Advice from Moms in the know with tots on the go
As a new mom-to-be who read every book she could get her hands on, I thought I had it all figured out. Then my daughter was born! Suddenly all my studying seemed for naught… I retained nothing from my mountain of books and had more questions than I started out with. Once I had a second or two to refer back to my books, it was too late… most of my questions had already been answered by other moms.
From nursing to sleeping to bathing to tummy-time, I trusted the advice I received from other new moms – my family, my friends, my new ‘daytime’ friends, and often other seemingly sleep-deprived kindred souls I meet on the street. I’m not discounting the value of experts and their well-researched books, but they weren’t there to talk to while I was falling asleep in my Christmas dinner. In my opinion, every mom is an expert. And when it comes to traveling, families who’ve done it (and some very frequently!) can offer the most valuable tips.
What you pack and how much of it depends on the age of your child and your destination. If you’re confident that you can buy what you need when you get there, pack enough to get you through the first couple of days, so you’re not stressing out about finding a store and getting there straight away. To get older kids excited about the upcoming trip, Laura Martin of Calgary suggests allowing the children to pack their own travel kit/bag the night before. “That way you can check it to ensure that the essentials are there.” She warns to “not be critical about what they packed. It will cut down on the complaints …since they did the choosing.” This makes sense to me, though I might have a few surprises on hand, in case of ‘emergencies’.
My most valuable packing tip, and this goes for those without children as well, is to divide all your belongings into separate bags. This way, if a bag does get lost, it’s not THAT one. My poor friend had to spend a week in Cuba in her husband’s shorts and a borrowed swimsuit, since her suitcase didn’t show up for the entire week.
I have a very detailed carry-on packing list on Have Baby Will Travel, but Ginny Connon of Aurora, ON wisely suggests changing from your usual diaper bag. “I switched to a large knapsack. It gives me easy access to ‘sections’ -passports, documents & pens, wallet, candy, snacks, sippy cups, diapers, wipes, change pad, plastic bags, spare clothes & undies, books, toys, and magazines.”
LONG FLIGHTS & WAIT TIMES:
It’s the dreaded thought of hours in the airport, and then hours on the plane, that put many off the idea of traveling until their kids are older. Know and accept in advance that you won’t be relaxing with a book or movie on this or any flight for quite some time and you’re halfway there.
Pre-boarding seems to be a divided issue. Personally, I appreciate the extra time to get organized, plus you avoid the issue of stuffed-to-the-gills overhead bins. However, Trudy Buzdon-Barber of Tsawwassen, BC suggests that you “wait until the very last passenger gets on the plane then board…this way your little sweet pea doesn’t have to wait in a confined area while other passengers are getting settled! Stay close to the boarding gate and let your child finish up a snack, play eye spy or even run around and get out all that energy! I found this worked great for my once 2-yr-old who had lots of beans in her pants! We just jumped on the plane, and zoom we were off!”
Ginny Connon also subscribes to the ‘wear ‘em out’ philosophy – “…while we wait for the plane I try to tire the kids out the best I can. We take turns taking the kids on treasure hunts, or meet other kids and play with them. I’ll take them over to meet all the babies in their strollers too.” My daughter has a tough time winding down if she’s been running around, so I try to stick to low-key activities until it’s time to board. I love the ideas of treasure hunts and eye spy – I always forget about that one!
THE CAR SEAT DILEMMA:
For me, it’s not a dilemma… bring it. However, if you know for certain that your hotel transfers will be by coach or public transit and you won’t be going on any day trips, it might not be necessary – but why take the chance? You can reserve car seats with most major car rental companies, but the internet is rife with horror stories about filthy and/or unsafe seats. The car seat we travel with was very inexpensive and weighs less than 10lbs. For transport, we attach it to one of our wheeled suitcases with a bungee cord and it gets checked under the plane. Most airlines will not (should not) charge you for extra luggage. Some baby equipment rental agencies will meet you at the airport with a clean and safe seat, so this might be a good option if you’re renting a car and plan to head home from the same airport.
On our trips, the car seat was rarely used. But we did use it! For taxi trips we negotiated with the driver to pick us up at a specified place and time, and he stored our seat in the trunk. We paid more than if we just hailed cabs when we needed them, but for us the peace of mind was worth it. Our luggage carts are piled to the moon anyway – bringing along the car seat really was not that big of a deal.
THE BIG PICTURE:
You’re on vacation – so you’re supposed to enjoy yourself! Ginny Connon summed it up nicely by saying “I found traveling with babies much more relaxing for me when I just kept it simple. Realize that the kids will get older and you’ll be able to do more over the years, but while they are babies, limit any event planning and don’t expect too much – just go with the flow.”