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Traveling with Kids

Jessica D.
JESSICA D.
Psychologist & Worldwide Traveler
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Join Jessica Dear, mother of three and worldwide traveler for a Q&A session just in time for holiday travel. Wondering how to navigate a flight with small children? Curious about the perks of staying in a hotel or condo with children? Ready to take your family on an adventure and need tips from someone who has done it before? Jessica has traveled around the world with her family, staying in everything from hostels to 5-star hotels! She is here to answer all questions about navigating travel on planes, trains and boats to cities around the world with kids of all ages.

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JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Two week work trip advice
SUSAN, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD, 12 MONTH OLD

Hi Jessica!

I need to be in Boulder, CO for two weeks in February for work and plan to bring my son who will be 11 months (I'm still EBF). I currently live in Boston so there will be a time difference. I will also be fairly busy with work commitments (from 8am until 8pm). Any advice on how to pull this off? I have parents who are willing to come help as well as my nanny. I'm thinking I will do an airbnb. Also, if I have my nanny come, do you have any idea how payment should work?

Thanks!

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Susan. I don't see a big issue with time difference. Both of you will be in sync if you're flexible. By that I mean, going to sleep when it's Boulder's time to sleep, and not Boston's..
Thumbs up for breast feeding!!
Breast feeding is awesome, but it may not be easy for those looking after your little one since he's accustomed to your warm fresh milk. So I would suggest to start pumping and combining breastfeeding with the bottle (with your milk of course). And also, you may want to think ahead and have some frozen if you're not ready to introduce powder milk and / or baby food.
Having your nanny with you during the trip is definitely helpful since your son already knows her and will not miss you as much. But finding an Airbnb place near your work place may be the way to go. That way you can visit at lunch and feed him. If that's not possible, then perhaps they can visit you. There are some places that have kids stuff (crib, toys, changing table, bath gear..), that's also something to consider when choosing a place.
There was one time when we hired our nanny while we were away. We covered her stay, food and airfare. Plus we payed the extra hours she was working. But in our case, our kids were going to their kids camp in the mornings, so it was more of an afternoon, night and weekend situation. Perhaps you can work it out as an overall price and not so much as an hour thing, since she'll also be enjoying Boulder, right? I imagine you'll have weekends off, so those days she can see the area on her own..

SUSAN

Thank you, Jessica! This was super helpful as I just booked all my details for my trip to Boulder! Also even though I've been breastfeeding I've definitely been pumping and producing bottles for my nanny since day 1. So I love your idea of bringing frozen milk in case I don't have time to produce bottles. I feel confident that I'll be having a well planned trip now. Thanks again!

Our Q&A is now over.
TINYHOOD, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD

Thank you, Jessica for all of your wonderful advice and tips for our parents!

We wish everyone safe, happy and stress-free travels this holiday season!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Convertible car seat on the plane
SARAH, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hi! My son is about to outgrow his infant car seat so we just ordered a convertible car seat. It was always very easy to fly with the infant car seat and install it on flights. What are your tips for flying with a baby under 1 who needs a convertible car seat. Thank you.

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Sarah. I have always had the little ones under 2 on my lap. I've never payed for an extra seat to install a car seat. I can totally see this as being easier, since you're free to stand, eat, and use both hands, however it's pretty rare to see, especially on short-haul flights. In fact, in Europe, I've never seen it and maybe only once in all the times I've flown over the past few years. Some airlines in Europe like Lufthansa, give a special seat belt for the little one, which is attached to the parent's.

While the Federal Aviation Administration makes a number of recommendations regarding car seats on planes, they absolutely require that you have an FAA approved car seat if you would like to use it on a plane. It has to have a sticker on it that says: This Restraint is Certified for Use in Motor Vehicles and Aircraft. Flight attendants look for these stickers when someone is boarding the plane with a car seat.

Not all seats meet FAA requirements.

Measure the width; It should fit in most economy seats if it is no wider than 16 inches. It can be really hard to find a seat under 16 inches!

You can check the seat width offered on the plane you are flying on at seatguru.com. Many economy seats are less than 16″ wide.

In all honesty, given the extreme safety of air travel, a car seat isn't entirely necessary, except for perhaps parent convenience!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Best international destination for 4 year old?
JESSICA, PARENT OF 6 YEAR OLD

Planning a trip for late summmer. Thinking Europe but possibly Canada. We will have an almost 4 year old. Any fav spots you'd rec'd? He's traveled a good bit here in the states and is a champ on the plane though a longer flight (furthest he's gone in Denver) intimidated me a bit. And the time change! Tips and suggestions apprecriated!

Jessica
JESSICA

Europe in general is great with kids. There are parks everywhere. Restaurants offer kids menu (one that I would even ask for myself), small toilets and/family rooms, among other cool things (depending on the city).

Many european airports have kids areas as well. My favorite airport in Europe was the Zurich airport because they have a big kids room with plenty of toys and activities to do. They have high chairs, nice and clean changing boards, kids toilets.. Even parents feel welcomed with comfortable chairs and spaces to be while kids play.

