Friday, July 6, 2007

Tips for Traveling with Infants

Urban Baby got Christina Chan, author of "101 Baby Travel Tips," to share a few tips on flying with an infant.

Smart Booking: Bulkhead seats are a favorite of parents traveling with kids because of the extra legroom and the ability to hook up airline bassinets. The drawback? No storage under the seats.

--Bulheads are great, but if you're traveling at a busy time of year, odds are you won't get it. Your options are to (1) buy a seat for the baby (usually at a slight discount) or (2) hold the squirming monster (the name develops over the course of the flight, trust me). If it's a short flight, you might be willing to save on the extra seat. If it's a long haul flight, or if you have a particularly energetic child, consider how you'll cope for 10 hours. Are you flying alone? Will the baby be able to sleep in your lap? Will the baby wake up easily if you have to move or get up? Will you be able to sleep if you're holding the baby. If you do decide to hold your baby, consider getting one of these. It's much safer than the strap the airline provides you with, and only $30.

International Expeditions: Check out the website for the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs for info on finding American doctors in a foreign country, travel safety, and legal issues concerning traveling out of the country with children.

Supplies: Heading to a major city? No need to schlep dozens of diapers when there is a drugstore on every corner. Large Ziploc bags to toss in messy diapers, dirty spoons and the like are a must, as is an extra change of clothing for the baby.

--My sister-in-law's expert tip: consider a change of clothes for yourself on the flight if you don't want to smell like throw-up for 10 hours. Another thing to consider is changing diapers on the plane. It's not easy, and it's worse if the bathroom doesn't have a changing table. A friend's tip: bring your changing pad and lie it on the closed toilet lid. It's the closest you'll get to a reasonable surface. If you're truly exceptional or looking for a challenge, try changing your little one while in your arms :-P

That's Entertainment: Bring two toys – one that's an old favorite, plus a new one that's just begging to be explored.

--You don't want to carry too much stuff have to carry it. Be conservative with space in your carry-on so you'll be able to manage it once you get on the flight. Even moreso if you're traveling alone with a child. Have what you *need,* but don't bring too many "just in case" items. Besides, engaging your child can be much more effective than just shaking a toy at him.

Car Seats: Taxis usually don't have car seats, but many car rental companies and car services will supply one for a small fee. Reserve the car seat when booking, and give the company your child's age and weight. Ask the year and make of the car seat, as well as the criteria for replacing it.

--If you decide to get a seat for your child, which isn't necessary until s/he is two years old, you can use your car seat in the airline seat for an added level of safety. Make sure that it's FAA certified, though. Transporting it can be a challenge between luggage, carry-ons...oh ya, and the baby. I've found two products that simplify the challenge. First, the gogo Kidz Travelmate, which allows you to wheel your own car seat throughout the airport and beyond while your child is strapped in. We've already traveled a few times with our little guy, so we decided to invest in a sit 'n' stroll. It's a car seat that transforms into a stroller, it's FAA approved, and it fits in the airline seats with the arms raised (always a question with other car seats). The stroller's handles pull out from the back of the seat and are a bit wonky, so I wouldn't use it as a primary stroller, but it works in a pinch. With either option, you have a car seat once you arrive at your destination, resulting in one less concern when you land achy and bleary-eyed.
If you're unsure about policies, I'd suggest calling the airline prior to your trip.

Metaboy finally fell asleep after a long, long flight to Ireland.

Baby Proofing: Call the hotel before the trip to ask about baby proofing (some offer this service). Pack extra outlet covers (masking tape works in a pinch), or pipe cleaners to secure drape cords. Inspect the room for dangerous objects that could be within a baby's reach.

--I like the masking tape idea for quick and cheap baby proofing. It sounds all-purpose, too. You can tape cabinets shut, wind up drape cords, and safeguard various other traps without leaving a damaging film or sticky residue.

My favorite travel tip: Don't overpack. Unless you're going to a third world country, you should be able to find most of what you need if you either run out or forgot something at home. Make a list beforehand and stick to it. As for toilettries, bring small bottles filled with your needed products (e.g., cleanser, lotion, hair product, etc.) and put them in a zip-top bag. If they leak, they won't detroy your wardrobe. And they'll be easy to find once you need them. And remember that you're only allowed 3 ounces on flights these days, so don't bother bringing anything larger.