Traveling with a baby

This question is a combination of two inquiries that are closely related: One mother asked for specific suggestions for toys, etc., "that could keep twin 17 month old's happily occupied during a 400+ mile car trip." Another parent is taking her 5 month old baby "to a family wedding in California. It will be his first plane ride and his first big trip away from daddy. Any suggestions for how to make the trip pleasant for us both? I'll still be nursing him and will be staying in a hotel."

"I took my son when he was 4 weeks and again when he was 3 months to California alone. The following is what I found helpful in making the trip pleasant for us both. Reserve either the bulkhead seat on the plane, and get an extra 1-2 feet of room between you and the front partition or see if the plane is not going to be full and get an aisle seat that is not occupied by anyone else. On one trip I got a whole row of 5 seats to ourselves! Carry on only what you need for the baby. Check everything else. Include in your carry on bag: Several diapers, 2-3 complete new outfits for baby, an extra nursing bra and clean shirt for you in case you leak, some hand toys, rattles, teddy bear, etc. You can even get those connectable plastic stars or fish that make chains and string them across from the seat to the food tray and hook on some toys to make an activity gym. Try to breast feed on take-off and landing to keep baby's ears open. If baby does not wish to take a feeding, but sucks on a pacifier, get him to suck on it at that time to help his ears. Most of all, try to stay relaxed and in a good mood...and if the baby cries don't worry too much, most people are really understanding!"

"These are things my husband and I used to do during car trips when our daughter was about 17 months old:

Drive at night or keep as awake and active as much as possible before the trip so she'll sleep a lot.

Sing songs and play tapes. Since she was too young to really sing herself, my husband and I would sing a hearty rendition of `Old MacDonald', making a contest out of how many animals we could think of (expanding far beyond farm animals).

Identify things out of the window - trees, houses, lakes, animals, etc. Get excited when you see something new.

Have a variety of healthy little snacks in baggie's or small boxes that she can hold

herself. Teething biscuits are great too.

Bring picture books to read with her (at the risk of becoming car sick yourself!).

Take breaks for fresh air and exercise every 2 hours or so - unless of course they're asleep.

Give them lots of physical contact - cuddling, tickling, identifying body parts, etc. Yes, it's possible even in a car seat!

Get creative! Have a puppet show over the edge of her car seat tray, make up stories or poems, etc. The trip will go faster for you too!"

"I remember packing a bag with only toys, books, food, etc., for the car trips. Bring lots of books: the library will put together a packet for you just for a trip. I also looked for some things around the house that I wouldn't necessarily let them play with in the house (because of size, parts, etc.) but were ok for constant supervision. One such item was a small musical item that play a tune when moistened (originally intended to check for wet diapers). Novelty is the key. I packed several small containers (like Tupperware midgets) with raisins, oyster crackers, pre-sweetened cereal, etc., and spaced them. Sing lots of songs too."

"I have twin 2 1/2 year old's and we take them twice a year on long car drives. Don't always have the two together; change the seating often. Get out and walk and snack often (rest stops for 1/2 an hour. Bring new books, toys and favorite blanket or pal. I bring special treats that they don't get very often for a bad time while driving. We also talk about things passing by and sing. For toys, I just went to the store and looked for easily held toys. Magnetic shapes or letters on a board, small piano. There are also toys made to go on car seats. As I have boys, small cars and trucks work well. Bring books also."

"I drove 500+ miles with my daughter when she was 7 months old and the first advice I got was to begin the driving early in the morning while my child was still sleepy (so she'd go back to sleep, hopefully) or just about naptime. For awake time, I would suggest trying to keep things interesting by: packing several different toys/books/puzzles for each of your two children which could be played with while in a car seat or booster seat. Pack snack foods and juice (in boxes) which can be passed out periodically. Make `pit stops' as frequently as possible so they (and you) can get out and stretch, walk around and see something interesting (even watching small animals is more fun than sitting in a car seat all day). Buy a couple of new little `surprise' toys to be brought out when your children get especially `antsy'. Play auto games (looking for red cars on the road, watching for cows or other farm animals along the way, etc.), and hopefully, have at least one other adult in the car to assist in keeping them preoccupied. I might also suggest switching seating arrangements periodically when you stop so that they get the chance to have different vantage points in the car. For the first `away from home' trip for the 5 month old, I would recommend mainly that Mom stay as close to him as possible and that you take a few favorite toys and other `familiar' items with you. At 5 months, he may not miss daddy so much, but he may be wary of other men holding him who aren't daddy. Be prepared for a little upset at night especially, but if you continue nursing and just keep him close, you'll all survive."

