While, most days, it seems like I have been a mommy for at least 10 years, the reality is that I have been a mommy for 3 years 4 months and 15 days. I’m not sure how long you have to be a mom before you can give advice, but I’d like to offer some tips and resources from my own travel experiences that I hope other parents would find helpful!
Be patient. This may seem like a very obvious tip for anyone who has traveled with small children but it’s always a good reminder, kind of like when your Apple Watch tells you when to breathe, right? One of the most fun, exciting things about traveling is that you never know what to expect but it’s also one of the most scary, challenging things too. Just like adults, kids get stir-crazy, bored, over stimulated and jet lagged while traveling and haven’t developed coping mechanisms to process these feelings, also like some adults! So be patient and hope for the best but plan for the worst.
Be prepared. There are ways to avoid catastrophes when away from home such as writing a checklist before packing, packing extra clothes in carryon bags, keeping the important things you need to get to quickly on top or in an easy access pocket on your bag such as electronics to go through security and diapers and wipes for those last minute pre-boarding diaper changes. My husband and I are both huge planners so when we do anything, we are prepared but even the most prepared parents can’t plan for everything. Our kids definitely make sure of that! One goal of Baby Foodie is to help parents during those unexpected events like flight delays or cancellations or unexpected layovers.
Be adventurous. Traveling with small children can be daunting but there are things you can do to make it more exciting for everyone. You can start getting excited before the trip even starts! You can get books about flying, traveling, or your chosen destination to read to the kids before your trip. If your child is old enough, get them their own backpack or luggage and let them help you pack! This also makes them excited to carry their own stuff so it’s a win-win situation. To help make the flight go more smoothly, buy your baby or toddler a new toy or activity book to keep their attention longer on the flight. To reduce the anxiety of being in a new place, play games like I Spy to help distract them during long wait times or flights.
Be early. So even over three years into motherhood, I am always surprised how much longer everything takes when small children are involved! To leave the house for us typically takes as long or MORE time than the errand or activity we are doing! For this reason and Murphy’s Law, plan to get to the airport ahead of time. Even me and my husband, The Planners, experience delays through no fault of our own, for instance, having trouble finding parking, long TSA lines, extra stops to the bathroom, long lines for food and every other possible delay. Also, be early booking your tickets and accommodations. There are typically more and cheaper options when booking family travel if you plan ahead and have a flexible travel schedule.
And just a little tip that my husband and I always do even when dining out while not traveling is to have an early dinner. If the restaurant is open during the time after the lunch rush and before dinner starts, that’s when we go. We typically save time and money while avoiding crowds and are able to get the kids to bed on time so we can “relax”.
Be flexible. This is kind of a combination of being patient and being prepared. Just go with it is another way to put it. While I was traveling with my daughter who was an infant at the time, I could not find the changing table in the plane bathroom so I asked the flight attendant about it and she told me, much to my surprise, that there was no changing table on the plane. She offered for me to change my daughter on a row of empty seats.
I have also found out while traveling, not to over pack and bring too much pumped breast milk or baby food or formula in your carryon luggage because it is at the discretion of the TSA officer if the amount of milk or food you are bringing is a “reasonable” quantity. You can find the TSA policies for traveling with children here: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures/traveling-children
While TSA has never confiscated my pumped milk or baby food, I would hate for that to happen to any parent because they were unaware like me. In that case, it would be perfectly acceptable to cry over confiscated milk!
Be resourceful. Utilize resources available to you to make your trip less stressful. For example, as a traveling mother with a breastfeeding infant, I found the Mamava pods to be so convenient. It eliminated the need for me to navigate the minefield that breastfeeding in public can be, unfortunately, and gave me a place where I could quietly feed my baby while charging my phone and not worrying about keeping track of all my stuff in a crowded seating area at the gate. You can use the Mamava app for locating places nearest you to conveniently breastfeed your baby. Here is a link to their website for more information: https://www.mamava.com/
Most airports also have an app or place on their website where you can plan your layover by finding bathrooms, restaurants, stores, etc. that you may need so you know where you need to go before your plane even pulls up to the gate.
I also utilize the online check-in option on the mobile app for your airline. I fly mainly Alaska Airlines if I can help it and their app is very user-friendly and easy to navigate. Find out more and download app here: https://www.alaskaair.com/content/mobile/mobile-apps
Be ready (to improvise). You know what happens to best-laid plans so don’t be surprised when you have to improvise. An example of this is when my husband and I booked a hotel room not even considering the washing amenities available for our baby. We only had a shower available to us and after having her sleep on a germ-filled airplane seat (on her blanket, of course), this germaphobic mommy HAD to give her baby a bath so we used the sink and lined it with a towel for her to sit on to give her a quick bath.
Another way to help you improvise would be to bring some travel-friendly food or snacks your baby or child will recognize and enjoy as emergency backup or to supplement food from restaurants or other people’s houses where you may be staying. The last thing you need on top of baby jet lag is a hunger strike.
In conclusion, you can save some time, money and stress by being prepared, early, and organized but ultimately you should expect some bumps in the road so don’t get flustered. Just make the best of any travel situation. Also, family travel is not cheap and I understand trying to find ways to save but some things are worth splurging on if you can manage it. What those things are will vary from situation to situation and family to family. For my family, it is everyone having their own airplane seat. I found from experience that my lap is not an ideal seat for a six-hour flight, even for an infant. So on our next trip, we used our Alaska Airlines miles and companion fare ticket to get our lap infant her own seat, and we were forever changed. Kind of like after you fly first class, you wonder if you will ever be able to fly coach again. We decided that the splurge was worth it to preserve our sanity and give everyone their own space.
Traveling with kids can and will be stressful, but I think the benefits outweigh the potential problems when your children get to broaden their horizons, spend time with friends and family and make memories. The vision for Baby Foodie is to make travel less of an inconvenience for families with small children and to, one day soon, make getting baby food, formula and products as easy to get as it is for you to get a Coke in the airport, or to order food in-flight, or to order room service at a hotel!
I’d love to hear your travel advice or tips you would like to share, and I’ll keep you posted on Baby Foodie updates. There are exciting things coming soon for Baby Foodie that I can’t wait to share with you.
Safe & Happy Travels!