As with almost everything else connected with babies, the key to success is preparation. Here are some tips for traveling with your baby.
ALWAYS use a car seat when you take your baby or child in the car. If you are planning a long car trip (over an hour), here are some ways to keep your baby interested and occupied:
- Since your infant will face the seat, tape some pictures so that your baby has something interesting to look at.
- Tie or hook some toys to the car seat. Your baby can enjoy the toys and you won't have to pick them up off the car floor every 5 minutes.
- During longer trips, allow for frequent rest stops. Take infants out of car seats and place them on their back or abdomen to relax muscles.
- Babies don't like the sun in their faces any more than we do. Use either a wide brimmed hat or block the sun with a car window shade.
- Keep a wet washcloth or towelettes in the car for sticky, sweaty baby hands and faces.
- Bring snack foods appropriate for your child's age.
- Bring snacks for yourself and older children in case your baby decides to sleep through scheduled dinner stops and you decide to make time rather than stop and wake the baby up.
- Always keep cold water in a Thermos and bring disposable plastic cups.
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not require children younger than 2 years of age to have an airline ticket if they are held on an adult's lap, However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that each child to have his or her own seat.
- Some car safety seats are FAA-approved to be used on planes. Check on this when you buy your car safety seat. Let the airline know ahead of time if you are bringing a car safety seat.
- Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and go through security.
- If only you and your baby are traveling, get a portable stroller. You can generally fold it up and take it on board with you.
- Your baby's ears may plug up or hurt during takeoff or landing due to the change in cabin air pressure. You can help keep your baby's ears clear by nursing or feeding when the plane is climbing and descending. Swallowing helps equalize the air pressure.
- Check with your healthcare provider before flying if you have a newborn or infant who has lung problems or upper or lower respiratory symptoms, or if your child has recently had surgery or an ear infection.
- Diapering can be a hassle on the plane. Try to double-diaper or use ultra-absorbent disposable diapers just before you board the plane, and then change in the airport bathroom after the flight arrives.
- The flight attendants can warm food and bottles for you. Be sure to bring small snacks such as Cheerios or bagels for your baby to nibble on.
- Pack some toys to keep your child occupied during the flight.
- Because you have to carry a lot of equipment when you travel with a baby, it is easiest to let other passengers get off the plane before you.
- Car rental agencies generally have child safety seats available with their cars. If you do not bring your own, reserve the safety seat when you reserve the car. Call ahead to the local agency where you will pick up the car to confirm that the child safety seat is available.
- Child safety seats are allowed on trains if you reserve a seat. But there are no safety belts to secure the seat.
- Try to get seats facing each other, so you can put the baby in the seat across from you.
- Temperatures can change on the train, so dress your baby in layers of clothing and remove or add as necessary.
- Be sure to bring appropriate food. The train will probably have a dining or snack car but bringing snacks keeps you from trying to walk through a moving train with your child.
- As if they offer children's meals and will heat a bottle or baby food. They may also refrigerate baby formulas or foods for you during the trip.
- Have some toys that are only for restaurants. Make sure they are not too noisy.
- Ask for a table by the window so baby can watch the sights outside.
- Let your older baby play with ice in an unbreakable cup.
- Feed your baby before you go to the restaurant if possible. If you need to breast-feed, request a booth that is out of the main traffic flow.
- Don't put your baby in the high chair until the food is served. This helps keep her from getting restless if there is a long wait after you order. If your baby gets disruptive in the high chair, take her for a stroll outside or to the restrooms or let her have some time on your lap. (This is a last resort, because once on your lap she may not want to go back to the high chair.)
- Unless you want your baby to eat the restaurant's crackers, bring snacks for your baby to eat.
- Avoid restaurant foods for your baby that spoil easily, such as cold meats, fish, eggs, or foods with mayonnaise. Order milk only if it comes in its own container.
- Babies generally make a mess. Be sure you clean up before you leave, and leave a larger tip than normal for the staff.
Hotels or Friends' Home
Before you leave home:
- Pack a night light and electrical outlet covers for outlets in the house or hotel room.
- Pack a few familiar items that the baby has in his crib at home (such as mirror, blankets, or stuffed animals).
- Reserve a crib at the hotel and ask if there is a family section. If not, ask for a more secluded section of the hotel so your baby will not disturb others if he cries at night. Keep in mind that cribs provided by hotels may not meet all current safety standards. If you doubt the safety of the crib, ask for a replacement or consider other options.
- If you travel frequently, it may be wise to get a portable crib for your baby.
- Ask for a non-smoking room on the lower level. This makes it easier when bringing in luggage and baby supplies.
- Ask if there is a refrigerator in the room. Some hotels will put a temporary refrigerator in your room for an extra charge.
- Find out where the nearest store is so you can buy diapers and snacks. Also find out if the hotel has a restaurant that has baby friendly foods.
When you arrive:
- Move any dangerous objects in the room out of the way. Cover sharp corners with blankets.
- If you have been traveling all day, take time to do something such as swimming or bath time with your baby before putting him to bed.
- Follow your baby's normal eating, sleeping, and bedtime routine as much as possible.
- Make sure your child is up-to-date on her vaccinations. Check with your healthcare provider to see if she might need additional vaccines.
- Adjust your child's sleep schedule 2 or 3 days before you leave. After arrival, arrange for your child to be active outside or in brightly lit areas during daylight hours to help adjust to the new time zone.
Traveling with Children
There are a number of practical ways parents can make trips with children more enjoyable for the kids and less stressful for themselves.
The better you plan and the more aware you are of safety, the happier travel will be for both you and your child. Try to keep a normal routine as much as possible. For example:
- Get the children up as close to their normal hour as possible and put them to bed at the usual time.
- ALWAYS use a sar safety seat when you take your child in the car.
- Always maintain discipline during an outing or extended trip. Children need and want to have the structure they are used to. Do not bend all the rules just because the family is away from home.
- Don't switch over to fast food or junk food during trips. If you are taking a long trip in a car, stop regularly for sit down meals.
- Find time while traveling to give your children some exercise. Most children are used to getting some exercise each day, but they may be expected to remain seated for hours while traveling. If you have airplane layovers, take long walks in the airport. When you are traveling by car, stop regularly for walks, foot races, or a swim if possible.
- Don't let your child go to a restroom alone until he or she is about 6 years old. Only allow a child go alone when you are familiar with the place, know it is clean, and can see the door clearly.
- Take along little packages of soft toys and nutritious snacks for children.
Written by E. Christophersen, PhD, author of "Pediatric Compliance: A Guide for the Primary Care Physician.".
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2008-10-22
Last reviewed: 2008-10-06
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.