Advice for Traveling with Infants and Toddlers

When Lex was 10 months old we took him on a plane to see my in-laws (4 hours by plane non-stop, 1 hours by car). 1 month later, for Thanksgiving 2007, we took him to see my parents (another flight with 1 connection, 1.5 hours by car). Then for Christmas we took him to Disneyland (I should write an article about that); it was another flight, nonstop going and 1 connection coming back). After those 3 months of travel Lex completely stopped napping outside of a crib, drinking milk (EleCare formula, dairy allergy) during the day, and my wife was freaking out all of the time. Lex hasn’t traveled further then Costco for the 13 months since then. In March 2009 he gets his wings back as he and I are going to visit my family in Arizona again.

A Moving target

Looking back I want to tell myself that Lex was going to stop napping outside of a crib and drinking his formula except before bed anyway. As his pediatrician often reminds us, he is a moving target. This is true and therefore it makes it very hard to draw conclusions about cause and effect. I would just recommend that you keep this in mind first.

Circumstantial evidence

I really don’t want to dwell on what we did wrong. My wife and I agree that traveling every month for three months was the main issue. After the recent and many changes in Lex that I observed following Christmas 2008, during which we stayed home and had no visitors, I feel justified in saying that it is entirely possible that 13 months ago Lex really was going to change core eating behaviors and have a few hunger strikes whether or not we had traveled. What if I blamed his beginning to walk on the travel and the familial encounters? It would be just as logical. Don’t tell my wife I just said that. 😉

What went well? Quite a bit!

Lex slept through the night almost every night that we were away visiting. Even in strange beds, pack-n-plays, surroundings, humidity levels, and environment smells, Lex slept through the night. He also napped very well, in his bed as he did at home. Lex was actually quite happy during the days. He didn’t complain too much on the airplane flights or during the latter long car rides. He played quite well and even tried different table foods and ate surprising portions of them.

Easing the stress of actual transit to and from

Reducing the stress that traveling can cause your little one will pay-off during transit, while at the destination, while sleeping, and during the recovery back at home. Here are list of the things we found most helpful:

  • Toys:

    Bring some portable favorites and you must get some completely “new-to-him” toys as well. You don’t have to buy new ones, you could borrow or go to a thrift store! Clean them well if you do. Also a good suggestion is to hide away favorites a week or two before the trip then bring them our at dire moments and you will be so glad you spent some planning and preparation time on this. Only bring washable crayons and get the new triangle shaped ones with three sides to prevent rolling off of surfaces. Lauri makes a travel tote that includes some well traveling toys for toddlers.

  • Snacks: Bring a variety and even some new ones. Consider candy. Traveling is already different enough that maybe the worst you will do is cause your little girl to think that she gets tasty candy if she travels.
  • Nose Drops: Traveling often leads to dry air. I think it has to do with the air conditioning. Anyway, train you and your little on on these ahead of time. The “Little Noses” brand is very good.
  • Ear Pressure Management: Swallowing is essential here. Delay a drink until descending is a good strategy and then help make it last. With a baby you can use a medicine dropper to serve up juice or his favorite electrolyte beverage.
  • Pain Killers:Get one of those dosing syringes (Oral Medication Syringe 1 Tsp (5 Ml) with Dosage Korc). If you can get the one with the little blue cap for the tips you are set. Before large changes in elevation appropriate doses of Tylenol helped Lex be more comfortable.
  • Books: Get some new ones if you can and bring some favorites. Really I can only repeat the same advice that I offered for the toys.
  • Videos: Laptops make great portable DVD players, especially if you can get your video in file format and just run it straight from the hard disk without having to swap discs. I highly recommend this if at all possible, but I highly discourage video pirating. Don’t do it. Bad Kharma is not going to make your trip go better, that is certain. I really wish that they would start selling the file version of a video along with the video disc. I would pay extra for that!
  • Carriers:

    My wife talked me into selling our Baby Bjorn and getting an Ergo Baby back when Lex was just 8 months old. I am so we did that! Ergo Baby does not market as well or have placement in major baby stores, but it is a superior product. During travel it is better then a stroller as well and in fact I think it safer and definitely lighter (if you end up hauling your little one in your arms regardless).

