Advice: travel LOTS when you have one kid, because two kids have three times the stuff. Somehow. 

Booking

With most airlines, you’ll have to buy a seat for any child over 2.  You may also buy a seat for a child under 2 if you wish.  If you have the funds, it’s a lot more comfortable to have that extra seat, even if your child refuses to sit quietly in it for the full flight. 

Let me take a moment to advocate for the car seat.  Most kids are accustomed to being strapped in to their car seat and have learned that you cannot struggle your way out of it.  Most kids can also easily slip right out of an airline car seat.  If you want a contained child, strap your car seat into the airplane seat.  They can’t escape and they won’t try.  It’s also far more comfortable for napping. 

Some airlines provide bulkhead bassinets on long trans-Atlantic flights – you have to call to inquire and request one.  Other airlines don’t, and won’t let you sit on the bulkhead or exit row with a lap infant.   Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself in to – especially on those longer flights.

Lastly, you’ll need your child’s full name and date of birth.  If you endeavor to book a flight for you and your child before your child has been born, remember to call after the birth to update that information.  You should also travel with the birth certificate.  I’ve never been asked for and identification for either of my kids, but it’s good policy to have the birth certificate hand, just in case.  (For international trips, a passport is required, as well.)

Unlike your flashy single days, consider booking a vrbo or a one bedroom unit with a kitchen and washer dryer.  Two separate spaces will allow you to have some adult space when the child is sleeping.  Laundry will significantly cut down on what you need to pack.  The kitchen will save you money and allow on-demand bottles and meals for the kids.  Well worth it. 

Packing

My packing hack is not bringing everything I need – thank you, AmazonPrime!  Most hotels and rentals will allow you to pre-ship diapers and other necessities prior to your arrival.  I usually throw in sun screen, take and toss sippy cups, wipes, and other essentials to fee up room in my suitcases. 

Also consider renting gear.  Places like Hawaii (vacation destinations set up for families) have a myriad of services from which to choose.  You can get pack and plays, strollers, bouncers, high chairs, toys, and the like.  While it’s easier than lugging the gear with you, it can get spendy.  Always ask your accommodations if they provide cribs or baby gear.  I’m always surprised how frequently they’ve not only got pack and plays but also high chairs and (once at the Westin) even a diaper genie. 

Car seats and strollers are free to check on most airlines.  That means it’s cheaper to bring your own familiar gear than to rent it when you arrive.  I advocate bringing them with you.

Don’t try to carry on anything but the essentials.  Pack in the biggest suitcases you have to consolidate the number of bags you need to drag around. 

Getting to the Airport

Deep breath.  Visualize the process.  Count your baggage, add strollers, car seats, etc. and wrangling your children.  Is mass transit feasible?  Not really.  Would it financially cripple the family to park at the airport?  Probably.  This leaves with either off-site parking (meaning you will then lug your stuff and kids onto a tram) or a taxi/uber.  Do what seems most comfortable to you, but we are an uber family these days.  The obvious benefit being it drops you off at curb-side where you can immediately check your gear.  The other reason I choose an uber drop off over off-site parking is that, with the off-site parking, it is nearly impossible to safely secure a kid on the transport van, and (at SeaTac, anyway) it’s 10 minutes in traffic with an unreliable driver. 

And, suffice it to say, plan to arrive much earlier than you think necessary. 

Airport

You will immediately want to take advantage of the free checked strollers and car seats on most airlines. 

To contain young children you have three good options: baby carrier, stroller, or carseat on wheels.  We generally bring our car seats on the airplane, so a snap and go stroller or attaching wheels to the car seat works best for us.

Car seat with wheels: https://www.amazon.com/Traveling-Toddler-Seat-Travel-Accessory/dp/B000JHN3AS/ref=sr_1_1_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1488393156&sr=8-1&keywords=car+seat+wheels

Snap and go stroller

https://www.amazon.com/Baby-Trend-Universal-Infant-Carrier/dp/B00838BNK2/ref=sr_1_1_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1488393191&sr=8-1&keywords=snap+and+go+stroller

We recently discovered that children under 12 can use the TSA pre lines if they’re with adults who are TSA pre.  Game changer!

