Kids are portable

December 15 | Guest post by Nancy Cavillones
Alice with her custom-fit earplugs at SXSW
Amira with her custom-made ear plugs at SXSW
One of the promises that my husband and I made to ourselves when we talked about having children, was that we'd continue to satisfy our desire to travel. We looked forward to carting our future children around the country and around the world.

Our 16 month old daughter has taken three trips in her life, so far. We flew to Austin when she was 8 months old for SXSW, to Krakow for a wedding when she was 11 months old and most recently, to Seattle to visit friends when she was 15 months old.

Taking Alice to Austin for SXSW was pretty rad. My mom, an audiologist, made a pair of custom-fit earplugs for Alice's wee ears, so that we could go to shows without ruining her hearing. That is probably pretty much the number one rule of traveling with small children — be prepared, so that your style isn't cramped. Besides the earplugs, I brought along my soft carrier so that we wouldn't be hampered by a stroller in venues.

We tried to pack as light as possible but since we were renting a car, we had to bring along our car seat. Most car rental places offer car seats to rent but you can never guarantee their availability by the time you make it to the car rental office, and you also cannot guarantee the condition of the seat.

Flying internationally with a newly mobile infant is 'nother ballgame but again, preparedness is KEY…

We had a night flight, and booked a baby bed for Alice. The airline we flew offered this at no extra charge. Alice slept for most of the flight in the bed, and we were able to relax without a squirmy , desperate-to-crawl baby on our laps. It was *almost* like old times, when we got to kick back and enjoy the ride. Almost. Flying at night allowed Alice to keep some semblance of a routine, and lessened the impact of jet lag.

I love that the title of this image is whinykrakow. That's my new band name.
I love that the title of this image is whinykrakow. That's my new band name.
We also contacted the hotel ahead of time and requested a crib in our room. Though we normally like to pack light, we decided to bring our full-size stroller on this trip, with mixed results. It was great on the one hand, because Alice was able to nap in the stroller while we did sightseeing around Krakow, and slept in the stroller during the actual wedding while we partied the night away. On the other hand, a big stroller is a big stroller. We actually popped a tire entering the airport for our flight home, which made it a pain to lug around until we could get the stroller checked in, and meant that we couldn't use the stroller at all while waiting for our flight. Oh well!

When we flew to Seattle, we had a walker on our hands–a full-blown toddler. On our previous trips, Alice had been a lap child. At 8 months, she was still content to sleep in my arms and nurse, and for the international trip, she had the previously mentioned bed. This time around was hard work! We learned two things from that trip: if the trip involves a major time change, fly at night, and if your kid is a ball of frenetic energy with no attention span, book a third seat and bring the car seat on board! Two years of age is the cutoff for lap children, for most airlines but it all depends on your kid… some toddlers can sit there and be entertained happily. My toddler is not one of them, despite being plied with books, new toys, snacks and all sorts of gadgets at her disposal. We arrived back home so exhausted that it sort of negated the vacation we'd just taken. Live and learn! We

So, my advice for those of you traveling with small children:

  1. Be prepared. Make your child comfortable so that YOU can be comfortable.
  2. Fly at night whenever possible, if there's a major time change.
  3. Go ahead and spring for that extra seat if you think you'll be spending the flight wrassling with your child.
  4. Be flexible. This will probably save your sanity. Kids don't like being uprooted from their routine, no matter how exciting the trip may be, so you'll need to bend a little and not expect that it'll be the same as flying by yourself.

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  1. this totally helps!

    in april we're making our first trip with the baby and we're going overseas and this post makes me less nervous

    AND i was planning on going sans baby to SXSW this upcoming year…. but now i'm starting to rethink that

    • One caveat about SXSW–there was at least one venue that wouldn't let us in with Alice. Just a heads-up! She had the most fun at the outdoor free shows where there were other kids there.

  2. Thank you for the advice! We are potentially traveling with a two-month-old to Spain and Germany next Spring for a family reunion, and just starting to think about how to navigate this trip. Our doctor has given us the thumbs up on the trip, and I like the fact that baby will still be little enough to keep from squirming (hopefully). It will definitely be an adventure, though.

    Also, your little girl is adorable!

    • Elka? Two months! It'll be a near cakewalk. LOL. Get the kiddo used to a carrier before you go, and you'll be all set. Have fun!

      • I agree! Elka's little one should be relatively easy to travel with at two months old…as long as Elka herself is feeling up to it. We traveled from Seattle to New Hampshire with our little daughter in September & October. She was 5 1/2 months old at that point. We are ECing and she even used her potty on the plane. A good tip is to nurse during take-offs & landings. I think, to me, the most important thing to have access to during travel with a baby is laundry. For comfort, we use a Moby most of the time, but I found it more difficult while traveling. The ends drag on the floor/ground when putting it on & taking it off. This process can also be a bit cumbersome in places like the isle between seats on a plane. I think an Ergo might be better for traveling.

  3. Were planning on doing a driving tour of the Pacific Northwest this summer when our daughter will be one, and a week in Puerto Rico when she is 20 months! Im glad other parents have done this with success.

  4. My daughter was in NYC (from Seattle) I think 8 times before she was two. We also flew to St. Louis, to Phoenix several times. We travel 6 – 8 times per year and always have. I will say – there's a rude, rude awakening possible when they get to 2 – 3 on the nighttime flying. There came a time when I booked our redeye, packed, and confident in my Blackbelt In Travel With Kids, showed up at the airport. My daughter, about 2 & 2 months decided that was the night she wasn't sleeping – at all. She was old enough to be overly stimulated from it all and my nursing days were over, so no hope of nursing her to sleep. From then on, it was daytime travel and "occupying" her. One thing I started doing at the waddler / toddler stage is wrap up items for opening. I mean like – their usual stuff from the toy bin. She knew the stuff, but would squeal with delight when she unwrapped it on the plane. Also, for older babies / toddlers, get "busy" stuff that does not have small bits. Seems self evident, but I once spent about 8 hours on a flight retrieving colorform pieces from the ground .

  5. A great article to share with new parents. I don't have kids but I appreciate you focus on what will be good for Alice first. I watch parents as I travel back and forth from Israel and my heart goes out to them. Glad to see you shared your experiences here, Nancy.

  6. Thanks for this post. It is pretty reassuring. We are tentatively planning to take a 7 month-old to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica so I can shoot a wedding. I would normally say no but it is for a dear friend who is training to be my doula and it is in a spot of the world I know well (actually where I got married). We hope that knowing the creature comforts of the place and renting a home will make it easier for the days we will have no itinerary.

  7. Yes, having a sizeable home base will make your life infinitely easier! When we were in Krakow, our hotel suite was the size of a small NYC studio and having all that room made our lives easier, instead of feeling like we were boxed in. We didn't feel compelled to constantly be out and about, as we would if we had a tiny hotel room.

  8. Some things parents on flights forget: A young child doesn't know to continuously swallow or yawn to get his or her ears to pop. Bring along a pacifier or bottles if bottlefeeding for younger babies, or try to get a breastfeeding baby to nurse during take-off and landing. Some breastfeeding infants who reject pacifiers will accept sucking on mom or dad's (clean) pinkie if unwilling to nurse. For a toddler, lollipops can be a real life-saver, not only for you, but for other passengers, especially if some are of the "babies should be seen, not heard" mindset.

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