MAUI - Oh baby! This travelling with toddlers isn’t child’s play, is it? I mean, let’s not kid ourselves; packing up baby for long-distance travel is akin to preparing for a military campaign.
Baby wipes? Check.
Car seat? Check.
Sunscreen and hat? Check.
The pre-boarding check list complete, it’s time to settle into our seats and fly off to holiday paradise – Hawaii. But as the plane lifts off and baby Brendan falls into a deep slumber, I’m left to wonder: Was the extra luggage really necessary? Did we really have to bring Brendan’s car seat along? Do they not sell baby formula in Maui?
As I discovered, some answers to those questions were “yes” and others “no.”
So, because it’s always nice to share travel tips with other parents, I thought I’d pass along some from my first long-haul experience with Brendan, like:
- When flying, try selecting a flight during baby’s scheduled nap time. The white noise from the airplane should help baby fall asleep and stay that way. Air travel is tricky with a toddler since they’ll want to touch/lick everything and explore the whole airplane. Brendan slept the entire red-eye flight from Honolulu to Vancouver (approximately six hours) and the two hour layover gave him just enough time to stretch his legs and explore before naptime again on our five hour flight home to Toronto.
- Try and pick destinations that are a short flight away and preferably in the same time zone. If you do choose to go further like Hawaii, think about staying an extra few days since it will take that much time for baby to adjust to the time change. We originally planned to stay in Hawaii for six nights, but finally decided to double the stay – the sacrifices we parents make for our kids. It took Brendan about three nights to truly adjust to the time change so we didn't want to come home a few days after he got settled.
Above: Check before leaving so you don’t have to take so much with you.
- Try to get a larger room or suite if possible. Because of baby, you'll be spending more time in the room so the extra space will allow baby more space to roam. Renting a condo in Maui was so much more convenient than if we had stayed in a regular hotel room. We had our own kitchen, which made feeding time and cleaning utensils feel just like home versus trying to wash bottles and bowls in the cramped hotel bathroom. How do you sterilize a rubber nipple after it falls in the toilet?
- If you're renting a car, rent a car seat, too. It saves the hassle of lugging a 15 pound car seat around an airport. Most car rental companies offer infant, toddler, and booster seats for older children for as little as $11 per day; and most cap the rental charge at $80.
- It’s really important to remember to pack infant sunscreen and hats or buy them as soon as you get to your sunny destination. The best option is to keep babies under 1 year old out of the sun since their delicate skin is more prone to sunburn. You can still play on the beach, just make sure your little one is appropriately protected.
- A great alternative to packing is Wal-Mart. A quick trip to the local Wal-Mart upon arrival to pick up diapers, wipes, formula and baby food eliminates a lot of excess baggage. Just make sure you check ahead at www.walmart.com to make sure the local store sells the brands you need or prefer.
- Now that your toddler is eating solids, you may feel the need to pack a travel high chair. Alternatively, your stroller in the most upright position will work just as well at feeding time.
- Don’t take a chance on medicines. Keep infant Tylenol or Advil handy in case your little one suddenly develops a temperature. And don't forget Benedryl if your toddler has allergies. These products are not always available in other countries. Strangers LOVE to stroke babies' hands and cheeks, so always have an abundant supply of baby wipes for all those encounters.
Above: Protecting baby from sea, sun and sand is most important.
- Road trips at the destination have to be redefined. Travelling the famed “Hana Highway” on our honeymoon was romantic and enlightening – with baby Brendan, however, the six hour journey was a challenge. The incredible scenic vistas that made us pull over and snap pictures with Brendan in our arms soon wore thin with him - constantly being taken in and out of the car seat made him cranky. The flat tire we encountered during the outing made his daddy Bill even crankier!
- Don't stress if baby fusses or cries on the plane. Most passengers understand, since most have faced a similar situation. Whenever Brendan fussed, we would always get constant assurances from those sitting around us that we weren’t disturbing them. Brendan ended up making so many new friends - who knew a crying baby would be such an icebreaker?
It would be a crying shame not to travel with a baby just because doing so takes a lot of careful planning and some discipline. In many ways, travelling with infants is great because they sleep so much and do not require a lot of entertaining.
Just come prepared!