I don’t know about you, but I love to travel. Flying is fine, but road trips are where its at (within reason, of course) as far as I’m concerned.
At least, they were totally my jam before the baby. Now? Well, it can be intimidating to set out on the road with an unpredictable baby who, at this point, can only express himself by screaming.
Which is why I was thrilled to stumble on some tips from baby travel expert and blogger Corinne McDermott. She stumbled onto her expertise several years ago after failing to find any good advice on traveling with a baby, and since then her blog Have Baby Will Travel has become the Internet’s go-to resource for tips and tricks on traveling with little ones.
Here is her best advice for getting your baby to sleep in a car, on a plane, and on a train, bus, or subway. You know, for when singing the same song for the 50th time just isn’t cutting it.
Bringing Baby On A Road trip
Road trips are great for those of us who prefer to meander rather than be forced to stick to an itinerary – and they’re also a more affordable option for families who want to give their kids new experiences but whose stomachs drop at the price of airfare. That said, the long hours on the road can seem daunting, but everyone will be happier if baby can stay on a nap schedule. But how?
McDermott’s advice is to do your best to leave right before baby’s scheduled nap or bed time. Additionally, make sure and bring a little bit of home along for the ride:
“I would always bring our crib sheets from home. Having that familiar sheet helped my kids sleep. And if your toddler is still in a rear-facing seat, one of you can sit in the back. That way, your child won’t get lonely or scared.”
That last one is a winner, I can confirm.
Leaving On A Jet Plane – With Baby
Everyone you know has a horror story about finding themselves in a cramped airline cabin with a baby – theirs or someone else’s – and it can seem like it’s best to avoid airplanes all together until you’re past the unexplained meltdown stage. But not so, says McDermott.
For one, very small babies are immobile, they don’t talk, and their schedule of poop, eat, sleep can be easily transported…so fly away during the newborn stage, if that’s your thing. Older infants and toddlers can pose more of a challenge, but it’s not impossible as long as you know your child and you prepare as best as you can.
And even though it seems as if having your kid sleep during the flight would be best, McDermott has some different (sage) advice: let them nap beforehand. Kids that are more aware of their surroundings are likely to be excited and energized by the new experience and therefore unable to sleep.
“It happened all the time,” she says. “So I started to book my flights for when I knew my kids would be in the best mood, which was in the morning.”
As far as the great Lap vs. Carseat debate, McDermott says you’ll have to weigh all of the factors, such as how comfortable your kid is sleeping in their carrier and how long is too long to handle a child on your lap. In the end, make sure that you’re prepared and informed as to all airline regulations, since the flight crew often aren’t.
Boarding the Bus/Train/Subway
Depending on where you live, some kind of mass transit may be the order of the day. McDermott has a few tips on how to keep baby occupied and happy – and hopefully sleepy – while the wheels go round and round.
First, familiarity is key. Bring a favorite toy, piece of gear, or activity book that will occupy and soothe your little one in a strange (and tempting) environment. But just you being there in the next seat is likely to do the trick.
“Learn their cues and what triggers them so you can better manage if they’re hungry, uncomfortable, or tired.”
You can also do your best to tire them out before climbing on board. The calmer they are before getting on, the more likely they’ll stay that way for the duration.
Even if you take all of these tips to heart and prepare to within an inch of your life, remember that traveling – and children – is full of setbacks and mishaps and unexpected everything. The most important tip is to go with the flow and not let a little change in plan or execution ruin the fun with your little ones. After all, that’s why you set out to begin with.
“Travel isn’t always predictable and neither are babies, so you have to be ready for everything. As long as nobody is complaining and you’re not running out of gas, don’t stop.”