  • Drugging: I had heard that a dose of Benadryl would help immensely during airplane travel. Well, it seemed wrong and I should have trusted my gut. We didn’t test this with Lex ahead of time. The drowsiness he felt while in the air just made him more upset. Some swear by this, but I don’t.

Our tricks for helping our little one SLEEP WELL in a strange place

With a lot of planning I think you can bring enough of home with you to help your little one sleep through the night. Let’s break this down in a list:

  • Sight: get the light level as close as possible to that of his room. Think about the source of light as well position and brightness. You would be surprised how much you can arrange some furniture, closets, etc. in a hotel to make things more homey. My Lex is used to total darkness at night so we eliminate all glowing clock radios and we even bring our excellent room darkening curtains (from Wal-Mart, dark brown, not cotton, trimmed with some kind of beads, but the best room darkening curtains by weight/volume hands down) to help. And those 3M Command adhesives and their hooks with some clothes line can create a curtain rod anywhere you need it.
  • Sound:

    White noise is a beautiful thing and it can be your ally. We got our son used to sleeping with a 1.5 hours long ultrasound recording of blood flow in the womb. We played it through an iPod and some portable speakers (I will try to link some products later for better reference). We brought this and then later we added a noisy air filter to help drown out other noises that were present in the new environment. A noisy air filter is and excellent tool as it replaces foreign sounds with a familiar one while it also cleans the surrounding air and encourages circulations

  • Smell: We changed Lex’s crib sheets a few days before the travel and then we brought the sheet and pillow cases with us. We put these on his crib and we DEFINITELY brought his favorite bedtime props (including backups) such as down feather pillow, stuffed goat, and Gerber burping clothes. While away try to use the exact same laundry detergent for his bed linens and clothes if necessary. If not mandatory, don’t wash them.
  • Touch: The same bed linens helped the bed feel like home. Also we event brought his little memory foam topper to help it feel even more familiar. Wearing the exact same bed clothing helped a lot too.
  • Touch – Temperature:

    Temperature variances can cause huge problems for your little sleeping beauty. I highly recommend getting a remote thermometer setup for use at home and DEFINITELY while away visiting. These things are amazing and they will enable to you know the temperature near your little one without disturbing her sleep. You we feel so empowered and prevent disturbing sweaty wake-ups in a blink of an eye! Learn what your little one’s best sleeping temperature is at home and make that temperature happen while away. You will love the results, the sweet peaceful uninterrupted sleep. Also many of these report humidity variations as well, if you want to take environment control to the next level. Honestly, this is one of my FAVORITE “baby purchases” and I need to write more about it in another article. Do you and your little one a favor, get this and use it at home and on-the-road. You will not regret it.

  • Taste: It goes without saying, but where possible try to make sure your have the brand of formula, juice, water, whatever. Even if he can’t have this all day, save it for night time. And of course bring his sippy cups and/or bottles.

Routine, routine, routine

As much as possible you should try to replicate your routine and rituals for bedtime, naptime, and meal time if possible. Not only will this help your little one know what to expect and feel more comfortable, but it should result in better sleeping and eating. It will also help retain these routines during a very exceptional time and in a very exceptional location. Even if you don’t have much of a routine at home, you probably do have certain things you do or say each time before these events and you should try your hardest to make these same things happen.

You’re not fooling anyone

I must say that in none of these “techniques” were we trying to fool Lex. We were trying to help a strange place feel more familiar and therefore contribute to a safer and more comfortable state of mind. I think all of this took more planning and very little execution while traveling. The pay-off was well worth it. Of course, getting your child used to these things so that you can use them during travel to bring some of home with you means that you may establish props and routines that you might have to sustain or wean from when you get home.

A sincere request

With my trip with Lex less than 2 months I would like to get as many suggestions as I can on how to make the trip easier on him and on me. Please leave any suggestions in the comments on this post. Lex and I will appreciate them all and I assume your fellow readers will do the same. Many thanks!

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