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The Art of Traveling with Infants

July 17, 2017

Travel nowadays can be challenging in and of itself—with overbooked flights, frequent delays and layovers. Add a super-small fry to the load, and your stress level is bound to reach high altitudes. But there are some things you can do to simplify the experience so that your vacation can begin hours before you even arrive in beautiful Newport Beach. The following is a list of “do’s” that I gleaned from my mental list of “I definitely shouldn’t have done this’s?” while traveling alone with my infant daughter the first few times.

Time Flies.

So allow yourself more than you would if you were traveling alone. That way, tantrums, HAZMAT diaper situations, or other surprises won’t set you back— not to mention other things that can go amiss between the time you depart your garage and arrive at your gate.

Roll deep.

That means one large piece of luggage—a duffel bag on wheels is ideal—for both of you. Weight won’t matter when you’re rolling it. Having two free hands will. Leave the extra pair of espadrilles behind, and don’t forget the extra burp cloths, beloved toys, or anything else you can’t find in your hotel lobby’s convenience shop or nearby drugstore.

Don’t get too carried away.

In your carryon, you should have all the essentials, but don’t go overboard: a travel-day’s worth of diapers, travel-size wipes and cream, a burp cloth (I like to use dinner napkins—they’re just as absorbent, and come in pretty prints), a favorite swaddle or blanket, two changes of clothes for baby and an extra one for you, a tiny toy or two, and a book for each of you (in case baby drifts off to sleep in the sky and you have time to yourself). If you’re not breastfeeding (or if you’re a dad), you’ll need formula and a bottle, plus filtered water from the airport shop. If you are, you can use a swaddle or a scarf for privacy, and you’ll need extra water and snacks for yourself to stay hydrated and keep milk production up. We also brought along one of those squeezable Plum pouches of mixed veggies and fruits—it proved a great way to distract her during the flight, but since I let her feed herself (and more of the blueberry puree hit my shirt than her mouth), it’s also when I realized an extra change of clothes would have been a swell idea. Also important: pack a pacifier for baby to suck on during takeoff and landing—mine didn’t so much as whimper from the pressure, so I’m convinced this is the ticket. A teething ring is also a must for little ones cutting chompers. (And it doesn’t hurt to pack some infant pain-aid just in case.)

Dress to undress.

That means shoes, sweaters, and any other layers that easily slip on and off, and no belts or other accessories that you’ll be required to remove at security. You’ll have enough to juggle. Also, if you need to use the bathroom on-flight, you’ll need to bring your bub with. Wear pants with a drawstring or elastic waist that can be wiggled down one-handed. Leave the button-fly jeans at home—or in the 1990s.

Take a stroller.

A convertible-style works best. As a new mom who was flying alone with my infant daughter for the first time, I had some anxiety about how to transport all our stuff—or more specifically, how I would manage to carry it all, and her. With a convertible stroller, which allows you to click in a car seat, I had a system down after just one leg of our trip:

  • Remove car seat from its base, and safety-belt into your taxi, airport shuttle or Uber. Stroller folds up and goes in the trunk with your luggage.
  • Upon arrival at the terminal, open stroller and click in the car seat (child strapped in). Since they’ll be facing you, you can easily attend to their needs while also pulling luggage and fiddling with the airport kiosk.
  • Baggage gets checked for an additional fee of $25. Having your hands free with an infant is worth paying $250.
  • At security, unclick car seat with baby and place it by your feet. Collapse stroller and hoist it on the X-ray belt. Remove baby and place car seat on the belt, too. Carry baby through security.
  • At the other side, reverse order: Remove belongings from belt. Secure child in car seat. Open stroller. Click in car seat with child. Whip out your ticket and look at your gate number for the fourth time. Check the airport’s display system to confirm that you’re “on time.”

Now, go for a stroll.

If you’re lucky, you have one of those babies that will lay calmly in your arms or in the car seat and look around. If you’re me, you better be prepared to hike around the airport for an hour while you wait to board. My lively, curious little motion junkie insisted on being on the move—and most of the time, I had to prop her on my hip while I pushed our carryon around in her stroller. The goods news is, by the time you board, you’ll be ready to rest in your seat for the entire flight. You’ll also have earned that Auntie Anne’s Pretzel you’ve passed 12 times.

Get first-class treatment.

Even if you’re flying coach, most airlines give special treatment to passengers traveling with infants by allowing you to board first. Make sure you have a separate tag for your car seat and stroller, which you’ll leave on the boarding bridge just outside the plane’s door. And when you arrive, it’ll be right there waiting for you.

Be courteous to your neighbors.

Babies cry. And some cry a lot. Most people will show you kindness (especially when they see you’re traveling alone), but make your apologies anyway—and maybe even buy the nice businessman beside you a Bloody Mary to further show your appreciation. If yours is a loud crier, and you can afford it, maybe buy one for every passenger in your section. Also be sure to disable sounds from any toys you’ve brought on board, and take care of diaper changes in the lavatory. Our last flight didn’t have a change-table, so I laid her on my lap. A last-minute diaper change back at the airport might afford you a diaper-duty-free flight altogether.

Arrange your accommodations in advance.

If you’ll need a playpen or other portable sleeper for baby, be sure to let your hotel (rental or host) know ahead of time. If you and your little co-sleep, opt for a queen- or king-size bed that has ample space for you both, plus a border wall built with pillows.

Just breath.

Salty ocean air has a way of taking the edge off, even for the most tired moms and dads. Spend time in the sand, stick your toes in the surf, stroll the parks, air-malls and quaint neighborhoods, and enjoy this scenic slice of paradise. Adventures under the Southern California sun guarantee longer naps and earlier bedtimes for bub, so you can drink in a little extra time for you come sunset.

Written by Ashley Breeding

Ashley Breeding is a full-time magazine editor and freelance writer. Splitting her time between Palm Springs and Orange County, Calif., she covers feature stories, fitness & outdoors, architecture & design, fashion, health & beauty.

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