Hi everyone! It's summer vacation season and we've got some tips on travelling with little ones in the airport, on the plane, and at the hotel room.
IN THE AIRPORT
If you can fly out of Westchester airport, go for it. We just used it for a flight to Miami and though it was a bit more expensive than LaGuardia, it was so incredibly easy and small. We walked less than 500 feet from the airport door to the airplane door. With tons of carry-on bags and little ones to keep track of, it was a lifesaver. You don't get that luxury at LGA.
Since most flights are smaller and unable to accommodate a lot of rolling luggage, airlines now love it when you gate check. Gate check everything you don't need as soon as you get there. In many cases they'll have you pick it up at baggage claim. It's like free checked bags!
Gate check bags for your stroller and car seat are a must. Even if you're not a germaphobe, the amount of filth on the gate check bag (that would have been on our car seat!) was astonishing. Some parents say they store extra stuff in the gate check bags as a way to avoid checking luggage, but we've never attempted this. We have, however, checked a car seat and stroller in separate bags and claimed it was a two-piece travel system (like those infant ones) to avoid paying a separate fee for having two. Remember, your diaper bag doesn't count toward your luggage allowance on most airlines.
You're probably bringing a stroller, so take advantage of it by using at as a mini luggage cart. If you can wear your baby and put stuff in the stroller, you'll have an easier time walking through. Just remember that everything including the stroller has to be unloaded to go through security.
If your stroller gets broken at the gate or in checked luggage, stop at the luggage desk (usually where lost luggage is) and make a claim. They'll hand you a paper form to fill out. We were able to bring ours home and mail it so it didn't add extra time to our trip. They make you jump through hoops (we had to give them a copy of the receipt! We didn't have it because it was a registry gift so we called Buy Buy Baby and they emailed us a PDF). But if you stick with it they will reimburse you. We got our $179 back to buy a new travel base when they broke the handle on ours.
That was also the first flight we tried out Trunki, a ride-on suitcase for kids. Our 2.5 year old loved it! We didn't end up pulling her through the airport, but it gave her something to do while waiting at the gate. Since she loved to hang on to it and felt responsible for staying with it, it was a bit like having her tethered to her luggage.
Here's my best airport tip: don't wait at the gate you're assigned. Here's why--if your little one is loud or whiny or annoying, they get to do it for a completely different group of strangers than the ones you have to sit on the plane with. Then when you board with a new group of passengers, it's like you hit the reset button.
ON THE PLANE
If your baby is under two and you are bringing them as a lap infant, ask at the gate if the flight is full. If it's not, they may let you bring your car seat on and put it in an empty seat next you. I had good luck with this during my baby's first year.
Consider the plane layout when booking. When we flew with 4 people, instead of booking 4 seats next to each other (both sides of the aisle), we booked one side of rows 3 and 4 and put our toddler in row 4. That way if the she kicks and yells, mommy is in front of her instead of an unforgiving stranger.
Remember that if you bring your car seat, your toddler has to be booked in a window seat, and if you have two kids in car seats, they need to be in the window and middle. They will stop you from putting a car seat in the aisle seat. You also can't have two lap infants in the same side of the row because there is only one extra oxygen mask per side.
Bring an extra outfit for them and shirt for you in your carry-on luggage. I once got spit up on right as we started boarding. I was able to change myself and her quickly before we got on the plane.
Dressing them super cute helps to bide them a bit of extra empathy as they tazmanian devil themselves through the flight. I used to put personalized name bibs on my baby for flights. People seemed nicer when they knew her name was not Anonymous Crying Baby.
If your destination includes driving, it's a good idea to bring your own car seat. I've heard the ones at the rental car agencies can be sketchy at best, and completely unsafe at worst. Evenflow makes a $40 light version that's not super comfortable, but will get the job done. If you're buying a seat for a toddler, you can bring the car seat on the plane (just check that it's FAA approved--most are.) The Car Seat Lady says you can rear face, but the stewardess stopped us when we tried and we didn't feel like pushing the point. If you definitely want to rear face, it might be a good idea to bring printouts of reliable websites that say you can. We suspect stewardesses hate it because the person in front of you can't recline.
Having your child in the car seat has an added bonus of safety, a familiar and comfortable place for them to settle in, and barriers from the grime of the plane.
IN THE HOTEL ROOM
If the hotel will be providing a pack n play, chances are they won't have fitted sheets at pack n play size. Rather than fold the twin size flat sheets they'll give you instead, which can move around as they sleep, bring your own fitted pack n play sheets. They'll also smell like home, which may be comforting and help them sleep.
Once you unpack, put all the toys you brought on the floor together and take a photo. Then when you're leaving it will be easy to see if anything is missing.
Bring a separate set of baby wipes and a changing pad for the hotel room. It's a hassle to keep taking them out of your diaper bag and guarantees you won't forget them in your room.
Don't forget a nightlight. Hotel lighting is often too bright to leave on for kids.
Check to see if the room you're staying in has a dishwasher so you can bring your bottle rack. Washing bottles by hand in a hotel sink is so gross.
A lot of baby-proofing stuff is small and lightweight. Plug covers and doorknob locks can easily be taken with you at little added space and weight.
See you next time!