Traveling and preparing to go somewhere can be real work: packing (and double-checking), getting the timing right for flights or traffic, sitting for long periods of time and keeping boredom or even motion sickness at bay.
When it involves taking a baby somewhere, the work and the stress can be quadrupled. With all the needs of an infant or toddler, driving or flying and navigating airports or highways (and at the holidays? - crazy!) can be even more unpredictable than usual.
Here are 19 tips that can reduce the stress a bit when going the distance, either in the air or on the road, with a little one.
1. Use a baby carrier
A soft pack that allows you to carry your baby close to your chest, keeping her snuggly while keeping your hands free, is particularly helpful at airports. You can wear your baby from the car all the way to the plane and still easily tote your carry-on and her diaper bag.
2. Dress him in footie pajamas
Socks are notorious for getting lost, no matter where you are, so to avoid cold tootsies on your sweet patootie, dress him in an easy one-piece that covers his feet.
3. Drive or fly during naptime
If your flight or drive will only be a few hours long, try to take it during your baby's regular naptime.
4. Bring your car seat on the flight
It's not mandatory, but if you bring an infant car seat on the airplane (be sure to also get an inexpensive folding, wheeled luggage cart to make it easy to cart with you through the airport) you can buckle your baby in to the plane's seat next to you, so you do not have to hold him the whole time, which makes a real difference when you need to eat, stretch or go to the bathroom.
5. Pack chewy toys
Your infant loves to chew and suck - everything goes in her mouth. So bring along a few little soft and squishy toys made for just that.
6. Bring toys with lights and music
Bright colors, lights and music will draw your baby's attention when the road seems never-ending.
7. Pack favorite toys along with a few new ones
You wouldn't leave behind that favorite stuffed animal he can't sleep without, but also buy a few new things that will introduce novelty into the boring ride.
8. Pack spare outfits
If your baby arrives at your destination in the original outfit, you should win a medal or get recognition from a world-record book because it's highly unlikely.
9. Wear loose, comfy clothing that's washable
If you're holding your baby for a flight, you'll want to be as comfortable as possible. Get some quality knit separates that won't wrinkle and will be easy to pack and wash.
10. Bring an extra t-shirt for yourself
Babies spit up and poo always seems to ooze through several layers when you're traveling. Be ready for it by having something to change into for yourself.
11. Pack sanitizing wipes
Airlines don't sanitize their planes in between flights (or hardly ever). Use them to clean armrests, the window ledge and the back-of-seat table when you first start settling in. For flights and your car, you'll need them for messes.
12. Invest in a travel crib
Find one you like that you can easily carry, that's simple to wipe down, and that you can set up and take down easily and quickly.
13. Pack a bottle warmer
If you breast-feed, you may find it's easier to travel with a supply of pumped milk and a bottle. And breast milk will have been stored in the freezer or fridge, so you may want to buy a bottle-warmer you can plug in to get the milk to room temperature wherever you are. The same goes if you feed with formula and mix it ahead of time.
On that note, visit an electronics store to buy an outlet adapter that turns a car DC outlet (cigarette lighter) into a regular AC outlet. You can use it anywhere and power anything.
15. Bring plenty of ziplock plastic bags
You'll need them to isolate clothes or burp cloths that have been spit up on or peed or pooped on.
16. Bring laundry detergent
Even a snack-size bag will be perfect for a scoop or two of detergent. You never know when you'll need to wash something, if you've run out of all your spares.
17. Bring help
If you can possibly swing it, get someone to travel with you because going alone is tough.
18. Get help before and after your trip
If you have to travel alone, be sure to get some help with your baby before and after you travel, so you can be as rested as possible beforehand and have some time to recover after. It's not a job for the faint of heart.
19. Go with the flow
Do the best you can to pack and prepare and then take things as they come. The journey will likely bring stresses, but do what you can to roll with them without getting too frustrated. Though the trip may be long (or just seem that way), you'll get to be with friends and family or at a great destination at the end.