Flying with a Toddler - How to Have a Stress-Free Flight

Friday, 27 March 2015

So we've made it through the airport, and we're on board the plane. Tick tock tick tock - how do you keep your little one busy and happy throughout the flight?? 




Well, the good news is, the younger they are, the better! Which is odd, because when Miss P was tiny, I worried a ton about how she'd behave on the flight. If only I'd known then what I know now! Six week old Miss P slept most of the journey - except waking to eat and be changed. Four month old Miss P flew cross country and managed to keep busy by eating, sleeping, and flipping through family pictures on my phone. Toddler Miss P is another story - basically as soon as your child realizes they are able to get up and move, whether or not you want them to while on an air plane, they become a little bit harder to entertain and keep pacified. Most of our flights are transatlantic - so we're talking a minimum of 6-7 hours, depending on the weather that day. Most times when you find children are fussy or crying on planes it's for a couple of reasons - they need something (food, drink, sleep), their ears hurt, OR - they're bored!

Here are a few things I do when flying with Miss P to {hopefully} have a peaceful flight: 

1. Play in the airport, sleep on the plane - Whenever possible, I try to keep the airport time active. If she needs to wiggle, fuss, run, play, sing, whatever - we do it in the airport (within reason). With this in mind, I hope that she'll be a little bit more relaxed and subdued when we board. If that means walking endless laps of the terminal and gate area - I do it. In a perfect world, you'll get at least a little bit of a nap from your child on the plane. The last thing  you want is an over-tired baby or toddler.

2.  Talk, Talk, Talk - I literally talk this child's ear off. We look out the window, we count planes, we talk about where those planes are going, what is the weather, who will we see when we arrive, and on and on it goes. By talking to her, I try to keep her busy and keep her mind off the fact we're stuck in an air plane. (Let's be honest - I do the same thing with my husband - he hates to fly)

3. Explain what's happening - the captain is closing the door, the flight attendants are giving instructions, oh we're taking off now! At 13 months old did she understand everything I said? Of course not, but travel is an opportunity to learn, and I use it whenever I can. Plus - it keeps her attention for a bit. Hand them the in flight magazine and go over the safety card - those couple of things will normally buy me a little bit of time.




4. New Toys/Games/Books - This is a trick from my mom! When we were kids we traveled extensively (do you see a pattern here?), and each time we did we always had NEW items to play with on board the plane (at least new to us!). You don't have to break the bank on this - my go-to place is the dollar store (it's called "Poundland" over in the UK - does that sound dirty to anyone else?) or the Target one spot - sticker books, coloring books, little board books, but most importantly - things your child hasn't seen before - which makes them New and Exciting! So far, one of Miss P's favorite things to play with on the plane was a tiny set of board books that went together in a little box - not because they were great books, but because she loved putting them in and taking them out of the box! Another favorite - Mardi Gras style beads from my Godmother - P loves to put them on and take them off , she'll put them on me and laugh, or just shake them to make sounds. 

5. Electronics - If your child does use any electronics, such as an iPad or your phone, grab some free baby/toddler apps for them to play with. Miss P hasn't been huge on these, but the older she gets the more interested she is in iPad apps. For older kids with a longer attention span (for us, this didn't happen until about 19-20 months) you could try movies and/or short programs like Peppa Pig, Sesame Street, etc. For us... it was Frozen. On repeat. Whatever works, I Let it Go. (See what I did there!?)

6. Get up and Move - If your baby or toddler gets fussy and doesn't want to sit still, get up and move! So long as the seatbelt sign isn't illuminated, go for a walk, look out the window, bounce or rock them, hold their hand and let them walk if they're already on their feet, anything to offer your child a change in scenery. 

7. Bring Snacks - Sometimes, something as simple as eating raisins one by one can keep Miss P entertained for quite a while. I always bring a selection of snacks - raisins, crackers, fruit snacks - anything small and relatively clean - read: will not destroy hands, face and clothes and cause me to dig out back up clothing.

