Appeasing the Tiny Traveller – part three

International travel with small children immediately conjures up visions of despair for anyone with or without children until you actually do it and realise it’s just not that big a deal. In three parts, I am providing a detailed description of how we travel to help you think about your own family’s needs and how to best appease your tiny travellers. I hope it helps you make your next trip a little more enjoyable.

Checking in at the gate:

  • The best kept secret is that baby stuff is almost always free to gate check. Portacot, Pram, AND Car seat often. Previously, I have somehow always gone over my checked bag weight allowance. The problem is that you have to get it to the gate. There is no way I could have made it without my pram. Even when I was flying alone with her, I still managed by piling up my Smart. 
  • Carrying her in a backpack/carrier/sling has been great when the flight isn’t too long and I only need a big purse as a carry on, but on a longer flight I just have too much stuff to carry her as well. I still check my pram as luggage when I carry her though so I have the freedom to go out to dinner and not worry about a babysitter.
  • Buy the proper padded bag for your pram to sneak in extra weighted baggage. Roll it up tightly, secure with a strap, tuck under your pram. When you get to the gate you just hand them the pram bag after filling it yourself – what’s in it (in addition to the pram) is entirely up to you. I’ve snuck in the portacot (on an airline that would have counted it as an extra paid bag), a giant teddy given to us overseas, the lobster, my coats, all sorts of things that I was happy gate checking but wouldn’t normally be allowed to. 
  • Strap the baby in as a counterbalance (not normally needed, but with my gate check stuff it is) and make your carry on a backpack not a rolling suitcase and put the straps over the handles
  • Babies get a carry on as well, but consider whether you need it. Often I just take one big purse that has the side rings to clip onto a shoulder strap. This way it can hook on and become a pram bag once you arrive. Keep little things in zippered bags within so sorting through to find her book or your earphones isn’t a huge hassle.
  • Portacot – mine is a GoCrib and is in a backpack too, but the Traveller could also be slid in my Smart basket underneath.
  • Lobster high chair – with this little beauty you can get away with tucking it underneath the pram and gate checking it too if your checked baggage is maxed out on weight. On a short trip I just feed her in the pram, on a trip to one destination, I just borrow one there. But with multiple stops to visit every relative this gives her some consistency at mealtime away from the cheek-pinchers doting admirers.
  • Car seat – Other countries have different standards and clips so I don’t take my seat from here. In the US I had my mum buy one and meet me at the airport. I flew around within the US carrying it on my back using the baby chest straps extended while pushing the Smart. Upon arrival I extended the handle of my large rolling suitcase and slid the chest straps over it and tightened them down. Left the seat at my last destination. At $45 it was cheaper than hiring one and I had piece of mind it hadn’t been damaged. If I was heading back to the US sooner, I would have mailed it back and stored it at home, but I was flying the long haul alone and as mentioned in previous posts, have a small apartment, so I just left it behind with a friend.
  • There are often “family” queues at security and customs that are much quicker and less frantic than the regular one. Ask a friendly security person and they can direct you.

Jet Lag:

I’m sure it’s not so easy on flights with multiple layovers, like on the way to the UK, but when flying to the US or Canada when you have one long segment (14-17 hrs) I’ve found a good way to deal with it:

  • If your child has a pretty set routine, just stick to it on board (meal times and nap times) until you get to the night sleep and adjust the time sleeping overnight as necessary to wake up at her usual time in the new time zone. This means you may have to wake her up and of course is dependent on her sleeping solidly on the plane, but all the babies we met along our travels slept well with the white noise of the airplane. The rhythms of the food service tend to stick to this as well serving dinner and breakfast on those segments.
  • If you are losing 4 hours for example, maybe skip a nap and on the return add a short one. This is where a rock solid bedtime routine can help clue her in that the new bedtime is not just another nap. Wave has a bath, story, dressed in a sleepsack, and then sleeps in her familiar portacot with her little teddy and the same music playing from an old Ipod she gets at home. 
  • Open the window blind for sunshine when it is daytime in your future time zone. When you arrive at your destination spend as much daytime as possible in the sun on the first day and don’t give in, just stick to her normal naps (even if you have to nap with her) and normal bedtime routine and bedtime. This has worked for us changing time zones from as little as 1 hour, up to a whole ocean away.

 

So there you go. It seems like a lot to think about, but some up front organisation can make things go much smoother. Now go out and enjoy your destination, meet new people, have fun with old friends, and thrive!