Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday Topic: Traveling with baby

Chrysti asks: What are your tips for travelling with a little one on furlough? How do you survive the long flights and car rides? Do you take your children with you wherever you go, or do you have grandparents babysit?

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  1. This one, I've got down pat. I must have a Master's degree in "travelling with infant twins". My twins are 2,5 now, but I have lost count how many international flights they've been on in their short life so far! My experience when flying is; you have to find the right balance between being prepared for everything (including unexpected layovers and in-flight poop-splosions) and not packing so much hand luggage that your arms can't carry them.

    This is hard, I know.

    When the twins were under 7 months, we carried them in the little baby carrycots that are normally used in twin strollers (they are much smaller than the singleton carrycots). That solution was perfect for us, much better than baby bjorns or Mei Tais, which allow you no safe place to lay the baby down for a minute while you whip up a bottle or go to the bathroom yourself. With the carriers, the babies were safe, warm, and we could either carry them around the air port or set the carrier down on a bench or the floor when we sat down ourselves. The carriers are soft, so you can fit them in the overhead compartments on the planes. When there is extra space on teh plane, the baby can lay in the cot inbetween two seat rows. They cots are a little too big for the standard allowed measurements in-flight, but nobody ever said anything to us about that... cute babies charm every flight attendant into forgetting those details.

    When they got older, we bought child carriers that look like backpacks that the kids sit in on mama and papa's backs. They have a little storage compartment where you can stuff diapers, bottles or whatever too...

    With kids under 2, you can bring liquids through security. I brought all the hot water we'd need in a thermos as I could never be sure they'd be any available on the flight. I also brought a thermos with cold water to mix the bottles. Parents of breast feed babies don't have to worry about this, though... much easier!

    Wool underwear (long johns and t-shirts) under the other clothes keep the kids warm, even if there was to be a little leak of anything. And it takes literally no space. Bring a few changes of clothes, though. You never know what you might need!

    And for the sake of all that is good in this world, DO NOT PUT YOUR PASSPORTS NEXT TO THE "LEAK SAFE" WATER BOTTLE in your carry-on! I speak of experience.

    1. Wow, travelling with twins! Way to go mama! :)

  2. Wow. Twins. Yes, Tanja, you deserve some kind of degree or award. :-)

    I have a few tips, too. Ours go everywhere with us. We don't leave them with the grandparents. However, we don't do as much traveling around as most missionaries do stateside. However, we do travel a good bit on this side of the ocean.

    My advice might be opposite of what a lot of people say. I usually advise NOT to drag along a lot of stuff. Tanja's point about finding the right balance of being prepared and not overloading yourself is right on. I would just emphasize the not overloading yourself part. On our long flight from Europe to the states this summer, we sat near a mom and toddler. She had several bags of stuff for him, and he was still miserable. Our children ended up entertaining him. They all had a great time together! We did several all-day drives with four under 10 this summer, and we did not set up movies or anything really special for them. (Lots of people advise a portable DVD player or movies on a laptop, even for a baby. I'm sure it works, but--personally--I wouldn't want ours to get used to that.) We travel by train several days at a time here sometimes, and again, we don't pack much. We encourage them to be entertained by everything going on around them! :-)

    And then, this is hard to do, but as much as possible, just keep with your routine. I convinced myself that the actual time in the trains and airplanes and cars isn't all that hard with a baby by telling myself that they still just have to eat, play, sleep like usual. You can't follow the exact schedule you're used to, but you can at least go in the regular order, doing pretty much the regular things you'd do at home.

  3. Wow! Tanja has great ideas, and so does Phyllis. I took ours everywhere when they were small. They didn't stay with grandma until they were teenagers.

    I agree with the principle of being prepared, but TRAVELLING LIGHT. Just having two or three kids in tow means you have so much to keep track of without 2 separate carry on bags too!!

    My best tip: I used to "psyche" myself out by saying again and again to myself, "This will all be over in 24 (or 36, or 18) hours. I can do anything for 24 hours. This will be OVER IN 24 HOURS."

    1. "My best tip: I used to "psyche" myself out by saying again and again to myself, 'This will all be over in 24 (or 36, or 18) hours. I can do anything for 24 hours. This will be OVER IN 24 HOURS.'" Yes! I tell myself that, too. When I'm exhausted, walking back and forth in the plane with a crying baby, I tell myself that even if he cries for the whole flight, it will be only be x hours. And I've never had one cry for the whole flight; it just seems like it!

