First published on 5 Aug 2010. Updated on 27 Aug 2010.
Yes, you can take your little guy along on vacation – and even enjoy it. Just relax, pack light and check out these hints from veteran travellers who’ve logged many a mile with kids in tow.
1. Timing is everything
Early morning flights are rough on everyone, but for a new parent, a 7am departure can be especially awkward – queuing up with your mountain of baby gear won’t win you any points with the business crowd. Instead, go for a midday flight; planes are usually less crowded then. You may even score an empty row.
2. Choose the right route
‘Non-stop is best for a baby,’ says Shelly Rivoli, author of Travels with Baby and a mother of two. ‘Fewer ups and downs mean less pressure on little ears and a shorter trip overall,’ which you’ll appreciate if she starts to howl. Squirmy toddlers, on the other hand, need to burn off energy – so for longer trips, consider a stopover that allows them to leave the plane and run around.
3. Respect airport security
Even little kids will be asked to remove their shoes, so think Crocs, Merrells or other slip-on footwear. Also, be prepared to unbuckle your snoozing babe from her stroller, or unstrap her from a sling or baby carrier, all of which must go through the X-ray machine. ‘And leave the Play-Doh at home,’ warns Rivoli. Although it’s not officially banned, it has been disallowed in certain cases because of its resemblance to a plastic explosive.
4. Bring your wheels with you
An umbrella stroller or a lightweight double (good for an older sib and baby) lets you zoom through the airport – and you can drape coats and bags on the handles. Check your rig at the gate, and it’ll be there right when you get off.
5. Ease the pressure
Nursing or sucking on a bottle helps relieve a baby’s ear pain; chewy snacks like fruit leather are ideal for weaned tykes who are too young for gum. Or try earplugs specifically designed for air travel.
6. Never let ’em see you sweat
If you lose it in front of neighbouring passengers every time your tot tosses his sippy cup or grinds crackers into the seat, you’ll be seen as a raving lunatic before you’ve reached cruising altitude. Be Zen about it: simply pick up the mess and look the other way.
7. Pack extra togs – for all
Count on a massive diaper blowout as soon as you’re airborne, a lapful of knocked-over Bloody Mary mix at the first sign of turbulence and toddler puke during landing. Packing backup clothes in your carry-on will save the day.
8. Don’t take a seat
Airlines do not require you to purchase a ticket for children under the age of two, and some parents say that’s for good reason. ‘It’s just not worth the money to get a seat for a baby [under a year old],’ says Sloan Schickler, a mother of two. On a trip to London, Schickler’s daughter, then eight months old, screamed for five straight hours. ‘Having a seat wouldn’t have helped in the least – I had to hold her the whole time anyway to get her to calm down.’
9. Fly the friendly skies
Before boarding a flight, pick up a few Starbucks gift cards to pass out to people in the seats surrounding your family, in case your kid gets fussy. Add a note – written in your child’s voice, of course – asking for their patience. You’ll make instant allies who may well go out of their way to entertain your progeny.
10. Top picks to pack
Sewing cards, lollipops, mini-cereal boxes and a bunch of books with felt or magnetic pieces. Also, if you’re toting a car seat, consider a travel tray that snaps onto it, as younger kids may not be able to reach the seat-back table. What not to pack? Lego, puzzles, bead kits, and mega-packs of markers and crayons – you’ll constantly be reaching under the seats for the Lego man’s head and marker caps.
This story first appeared as 'Wing it with the onesies' (Aug 2010)