Sunday, August 24, 2014

10 Tips for Seamless Baby Travel

It was all I could do to keep Gideon from hurling himself into the Potomac.  My boy loves water!

For those mums anticipating one more end-of-summer trip, traveling with a baby is tough any way you cut it.

After four cross-Atlantic trips in one year - not to mention several trips within the UK - I've learned a few tips and tricks that make life with a little one on the road easier.  Here are my recommendations for near pain-less travel:

1) Travel with a bed they are used to.  I have always traveled with Gideon's bed, whether that be his trug, sleepyhead, hammock, and, now, his baby tent.  The tent has by far been the most versatile - I used it on the train (setting up "camp" in the handicapped area), by the pool, on the beach, wherever I was sleeping, on a balcony, or, when I couldn't quite make it to pick the babysitter up in time to make my breakfast meeting at DC's Union Station, there in the train station (yes, it was called in by security - who else uses tents in train stations? - but then they realised there was just a baby inside).  Gideon didn't miss a nap or a good night's sleep during last month's trip to the States--in large part because he slept in his own bed.

On the train - when he was done sleeping, I took the shade cover off, opened up the top window, threw some toys in, and it became a play pen.
On the balcony of our Avilla Beach hotel room. 
At Union station

I realize not everyone wants to be as a-traditional in their sleeping choices - ours have largely been determined by space (the tent was a wonderful accident - I got it as a temporary measure till we could decide on a real crib/cot, then we realised we didn't need an expensive piece of temporary furniture, as G loves his tent for all occasions).  My amazing sister solved this challenge by sleeping her babies once a day in their pac-n-play/travel cot so that they could take the bed with them when they traveled.    Brilliant.

2)  Respect the nap.  It can make for some creative flight paths, but I always try my best to respect nap times at regularly scheduled intervals.  On this last trip to the States--involving 10 flights in 29 days--I made sure I was on a plane where I could hold him to sleep or on the ground where I could set up his tent for the entire nap time.   No one likes a crabby baby, especially me.

3) Travel with a high chair.  I can hear the eye rolling, but this little chair harness for £10 ($15) makes eating almost anywhere possible.  I love it, and it is a frequent passenger in my baby bag.

 4) Travel with a smock.  This beauty form IKEA is about £2 ($3) and saves so much more in unstained clothes.

5) Travel with baby food pouches.  Need I say more?

6) Travel with a hat - both for you and the baby.  Especially during the summer.  We are so white we are translucent (and I have vitiligo, or Michael Jackson's disease), so it is more necessary for us than other families, but hats are much easier than sunscreen.

Punting at Oxford with Lael and Eleesha.

6) Don't travel with fungible items.  Although I always made sure I had enough diapers, wipes, and food to get us to the next pit stop, I don't have much more.  These things are bulky and replaceable.  That is, so long as you are not traveling in the third world.  Then stock up.

7) Keep it simple.  I took too much on this last trip.  I violated my normal rule of traveling in one carry-on for both of us, and regretted it daily.  If you keep their outfits and yours simple and interchangeable (start with the shoes) and the toys to a minimum, this is possible.

8) Go cold turkey.  Whenever I cross one or more timezones, with perhaps one extra nap in a day if headed west, I put Gideon on his schedule in the new timezone immediately.  The transition invariably takes longer than if I attempt a more gradual schedule.  Now Gideon is somehow used to this it seems.  This last trip was his fourth time across the Atlantic, and the worst he did in a night was 7:00 p.m. - 5:00 a.m.  Not bad.  Coming back was a bit rougher, but it still only took a week to get him back to his normal routine - often my friends' children have taken 2-3 weeks to transition back.  

9) Let them play.  I normally do something just for Gideon every day in the mornings, and tried to keep that up as much as I could this last trip.  Whether that meant chasing him around the terminal or up and down the aisles of the plane, dipping into the Potomac (pictured above), getting down and dirty in the rocks (below), or stopping by the closest swing set (below), this meant for a much happier baby and, therefore, mamma.

10) Pray. It might sound a little silly, but I find that when I pray that the next flight, train or car ride will go smoothly, that Gideon will nap, that I will make my connection, and find helping hands along the way, everything works and baby travel seems almost easy.  This last trip, the worst leg of the entire 29 days was the only one about which I didn't pray, and it was horrific.  Taught me a lesson.  These things may not be important to God, but they become important to HIm because they are important to you and your sanity--and He loves to remind us that He loves us by answering our simple but earnest baby-travel prayers.  

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