Traveling with Tots

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One of the greatest things about living in Bangkok is the abundance of affordable travel options. And I, personally, don’t see any reason to curtail travel just because you have kids. If anything, traveling now – when the kids are young – is easier in so many ways.

I find it surprising when I hear parents say that they have put off traveling because they have little ones. I say, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! In my experience, the younger the child, the easier it is to travel with them. Traveling with an EBF (exclusively breastfed) infant, for example, is great because you never have to worry about when, where or what to feed them. And babies are happy to go and do just about anything.

Traveling with Tots

Left: Little Brother waking up from a nine-hour sleep in the bassinet coming back from the UK. Right: Big Brother at seven weeks in Koh Chang.

 

With a little common sense and some preparation, traveling with even the youngest family member doesn’t need to be a “flight-mare”.

What to pack for the airplane

Checked luggage

What to pack varies so widely depending on your destination, length of stay and type of accommodation. However, I know first hand how easy it is to get carried away when packing an infant’s suitcase. I certainly fell victim to the “there-may-not-be-stores-that-sell-stuff-where-I’m-going” syndrome the first time I travelled overseas with my eldest. We were going to Canada for four weeks and I packed enough clothes for the baby to prompt my mother to ask me if I’d forgotten that she did, indeed, have a washing machine.

Suggestions for the basics

  • Bring enough diapers to get you through the first 48 hours
  • Enough clothes to get you through the first five days
  • A baby thermometer and a trusted over the counter fever medicine. Children are notorious for spiking a fever at 1am.

Carry-on

Most airlines nowadays let you check two of the following three items, for free, either in checked baggage or at the boarding gate.

  • A stroller
  • A car seat
  • A travel cot

If the plane isn’t full, chances are good that the cabin crew will allow you to bring the car seat on board with you. This is a blessing; especially when traveling without your partner and/or on long-haul flights. Your car seat will most likely be a lot more familiar (and therefore comfortable) to your little one than the airplane bassinet[1]. Even if you don’t think that a stroller will be useful at your destination (i.e. a beach holiday), having one with you can make navigating large airports much easier.

Another bonus to flying with an infant is that there is virtually no limit to what you can cram into the “baby’s” carry-on. In all the years I’ve been traveling with kids, I’ve never had my carry-on weighed, measured or challenged. The way I see it, it’s in the best interest of the airlines for parents to be prepared for any and every eventuality; not only for your comfort but for the comfort of all the other passengers as well. And I strongly think that airlines know this.

My typical carry-on includes . . .

  • A change of clothes for everyone (mom and dad included!)
  • Pre-boiled water, bottles and formula (enough to get me through the flight)
  • Snacks and more snacks[2] – my philosophy is that it’s a lot harder to cry when your mouth is full
  • One or two new toys for the novelty factor plus a few of baby’s favorites
  • Wipes, disposable scented diaper bags and large Ziplock bags[3]
  • Baby rice crackers in a plastic container so that they don’t get crushed
  • Anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down armrests, seat trays, in-flight entertainment screens (just about anything that the baby will eventually try to put in his mouth)
  • A sarong – because they are just so darn useful
Traveling with Toddlers

My final little secret

One of the best pieces of travel advice I ever got was from a former colleague. She told me that she always put her youngest son in 2 diapers. Yup, one standard diaper and then she slid a ‘pull-up’ style diaper over that one. She called it “double duty diapering.” She developed this trick after a particularly bad diaper blow-out during take-off once.

I believe that the trick to traveling with tots is twofold

First, you know yourself and your baby best and you should keep your travel plans within your comfort zone. Stressing yourself out over a holiday is no holiday at all in my opinion. Personally, I draw the line at more than one connection when it comes to traveling with the under-two crowd. And that comes from the experience of having taken a seven month old to Canada (three planes, 19 hours in the air, over 26 hours door-to-door). My son came through the experience brilliantly; mommy—not so much. But hey, live and learn, right?

Secondly, babies (and kids in general) are way more adaptable and resilient than we probably give them credit for. My husband and I have often commented on how lucky we are that our kids are such great little travelers. And they are, but that’s probably not an accident. As expats, travel is part of the game. So why not get started?

________________
[1] Do make sure to request the bassinet when you book your tickets. Even if you opt not to use it, you will appreciate the extra leg room!
[2] For long-haul flights, I usually throw in one or two single servings of homemade frozen baby purees. I let them defrost in-flight and serve them at room temperature.
[3] I never go anywhere without Ziplock bags. They are great for storing clothes that have been pooped/spilt/vomited on.

Additional Medical Information

Have you ever wondered why you hear so many babies crying on an airplane during takeoff and landing? Most likely it is a result of pain caused by the rapid change in air pressure inside the cabin which causes inner ear pressure. Fortunately, crying helps to lessen the pain by helping to open up the baby’s eustachian tubes, relieving this ear pressure.

To minimize a baby’s pain during takeoff and landing, try these methods that can help equalize the pressure in the ear: Provide something for the baby to drink to promote swallowing (including breast feeding); or give the baby a pacifier. Equalizing ear pressure can minimize your baby’s pain and result in a more pleasant flight.

Dr. Aurachon Witchapan , M.D.
Otolaryngologist, Samitivej Hospital


Videos

Why I Wrote This Article:

My Secret for Taking a Plane Trip with Tots:


My name is Jodie. I'm a 38 year old Canadian working and living in Bangkok, Thailand. My husband and I are both international teachers - though I'm taking this year off to be a full-time mom.

When we're not busy with other people's kids, we try our hand at raising our own very curious nearly four year old son and his 9 and half month old brother. When it comes to parenting, like most of us, I’m making a lot of it up as I go along .

4 Comments

  1. Krystal  /  October 18, 2012, 12:29 pm Reply

    Love the “double duty diapering.” idea! Wish i had thought of that last time i was on the plane! it was a 2 person effort in a squashed airplane toilet trying to sort out a bad diaper blow-out.. will definitely remember this next time (+ the zip lock bag).. THANKS JODIE!

    • Jodie  /  October 18, 2012, 3:26 pm Reply

      Hi Krystal,

      Thanks for your comment. Zip lock bags were definitely invented by a mother! ;)

      Jodie

  2. Cindy Watt  /  November 15, 2012, 12:29 am Reply

    Just read your blog about travelling with tots– this tip is funny but true

    •Snacks and more snacks[2] – my philosophy is that it’s a lot harder to cry when your mouth is full

  3. Jodie  /  November 21, 2012, 1:14 am Reply

    Thanks for reading Cindy! And glad to read that another mother understands :)

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