It takes work to travel with really young children. But this should not prevent you from leaving on a jet plane in fact, I’ve found that my two boys are accomplished travelers because they began traveling early.
Infants are totally portable. Their daily rhythm of eat-poop-sleep differs very little whether you’re at home or on the road. Even jet lag is rarely an issue for an infant feeding at (some-what) regular intervals. Your child will still expect to eat every four to six hours, regardless of the time zone.
If you’re breastfeeding, looking after your own diet and nutrition will ensure that the baby is eating well. Research in advance whether or not nursing in public is culturally acceptable at your destination and plan accordingly by packing specialized nursing clothing or just a simple shawl or blanket to throw over your shoulder when nursing.
Remember the effect breastfeeding in different time zones can have on your body. When traveling, your body may become out of sync your baby’s needs. When you’re ready to nurse, your child may not be hungry and vice versa. Be prepared for this and perhaps take a hand pump for expressing milk, to keep your supply up and so that you don’t run into mastitis issues.
Bottles, cleanliness, and sterilization will be the biggest formula challenges while you’re traveling. There are three options: wash bottles by hand, carry a sterilization unit, or use disposable bottle liners. I opted for the old-fashioned, wash-by-hand method.
Because disposable bottle liners are made of plastic, they are not very eco-friendly, but they are very handy for traveling. If you choose to carry these, pack more than enough for your whole trip, and remember to bring a small, sealable container in which you can wash and store nipples and pacifiers.
Formula + Solid Food
Baby formula is available worldwide, but you may have difficulty finding the familiar type. The more popular brands are often available in pre-packaged, single-serving packets of powder, and these are excellent for traveling. Specialty products like lactose-free and soy formulas can be found in health food stores and some grocery stores in the developed world. Itís a personal choice as to whether you pack enough formula for your entire trip; just cart enough for the first few days and purchase additional amounts as needed. Companies like JetSetBabies and Babies Travel Lite can also ship products to your destination.
Your doctor may recommend taking some formula with you and mixing it with a local brand over a few days, starting with seventy percent of the familiar formula and working down to one hundred percent of the new formula.
If you’re at the single-grain cereal stage, pack what youíll need during the trip (into zip-top bags) to take with you. Baby food varies just as much as formula and you’ll want to play it safe watching out for allergic reactions. Blended baby food is generally available in grocery stores in major cities worldwide, but the contents will vary from what your child eats at home. Traveling is a good time to use a hand-cranked food mill to grind up food for baby – at least you can then be sure what he ís eating.
Diapering and Potty Care
Diapers and traveling do not go well together. If you use cloth diapers, you have to think ahead about carrying and washing soiled ones and about how to dry them (sometimes a bigger problem). If you use disposables, they will swell your suitcase and, since you’ll likely run out, youíll have to buy extras locally – if you can find them. When planning your travels, double everything you normally carry in your diaper bag, including wipes, diapers, rash cream, and plastic bags (for soiled diapers). If you’re flying, depending on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)’s latest requirements, creams and gels may have to be in containers that are three ounces or less in carry-on luggage. If you normally rely on wipes, pack a washcloth as a backup.
Disposable diapers are usually available in grocery stores and pharmacies in major cities worldwide. For example, Procter & Gamble sells its popular Pampers brand in over eighty countries. Do not assume local brands will be of the same quality as those you use at home. The first time you try a new sort abroad, buy more than you think you’ll need. If it ís a less-absorbent diaper, more frequent changes will be required to prevent rashes.
Laundering will be your greatest challenge with cloth diapers. If you’re staying in one place for a number of days, you’ll be able to use your hotel’s or a local laundering service. Pack a trusted powder detergent – which you know is kind to your child’s skin – so you can wash diapers as you go.
If your infant or toddler normally naps during the day, set your expectations that napping will take place wherever and whenever during your trip, and that you’ll need to plan ahead to re-institute the normal regime when you return home.
Write down the time and duration of naps your child takes as well as any nighttime wakefulness. You will then have a record of cumulative sleep and can be more confi dent that your child is adjusting to the new time zone.
The type and duration of your trip will strongly influence whether you bring equipment from home, rent from your accommodation, or do without. Strollers, car seats, and backpacks all become valid spots for daytime naps. If you’re traveling to a sunny destination, a shade for your stroller or backpack is a worthwhile pre-trip investment. For single-destination trips, cribs like the Graco Pack n Play portable playard (www.gracobaby.com) can be invaluable. Most hotel chains have bassinets that are available for rent. Make sure to book in advance.
The absolute simplest method – and the one I used for all my trips with both of my children – is co-sleeping. No additional equipment required.
Plan your sightseeing with naptimes in mind, and choose quieter sights for those times when you expect your child to be sleeping. Above all, be ready to adjust your itinerary on the fly. If an on-the-go nap is just not working, you may have to return to your hotel, condo, or guesthouse.