The first long flight I took with my daughter was when she was 10 months old. We traveled from Delhi to Singapore and I was alone. I was freaked out and I remember reaching to my friends on facebook for advice. Some of the most solid advice I got was from a blogger friend of mine who I had never met! Over the last five years, we have taken our annual vacations and have had multiple trips to our native cities. So I did travel with her many times after that first one. Over years, I have my own tips and tricks to manage a long trip with your child. So here they are:
Carry change of clothes for the child
That is a given. Right? Till your baby is toilet trained, it is a good idea to carry excess clothes in your hand luggage. I usually carried a pair for every hour we spent travelling. So for a five hour flight with three hours of airport stay and an hour each to and from the airport, I carried ten pairs! Seems excessive? You think I am crazy? Well, with young kids you never know. They could just lunge at your glass of water and drop it over themselves. Do you want to have your child travel in wet clothes, especially in an air conditioned flight, train or car? Baby clothes are small and light so adding them to your hand bag is not a problem. I used to put all her clothes in a plastic zip lock pouch and place it in my large purse. I would also carry multiple plastic carry bags for putting the soiled clothes in.
When your baby is older and toilet trained, it still makes sense to have multiple clothes. I carried only one extra pair on our latest vacation. She was four and a half then. She spilled juice over her first set which I promptly changed. Our flight got delayed and she slept. When she woke up, her diaper leaked and her second set was soiled too! I had no other pair 🙁 Well, I had to wrap my stole around her legs as a long skirt and had to carry her till we reached home because, she could not walk properly with this makeshift arrangement. Last thing I needed at the end of a week long exhausting vacation. Trust me. I actually cursed myself loud for not keeping an extra pair.
Bottom line is, carry multiple changes!
Carry Clothes for Yourself
Carry your own change of clothes too. You never know when you could have trouble. I generally carry another top or tunic if I am wearing jeans and a jersey dress otherwise. If you don’t want to do that, at least carry a stole or a shawl. I can not even the number of flights it got too cold for her and blankets were not available. I would wrap her in my shawl and snuggle. The stole can also help hide any spills your baby may have caused on the journey.
Food and Drinks
Young babies experience a lot of discomfort on a flight during landing and take-off. When their ears clog up, they could get very cranky. Making them suckle during this period is a good idea. The best thing is to make them have milk or water out of a bottle. My trick has been to feed the baby just before leaving home. By the time, you are settled in the flight, it would be time for her to have milk again. So she would have milk happily during take off. Also, that would make her drowsy at times and she would sleep, giving me and the other travellers a bit of peace!
I do not advice carrying milk during travelling though. Unless there is a medical reason, carry formula. My daughter was two when we went to Sikkim and travelled overnight by train. I carried milk then. But she got motion sickness and did not drink milk at all. The thermos got spoiled. I had a tough time getting it cleaned and sterilised at the hotel. Since then, I always carry hot water in the thermos and powdered milk with me.
If your baby does not drink milk, then check with your paediatrician what can be given. My friend had a toddler and she carried Glucon-C. Her son happily drank the orange flavoured glucose drink! Something like this will keep the baby occupied but not fill their stomach fully. Works very well for a small journey because your child will be ready to have a hearty meal when you arrive 🙂
Carry fresh fruit juice if you can get your hands on it. This one time, the hotel we stayed in was serving fresh fruit juice for breakfast. I filled up a 200 ml bottle and carried it with me for the sight seeing trip. This was her first mid morning snack. Do be careful which juice you are getting though. Orange and Sweet Lime can last 2-3 hours but watermelon and pomegranate cannot. Tetra packed juices are not really healthy, but are still better than a soda.
Now this is the trickiest. I have struggled with this and observed what other people do. I always carry snacks. Even if it is a trip to the mall next door! I have realised that for many kids, this is the way of spending time and killing boredom. So here is my list of handy snacks –
Snacks for Babies
- Cheese – Sliced or cube; however your child likes it.
- Grapes – Plucked out of the bunch, washed and carried in a box. I would peel a grape and feed my baby.
- Biscuits – Glucose biscuits dissolved in a bit of milk or water make a gooey snack that babies love.
Snacks for Toddlers
- Apple – A whole apple works well as a snack for kid and parents alike.
- Orange – Quenches thirst too! A tad difficult to carry because they can be squelched. I carry them peeled.
- Seeds – Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are great for munching.
- Peanuts – Plain salted peanuts are a good snack but they make kids thirsty.
- Cereal – Those trial packs of Chocos have been my life saviour.
- Cake – Slice cakes are handy to carry and yummy to eat.
- Granola Bars – Much better than chocolates!!
The one think we need to remember is that travelling is stressful for the child. babies are away from their comfort zone and they may behave differently. A normally calm baby may be too agitated by all the strangers around. So the rules that apply to food and drink at home should be relaxed a bit. As mothers, we know what the boundaries are. It is okay for the kids to have a few sugary snacks and enjoy the trip rather than ruin it over food.
THE most important of all. How do you keep a child occupied and entertained while travelling. If you do not want to be pestered with the dreaded, “Are we there yet?” every 15 minutes, then plan well ahead what to do!
Toys during travel are an absolute must. However, due to limited space and weight constraints, the toys need to be picked very carefully, Needless to say, you cannot carry a bulky toy around. So go for the smaller ones. Children do get bored with one toy so I would advise carrying many smaller ones.
The one trick all mothers I have met swear by is carrying a new toy. We all know how they love new toys right? It is most likely to hold the child’s attention for longer. It works equally well with babies who are inquisitive about new things and toddlers who love to explore new toys. Do introduce the new toy just as your child gets restless tough. Do not wait till a full blown tantrum arrives!
Mobile phones and tablets too are very handy to keep the children busy. Test out the apps before you start your travel and be sure that the apps work in the offline mode. You may not have network throughout. However, restrict the screen time of the kids. Make the screen time clear to them before hand.
A few story books or comics are a good way to spend time with the children while travelling. You can read to them and enjoy the stories together. Out here, don’t be too conscious of your fellow travellers. As long as you are not insensitive to them, no body would mind you making funny faces and telling a story to your child.
Things to Take Note
If you are flying with a baby, check out the airline rules. Most will allow you to bring a pram or stroller right upto the gate. That will surely help you at the airport. Ask for a crib before hand. If your baby sleeps in the crib, you will have some time to relax too! Ask the stewardess to alert you before the meal service begins and blocks the aisles. You can use the restroom and change the baby in advance instead of waiting for the aisle to clear up. It can take quite some time on a larger international flight. If your flight is not very full and you have 2 seats, ask the check in executive to allot you an aisle and a window seat. If someone does come for the middle seat, they will gladly swap one with you. If not, you will have 3 seats to yourself. That will give you loads of room to put the child down to sleep or allow them to play with their toys.
If you are travelling in the evening / night, ensure that the child is pretty tired by the time the train arrives. This will cause the child to fall asleep quickly in the train. If they are well rested, the adrenaline and excitement of the journey will prevent them from sleeping! Try carrying your own blanket or sheet if you can. The railway issued sheets are generally not big enough for the mother and the baby.
Plan your breaks. Children tend to get irritated in the confined spaces. It is a good idea to give them a chance to bounce around and breathe in some fresh air. The baby and you will be most comfortable in a car seat. So get one of those!
So here was my long list of tips while travelling with a baby. What are yours?