Holiday Travel Advice for Your Comfort & Joy

The busy holiday travel season is here and I’m sure you are more than ready to reconnect with family or escape to that long-awaited vacation destination.  While there are always things that happen unexpectedly while traveling, there are ways to help your travels go more smoothly…

Arriving at the airport early is always the way to go.  Early flight, vehicle, and hotel bookings mean more available and cheaper options which can also mean more savings and less possibility of having long layovers or less than ideal accommodations.

Being early also means having extra time that may be necessary to find parking, fit in that last bathroom break or diaper change, or to grab a cup of coffee before boarding.

Checking in online for your flight is a great way to start your trip out right by saving time and eliminating the need to wait in long lines at the airport.  Options such as TSA Precheck , Global Entry, or CLEAR will also help get you through the security checkpoints at the airport faster but must be arranged in advance of your date of travel.

Having flexible travel dates will also help save money when booking your travel plans, particularly during the holidays.

Once you’ve finalized your travel dates, one more thing you may want to consider doing if you will be celebrating the holidays away from home is where you’ll eat your holiday meal.  To avoid the headache of driving from one full restaurant to the next with hungry kids on Thanksgiving Day, find out if your favorite restaurant is open and make a reservation in advance.

If possible, mail your gifts ahead of your departure to save room in you luggage for all the things you will need to enjoy your trip, and mail gifts you received or souvenirs you bought, back home.  You don’t want the fruit cake your grandmother made to cost you a fee for overweight luggage and you may not want that white elephant gift you got stuck with at the family gift exchange to take up your feet space on your flight home!

Stay hydrated, eat well, wash your hands often, and wear your mask while traveling to avoid spending your trip feeling under the weather.

Pack an extra pair of clothing in your carryon in case of baby mess or delayed or missing luggage.  It will buy you time until your luggage shows up or until you can get to Target when it opens the day after Thanksgiving.

Don’t forget to pack for the weather at your destination.  When flying to a different climate, it is most practical to dress in layers.  Bring a warm sweater or jacket and a pair of socks to put on before arriving if flying from a warm to cold place, and leave extra space in your carryon for your cold weather gear if flying from cold weather to warmer weather.

Make a list and check it twice to avoid over-packing or forgetting something important.  I’m a planner and love making lists and always use the Notes app on my iPhone to make a list of things to pack and then a separate note for a To Do list so I don’t lose my mind trying to remember everything I, my husband, and our two small children may need on our trip.

Most importantly, spread holiday cheer by being patient and kind with others while traveling this holiday season.  It’s a difficult time of year for some and everyone has had their own challenges recently.  You never know how big of an impact a kind word or act can have on someone around you.

Be Safe and Happy Travels!

Packing List Template

With the holiday travel season starting soon and having just recently completed our first flight last week since having our second child in March 2020 and since COVID measures have been put into place, I thought that sharing my packing list may be helpful for others planning their next trip with their little ones.  I’ve included some suggestions that have helped my children and me but you can easily copy, paste, and edit this list to fit your needs!

Pack in Carryon

  • Face Masks
  • Diapers
  • Diaper Cream/Ointment:  Two of my favorite products are Aquaphor Baby Ointment which comes in small To Go tubes that are perfect to keep in a diaper bag or purse and also Boudreaux’s Butt Paste for overnight or long road trips
  • Diaper Wipes: My favorite brand are Pampers Sensitive Wipes
  • Hand & Face Wipes:  Aveeno All Over Wipes are multipurpose for wiping hands, bottom, and face so can be helpful while traveling but I keep a package of Aveeno Hand & Face Wipes in the diaper bag for everyday use
  • Clorox Travel Wipes: I used these to clean the seats, armrests, and tray tables
  • Purell Hand Wipes:  I used these to clean my hands, my husband’s hands, and they are soft enough to clean the kids’ hands
  • Vitamins/Vitamin Drops:  One way I try to boost the kid’s immune systems while traveling
  • Pacifiers
  • Pacifier Clip
  • Burp Rags
  • Receiving Blanket/Blankets for Naps
  • Books for Kids
  • Activities for the kids:  These are a few of the things I brought for the kids on our trip that didn’t take up much room in our bags and got us successfully through a nap-less, midday, six-hour flight!  My kids loved the Melissa & Doug Reusable Puffy Sticker Books, Eric Carle The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Friends Magnetic Character Set, and Toddler Sensory Activity Board)
  • Important paperwork (i.e., ID card, Passport, Vaccination card)
  • Baby Food/Purees/Cereal/Snacks
  • Water Bottle
  • Tablet:  The tablet of choice for us is the Amazon Fire Kids Tablet.  I always make sure there are some games and books downloaded onto the tablet and available offline in case WiFi isn’t an option while traveling
  • Tablet charger
  • Headphones
  • Night Light/White Noise Machine
  • Baby Monitor
  • Infant’s/Children’s Tylenol
  • Change of Clothes (i.e., Pajamas/Onesies/Bibs, etc)
  • Travel Potty Seatthis foldable, travel-friendly potty seat was SO HELPFUL while traveling, I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Pack in Checked Luggage