8. In Case of Emergency - don't panic! If you've tried all these things, and your little one has had enough and starts to scream on the plane - what do you do?? Trust me, it happens, has happened, and will probably happen again. So long as our babies/toddlers can't really tell us what they want or need, it's always a trial and error process to figure out what works. Do your baby's ears hurt? Offer something to suck on. Are they hungry? Thirsty? Hot? Take off a layer of clothing, or take off their shoes, socks etc. Get up and walk around. Is baby tired? You'd be surprised sometimes the littlest things will calm Miss P down. Once, I took her pants off and all was well. Another time, a woman behind me handed us a small lollipop - which kept P entertained the entire flight from Belfast to London. Do I give my child candy all the time? Nope. Will I give her candy to stop her screaming at 30,000 feet - yup! Now I carry a few just "In Case of Emergency" -  You just never know what might work to calm your child down.

Most important of all - relax. I know, it's a difficult thing to do when you have a screaming, squirming infant on your knee. My first immediate reaction is to break out in a sweat when P screams or fusses and I can't calm her - but I've come to realize that me getting upset is not going to help the situation. 

Have you tried any of these things? What do you do to keep your child busy on a plane?

Flying with a Baby: How to Survive the Airport

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Now that you're ready to go, whether it be a visit to family or a family vacation, there are a few things that you will need to know before you take your little one to the airport. Having flown with Miss P quite a bit from the age of 6 weeks onward, I'm happy to share some things which worked for us!


Arrive early - It's one thing to run through the airport on your own - it's quite another to do so with a small child, so be sure and give yourself plenty of time to check in and clear security. If your child needs to wiggle, fuss, expend some energy in the airport - you have time and you can let them do it. Better in the airport than on the plane!

Gate Check Items - I explained in an earlier post about what can be checked when travelling with a lap child - a car seat and a stroller without cost to you - but you can also gate check these items if you prefer! When Miss P was very small, I opted to not bring a stroller with me on board the plane, however, by the time she was about 6 months old, I preferred to bring the stroller so that she could wiggle around a little bit as we walked through the airport. You simply wheel them up to the gate and leave them with airline personnel. When flying domestically, unless you're told otherwise, these items will be waiting for you when you disembark the plane in your next destination. While this is the general rule, it  is always a good idea to check with your individual airline for their policies. I typically recommend a stroller bag and/or a car seat bag, just to keep them clean - you'd be surprised how dirty they can become either during a gate check or a regular checked journey. This is the bag that I use: JL Childress Gate Check Bag for Umbrella Strollers, Red   {This is not always the case when travelling in other countries - in Belfast for example, I didn't get my stroller until after clearing customs and arriving in baggage claim. In Dublin, my gate-checked stroller was the last thing off the plane - so if you aren't sure - ASK.} 

Clearing Security - there are a couple of good things to know about security when you're travelling with a little one:


- VIP Status - when I flew with Miss P at six weeks, we were whisked to the front of the line! Otherwise, it's a good idea to look for the sign that denotes a "family friendly" line.

- Baby Wearing - If you opt to "wear" your baby through the airport, as I did, with an Ergo Carrier (I tried a few - this was hands down my favorite), you do not have to remove your baby from the carrier when you walk through the medal detector. Your hands however, will undergo a quick swab test, but this is no biggie, and you remain hands free to grab your bags, etc. etc. I HIGHLY recommend a baby carrier when flying alone with a little one. While children under 12, babies included don't have to remove shoes, you will still  need to remove your shoes, belt, empty pockets etc., having your hands free will ease and expedite the security process. I loved my Ergo, and can whole heartedly say it's worth the cost. You can find one here:
ERGO Baby Carrier Bundle of Joy - Original Galaxy Grey with Galaxy Grey Insert


@awayweego


- Strollers MUST be broken down - you'll have to break down your stroller and send it through the x-ray machine, so by having a baby carrier even if in addition to your stroller, you won't have to depend on someone else to hold your baby (especially important if you're travelling alone), or if they're on their feet you don't have to worry about them wandering off while you grab your things. It's just not that easy to breakdown a stroller while holding a child. It just makes life so much easier. If you're flying with someone else this is less of an issue, but I typically fly alone with Miss P.

- Liquids for babies - They are allowed when flying in the US! If you need to bring formula, breast milk, water for mixing formula, etc., for infants, you can! You must still declare these items to TSA staff and remove them from your carry ons, and you will undergo a pat down, but if it's helpful if you need to bring these items with you to know that you can! Always check out TSA 311 Rule for any changes in policy.

