We traveled a lot before having kids. We knew this would slow down, but hoped to continue traveling some. With family spread across 3 countries and friends spread out even farther, this is a reality for us. I don't think we realized how much we would be traveling in the kids' first year. Between holidays and weddings, we went on 4 road trips and 3 air trips all in the first year.
Our first trip was to a wedding in Chicago. We debated going up until the last minute because the kids were only 7 weeks old, but we really wanted to be there to support our friends. We flew and it went well. We bought everyone a seat on the plane and the kids slept in their car seats during the flight. We wore them anytime we went out to keep them safe, happy, and away from germs. This was one of our easiest trips with kids mostly because they were so young. It also helped that we were so sleep deprived to begin with that the extra stress of traveling couldn't push us any farther over the edge.
Our second trip was to visit family for Thanksgiving. The kids were two months old and it was a car trip. Somehow this was more complicated. We had to stop multiple times to feed/change/entertain kids. A trip that before kids would take 3.5 hours, took around 5 hours. We had planned it to leave during nap time thinking they would sleep the entire way. They didn't and it wasn't fun.
Thanksgiving with Grandma
Our third trip was for Christmas to the same place. So kids were three months old and another driving trip. This also didn't go well. In fact, it was this trip that made me say we were never going to travel with the kids again. While it was great to see family, it was stressful. The kids didn't travel well. They didn't sleep well. We were still in protect the kids from germs mode and sick people wanted to touch and hold them.
Christmas with great-aunt and great-grandma
Our fourth trip was for Christmas to the other side of the family. So a week after the last trip, we went for a plane trip. This time the flight was not direct and we were going out of the country so we had the added fun of customs. Once again we got the kids their own seat and they were really good for the flights. We had scheduled a long lay over and needed every minute of it. Trying to schedule everything around feeding/changing/nap time is difficult, but possible. It was great seeing family and friends that we wouldn't have seen otherwise.
Father, Son, Grandson
Our fifth trip was six months later. The kids were 9 months old. We went to Florida for a family wedding. Another plane trip and we used the same plan. This time we had the added fun of a car trip in Florida for part of the vacation. Once again, the kids were better in the plane than in the car. We had a ton of fun on this trip and I started to think about more vacations again.
Our sixth trip was the next month. My wonderful husband surprised me with a road trip to do something I had always wanted to do (trapeze lessons). This road trip also didn't go well. We were stuck in traffic, the kids were hungry and dirty and we couldn't exit. There was a lot of screaming and the kids ended up off schedule. Some kids are fine without a schedule, but our kids are miserable and make everyone around them miserable if we get off schedule. While it was an incredible trip and I'm so glad I got to go, our kids aren't great at road trips.
Our seventh trip was when the kids were right at a year old. This was another wedding trip and a long road trip. We planned more breaks and changed our timing and it went better. By this time we were getting good at knowing what to pack, what we needed to buy when we got there, and how to manage the kids in a hotel.
Babies on an oil rig
Here are some of our tips for plane trips:
- Get the child their own seat. It's more expensive than having a lap child, but it is so much safer. If your child is hurt it will cost you more than the ticket in the long run. Your child will also be more comfortable in their own car seat. If you are going to need a car seat once you get there, this way you know it won't be damaged by baggage handlers.
- Feed during take off and landing - sucking helps keep the ears clear and pain free.
- Attempt to schedule your flights during nap time.
- Look up family bathrooms at the airport before you leave home. If you only have one baby this might not be such a big deal, but with two infants and needing to pump breast milk this was a must.
- Have a "new" toy for the flight in case your child is awake. We would take away a toy for a month before and then give it back on the trip.
- Know the regulations for traveling with milk and read online stories of how babies are treated at security at that airport. This varied widely and even changed because of an attempted bombing a couple of days before one of our trips.
- Know if your child will sleep in the car and plan around that.
- Plan on each trip taking almost twice the usual amount of time. If you get there earlier, no big deal, but this will hopefully keep you from being late!
- Have a plan for feedings. We used the back of the car, but a park or restaurant would have worked also.
- While we got better, we didn't figure this one out for infants.
- Call and ask if they have a crib you can have in the room. We have used small cribs, folding cribs, and pack-n-plays. Not having to bring your own (or two of your own in our case) saves a lot of time and trouble.
- If possible get a room with a blocked off area. This helps keep the kids area dark while allowing us to be close by without having to tip toe around them.
- Get a room with a fridge.
- Once the kids were eating solids, we would have them sit on a clean sheet rather than on the floor.
Try to relax and have fun. If you are stressed, your child(ren) will feed off of it and make everything worse. It's a great adventure and go into it knowing things will go wrong.