  • More Diapers (Swim Diapers if going on a beach vacation)
  • More Wipes
  • More Books
  • More Food/Snacks (to have as backup until you can get to a grocery/convenience store at your destination)
  • Clothes (including Jackets/Sweaters/Swimsuits and other weather/trip relevant articles of clothing)
  • Bath Stuff for kids (i.e., Baby Wash/Shampoo, Lotion, Comb/Brush, Bandaids, Qtips, Toys)
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste

Stroller (can be checked at the gate before boarding or as checked luggage)

Car seats (can also be used in-flight if the car seat meets FAA & airline standards, checked at the gate before boarding, or as checked luggage)

The More You Know…USDOT, FAA, TSA

It’s important to know all your options while traveling with kids so you can make the informed decisions necessary to help your trip go smoothly.  One way to utilize your resources is to review the wealth of information regarding flight rules on the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) websites.  But you’re a busy parent and already have a long to-do list that doesn’t include reading federal travel regulations so I decided to review the information on these websites and provide a summary for you of some important things that can help you on your next family adventure.

USDOT.  One of the first things you do when preparing for a trip is book airline tickets.  Before you book tickets for your lap infant and other children, the USDOT website offers some insight into where you can book a seat on the plane.  Firstly, children under 15 can’t sit in an exit row.  Also, I have personally had to change my seat option when booking a ticket online with a lap infant because of the oxygen mask availability, to ensure there are sufficient masks in the row to accommodate your little one in case of an emergency.  Here is the policy for seating lap infants from Alaska Airlines, https://www.alaskaair.com/content/travel-info/policies/traveling-with-lap-infants, but please do a search for the policy from the airline you will be flying with as a different airline may have different travel guidelines.  If you have problems booking seats for yourself and children, contact the airline’s customer service for help with reservations as soon as possible, the earlier, the better to take advantage of the most options available.  Often, they are able to accommodate the needs of your family if contacted early enough.  The USDOT has a list of major airlines and their family seating policies and practices here: https://www.transportation.gov/individuals/aviation-consumer-protection/family-seating

FAA.  Another important thing to consider when planning your trip is to decide whether or not you will be checking in a car seat or stroller as checked baggage at the check-in desk or checking it in at the gate.  Once again, check your airline’s policy about checking car seat and strollers but many airlines will allow you to check the car seat and stroller with no additional charges and you will be able to retrieve it when you arrive at your destination along with your other luggage at baggage claim.  You are also able to check your stroller at the gate and use your car seat during the flight but there are some things to know and consider beforehand.  The FAA website provides a lot of useful information regarding the use of car seats, in-flight.  The FAA encourages the use of a “government-approved child safety restraint system” or CRS device instead of holding your child in your lap.  For instance, in the case of heavy turbulence, a CRS device will provide more protection for your child.  Some parents may not even know or be aware that using your car seat during a flight is an option.  But before you carry your child, stroller, luggage, and heavy car seat through security then to the gate to board your flight, you should measure the car seat to ensure it’s no wider than 16 inches to fit on the airplane seat and make sure your car seat meets FAA standards for airplane use.  There will be verbiage on one of the many car seat labels that says, “This restraint is Certified for Use in Motor Vehicles and Aircraft”.  I’ve included photos of what the labels may look like on the car seat and where they are on my children’s car seats.  We have a Chicco Fit4 4-in-1 Convertible All-In-One car seat and a Chicco Keyfit 30 car seat my son inherited from his big sister.

Chicco Fit4 4-in-1 Convertible All-In-One
Chicco Fit4 4-in-1 Convertible All-In-One
Chicco Keyfit 30
Chicco Keyfit 30

If your car seat doesn’t have this designation then you may not be able to use it in-flight.  If you choose to use your approved CRS, there is a link below to a video on the FAA website, called Installing a CRS on an Airplane, you can use as a reference. https://www.faa.gov/travelers/fly_children/

If your car seat doesn’t qualify for in-flight use, there are other options such as booster seats or FAA-approved Child Harness Device (CARES) for children 22-44 lbs. or children with disabilities over 40lbs. but, once again, double check with the airline you’re flying with for their policies.  There is also a FAA video called Installing a CARES Child Safety Device on an Airplane on their website. Car seats are also only permitted for seating in certain areas on the plane.  Typically, car seats must be seated in a window seat and no car seats allowed in exit rows but double check with the airline.

