I’m definitely not an expert on traveling with a baby by any means. I really don’t consider myself much of a traveler at all. The last time I had been on a plane was flying to Ft. Myers, FL with my college roomies for spring break back in 2005. So, I can confidently say that I am NOT an expert when it comes to flying, but I’m better with road trips.
Now, throw in a baby, and things get complicated. Our trip to Branson was easy: a 4 hour road trip where we stopped halfway to feed MacKenna (and ourselves) and we were back on the road. No biggie. Flying to California was much harder, and our 14 hour drive to Breckenridge had me stressed to the point that I almost told Matt I didn’t want to go the morning we were supposed to leave.
But, we survived all 3 trips and came out a little bit wiser. Of course, I had the help of my more experienced blog friends. Madeline wrote 2 great posts, one on flying with a baby and another on doing Disney with a baby. And Jen wrote a great one on flying solo with a baby. I took a lot of tips and advice from them, which helped more than I ever thought it would! We did learn some things ourselves, though.
Have a bottle (or your boob) ready for when baby gets hungry. MacKenna is on a pretty set schedule so I know when she would be getting hungry. I was able to feed her in the terminal before each flight, but I did feed her once on the plane and Matt also gave her a bottle on the plane. We had a bottle with powdered formula ready to go and we bought a bottled water in the terminal so we were able to mix it up on the plane. Lifesaver. We also had Baby Mum-Mums for easy snacks on the plane. As for the car ride, I bought some prepared formula bottles and fed her those from the front seat (her in the back) once she got overly fussy. I opted not to pump since I was riding in the car with a friend (and a 5 year old) and not with Matt. I am able to do this because I don’t get overly engorged if I go a long time without feeding her (I also don’t leak, ever). This worked for us because we were taking very limited time stops (like 15 minutes for a potty break every 3-4 hours and a 30 minute lunch break) and I knew I wouldn’t have time to feed her at each stop as well as change her and use the bathroom myself. I realize most people won’t be able to do this. It’ll be much easier next summer.
Bring something to keep baby busy. MacKenna only slept 1 out of the 4 flights we took. She was just so excited about all the new stuff around her to settle down enough. I took Madeline’s advice and bought her a new toy that she didn’t get until we were on the plane. On the car ride, I brought a ton of toys with us to keep her occupied and luckily, the 5 year old in the backseat with her was able to sing to her and hand her the toys if she dropped them. And we always, ALWAYS had a pacifier attached to her to calm her down if she got fussy. She barely fussed on the plane and we only had a few screaming melt downs on the car ride.
Put baby in something easy to change. I put MacKenna in onesies or something with snaps at the bottom for easy, quick changes. I never had to change her on the plane (although some airlines do have changing tables in the lavatories), but it helped saved some serious time on our 30 minute layover (15 of which was spend getting off the first flight) and on our short bathroom breaks. I also had a changing pad filled with disposable diapers and wipes so everything was in one spot.
You can check the car seat for FREE! Most airlines should allow you to do this. We flew Frontier and it wasn’t a problem. Take Jen’s advice and buy the car seat bag – it fit both our car seat and base easily. And FYI, your car seat will be with oversized luggage when you go to baggage claim.
Check your stroller at the gate. I opted not to use a baby carrier in the airport and instead had MacKenna in the jogging stroller. You will have to take her out to go through security (they will hand check your stroller). Once at your gate, ask them to check the stroller there. You will be able to keep it with you until you walk onto the plane and they will have it waiting for you as soon as you walk off. We had it checked to our layover destination and then rechecked it to our final destination so that we had it during our layovers.
Have antibacterial liquid and wipes handy. Pardon the pun, but I wish we would have done this! Planes are disgusting and MacKenna of course wanted to touch everything. Next time we fly (ha!), I plan on having wipes easily accessible so I can wipe everything down ahead of time and then wipe her hands off before, after, and during the flight, and after gross, disgusting gas station bathrooms. Blech.
Pack more than enough diapers and wipes. I only ran out of wipes once, and that was while we were in Disneyland and were there longer than we had anticipated. Otherwise, I made sure that I brought twice as much as I needed.
See if the amusement park has designated “mother’s stations” for nice changing areas and private (-ish) nursing. Silver Dollar City and Disneyland both have places where mom’s can nurse semi-privately (it’s in an open room, but not out in the heat in public). I actually only used the mother’s station in Disneyland once for nursing, but I used it practically every time I needed to change a diaper. Disney also had high chairs for solid feeding with air conditioning! Sea World had a diaper changing station only, but the line was ridiculous (we did go right after we saw Shamu). In Sea World, I nursed her during the shows, otherwise, I nursed her while we were waiting to go on rides.
Check to see if the amusement park offers a “rider swap”. We didn’t use this in Branson since we’ve ridden all the rides before, but this was great at Disneyland, especially if you are with a group of people. Basically, your party waits in line for the ride and once they get to the ride, they ask for a rider swap pass (sometimes you have to ask before entering the line). Once they finish riding, they bring you the pass and you can bypass (most of) the line to ride the ride. The rider swap at Disneyland allowed 2 people to ride with the rider swap, so Matt + I were able to ride all the rides together, unlike Sea World, where only one person was able to ride. I think we had the better end of the deal because it gave me time to get MacKenna fed + changed while they waited in line, and then Matt and I would basically just walk right on the ride! It made Disney much more enjoyable for all 3 of us.
There will be some rides that baby WILL be able to go on! We did the carousel at Silver Dollar City, the gondolas + tower at Sea World, and pretty much every ride that didn’t have a height restriction to ride it (which was more than you think). Most of the rides she really liked and it was fun for us to experience them with her! Pirates of the Caribbean was the funniest though. There are 2 small drops and her arms went out to the sides to hold on for dear life when we went down them. By the end of the ride, she had fallen asleep!
I am definitely much more relaxed now and ready to tackle any vacations we decide to take next summer. Thankfully, we got our first trip to Breckenridge out of the way, so next year will hopefully go much smoother!
What things did you find helpful when traveling with a baby? Any other advice? Anything else I might have missed?