Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer Travel with Your Baby: Part II

Given that so many families are traveling this summer, we thought we would update our earlier posts on traveling with babies. Last time, we shared some general tips. This time, we will share information specifically about flying with your baby.

1. Do your homework before you leave for the airport.

Many airports offer information online including the location of family restrooms. Be sure to find out where those restrooms are located in all of the airports on your route. Also, see if they have special (low pressure) lines for families at the security check points. 
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. Check with your airline for policies and rules related to family boarding, carry-on bags, car seats, and strollers. You don’t want to be stuck trying to consolidate your luggage or repackage liquids on the floor at the gate. TSA will test any bottles of breast milk or prepared formula so keep them handy.

2. Prepare and practice.

You may be a pro with collapsing your stroller and putting your baby in a carrier or sling when you have two hands but in a crowded airport with boarding passes in your hand, you might not have both hands free. Take the time to practice manipulating all of your traveling gear with one hand and/or with limited elbow room. Several moms told us that using a sling to carry your baby makes things much easier.

3. Dress yourself and your baby appropriately.

Air travel can involve a lot of temperature changes as you pass through hot airports into cold planes and back again. Best to bring layers of clothing that can be easily added or removed. Don’t forget the metal detectors! Breeze through security by minimizing the metal that you wear (watches, jewelry, belt buckles, etc) or that might be on your baby (ditch the clothing with dozens of snaps or metal buckles). Make sure everyone has shoes that are easily removed and put back on again.

4. Keep your child close to you.

For families traveling with toddlers, you want to take steps to make sure that your child does not move very far away from you. While it is not likely that your child will go far, there are just too many opportunities for children to get hurt in airports. Keep your eyes open for hazards and your child in your arms or at your side. If you have a baby who loves to move, work on some "in the arms" repetitive games you can play to distract your baby when you must hold her.

5. Fly during off-peak hours.

I realize that we are all at the mercy of the airlines when it comes to departure times, but if you have the option, try to schedule flights to coincide with your baby’s happiest times of the day. Try to fly at off-peak times (usually late morning to mid-afternoon in the middle of the week). Smaller crowds and less pressure to hurry can help reduce your stress.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

While airports and airplanes are not known to be baby-friendly places, there will always be a few experienced parents or grandparents around who know what you are going through and who will be happy to lend a hand (or even 2!). One of our readers told us to tell you that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask anyone for help!

7. Be prepared for your child’s discomfort.

Flying can be particularly tough on babies and toddlers because they can’t move around very much during the flight and they feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable pressure in their ears during the landing. Try to get an aisle seat for easy access to the restroom and to the aisle for pacing. Swallowing can help reduce the pressure in babies’ ears so nursing or feeding babies as the plane descends can help. Reassure and comfort your baby during the rough patches. If you are doing everything you can to help your baby, don’t worry what others say or do around you.

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