- Family Restrooms - If you're alone with a little one, or even if you're not, look for "family  restrooms" while in the airport. Typically, they will be larger private rooms with a changing area, toilet, and plenty of space to wheel in bags, strollers, children, etc., while offering privacy. Have you ever tried to wheel a stroller inside a toilet stall? They don't normally fit! This is very helpful if you need to use the facilities yourself, change your little one, freshen up, etc.

What are your best tips for navigating an airport with a little one?


Flying with an Infant - What to Pack?

Friday, 20 March 2015

Now that your trip is booked, what on earth will a baby need? Well, certainly a lot less if you're headed somewhere you'll be staying with family. If you're taking a vacation, or headed some place a little more exotic, you may need to take into account different things, for example if your child needs certain foods or formulas, you may want to consider bringing those with you. Obviously if you'll have access to laundry machines, you'll lighten your load, but for this particular trip below, I did not.


@awayweego


The upside of travelling with a baby under 2 years is that they fly domestically for free and can check a stroller and a car seat for free as well. The downside - they don't get their own luggage allowance, so you will have to pack baby's things in your own suitcase, or pay to check them a bag. Most airlines now charge for checked luggage, and some even charge for carry on, so I usually do the best I could to get our clothes in the same bag and not pay for an extra bag!


So what do I pack for my baby when staying in a hotel?


- Pajamas - one pair for every night, plus at least one extra - in case of accidents. As Miss P gets a bit older, I find we can wear jammies for more than one night, but in the beginning - this was not the case!





- Light blankets (I like Aden and Anais bamboo cotton swaddlers aden + anais rayon from bamboo fiber muslin swaddle 3-pack, mela seriously - they are amazing, soft, light weight and easily packable for travelling) 2-3 depending on the length of the trip and age of baby (I brought more for my little one when she was younger, since she did a lot of spitting up) 




- Diapers -  I use disposable. Obviously you can buy these at your destination, but I tend to stock up on them when they're on a sale so it makes more sense for me to bring what I already have.






- A pack of wipes - I like the kinds that have plastic tops to make sure they don't dry out, for example Huggies


- A burp cloth for every day of travel + bibs - again... we had an issue with spitting up until 6 months.

- 1-2 outfits per day, plus socks and shoes for each day. I especially like layered outfits like this that are 100% cotton. If it gets too warm take off a layer, and by using cotton the fabric will "breathe" in the event of heat or cool temps while you're on the go.



- Swim/Beach Gear - Depending on your destination, swim suit, cover up, baby sunscreen, sun hat, swim diapers (reusable swim diapers are great since they save you space!) and reusable wet bag for dirty clothes, wet suits etc. I love this Bumkins Waterproof wet/dry bag for travel - it's great not only for wet swim suits, but any sort of "accidents" or spills you and your munchkin might encounter. I got mine from Citrus Lane, but there are plenty of options on Amazon: Bumkins Waterproof Zippered Wet/Dry Bag, Purple Dandelion




- Small toiletry bag for baby - travel size lotion and soap, hair brush, baby powder (especially helpful if you're headed to a sandy destination to remove sand - this Pinterest gem actually works!), baby Tylenol (in case of teething). If I'm headed out for just a night or two, I like Johnson & Johnson disposable baby washcloths which have the soap right in them. It cuts down on what I pack.





- Formula/breast pump/and/or baby food -  something you can buy at your destination but I prefer to take it with me and not have to mess around to find grocery stores when I get there.


- Bottles & Pacifiers - I like to bring 2-4 depending on the length of our stay


Other nice things to know -


- If you're staying in a hotel, most will provide either a pack n' play or a crib for you. A few hotels we've been to have even provided a little toiletry kit for baby with soaps and a rubber ducky! You can usually pre-request this while making your reservation, or simply tell your travel agent and they can take care of that request for you. Don't worry, if you forget to do this before you leave, just tell the desk at check-in. 


And that's about it! What are your must haves for flying with an infant?

The Birth of a Blog

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Writing about travel has been something I have been thinking about for well over a year now. In the nearly two years since my daughter was born, my life has changed so much - and not just in the ways you would expect when having your first child. Shortly after our Miss P was welcomed home, we packed up our house in Los Angeles, I quit my job which I had loved, and we shipped the contents of our home to Northern Ireland, where we intended to move.