My second best has been the Frankfurt airport, since they have kids areas in various parts of the airport. I remember an airplane playground specifically because we almost missed our flight because the kids didn't want to leave the play area. Some airports even have cribs.

The time change could be a bit challenging, since the only thing you have control over, is choosing a schedule that you believe is best for your situation. In my case with three little ones (5, 4, and 2), I like to arrive to Europe in the afternoon. That gives us time to arrive to our destination with daylight, find dinner, and settle everyone for a good night sleep. I suggest that you keep all awake during this process so they go to sleep at the same time night time falls. Their biological clock will soon be in sync.

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
iPad & 4 year old
MADELINE, PARENT OF 7 YEAR OLD, 3 YEAR OLD

I saw your comment on another post about ipad games and shows. Any recommendations for specific ones to entertain a 4 year old on long car/plane trips? Preferably things that they can do independently at that age!

Jessica
JESSICA

These are the ones that keep our kids busy:
Lunchbox, Islands, AnimalTrain, Beck and Bo, Endless 123, Build a Train, Restaurant 2, Let's pretend (Caillou), Daniel Tiger, Busy Shapes, Toddler Farm, Road trip.
I hope he/she enjoys these as much as my kids have =)

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
bassinet on plane
INBAL, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

we are soon taking a 7 hour flight with our 3 month old. we did get the bassine seat. anything special to clean/sanitize the bassinet? also any suggestions for where/how to change diaper on plane? thanks!

Jessica
JESSICA

Hi Inbal. The bassinet seat experiences I've had, have been very positive. They've always been clean and ready upon arrival. I have always taken a baby sleeping sack. If you do the same, make sure it's not too big, since the bassinet has a seat belt. You can also just use your baby's blanket. If you still feel like you need to clean the bassinet, I would take some desinfective wipes.
Planes usually have at least two toilet cabins, so at least in one of them, they'll have the changing board. I would take a small toy to keep your baby busy while you're changing the diaper, since it's a new place for him/her, your baby will be curious to touch the "new stuff".

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Scared FTM
MARIA, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hi Jessica,
So my baby is a year now and we haven't traveled with her further than 45 minutes away from home. I know that sounds crazy, but my husband hates to travel and gets really bad travel anxiety. I used to be the one to plan all our getaways, but now that we have baby I find myself terrified to try and of course whenever I get the courage bring it up with hubby he makes it sound like hell on earth and so I have just given up. How do I break this cycle? Are we doomed to remain vacationless forever?
Help!
-Mom desperately in need of a break

Jessica
JESSICA

I wouldn't give up on the possibility of traveling. You can gain so much from traveling. I would make an extra effort to find places that are child friendly and at the same time, appealing to your husband.
I have found the beach to be the easiest place to travel with kids, since they're happy in the water and playing with sand. So let's say that your husband is into snorkeling, fishing, and water ski.. Now you have a winning ticket. He's happy, you're traveling, and baby is starting her traveling experience.
After that first successful experience, hopefully your hubby will be open to new places.
If your husband definitely doesn't want to travel, then I would encourage you to travel with your baby alone. You wouldn't be the first or the last mom to travel alone with baby..
I actually took my three kids to visit grandma from France to Mexico last summer. It wasn't easy peasy, but I would do it again if hubby couldn't or didn't want to travel.
It may actually not be such a bad idea, since it makes you'll be more confident next time you travel elsewhere with your baby. Plus, you get that one-on-one time. That's very important as well.

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Road trip with 6 month old and new environment
KRISTIN, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hello and thank you in advance for your help! My husband and I will be driving home to Minnesota (from Milwaukee - about a 5.5 hour drive) tomorrow. The last time we made this trip, our daughter was less than 1 month, and now she is 6.5 months. What can we expect on the drive? Will she sleep, need to be entertained, etc.?

Also, we will be staying with my parents in Minnesota once we arrive. She will be sleeping in a pack and play (usually sleeps in a crib) in a guest bedroom. Planning to bring her white noise, keep same bed time routine, etc. How much can we expect the new environment and sleeping conditions to throw things off? Any advice on easing this transition both at the start and end of the trip?

Thank you so much!
- Kristin Clark

Jessica
JESSICA

Our daughter was about that age when we traveled from New York City to Mexico -- by car! It was surprisingly easy for the most part, however here are a few strategies that can help:

1. If you have the ability, time your departure time for just after dinner, perhaps 6 or 7 PM. While this isn't so fun for you driving, baby will be close to her bedtime and thus could possibly sleep the entire time. If you leave in the morning, you'll have a bored baby for a large part of the drive!
2. She might wake up during the drive -- and may cry and cry. During our drive from NY to Mexico, our daughter did this every day at almost exactly 7pm. The best plan is to perhaps pull over, get some air, perhaps give her an appropriate (and delicious snack) and just spend some time holding her. Also, you can lay her on the seat (when you're pulled over of course!) and do a mini-stretching routine with her. Move her arms, wiggle her legs and just help her get relaxed. Baby seats aren't generally the most comfortable places to spend hours and hours. However, if she's sleeping -- don't stop! ;)

