I'll never forget the anxious feeling of leaving the hospital with our brand new baby boy. I thought to myself, this is it--we're officially on our own. Although I couldn't wait to take our baby home, a small part of me was terrified to leave the comfort and security of the hospital. I knew I would no longer have the abundance of labor and delivery nurses by my side to reassure me that I was doing this whole "mom thing" right. As I watched one of the nurses place my son in his car seat, I wondered how I would ever master the skill of safely securing him in his car seat on my own, much less have the courage and confidence to take an overnight road trip or flight. I grew up as an only child and wasn't around babies or small children regularly--so everything was new to me.
My son was 2 weeks-old the first time I was brave enough to take him on our first car ride alone--I just had to have those newborn pictures! I felt a sense of relief as I successfully secured him in the car seat and clicked it in place. It wasn't until I couldn't get him out of the car seat that panic set in. I forgot which button to push to release the carrier. Instead of releasing the carrier, I successfully unlatched the car seat base. I nervously fumbled around while trying to hold back tears. After several failed attempts, I finally decided to take him out of his carrier and carried him in my arms into the photography studio. Fortunately, the photographer was a fellow mom and when my session ended, she walked us to the car and graciously helped me re-secure the car seat base. She assured me that traveling with a baby does get easier. In that moment, I didn't believe her...but fast forward 8 months later, countless trips to and from daycare, numerous long road trips and flights and it's safe to say that I can look back and laugh at my travel fails.
Although I laugh about it now, I'll never forget how insecure and helpless I felt as a mom in those moments. I hope to spare a new mom the same feelings by sharing my travel hacks for the most predictable and unpredictable travel situations. After reading this, you should be able to confidently drive and fly with your baby.
Travel Hacks for Driving
1. Car Cleanup Kit for Emergencies (In addition to your normal diaper bag)
Babies are messy and so are accidents. I learned this the hard way after my son threw up all over the car on my way to work. Keep a small plastic container in your car filled with the items listed below. I emphasize clear to keep the thieves away. Let's be honest, no one wants your cleanup kit, but they might be tempted by your trendy tote or handbag.
Items for Kit
Large towel for big messes
Medium towel for medium size messes
Pack of baby wipes for blowouts, spit up and throw up
A bottle of water (only to use for rinsing)
3 large ziplock bags (to store dirty/smelly items)
1 extra outfit for baby
1 extra shirt for yourself
2. Bright Sticker for Car Seat Release Latch
Being a new mom can make you forgetful. Place a brightly colored sticker on the car seat latch to remind you which button to push when it is time to remove your car seat carrier from the car seat base. This is also helpful for dad, grandparents or anyone else who might be traveling with your baby.
3. Pacifier Clip and Toy Holder
If your baby enjoys the comfort of a pacifier, use a pacifier clip to attach the pacifier to your baby's car seat. If the baby drops his pacifier, you can easily reach the attached paci clip and place it back in your baby's mouth.
If your baby loves the comfort of holding a toy or rattle, place small container of toys within your reach. If the baby drops their toy, you can quickly grab a new one to give to them.
Travel Hacks for Flying
1. Airport Emergency Kit (In addition to your normal diaper bag)
You never know when your travel plans are going to change or be delayed due to circumstances out of your control. When I am flying, I make sure to keep the most important items for my baby with me in my diaper bag in case I have to stay overnight in the airport or hotel.
Bottle Cleaning Supplies
The thought of cleaning and sterilizing multiple bottles on the go can be overwhelming. Whether you use a breast pump or bottle feed, you will need a small kit to clean pump parts or bottles. You will be able to pack less bottles and parts if you pack these cleaning supplies:
Small bottle brush
First Aid Supplies
Infant painkillers/fever reducers
2. Expandable Suitcase & Hanging Organizer for Baby
An expandable suitcase and collapsable hanging organizer are a must when you are traveling with your baby, especially if you are flying. Instead of packing an extra suitcase, use a hanging organizer that can collapse in your suitcase for all of your baby's stuff. Pack your bag and place the fully packed organizer on top. I tend to overpack and I was able to pack everything I needed for myself and my baby in one suitcase for 2 weeks.
3. Prepare a Bottle for Takeoff and Landing
You know the feeling during takeoff and landing when your ears need to pop? It can be very painful until the pressure in your ear is finally released. Your baby will experience the same feeling and does not know to swallow to clear his or her ears. Prepare a bottle or nurse your baby during take off and landing. The suction will help clear your baby’s ears and keep them out of pain.
4. Gate-Check your Stroller and Car Seat
Most airlines allow you to check your stroller and car seat at the gate. This makes it easy to travel through the airport with your baby.
*TSA will require you to put your stroller and carrier through the X-Ray machines.
5. Do Your Research
Make sure you know the Traveling with Child policy for your airline as they are not all the same. Answers to the most common security questions can be found on the Transportation Security Administration website.
It can be overwhelming to travel with a baby, but I've found that the more you know, the better prepared you will be. I hope by sharing my own experiences that you will be better prepared to travel with your baby. Most importantly, try to relax and enjoy making memories with your precious little one!