      Also, I thought of something more: after a very bad experience with leaving behind security blankets/special sleep items, I now count them almost like children. Before we make any move, make sure that I have all four children... and all three of their special things. I had to work to make that automatic, but it is now.

    2. Oh Phyllis, that is funny. since I only have two, it's a lot easier to count to two and only two special items also!! But that's the most important tip! Make sure you've got the kids!!!

  4. Good thoughts from everyone! We always take a stroller on airport days. It gives them a place to sleep and it gives you freer hands. They will gate check them for you for free. And yes, the psyche yourself up! Hey, you endured giving birth to this child, you can do anything for a day or two :)

    As far as traveling once in the states to all those meetings and churches, we play it by ear. Most of our support base is close enough to grandparents that we can come and go in an evening. Many times it's a welcomed break for our boys (5,4, and an infant, but we always take a nursing baby) to spend the evening with grandparents. But we always come back to my parents that night to sleep anyway. We found there is just only so much kiddos can handle, eating different food, being with different people, not knowing what's going on and having to be quiet while mom and dad talk. It also gives them sweet times with grandparents. Almost weekly now my big boys will talk about times they had this summer with a grandparent. But sometimes, if we know it's a kid friendly visit, we'll take them. It's good for them to be part of the process too. We do have the advantage that our big boys are so close in age that when we visit churches they can go to Sunday School together in the same class. It really helps to have a buddy in a new place.

    As far as road trips in the states...I am all over that one!! Pack a basket of car toys. Some of his favorites and maybe a new book. One of my FAVORITE car toys is a glow stick. You know, those ones you crack and they glow for several hours? They are the best at night!! And really unless a baby or toddler is sleeping or screaming, what else is there to do at night, when it's dark, in the car? They are non toxic and from the time my guys were a year or so we would let them play with them in the car. I also keep car snacks packed in that basket too, graham crackers, goldfish, or whatever works for your family. That way ever trip you aren't having to repack the car. Your toys, books, and snacks are already there.Just be careful if you are in a cold climate in the winter...don't leave a juice box or a can of pop in the car...yeah...

    I can't remember how old your little guy is, but music is a great one for us. My boys love singing and often ask for the silly songs we have. They are also to the age where we listen to things like Adventures in Odessey and Jungle Jam.

    Ok, hope that helps, you can do this chica!!!

  5. Wow, such good advice!

    I did some looking into what airlines allow and provide for infants under 2, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that some airlines provide a carry cot! HA! That puts my mind at ease... I wasn't very keen on carrying my baby (who will be 13 months when we travel) in my lap the entire 8 hour flight to the US. Now he can at least try to sleep for part of it! :P

    I'm a fan of not using DVD's in the car Phyllis, so I'm glad to know it can be done.

    I also like the "psyche" thing too. :)

    1. You might have to say something when you check in, but they do try to put parents with babies in the "bulkhead" seats for trans-Atlantic flights. Then you get a cot for the baby. It works out kind of funny sometimes, if there are a lot of babies, but it's worth it. Last time I was in a row of mothers with babies, and the papas were all sitting behind us. Except my own husband had to be farther back with our other children.

  6. Such great ideas! I love it! We're getting ready to welcome baby #4, so it's time for me to brush up on baby travel tips too! =)

    We always request the bulkhead seats when we have babies. The earlier you call to request it, the better as they fill up quickly and often it is impossible to get one of these seats at check-in. They have bassinets for the baby that often mount to the wall in front of the seat. Such a great set-up!

    The biggest thing that I've learned through trial and error is not to stress about the baby's schedule during travel. It is good to try to do your usual routines as they work out, but often they just don't fit perfectly with lay overs and boarding planes etc, and most of the time (in our experience at least) the stress of trying to keep the baby on his/her schedule is far worse than the repercussions of just letting things be a little off. Everyone is going to be off at the end of the trip anyway, so it hasn't ever really paid for us to be rigid with schedules during travel.

    When we had only one young child, we often took her with us everywhere when in the US. As we have added more children to our family, we have left them with grandparents more often for ministry events (only overnight once or twice, but I mostly mean things during the day/evening). We've found that our kids get overwhelmed by having to constantly meet new people and answer questions and always be on their best behavior even though they're dealing with culture stress, etc. They of course go to some key events with us, but other things either my husband does on his own, or the two of us do together while our kids are home with grandparents. I feel like every stage things change a bit, but that is our current stage. Every child is totally different too, so what we've done with one child, we haven't necessarily done with another. Again, flexibility for us has been the key to low-stress.

