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Stress-free Family Vacations – tips for travel with babies and children

  • Bring garden training wire for temporary childproofing.

    Also known as Bonsai training wire, it’s light, just a few dollars a roll at your hardware store or on Amazon, and infinitely helpful in blocking access to Grandma’s china cabinet.

  • Stash travel packs of antibacterial hand wipes…

    in purses, diaper bags and carry-on bags, and use them often to fend off microbes that may thwart your travel plans. They’re also great on sticky airplane trays and arm rests.

  • Dress traveling babies and toddlers in overalls.

    The straps provide the perfect place to link a travel toy to help keep your child busy as he passes from car seat to stroller to baby carrier to lap to restroom changing table.

  • 311 your diaper bag.

    Remember to follow the TSA guidelines (3 oz. or less each in one zip-top bag) for any diapering or medicinal products – diaper cream, ointments, pain relievers, gas relief drops, teething gel, etc. – you would like to have in the aircraft.

  • Hold the mail.

    No worries if your neighbor had too much eggnog and forgot. Go to USPS.com and arrange your mail hold online in minutes.

  • Bring an extra bottle.

    Even if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, it may be very helpful to have an extra bottle of breast milk ready to go in case a feeding time does not coincide with a safe place to pull the car over, or finds you standing in a very long line at security.

  • Ship baby essentials to meet you there.

    Save yourself valuable visiting time and make sure you’ll have the items you’ll need: diapers, formula, baby food, teething biscuits, etc. You can use a service like Babies Travel Lite or Jet Set Babies, or try Amazon.

  • Reconfirm your reservations and seats…

    24 to 72 hours in advance – for both outbound and return flights, especially if you are flying with a lap child, using a car seat in the cabin, or using an airline bassinet.

  • Bring flannel-backed vinyl.

    Just half a yard of this cheap tablecloth material (available at hardware stores, fabric stores or on Amazon) provides better coverage than most measly travel changing pads, which is nice when changing diapers in public restrooms, on picnic tables, in your car, on train or airplane seats, and especially (yikes) on lavatory seats.

  • Take a look at your car seat before you fly.

    Locate the FAA approval statement on your car seat before you go so you can quickly point to it if you’re asked to as you board the aircraft. If your car seat converts to a booster, the statement may only appear in the manual, so in that case be sure to have it with you. If you’re bringing a car seat, but aren’t planning to use it in the airplane, it’s best to check it at the gate when boarding your plane, rather than checking it with all of the suitcases that will romp through the airport baggage system.

  • Get flu shots.

    No one likes tossing their Christmas cookies, especially not while they’re stuck in holiday traffic, waiting in baggage claim, or caring for a small child.

  • Bring plastic bags, lots and lots of plastic bags.

    As the children’s book clearly illustrates, everyone poops, and sometimes beyond the bounds of diapers and training pants. Of course, there is potential for an entire series of children’s books explaining why a parent might choose plastic over paper on their next trip to the market: Babies Spit Up and Carsickness Sucks might be among the gems.

  • Don’t forget the nightlight.

    You’ll soothe your child in the night more effectively when you haven’t just busted a kneecap on Aunt Hilda’s hope chest.

  • Take the train instead of a car.

    You’ll have the freedom to stretch your legs, go to the potty, play games, read books and visit the snack car. Not to mention, kids love trains. Now that you have kids, you may find you love trains too.

  • Go ahead, have a second cup.

    This one goes out to the nursing moms who haven’t yet read in The Breastfeeding Book (by William and Martha Sears): “Less than half of one percent of the caffeine a mother consumes passes into her breast milk.” There are times, particularly while traveling, that a sleep-deprived parent can use a coffee boost. Enjoy.

Adapted from Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children.

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