AUTHOR: Emily Bertsch, VIP Office Manager
Emily Bertsch, Office Manager at VIP Vacations, shares her tips for traveling with an Infant/Toddler.
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Preparing for travel can be stressful. Add traveling with a small child to the mix and you might want to pull your hair out! Being in the Travel Industry for 12 years, I thought I knew all of the tricks to make travel easier on myself. When I was getting ready to first travel with my one-year-old, a whole new set of questions crossed my mind…
Do we drive an hour away so we can fly nonstop? Or do we drive 5 minutes from home and have a connection? Do I pay for a seat on a plane and bring a car seat along? Or do I just hold the baby on my lap? Should I bring my own stroller or rent one when I get to my destination? What food can I bring along on the plane for the baby? How many toys should I pack? The questions running through my head seemed to never end.
1. Nonstop or Connecting?
Once we decided on a destination, the next hardest decision was deciding between a nonstop flight or a connecting flight. To get a nonstop flight, we needed to travel 60-65 minutes. Our local airport is just 5 minutes away, but then we’d have to connect.
I found that with an infant, the nonstop flight is the best way to go. The best thing about infants is that they sleep… A LOT. My husband and I had an early morning. However, our little guy slept the entire car ride down, and through most of the airport process. I was happy to find the bathrooms on the plane have infant changing tables in them! While it was a tight space, changing diapers was still doable.
Once my baby turned into a full-fledged toddler, we discovered that the connecting flight was the better choice. As any parent of a toddler knows, sitting in one place for a long period of time doesn’t really happen anymore. Having that time to get off the plane, stretch our legs, and walk around the airport, was a nice way to let our toddler burn off some energy before the next flight. Fun fact is that most airports have play areas for little ones – genius! When it comes to diaper changes, those changing tables on the plane can ONLY fit infants. You’ll be happy to have a much larger area in an airport restroom with a full-sized changing table for your toddler!
2. Car Seat vs. Stroller? Or Both?!
If you want your life to be easier, leave the car seat at home! It’s not required on the airplane and it’s not required in some Mexican/Caribbean destinations. This way, you can save a ton of money and just pay $10-$15 to have an infant on your lap. Trust me, save the money while you can! If you are traveling domestically with a rental car, you can easily rent one.
When it comes to strollers, this is where I would say bring your own! Some resorts do have them available to use on a first-come, first-serve basis. However, we found having the stroller while you are in the airport is the best part. It provides a hand free experience while getting out boarding passes, or when buying a drink. As any parent knows, it’s much easier on the body rather than carrying your little one around all day. You are also able to gate check your stroller! You can take it all the way through security and to your gate. There they will put in under the plane once you get to the end of the jetway, right before boarding the plane. As soon as you land, you’ll get it right back in the same spot for easy pushing once you land! (I would suggest getting a bag for the stroller, just to keep it a bit cleaner. This is the one I have: JL Childress Lightweight Water Resistant Drawstring)
3. Food & Supplies
The one thing you’ll find is that you’ll pack A LOT of extra things – ya know, just in case. (Extra diapers, extra outfits, extra food, extra toys, extra everything.) You should come home a bit lighter as lots of these things will be used or eaten or thrown out.
If you’re traveling internationally, the extra diapers are worth the peace of mind. Most resorts do have diapers on site. However, they can never guarantee a size, or that they will be in stock. Better to be overprepared in this case. If you are staying with the US, it’s always easy to find a grocery store and get a few more if you happen to run out.
Two more things that I now refuse to travel without are disposable bibs and disposable place mats (another genius idea!). They take up much less space when packing them, and no space when coming home, as they’ll be gone!
If your little one still takes formula, I’ve found it easiest to buy the individual packets to travel with, rather than the big container. And for toddlers who still drink milk, it’s easy to find a little bottle of milk at the airport shops to dump in a bottle or cup.
A few other things I do like to bring from home is a sippy cup, a bottle or two, and a small fork & spoon. Hotels and resorts don’t tend to have toddler-sized cutlery, so bringing your own just makes eating easier (and safer) for your little one!
And lastly, I would recommend reaching out to the hotel or resort you are staying at to see which baby amenities are offered. You’d be surprised at some of the things they have on site! In addition to the obvious crib or pack-and-play, there are some hotels that have baby monitors, bottle warmers and sanitizers, baby tubs and some places can even baby-proof the room with outlet covers!
Depending on the type of trip and where you are heading will probably determine how many toys you need to bring along in order to keep your little one occupied. One or two books is always a good idea (put these in your carryon bag for easy access on the plane!). My little guy loves balls and cars, so I always make sure to bring one of each of these along, but these go in the checked bag (no one wants to see a ball fly across a couple rows of seats on a plane!).
I will also admit that I could no longer travel without the Amazon Fire Tablet. I know we’re supposed to limit our kids screen time, but when traveling, this thing is a lifesaver! With games, books, and shows you can download – it keeps the kids occupied when you need a moment of silence. (Make sure this is in the carryon as well!)
Lastly, if you are going somewhere with a beach or pool, it is probably best to bring your own things along. You’ll certainly be able to buy them in destination, but you’re going to be paying a super inflated cost. The infant/toddler pool float is the #1 thing to bring along. My recommendation would be to buy a new one at home and pack it up while it’s still all nice and small and fits in its box. Then you can just blow it up at your hotel or resort. You can buy small handheld air pumps, but as long as your float isn’t some huge, fancy thing – it shouldn’t be too difficult to just blow it up yourself either. And small pool/beach toys don’t typically take up too much space either!
Traveling with infants or toddlers is never going to go 100% smoothly. Prepare for some crying, lots of yelling, and the occasional airport temper tantrum. But the best part of traveling with your little ones is seeing their joy and happiness in all that they are experiencing. They may not remember it, but that’s why we take pictures and videos to look back on later in life. These memories, when traveling with our babies (no matter how big or small they may be), are more for us as parents anyway!
(BONUS TIP: Don’t forget to take advantage at the airport when you can pre-board the plane early since you are traveling with a little one!)
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