    1. ooooo, I like that phrase, FLEXIBILITY!!! boy, so necessary!!

  7. our kids mostly always travel with us. when we are in airports, particularly when they were younger, we'd all wear the same color. sounds silly, i know, but when i wanted to be able to count up 8 kids in a hurry, that made life a lot easier. it also helped other people to realize we were a group and they'd often politely make space for us, etc. layered clothing is a must (once, in Jan, we flew from the Sahara Desert to Montreal where we had to get from the airport to the train station... no winter coats (although grandma had mailed tuques/hats and gloves/mittens).

    echoing what others said - find the balance between what you need and not hauling too much along with you. we've found less is more. our biggers usually bring a book or an ipod or a gameboy or colored pencils and a drawing book. the littlers will bring a few beanie babies, hard plastic animals... our one guy loved to bring 10-15 little green army men. outside of those one or two items, each person carries a toothbrush and a change of clothes in case luggage gets lost. i usually carry all prescription meds with me - we always take a malaria prophylaxis and a treatment for each person when we travel... one of those things we've learned from experience. i always travel with sudafed (head colds and planes are misery), tylenol and motrin, something for diarrhea or sore tummy, gum and small candies to suck on, chapstick or blistex, just in case. this all fits in a ziplock bag that takes up very little room in my carryon or computer bag.

    we usually pair kids up with a bigger who helps with a littler. and we teach them this practice from as soon as they are old enough to start helping. hubs and i do division of labor. i herd the kids and bring up the rear. he carries the paperwork (visas, passports, health cards, tickets) and with our older kids, we do now have them proceed through the lines with their own paperwork, but once we get there, not before. in the past, we've always had 2 umbrella strollers with clips that allow us to put them together like a double stroller. with two littles + just a little biggers, we found it two exhausting to try and carry the kids through the airport, plus carryons (my husband works in a techie ministry and we often had video cameras, recording equipment, etc. as a part of our carryon luggage as well). the strollers actually gave any of the four youngest a place to rest if super tired (if baby-at-time was walking confidently). we ALWAYS plan 4-5 hours to get through luggage check, initial security, etc. before getting to our departure gate... and while we don't assume special privileges for large families/groups/families with small children - we will ask and we will take advantage of them when they are offered. when possible, we try to always allow at least 4 hours between flights, preferring to take a bit longer or pay a bit more to keep number of flights and changes and riskier connections to a minimum.

  8. (continued from previous comment)

    traveling stateside we follow most of the same principles. 10 bodies in a 12 passenger van (which doesn't have a lot of storage space to begin with) doesn't leave room for lots of excess. a car blanket and pillow or stuffed animal that serves as one is nice. a cooler with water and some small, less messy snacks (baby carrots and apples are faves when in the States). we also had a small potty chair we stuck under the seat... just in case... along with a package of toilet paper that always stayed under my seat. we often camp as we travel in the states... you can also check out the hospitality networks (i.e. candle in the window, etc.) and as practical, include time to see a site or two to break up the monotony. we have a small first aid box and hair/makeup/extra baby supplies box we keep in the van at all times as well. we did have assigned suitcases to which kids were paired to use - ones we knew that fit under the bench seats - and we usually paired a bigger with a littler for that as well. assigned bigger would hep pack their bag - but i would verify that the necessary stuff was there for the littlers. each child also have a backpack in which they were responsible for homework when traveling in the states (our K-3rd graders were often more responsible about that than the older kids). we have made the choice to travel as a family whenever possible because our kids have made connection in some of these places and frankly, our supporters are as bad as grandparents... they don't want to see us without the kids. since it only happens once every 4-5 years, we figure it is worth it. rarely, we will leave a sick child or the kids with grandparents or friends.

    i'd add two things - you do need to be inflexible about being flexible. :-) and as you hear advice from others, fit it to fit your family and don't judge how well you are doing in the travel arena based on what other families do. remember, not only is each family different, but each child is unique and what worked well on trip for your family you may find changes with the addition of another child... or one becoming a teen, etc.

    1. We just heard of Candle in the Window recently. We'll probably look into staying with some of them while we're in the US. Great advice, Richelle! Thanks! :)