In the middle of even the mildest winter, most Northeasterners dream
of days spent in warm, sunny beach locations -- especially those of us who aren’t avid skiers or snowboarders.
Luckily for me, respite recently came in the form of a last minute trip to Puerto Rico. However, all thoughts of reading books, relaxing and catching those forbidden rays of the sun on a deserted beach escaped me.
This time, my baggage included a 14-month-old toddler, equipped with just the right amount of spunk and energy that will make any experienced traveler roll his or her eyes, grunting in misery imagining the potential of this child.
If you are lucky enough to escape town this winter, I'd like to share a few tips that might help ease some of your worries about airplane travel with an infant or toddler.
- Travel with a good umbrella stroller.
No, you don’t have to go out and buy the latest thousand dollar trendy stroller. "Good" means a stroller that folds easily, has an adequate sun shade and a storage bin beneath.
Strollers will be checked at the gate, but figure you will be using it throughout your trip, so if you go too crazy, you lose portability, and if you go too minimal, you might lack important basics.
- Call your airline in advance.
Ask any questions you may have about traveling with an infant or toddler. Airlines can have varying policies for gate check items, baggage fees and weight limits on baggage. Now is not the time to try to carry on all your luggage.
- Arrive at the airport early.
You never know what could cause you to fall 20 minutes behind with an infant or toddler.Take a stroll through the terminal or let your child run or crawl around and expend energy before the flight. Pack some sanitary wipes for their hands if you are creeped out by public spaces.
- Ask for a seat in the rear of the plane.
With most airlines, children under two are allowed to travel free, but they are not guaranteed a seat. This might help your chances of getting an extra seat. Even if an extra seat is not available, you know that you will be close to the bathroom for diaper changes and frequent trips up and down the aisles with your child.
Another perk is that people passing might spend time to talk to and entertain your baby. It also gives you more time to sweep up the cheerios and reorganize prior to exiting the plane without delaying other passengers.
- Pack a play and snack bag.
Bring familiar, replaceable favorites as well as some novelty items, like stickers, Play-Doh or your iPad. Now might be the time to introduce a lollipop or some generally forbidden food from your household.
For infants, bring extra milk or formula. However, I will warn you that pressure can cause bottles to erupt like a shaken soda bottle.
- Be ready to walk the aisle of the plane. Enough said.
- Let go.
If you are a planner, plan loosely. If you have high expectations of relaxing, plan another trip without your kids. Don’t bother attempting to read "War and Peace" today.
Support or seek the support of your spouse. Preserve your sanity. You’ll be a better parent for doing so, and your kids will have a better time too.
- Enjoy your trip.
While life may be different now that you’re a parent, you’re lucky to be able to share this part of your life and create memories with your children. Even a difficult flight will not take away from a wonderful trip.