Traveling with a baby. It is something every family faces eventually. Our little frequent flier earned his first wings at just nine weeks old, traveling home to see his Grandparents for his first Christmas. Even though travel is usually fun, there is also always some element of stress. Add a baby into the mix, and suddenly you are Googling things like “tips for flying with a 7 month old,” and laying awake at night worrying about your upcoming four hour flight. The good news is that it’s actually not that bad. We took Cullen on eight (eight!) trips during his first year, and it got easier every time. Practice makes perfect, right?
There are lots of different tips and ideas for traveling with babies, but I wanted to highlight a few related to safety. Traveling in itself is not inherently dangerous, but with a baby on board, there are more risks than there are during a standard day at home with mom or afternoon in daycare. Here are five tips for keeping your baby safe while traveling…
- Dress your baby in layers. Depending on your destination, and any stops in between, you could be going through a wide range of temperatures throughout your day. Last week we traveled home from Thanksgiving and had a layover in Minneapolis. When we stepped off the plane, it was cold enough in the jet way that you could see your breath. I was glad I’d dressed Cullen in light enough clothes for the warm stuffy air on the plane as we waited for takeoff, and warm enough clothes for our cool return to Seattle.
- Baby wipes are your friend. The first couple of times we flew with Cullen, I was nervous about germs and did everything I could to avoid letting him touch the plane. He was also really young, and pretty content to snooze on my lap for the whole flight. But then he got older, and I quickly realized that babies don’t sit still, no matter how much you plead. Now, rather than constraining Cullen or worrying about what he’s touching, I bust out the baby wipes as soon as we sit down. I wipe down the wall, tray table, arm rest, window, and anything else that looks like it’s within the sneeze zone. Then Cullen can wiggle and explore, and I can relax knowing that there are a few less germs at our seat.
- Pack your own food. There is never a convenient time for a stomach bug or an allergic reaction, but traveling is definitely not it. I always pack tons of snacks for travel – way more than I know I will need. You can’t predict delays or travel hiccups, or your picky child’s preferred snack of the day. It is better to pack your own than to have to rely on the airline or airport fare, and risk not knowing what you’re getting!
- Respect the sleep schedule. It might seem strange to think of sleep as a safety concern, but babies are very basic creatures. Eating, sleeping, playing – that’s about it. Babies who don’t get enough sleep are more prone to getting sick. And no one wants a sick baby. It can be tempting to just force your baby to push through past a nap, or stay up late because the flight gets you in earlier, but the consequences of that lost sleep are no fun for anyone.
- Travel with a carrier or stroller. In day to day life, I don’t really worry much about germs and bugs. Germs happen, life happens. But I feel differently about travel. Confined spaces, hacking coughs, bugs from around the world. I always have a carrier or stroller so that I can keep Cullen up off the floor (particularly back in the crawling days). This also helps reduce the chance that a (well-intentioned) stranger comes over and pinches cheeks, brushes hair, or does some other gesture that involves touching a baby’s face. Side note – why do strangers touch babies’ faces?
Travel has been a big part of our baby’s first year, and with each trip we learn a bit more and gain a few more tips and tricks. We do our best to keep our baby safe, while still enjoying the experience.
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