 1 toy at a time to play with and when he got fussy or was done with that toy, I would switch it out for a new toy. This technique was great for the plane because it made his toys last substantially longer than if I would have given him several toys at one time and let him pick and choose which ones to play with.
A bedtime routine. Routines are awesome. Even though we were in the LAX airport with lots of lights on, announcements on the PA, people talking and laughing, and tons of people walking by I was able to do our bedtime routine of reading a book, wrapping Carter in a blanket, and singing to him and he fell asleep! It definitely took longer and I had to repeat the singing several times, but he calmed down and was able to zone out his surroundings and fall asleep for almost 2 hours before we had to board the plane.
I would love to hear any experiences you’ve had or any methods that’s worked for you being as how we have 11 other countries we’re going to travel to during the course of the next year. Please write your comments below, or contact us on our Facebook page!