"Nursing freely will win you at least half the battle, especially if you time it right during take-off and landing. Novel objects can do most of the rest. When we're able to watch closely, we've gotten a lot of mileage out of an uninflated balloon, a crinkly plastic bag, a tiny piece of gum to taste (or gumming a big stick with mom on the other end), a piece of yarn, a small toy inside a plastic bag, socks (or puppets) over her/his hands. This is just for the plane. The rest of the trip your baby has you, which is what she/he wants most in the world. A front pack that's easy to use would be nice (maybe the Snugli part of your travel apparel and accessorize it with infant as needed?).

"For the long car trip, I'd suggest bringing lots of small toys or other interesting items that are unfamiliar to the children such as a small hand mirror, a ball of yarn, a small handmade booklet of family photos, etc. Also, I'd have handy some single portions of snacks in small cups with lids. A variety of snack items in each cup is better than one snack item per cup. Try a variety of finger cereals, dried cranberries or raisins, cheese crackers, etc. Plan on making frequent stops to run around. A car window shade to block strong sunlight is helpful too."

"Ideas for plane travel: Pack almost everything in your suitcase to be checked, not carried. All else, including your purse should go into the diaper bag. This will minimize what you carry in the airport. Also, take a nightlight from home for the hotel. Take along a photo of home and daddy.

Ideas for car travel: Buy some new inexpensive picture books and get them out at intervals on the trip. Same with small cars or plastic toys. Bring lots of raisins in small boxes, Cheerios in small containers and 6-paks of juice. Take turns sitting in back with them to play."

"The noises during take off and landing may frighten him, and the changes in air pressure will hurt his ears (especially during landing). Nursing him during these times is the best way to comfort him as well as equalize ear pressure so plan his nursing prior to take-off so that he's a little hungry and the plane is 1st or 2nd in line for take-off. If you ask for the bulk-head seats when you buy your ticket you can usually get them. They have extra leg room but you have to store carry-on luggage overhead. be sure to bring on board a change of clothes for yourself and 2 for him in case your luggage gets lost. Try to carry on only one bag with a shoulder strap with anything you'll need to get by. The small canvas collapsing strollers do fit in overhead bins. You can either put the baby or the carry on baggage in it to walk through the airports."

"To keep children happy away from home, take their favorite things with you to keep them feeling safe and secure. Items like their favorite blankets, toys, pacifier or bottles infant seat. Tapes of lullaby's or music to calm the children also is helpful but don't introduce new ones at this time. Keep to familiar things."

"With a little planning, toddlers can do very well on long car trips. I bought a bag full of inexpensive toys. These were the dime store variety that didn't last too long, but with a toddler's attention span such that it is, it worked great. I only brought out a toy when restlessness set in, in other words, I didn't assume boredom and immediately overload with the entire contents of my grab bag. Also, keep a box or laundry basket of their favorite small toys on the car seat within reach. This is handy for collecting the mess of toys that will build up during the trip."

"We took our son on a plane trip at age 18 months. Although it was shorter than a 400 mile car trip, you could do things that are similar to what we did. We purchased some inexpensive toys appropriate for his age that he had never seen before. We packed these, along with some new books, in a small suitcase - his suitcase. We pulled out the toys one at a time and read the books in between. Since you will be in a car you could make up a few `toy bags' with themes to them. A drawing bag, a puppet bag, etc. Be sure to bring along his teddy or blanket for security."

"I have had success with busy box type toys (especially ones that can be attached to the car seat). Another success has been tape recording favorite stories, then bringing both the books and tapes and playing them on the tape player while traveling. About the infant, I have mine checked a few days before we fly anywhere to make certain we are not dealing with an ear infection, and so any decongestants and/or antibiotics have at least 24 hours start before a flight. Nursing during take-off and landing also greatly helps. I have also found that my children were much happier when I brought along a Fischer-Price travel tender than when I tried using a hotel crib (which hasn't always been available)."

"First of all, definitely consider buying a ticket for the baby as well as yourself so you get two seats. California is an extremely long flight to hold an infant in your lap with tight quarters. We took our daughter to California when she was 4 months and it saved our life to ha a seat for her and her belongings. Take the car seat onto the plane and strap it in - the baby will be safe and comfortable - you will be able to eat, drink, read, go to the bathroom - and be sane upon arrival. Ask for an aisle seat in thebulk-head seats. They have more leg room. Nurse upon take-off or landing. Take some toys on board to play with. If you don't have an umbrella stroller, get one to wheel baby through airports and right onto the plane. They store great in overhead compartments on the plane."