Last time we traveled to my aunt's house, our baby slept on the play pen as well. We were there for about 3 weeks. It wasn't terrible, and it was safe. Although, we did find an extra baby mattress (it doesn't come with the play pen set, you can probably find it at Babies R Us or a mattress store). This will help your baby be more comfortable and sleep better. It'll be a win - win (baby sleeps, you sleep).
At my son's crèche (daycare center in France), they ask us to take a doo-doo (a special teddy bear, small blanket.. something that reminds him of home and comforts him). I found this very effective since he usually has a hard time taking naps during the day, even at home. So don't forget your baby's special blanket.
I also found white noise very helpful. Although, playing Johnny Cash and Elvis once in a while, has been a hit.
Lastly, try to stick to your baby's daily routine even if you're on vacation. That way, you can all enjoy!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Gear
DEVON, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD, 18 MONTH OLD

Good morning, Jessica! My husband and I will be flying cross country with our 3-month old next week and staying with my inlaws for 5 nights. It is our first flight and longest time away from home. Is there any gear that you'd recommend we get for the flight? How about items that you recommend we bring from home (as opposed to borrowing or buying after we arrive)? Thank you!

Jessica
JESSICA

As I mentioned in another answer, we did a 13 hour flight from Shanghai to the US with our then 3-month old. He nearly slept the entire time, so we were lucky. Takeoff and landing will be the worst part -- if you can keep him or her happy during that time, you'll be home free. Highly recommended that you bring a car seat/carrier (not for inside the airplane, but in checked luggage,) on the plane, a 3 month old will rest happily on your lap. Bring extra blankets and perhaps a pillow so he or she can be in a more stable position (in case you doze off as well!) Essentially bring standard baby gear on the plane: diapers (more than you think you need,) two extra sets of clothes, wipes, etc. Other than that, you're all set, 5 days with a 3 month old seems a little scary, but it's really a piece of cake, especially since Grandma is probably waiting at the other end of the flight to help out! As I said in another answer, you'll be stressed on the flight, but it's only because of the anxiety of a ticking time bomb of a potentially crying baby! You'll be fine, baby will be fine. Have a great trip!

JESSICA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Beach holiday + time difference
CLAUDIA, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD, 12 MONTH OLD

Hello Jessica,

My daughter is 7 months old and we haven't traveled with her yet, at all. A few "plane" trips await us in the near future, and I hope I'm thinking through everything. But you never know :) Three questions that come to mind:

1. I'll be traveling with my 7 month old to the beach soon. Any tips on must haves, besides bug spray and sunblock?
2. In February we will be traveling to South America, where they are 3 hours ahead of us. We will be there for 2 weeks. Tips on managing time change? Should we try and keep her on US time?
3. Any tips for extremely long flights - 8-10 hours? She will be 9/10 months by then.

Thanks for your help!

Jessica
JESSICA

I enjoyed your "extremely long flights" question.. It seems that for us, 8 hours in the air is almost "easy" for us. (In August I was in Mexico with my three kids -- flying from Marseille, to Guadalajara, Mexico: 3 connections and about 19 total hours of travel.) My oldest son was born when we were living in China, so that first flight back to the US was about 13 hours and he was 3 months old!

However, 9-10 months gets a little harder because they need to be entertained. They key trick is to have some surprises available. Meaning, don't show them upfront all of the toys/books/games you have for them. As they play with something and start to lose interest, you have another "new" surprise ready to go. Our kids are very technologically experienced (my husband is a software developer, so tech is a big part of our household,) so on our long flights we have an appropriate collection of iPad apps and TV shows ready to go as well.

There are different theories about acceptable "screen time," so of course, follow your own convictions, but when it comes to very long travel, screen time can provide you with an easy way to keep them from becoming too bored. Of course, mix it up with little toys, perhaps a simple puzzle you can work with them on as well as "Where's Waldo" kinds of books. "Can you find the yellow bird?" -- those sorts of activities. Also, bring snacks! The airlines are often great about this, but don't count on it! Be aware of ear issues from the pressure. Ear Planes ear plugs for little kids can help with the pressure.

You'll be stressed the entire time, but in reality, you'll be fine and they'll be fine.

As far as Time Zones -- I wouldn't worry about 3 hours, they'll adjust pretty quickly. She'll want to go to sleep slightly earlier or later than the clock would suggest is the "right" time, but don't worry, each day she'll get more and more in sync. Just don't force anything. Keeping her on US time isn't necessary, just slightly adjust bedtime a little each day and in maybe two days, you'll be all set. (The real challenge is when you do 12 hour differences!)

For the beach, sunblock of course! Also, I recommend long-sleeve shirts made out of a lightweight, quick-drying material that "wicks" moisture (Patagonia makes some good ones, some even include a hood.) These are great for the sun and reduces the need to sunscreen every inch of her body. Also, bring lots of water, juices and fruit. Be aware that the heat can be especially exhausting for small children, so even though she might not be sunburned, the heat can still be tough, so a small collapsable beach tent can be invaluable! You can fill it with toys and a blanket so she has a little refuge from the heat and the sand.