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Traveling with Baby: 10 Sanity Savers I Swear By

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My husband Chris is a musician, and he makes his living largely on the road, touring. I took Cal on his first plane ride when he was 6-weeks-old; we were joining Chris at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. He did great, and has since been on about five more round-trip flights, sometimes as a family and sometimes just with me. I felt really conflicted for a while, wondering if I was subjecting him to too much craziness (and germs) too early, but he’s gotten through all of it like a pro. Since he has nothing to compare it to, this is his norm and he’s treating it as such. It is a total relief, since it’s going to be his reality as long as Chris and I keep working. I’ve gotten our travel situation pretty dialed in on account of that, so here is my air travel advice for keeping those skies as friendly as possible. (Speaking of friendly, try to avoid United Airlines; they don’t allow early boarding of have any concessions for families traveling with infants, which is a huge inconvenience, especially if you’re traveling alone.) Oh, and I’ve got some ideas that can help with other parts of your travels, too. Here are the things I always manage to have (or set up), to help ensure that our travels go as smoothly as possible…

1. Baby’s own seat 
If you can swing it financially, buying a seat for the baby is the best thing you can do to ensure smooth sailing, especially when traveling with your baby alone. I pile everything into the stroller to help us get through the terminal and then check the frame at the gate and take the car seat with me on board. I strap it in to the seat next to me and — especially if I have a two seat row — breathe a huge sigh of relief.

2. Backpack
I think a backpack (I love this one) is crucial for every mom out there, but especially for the schlep of travel. Put all of the heaviest items — wipes, wheeled toys, water, and snacks — into the backpack for a much happier spine at the end of the day. The front pockets are also hugely helpful for access to IDs, boarding passes, and chew toys.

3. TSA Pre-Check
Even if you rarely travel, having TSA pre-check makes the horrible security experience slightly less miserable. Cal isn’t big on carriers, so I have to take him out of the stroller and put his stroller and car seat through the scanner, which is a lot easier if you don’t also have to take off your shoes and jacket. Most TSA agents I’ve encountered are very helpful if you’re traveling alone.

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4. Two full bottles of milk
The best thing you can do to prevent ear discomfort is to feed baby on take-off and landing, but you’ve also got to get through security, baggage claim, and a ride to and from the airport. Cal’s worst nightmare is the car, which is the only place I can’t breastfeed him, so I bring two spare emergency bottles full of milk or formula for when he gets fussy. I love Comotomo bottles because he can hold them himself. I use this bottle storage bag from Skip Hop. It has enough space to hold everything I need, and it buckles onto the strap of another bag so it won’t count against your carry-on limit!

5. Extra clothes
In addition to extra onesies for the baby’s inevitable on-board blowout, it’s nice to have a spare shirt or two for yourself. My baby’s reflux is still pretty intense and if you’ve got a long flight ahead of you, you might as well smell as little like vomit as possible.

6. Plastic bags
I keep a couple of these with me on the plane and pack a few in the suitcase to separate the poopy, pukey, and milk-soaked from the not.

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7. Light blankets

I love the blankets from Aden + Anais and Swaddle Designs for their portability. They’re multi-functional (warmth! nursing cover! spit up rag!) and squish down to almost nothing.

8. One heavier blanket
If you find yourself stuck in a terminal with a flight delay, having a heavier blanket to pop down on the floor as a crawl/nap surface is everything. I’ve used a diaper changing mat in a pinch, but that only works until they start crawling…

9. Spare towels
If you’re staying in a hotel, call ahead and have them stock your room with extra towels. Folded up towels turn any surface into a changing table, and having extra on hand mean you don’t have to bother with carrying changing pads and covers with you.

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10. Window seat
I used to be an aisle-or-die traveler, but if the baby is traveling on your lap, and especially while breastfeeding, the window seat seems to make for smoother flights. For feeding, I’m more comfortable if I can tuck into the window, and Cal gets less distracted if he can’t watch everyone walk down the aisle. The window is also great entertainment for a baby, and fellow aisle mates tend to be more understanding if they feel like they have an easy escape into the aisle.

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Photo: Claire Coffee