"Ask the airline for a bassinet. You may have to pester your travel agency and the airline to get it. When we flew with our 3 month old at Christmas, we were told all kinds of information, `they're assigned first-come first-serve at the airport gate, and you have to get your seating request in 60 days ahead'. You have to have bulk-head window seating for it. We had hassles getting it and finally got it on the plane both ways only by trading seats with other passengers. Then we were the only passengers on the plane, both ways, who used a bassinet! Our baby made good use of it; she slept most of the flight each direction in it. Some recommend nursing your baby during take-off and landing since they're not big enough to chew gum. Our pediatrician didn't think it was necessary, but added, `It might comfort her'. I nursed our baby, and I think she fared better during take-off and landing than we did!"

"My 4 month old daughter and I just returned from a fun weekend at Disneyland. Get a flight that won't be full so you can have a row of seats. Bring favorite toys and a few new ones, a receiving blanket to cover the seat where the baby is or bring an infant seat/car seat. Attach plastic links to the toys so they won't be dropped on the floor. Nurse or use a pacifier during take-offs and landings. Beware of the intercom system, it was very loud and startled my daughter. Hopefully, the baby will sleep most of the trip! I used a backpack for my carry-on luggage and packed things in sealable plastic bags. Ask a flight attendant to watch the baby while you use the restroom. Our doctor suggested a little Tylenol before the flight to help with the ear pressure, but as long as the baby sucks on something, the flight should be fine."

"For a car trip we have always had a couple new items (toys) for each child. If they like to be read to, new books are nice. They don't have to be elaborate. Puppets have also worked well for us. Also, healthy car snacks, travel lots when napping, and frequent stops to stretch. A medium size ball is a good thing to have to play catch, kick and chase about."

"I also travelled alone with my then 5 month old son in an airplane. I requested a bulk-head seat from the airlines which gave myself and my son more room. When I arrived at the airport I had my son, an umbrella stroller, a car seat and a diaper bag. Needles to say, I needed assistance wherever I went. I was cheerfully helped when I asked! So ask for help.

It is more important for your child to nurse during the descent of the airplane rather than the ascent. There are more pressure changes during the descent of the airplane that could affect your child's ears. I took a bottle of water for my son in case he would not nurse from me. One time my son nursed only on the descent of the airplane and did just fine. The other time he would not take anything to drink on the way up or down in the airplane and appeared to do fine with his ears. Ask for a window seat so you can nurse discreetly. Also, ask for an empty seat next to you so you have more room to manipulate your infant when he nurses.

I brought along my son's favorite toys and books for the 1 1/2 hour plane trip. My sole purpose was to keep him happy and entertained. he was, and then he fell asleep!

Travel with your baby when he is most cheerful. I had a 7:30 a.m. flight which was just perfect for my son. Avoid traveling when your son might tend to get fussy or during nap time.

Since you are nursing your son, you don't have to worry about sterilizing bottles, etc. in the motel. Just nurse as needed. I had a queen sized bed so my son slept with me with pillows piled on one side. (He was not crawling then.) The motel staff were very helpful to me when they knew I had an infant with me. I also bought disposable diapers when I arrived at my destination so I wouldn't waste a whole suitcase on diapers. Otherwise, I always use cloth diapers."

"Bring puppets for the twins. Also, buy new toys and books and save them to play with in the car for the first time. Bring snacks in tiny containers that they can hold (raisins, Cheerios, etc.). Remember, it's unfair to expect them to be strapped in for a full day or two. Try to drive during naptime or at night as much as you can, and stop frequently, at least once an hour, for a good 15 minute to 1/2 an hour romp and run.

For the 5 month old on the airplane, bring a bottle of water for the plane to help his ears popping. Bring familiar toys and blanket, but you will be his connection to security. Call dad and hold the phone to baby's ear to say hello."

"We have been traveling with our daughter since she was eight weeks old. The first piece of equipment you dare not do without, is liquid Dramamine, or another motion sickness medication. It will keep the baby happy, and able to look out the window without any nausea. Also, it tends to make the first few hours of the trip quiet, and it does make them drowsy. Check with your physician or pharmacist for the correct dosage according to the child's weight. Also, when making stops, try putting one car seat up front, and ride in the back seat yourself for a while. Sometimes just that little change of scenery will make all the difference. Soda crackers and juice boxes come in handy, as do bananas and other easy finger-foods."

"We have traveled many times with our children at different ages, by different types of transportation. I believe our car rides went smoother and faster because either my husband or I ride in the back seat with our children, to talk, read, sing, pick up toys, etc. We also pack things to eat and drink, many foods not chosen regularly at home and have a picnic either in our car or at a rest area along the highway. We also bought a few new toys to be given out when things get a little tense (remember to save things for the return ride). Play music, sing along and enjoy the ride. You'll be surprised at how well they do."