Until our belongings could make the journey across the Atlantic, I moved back in with my parents (!) in Michigan for six months. Once our belongings arrived, my husband left for Northern Ireland while my daughter and I waited on my visa - which was initially denied - before we could join him three months later. We even shipped our two dogs overseas! Then, we lived with my in-laws, before buying and renovating our first house. We basically did all of the things which put a marriage to the test all in the same year - and made it out to tell the tale. Now, we are happily settled in Northern Ireland - but with friends and family back home in the states, we're always on the move back and forth between both continents.

I'm frequently asked - by friends, family and while working as a travel agent by panicked mothers how do I do it? What are my tips? Suggestions? What to pack? What if my baby cries? And on and on, and more than once it's been suggested that I blog about what we do. And so - Away Wee Go is born.

I'm happy to share what worked for my daughter and my family while travelling domestically in the US, across Europe, and internationally, as well as what it's like being an Expat in a new country. I'm hoping to discuss what products we like, what places are baby/child friendly (and which aren't!), and how we cope with mishaps along the way.

Away Wee Go - Tips and Tricks for Travelling with babies and young children. Follow along @awayweego
Paris, France, November 2014
So here we go - or rather - Away Wee Go....

Top 5 Tips for Flying with an Infant

@awayweego

My first taste of flying with Miss P was an emotional one - a one way ticket from Los Angeles to Michigan, with one connection. I was leaving our home - the little house we brought our newborn to, and heading to my parents' in the Midwest until our shipping container arrived overseas with our household inside. Needless to say, it was a tough morning - in addition to being saddened by moving away, I was nervous about flying with a newborn! She was just over 6 weeks old - the youngest at which our pediatrician recommended flying with a little one, based upon the development of their immune system. I was plagued with worry - what if she cried? What if everyone hated me for being the lady with the crying baby? What if I run out of diapers? Formula? Will her ears hurt? On and on the list went. Needless to say, the morning of our flight, I was feeling very emotional. I even talked my mom into flying to California just to fly home with us, so Miss P and I wouldn't be alone. 

To my surprise, the experience was to date, one of the easiest flights Miss P and I have had! 



Before you embark on a flight with an infant, there are a few things you need to know:

1. Infants under 2 years old are able to fly for free domestically within the United States until their 2nd birthday, however, you do need to notify the airline that you're flying with your infant. This is because you'll be required to sit in a location on the plane with an extra oxygen mask in the event of an emergency. Not to worry, the airlines will take care of the seating, but do let them know you'll be flying with an infant. If your child turns two during a trip - they will need to buy a ticket for the return. If they are close to two, airline employees may ask for proof of age

2. Most airlines will allow you to check baby items for free - this means you can check a stroller and/or car seat without additional cost. If you want to use your stroller in the airport, you can also opt to gate check it for free. Check with your carrier for their specific rules before taking off to the airport. With most airlines, the infant is not allowed to check a suitcase of belongings, so you'll have to pack their things in your own bag, but check with your airline with this as well.

3. Infants are required to have a passport - You may fly internationally with infants however, they must have a valid passport and/or visa depending on your destination and length of your stay. When flying overseas, you will also need to pay flight taxes for your infant. Having dual citizenship, my little world traveller has two passports!

4. You must purchase a seat for children aged 2 and over - Children over the age of 2 are required to have their own seat. If they're 2 or on the petite side, you can bring their car seat or booster seat on the plane to make things a bit more comfortable for you and for them. 

5. When possible, travel around baby's schedule - When booking flights, if it's at all possible cost and availability wise, it's great to book flights around your child's sleep schedules - i.e. When Miss P was 6 weeks old, I had an early morning flight. I knew she'd be up, fed and dressed before we headed to the airport so that when we boarded our flight she was ready for another feeding and her next nap. That isn't always possible because you won't always find flights that are available or that are affordable around your child's schedule, and that's ok - you'll make do! However, if is possible, it can certainly be helpful.

6. Relax!! I've found that my daughter can sense when I'm uptight - so the more relaxed you are the more relaxed your child will be.