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How to Travel Abroad with Littles

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Everybody loves a good vacation - relaxing in an exotic locale, taking in the sights, ... just generally chilling out in a way that you can't back at home. However, once you throw kids into the mix, travel can be an enigma that's overwhelming to attempt. If you're planning a trip anytime soon, or just lusting after a week on the beach, read on for Monte Attard's top tips for traveling with littles from Stylish Milk Magazine.

Tip One

If you’re traveling with little ones under the age of two, they do not need to buy their own seat on the plane. They can be a “lap baby,” paying a small percentage of a ticket.

This is a great way to save some money in your tickets, but be prepared to hold a baby for however many hours your flight is. This can be exhausting. I do advise bringing a baby-wearing carrier or wrap because it makes things so much easier! For one, you’ll have free arms. And two, things like going to the restroom become a breeze and not a nightmare.

Tip Two

If you are traveling with an infant, you can request the bulk head seats. These are the seats with the wall in front of them.

Most airlines have a bassinet that clips into the wall, so you can place your sweet babe in it. There is a weight limit on these bassinets and they are only intended for small babies. You are not guaranteed to get one, but it’s worth asking for at the gate, when you arrive at the airport. Other than requesting the bassinet, I also advise you to arrive early, to get ahead of any other families who may also be asking for a bassinet seat.

Tip Three

Only one lap baby per row is allowed on most planes. This has to do with the fact that there are only five oxygen masks in each row. I was once in the bulk head seats with my son on my lap. Next to me was a mama with her toddler. Her husband was sitting a few rows back with their baby on his lap. She tried bringing the baby to sit with her as well, but the airplane staff wouldn’t allow it. They also would not let the plane take off until the baby was back with the dad. These type of things sometimes happen. You can’t expect to do as you want on a plane. Airlines have very specific rules and even though you may not agree with them, they are for your own safety.

Little girl in strawberry shirt sitting with little boy wearng a pineapple shirtLittle girl in strawberry shirt sitting with little boy wearng a pineapple shirt

Tip Four

If you decide to travel with a lap baby, many airlines will allow one checked bag (for them) with half the weight allowance of yours. I highly advise to call your airline to ask. If they do allow a bag with less weight, buy a very lightweight duffle bag and fill it up with only clothes or other light necessities. Things like shoes and toiletries placed in the duffle bag will cause it to get heavy, fast. It’s very easy to go over the airlines weight limit. Sometimes it’s even cheaper to check an extra bag rather than paying the overweight fees. The airline will usually list all fees on their website, so you can decide which is better for you. That extra bag may come in handy, though!

Tip Five

Be prepared to walk up and down the aisle if you have little ones who’ve just recently started walking.

Tip Six

Try to pack as light as possible. Definitely pack the things you know you cannot find in other places, like specific baby formula. But if you can buy toiletries for yourself when you arrive in your destination, you should consider that option. It will help keep all your bags lighter, which ultimately makes YOUR life easier when traveling with kids.

Girl with long hair sitting in a compact strollerGirl with long hair sitting in a compact stroller

Tip Seven

Always pack an extra pair of clothes for EVERYONE in your carry on. This is helpful in case luggage gets lost or if someone gets dirty on the plane. During my first flight with my son, I brought extra clothes for him, but not myself. He spit up on my half an hour into a nine hour flight and I had to wear that stinky shirt until we got our luggage.

Tip Eight

Most airlines will allow you to bring any baby or child specialty items to the gate, such as a car seat or stroller. This last trip to Greece, I took my Maxi-Cosi Lara and it folded up quite easily, allowing me to place it overhead in the compartments above my seat. If your item is a bit large, it can be checked with your luggage or at the gate. But here’s a tip that I would have loved to have early on in my travels; buy a gate check bag for the item(s). The first time I gate checked a stroller, I didn’t put it in a bag. It was ridiculously filthy when I got it back AND a piece had broken off! Amazon sells pretty inexpensive gate check stroller & car seat bags.

Tip Nine

People will give you all kinds of different looks when you’re traveling with little ones. Some may even make unnecessary and inappropriate comments. Try to ignore them. It does not matter what anyone says or thinks. Your baby deserves to be on that plane as much as anyone else.

Yes, your baby will cry.

Yes, your baby might whine or yell.

Yes, you may have to stand every chance you get to tock them or to keep them happy.

It doesn’t matter. At some point, most people have had to travel with a child.

Try not to let this tip scare you either, as there are plenty of travelers who will smile at you and someone may even tell you that you’re doing a great job! Others may jump in to help. You’ll do great, mama!

Tip Ten

Buy some small, lightweight toys that your child hasn’t seen yet. Only take them out of your carry on bag when your baby starts to fuss. Things like washi tape and wicki sticks go a long way on planes! Also bring a small pack of crayons and a coloring book, too. 

Tip Eleven

When your kids get a bit older, they can enjoy unlimited screen time on a plane. Now is not the time to be concerned with limiting them. Let them binge watch or play. If you have an iPad or tablet, load it up with games they know and new games they’ve never seem to keep them busy. Download movies and shows they like. Most planes have individual screens, but some don’t, so be sure to check with your airline. Make sure you also invest in comfy headphones because the small airplane ones won’t stay in their tiny ears. 

Tip Twelve

You have to consider your child’s comfort. We’ve used various pillows and blankets for our flights. Although the airlines offer these things on long-haul trips, they’re not always enough nor are they very comfy. One flight we were on had given us a bag with wet pillows and blankets. When we asked for new ones, they were all out. So be prepared. 

There are several great options for making your child’s seat more comfortable. We are currently using big inflatable square pillows that go between the kids’ seat and the seat in front of them. The height is even with that of their seat so they can lay their legs straight out instead of having them dangle. They sleep better, too. When my son and daughter were toddlers, we used a special seatbelt that attaches to the chair and keeps them secure like a car seat. They were able to sleep upright without slouching over. 

You can also bring their car seat along and have it within arms reach during your entire trip. 

Tip Thirteen

Bring snacks! No matter how old your little is, keeping them fed makes them happy. Gum is a hit, if they’re old enough. Lollipops if they’re not. Save those for take-off and landing, especially. Their little ears need some relief. 

Tip Fourteen

Try to book flights that are close to the times when your kids normally sleep. They won’t sleep the entire flight, but it’ll make travelling with them a little easier.

When my babies were younger, we would change into pajamas when it was time to sleep. You can’t count on putting them to sleep during their actual bedtime. Any amount of sleep on a plane is great. Putting them into pajamas helps them get into the mood. If they will wear a sleep mask, consider packing one in your carry on. This will help with people who are constantly opening their windows and letting in the light, or that person in front of you who keeps their light on to read the entire time. If your child won’t sleep with a mask on, try putting it on them after they’ve already fallen asleep.

Boy and girl at the beach wearing red striped bathing suitsBoy and girl at the beach wearing red striped bathing suits

Tip Fifteen

This last tip may be my greatest piece of advice when traveling with your little. Chances are, at least one of your flights will be challenging in some way. If that is the case, always remember at some point your flight will end. And when it does, you will be at your destination and enjoying life! Try not to stress out too much. Your little one will feel that energy. Stay calm and positive and enjoy your vacation, mama!