"I would consider paying for a seat for him and having him sit right in his car seat. It would be more comfortable for both of you and would give you more privacy when you nurse him. It also solves the logistic problem of no car seat once you get there."

"Two suggestions for the 17 month old twins taking a car trip. Each of our children has enjoyed hearing nursery rhymes and lullaby's play softly over and over again on a tape player. A second diversion is a cup of crushed ice or small ice chips from a fast food restaurant. I will sit in the back seat feeding the toddler ice piece by piece, occupying well over an hour. This keeps you busy, but the baby is content."

"We took our 3 month old daughter to West Germany with us in November. We carried all her toys with us but only allowed her to play with 1 or 2 at time. This way she didn't get bored with the whole lot. Remember to nurse your baby with take-offs and landings and also have a bottle of water handy - your baby just needs to swallow a few times to equalize the pressure in his ears. When he's away from Daddy, just be prepared for a clingy baby who won't let you out of his sight (that's what our daughter did in February when her Daddy was out of town and went to stay with Grandparents). The hotel should have a crib for you to use - even if it's just for you to take a shower with your baby tucked away safe."

"If possible have a friend or family member walk you to and meet you at your gate as you leave and arrive to help with any last minute problems. Take his favorite toys to carry on the plane. Be sure to have enough toys to keep him entertained for the entire trip if necessary. Have someone stay in your hotel room with you to help out. Take a front pack carrier with you and use it at the airport. And relax, he'll love all the new sights and sounds!"

"Vicky Lansky has a wonderful book on traveling with children. I took my 15 month old on a plane trip alone when I was 7 1/2 months pregnant. An umbrella stroller, which could even be strolled onto the airplane to our seat, was just the thing for busy airports and visiting. I only carried on the stroller and a diaper bag (with extra baby clothes, of course) which held my purse. Fortunately no lost luggage! Bulkhead seats provide extra squirming and playing room. We had snacks and toys and books, but the ice from my drink and the tray that fold into the arm rest (in bulkhead seats) were as entertaining. Another fun item was a package of 3M Post-it tape flags. They are colorful little adhesive flags that pull out of a small box - easy to put in a purse or pocket. They were fun to pull out of the container and minimized delays. I would also recommend keeping naptime, bedtime and mealtimes as routine as possible. I got so many compliments on what a happy, good son I had."

"For the 17 month old's I would take coloring book and crayons, other toys for that age, pillows and blankets for resting, and snacks. A hungry child will not keep still, especially in a situation like a long car trip. You can also play verbal games like counting all the cars that pass by that are red or blue, etc.

For the 5 month old I would nurse before the plane ride and/or take breast milk along. The baby should be sucking either a bottle or pacifier during the plane ride because of the air pressure change. They don't know how to swallow to relieve it like adults do. Make sure he has toys to play with to occupy his hands and a blanket to snuggle in and fall asleep."

"A suggestion that has been a life-saver for us is to bring along several new small toys for your child, but wrap them like a gift. After a certain amount of time give them to your children - one at a time. Something new to play with helps occupy our little boys time in the car."

"For the parent of the 5 month old: Having traveled a lot With our son (now almost 2) since he was a small baby, I can offer some tips. First, as much as possible, try to maintain his/her usual schedule for naps, mealtimes, bedtime, etc., and routines. We've had cribs arranged in hotel rooms, car seats in rental cars, etc. Still expect there to be some disruption for the baby. As for the plane ride, just make sure to nurse and/or give a pacifier or something to suck on for take-offs and landings. We always bring little toys, maybe new ones the baby hasn't seen before."

"For the 5 month old on the plane. Offer a bottle of water. Swallowing helps `pop' the ears during take-off and landing. Don't let your baby lie on hotel sheets. The detergent is too harsh for an infant's skin. Bring your own bedding (receiving blankets, etc.) Bring a bath mat for the tub. Bring rattles, a toy to kick, a teether, and put bells on booties. This is a great time as this age takes a great interest in faces. Get down on the floor to crawl around and explore from baby's point of view. Babyproof where you can. I wouldn't use hotel towels on baby."

"I recently took my 4 month old on a flight and found his pacifier or bottle during ascents or descents helpful for minimizing the discomfort of pressure at those times. If your child has a cold you may wish to ask your pediatrician about a decongestant. I also found that when he was tired of being rocked in his car seat that being held in a front pack was soothing and safer than just holding him. It was helpful to have a large light weight scarf that matched all my clothes for discrete breastfeeding and to use as an impromptu sun screen when in the rental car."

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