If you decide to take your car seat on the flight, the FAA website offers a few tips.   A couple of tips I felt were particularly useful were that you can ask for assistance from the airline for help with all your luggage, car seat, stroller, etc. to meet your connecting flights. And since you must buy an airplane ticket for your child under 2 that would have otherwise flown for free as a lap infant when using the car seat or CARES device in-flight, you can request a discount for the ticket.  Here is the link to the FAA website for more information: https://www.faa.gov/travelers/fly_children/

TSA.  If you’ve traveled by air at all, you are familiar with TSA but may not know about some of the policies specific to parents traveling with small children.  One rule being the 3-1-1 liquids rule, meaning you are usually permitted only 3.4 oz. of a liquid through a security checkpoint but this rule does not apply if that liquid is formula, breast milk, or juice for infants and toddlers.  But one thing to note that I’ve also mentioned in my previous blog post, Tips for Traveling with Small Children, do not over pack breast milk or baby food in your carry-on since “the final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint”.  Formula, breast milk, and baby food are allowed “in reasonable quantities” through security but are still subject to x-ray screening and may be opened for inspection.  If you don’t want these food items x-rayed or opened, per TSA policy, you may have to undergo further security screening.  Learn more here on their website: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures/traveling-children. One more important thing to note for breastfeeding moms is you can travel with breast milk and pumping equipment even if you are not traveling with your baby.

Because I know you’re a busy parent who doesn’t even have time to read this blog post, here is the 1 minute 16 second video from TSA that reviews the screening procedures while traveling with little ones.

TSA Travel Tips for Security Screening for Infant-Care Items

This video appears to have been made pre-COVID though so it’s worth mentioning to remember to wear your face mask while traveling!  To keep up with everything you need to know, TSA has a blog where they cover all the things parents need to know to get through security screening.  If there’s anything they missed or if you have questions, you can contact AskTSA Customer Care Team on Twitter or Facebook.

If you do encounter problems while flying, the USDOT wants to hear about it!  You can file a formal complaint here: https://airconsumer.dot.gov/escomplaint/ConsumerForm.cfm. Hopefully you won’t have problems and feel fully informed and prepared before you and the kids board your next flight!

Good luck and be safe out there!

The Breastfeeding Mom’s Travel Essentials

Traveling with your baby is enough of a challenge but traveling for the breastfeeding mother presents a whole new set of challenges.  One challenge is not being able to have all the comforts of home that make the frequent breastfeeding sessions easier, like your nursing pillow, favorite spot on the couch, being in your own element with space to spread out and relax, or the option to use your electric pump whenever needed.  While traveling, you trade your nursing pillow for a carryon bag to prop up your baby, your spot on the couch for a hard, cramped airplane or airport seat next to a stranger.  I understand the struggle because I’ve been there and done all of that.  As a new mom, breastfeeding was already something I had to work hard to learn how to do properly for myself and baby.  Hopefully something in this post will help you overcome a fear of traveling with your baby or help you find a product or service that will make the process of traveling with baby easier.

Water.  My first must-have for traveling is a water bottle.  Whether you purchase a bottle of water at Hudson Booksellers after the security check or fill-up your travel-friendly collapsible water bottle before boarding your flight, make sure you always have water on hand to stay hydrated and keep up your milk supply while traveling.  All that recycled airplane air will quickly dry you out so drink more water than usual.

Snacks. Snacks are always a good idea to have on hand.  A hangry breastfeeding mom is not good!  When you’re responsible for feeding two people, eating is priority number one.  So when you can’t wait for inflight service to start to consume some calories, be sure to have plenty of snacks on hand.  There are many snacks you can get at stores like Target that are made specifically for breastfeeding mothers like Boobie Bars or Lactation Cookie Bites but regular travel-friendly snacks such as granola bars, fruits and nuts are all healthy options that promote milk production as well.

Nursing cover.  Anything that serves a dual purpose is a win when traveling so a nursing cover that doubles as a carseat cover will come in handy.  For breastfeeding moms such as myself that was still learning the ropes, breastfeeding in public was a daunting, stressful task.  A nursing cover provided the security my baby and I needed to take our time getting that perfect latch and a comfortable feeding session in an airport full of strangers.  There may be other options for you provided by the airport for a better breastfeeding experience such as Mamava nursing pods or nursing suites at the airport.  Use the airport’s app, website, or contact them directly to ask about amenities available for breastfeeding mothers.

Storage.  Before leaving home, make sure your milk is safe and secure in reliable storage containers.  I used the Medela insulated cooler set that includes an ice pack to travel with pumped frozen milk many times without incident.  Whatever brand or milk storage option you choose, make sure it can handle a cooling element like an ice pack and the amount of milk needed for your travels!

