1. Plan Ahead - Traveling during the holidays can be unpredictable, so it is good to be as prepared as possible. If you are driving, make sure you have good directions and check the driving conditions before you leave. It is a good idea to map out places to stop along the way. If you are flying, remember that airports are busier during the holidays. Plan on arriving at the airport about 2 hours early and try to avoid scheduling layovers that are shorter than 1 hour, just in case there are delays.
2. Comfort is Key - The trip will be much easier if your baby is comfortable, so make sure your baby is dressed appropriately. Even when it is cold outside, avoid bulky clothing that may be uncomfortable when your baby is strapped into a carseat. Instead, bring a blanket or layers of clothing that can be used if you believe your baby is cold.
3. Naptime is a Nice Time - If possible, schedule driving time when your baby will be sleepy. If you are going to be in the car during your baby's naptime, make sure that you provide a lot of fun physical activity or stimulation before you leave so that your baby is worn out by the time you get on the road. If you don't mind driving at night, you can wait until it is bed time to leave (just make sure that you aren't too tired!)
4. Babies Get Bored Too - Riding in the car can be boring, especially for toddlers who have a lot of energy. Now that my daughter is older, we make sure that we have lots of stuff for her to do in the car. We bring music, books, and crayons to keep her entertained (magnetic drawing boards are fun and not messy). When she was younger, we would put colorful toys down by her feet for her to look at. My husband and I also take turns sitting in the back with her so that she doesn't get lonely.
5. More is better - When packing for a trip, it is better to have a few extra outfits and diapers than to be stuck in a car or airplane with a stinky baby. Remember to pack clothes for different kinds of weather. Even if you are traveling to somewhere warm, you don't want to risk an unexpected weather change making your baby uncomfortable.
6. Sailing through Security - With the extra baggage (car seat, stroller, etc) and the extra rules, flying with an infant certainly can be an adventure. For those of you traveling in the US, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a very useful website that provides tips for getting through security with kids efficiently. Be sure to check with your airline or local transportation administration to find out the rules before you go the airport.
8. Different Location, Same Routine - Babies do best when they can predict what is going to happen next (See Repetition in a Baby's Daily Life). We know that keeping a routine can be almost impossible when you are traveling, but remember that your baby will be much happier if you can keep things as normal as possible while you're away from home. Try to keep bed time consistent, eat meals around the same time, bring familiar toys, and don't schedue a lot of activities around your baby's normal nap times.
9. One Less Thing to Pack - Most hotels have cribs that can be brought to the room so that you don't have to bring your own. When you make your reservation, ask about reserving a crib. If you aren't able to reserve it at that time, call right before check-in to reserve one. Many hotels will have it ready and waiting for you when you arrive.
10. Pay Close Attention to Cues - Traveling during the holidays usually means visiting a lot of people; some your baby will know well and others she may not. Watch for your baby's cues (especially her "need a break" cues) to keep her from getting too overwhelmed by all the excitement around her. It is also helpful to plan some downtime when you and your baby can relax together.
Now we want to hear from you! What tips do you have for parents traveling with their infants and toddlers?