A couple of things I also found helpful was to lay the bags of milk sideways in the freezer to make them freeze flat and allow more room in the insulated bag.  Also, I would take an insulated travel mug with a closing lid for hot water to use to thaw the frozen milk before putting the milk in a bottle.  You can find a Starbucks in pretty much any airport terminal and every time I’ve asked for hot water, they have gladly obliged.

Comfortable breastfeeding clothes.  When I became a mother, particularly while healing from my C-sections, I definitely put comfort as a priority over style for my postpartum wardrobe.  When I travel, comfort becomes the ultimate goal.  It’s very important to have clothing that allows you to feed baby quickly and easily while traveling, but I have found there were plenty of comfortable yet cute, stylish options for breastfeeding that meant I could have it all!

Nursing pads.  Nursing pads is another one of my must-haves while away from home.  You never know when you’ll spring a leak and want to always be prepared with some nursing pads and change of clothes in your carryon bag which could come in handy in the event you have plans such as dinner or a business meeting to attend right after arriving at your destination.  There are different options available.  There are reusable, washable pads that are eco-friendly, thick and comfortable and very absorbent, and there are disposable pads that are convenient and easy to pack that will also provide the protection you need.

Motherlove Organic Nipple Cream.  This product was SO helpful for me.  It was the reason I was able to continue to breastfeed my daughter and saved me so much pain and suffering.  There are other brands and cream options available for purchase out there, but I can’t say enough good things about Motherlove Organic Nipple Cream.  I was having the worst time when I started breastfeeding my daughter and as a new mom, did not realize how hard it could be.  Within a couple of weeks, I wanted to give up because it had become so painful to feed my baby every couple of hours, but this cream applied after every feeding allowed me to heal enough to continue breastfeeding which was very important to me.  So now I recommend it or gift it to every new mom who has decided to breastfeed to hopefully give her a better experience than I had at first.

Cleaning wipes.  If you decide to bring pumping equipment along for your travels, you may find Medela Quick Clean Wipes a necessity to pack to clean your breast pump parts in the absence of a sterilizer and soap and hot water.  You may also want to pack breast wipes to freshen up for baby between feedings for lengthy trips.  There are also sterilizing bags that are easy to pack in your luggage and provide limited use to clean pumping equipment once you have access to water and a microwave.

Reminders.  Setting an alarm or reminders on your phone can also be helpful to keep on top of feedings while you’re trying to maintain a travel schedule, flying through time zones, and suffering from jet lag.  Especially for small babies who feed around the clock, it can allow you to make sure you make time to feed baby before baby has a meltdown to remind you!  Also, having one less thing to think about or remember will help you focus on making your connecting flight or, in my case, hitting up the nearest coffee stand to fuel up before the next flight.

I completely understand the amount of preparation mentally and emotionally that goes into getting to the airport for your first postpartum flight(s) but, just know, that you can do it and it gets easier when you know what to expect.  Breastfeeding is a huge responsibility that can be a rewarding experience for mother and baby and can even be considered a convenience while traveling when prepared.  My plan for Baby Foodie in the near future is to provide more resources to make it more convenient for breastfeeding moms and babies.

The Heart of Baby Foodie

It’s hard to properly launch a business without introducing the top-level management.  So here are the two CEOs of Baby Foodie, Audrey (3) and Logan (18 mo.).  It is my pleasure to work underneath such adorable management but they are, without a doubt, the most demanding managers I have ever had.  While they expect me to be on call 24/7, I do it gladly because they motivate and inspire me every day to be my best self.

Though they may not be featured in a lot of Baby Foodie material, the people pictured here with me are my heart and the heart of Baby Foodie.  My husband, Kirk, and I enjoy working for these two and everyone plays a large role in the business.  Audrey and Logan are my product development team and facilitate my continuing education and person development program while Kirk is the head of quality control, approves all marketing materials and product packaging, troubleshoots, and does anything else the CEOs or I need to be done.

These three are part of a larger network of supportive family and friends who believe in me and support Baby Foodie.  I have to recognize my parents for ALWAYS supporting my goals and ambitions and my little sister Leah, owner and photographer for Leah Greenfield Photography, who supports me from a distance by editing my terrible photographs and making them look professional.  There are so many others I could mention that have gotten me to this point but you know who you are!

My personal goal and the goal of Baby Foodie is to help other parents out there navigate parenthood by sharing my experiences as a traveling mother and providing convenient, affordable services to help you enjoy family travel.  Let me know how you think Baby Foodie could help make your travels easier on the Contact page.  There are lots of exciting things ahead for Baby Foodie that I can’t wait to share with you soon!

Thank you for your support!

– Rachael