If you’re bringing formula or breast milk through security, they will test each bottle, so add additional time.  Consider bringing dry formula and empty bottles with you, then adding bottled water as you need it.  This is my favorite travel formula dispenser:

https://www.amazon.com/Babykings-Formula-Dispenser-Portable-Container/dp/B01D2YX5U2/ref=sr_1_2?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1488393481&sr=1-2-spons&keywords=formula%2Bdispenser&th=1

Once you are through security, stock up on snacks and milk.  Many airlines don’t have milk on board, so hit up a restaurant (or a starbucks!) to fill up your travel-tight containers before boarding. 

Boarding

Ask yourself this: Do you really want to pre-board?  The answer should depend on how much stuff you have.  When we travel with a car seat and two kids, we get on at the first opportunity so we have time and space to situate our gear.  If we were traveling with one toddler, we would board last to let him run free as long as possible. 

The last thing you should do before you get on the plane is change diapers.  Those airplane lavatories are impossible and we were recently informed you aren’t allowed to change diapers anywhere except the ONE designated for diaper changing.  Delightful.  (Apparently, your own seat and the floor are frowned upon, as well.)

On the plane

You need to be Willy Wonka.  Provide wonder and treats on demand.  Load up in advance on both. 

With an infant, consider bringing your baby carrier.  I’ve seen parents walking up and down the aisle for hours with a happy baby or – better still – a sleeping baby.  And if your child likes pacifiers, now is the time to invest in the cute little strings that attach the paci to the baby. 

https://www.amazon.com/Pacifier-Clip-Matimati-Baby-Teething/dp/B01F2DXNAS/ref=sr_1_2?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1488394974&sr=1-2-spons&keywords=pacifier+clip&psc=1

Trust me, you don’t want to spend your whole flight with your face in your travel companion’s lap, reaching under your seat for a filthy pacifier.  Along the same lines, you can purchase tethers for toys, too. 

https://www.amazon.com/Baby-Buddy-Pacifiers-Highchairs-Seats-Adjustable/dp/B003Y3BH1G/ref=sr_1_2_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1488394947&sr=8-2&keywords=toy%2Bstring&th=1

Once your baby can walk, things get exciting because they will not want to sit in your lap patiently.  Be prepared to bend or break all rules about electronics.  When my baby was one, we flew to Paris via Iceland.  I loaded up an iPad with games and shows, but he wasn’t captivated.  Instead, he wanted to rip the safety information card and bang the tray table with the plastic cups.  Go figure. 

With a toddler, now’s the time to go big with the electronics.  Games on the iPad like Tozzle are great.  I’ve also captivated my kid with filters (snapchat or snow).  Buy movies you know they’ll love but haven’t seen before (our personal favorites have been Winnie the Pooh and Curious George.)  We also load up on episodes of Daniel Tiger and Sesame Street. 

My 2 year old refused to wear headphones, so we purchased him soft Cozyphones for the plane and they worked like a charm.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M7V7HZL/ref=sxr_pa_click_within_right_1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=2795410502&pf_rd_r=QTTEE6MEJB0YH4TRK08D&pd_rd_wg=V7uYz&pf_rd_s=desktop-rhs-carousels&pf_rd_t=301&pd_rd_w=gUGVg&pf_rd_i=kid%2Bheadphones&pd_rd_r=3FSSP1Y1HB3CX9YAFKD0&th=1

You’ll want to pack as many toys as you can carry for the 5 minute attention span.  I usually put each new activity in it’s own ziplock bag, so I can just reach into the backpack at a moment’s notice.  My favorite toddler airplane toys:

·      Colorful tape for the tray table

https://www.amazon.com/ALEX-Toys-Little-Hands-Tape/dp/B00BDMNIIA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1488394607&sr=8-1&keywords=tape+kids

·      Little dover activity books https://www.amazon.com/Butterfly-Sticker-Activity-Little-Stickers/dp/0486465535/ref=sr_1_1?s=aht&ie=UTF8&qid=1488394392&sr=8-1&keywords=sticker+book+kids+dover

·      New books

·      Coloring supplies

·      Magformers https://www.amazon.com/Magformers-63076-Standard-Set-30-pieces/dp/B002NGOH1W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1488394482&sr=8-1&keywords=magformers

·      Playdough

·      Wikki stix or pipe cleaners

Now good luck, and happy travels!

What do you really need when you bring your new baby home?

What do you really need when you bring your new baby home?  I always answer that question with a question: how laundry tolerant are you?  I am incredibly laundry adverse, so I tend to stock up on clothes.  Young babies need more clean clothes changes than an actress on Oscar night or than Brittany Spears in concert or… you get what I’m saying.  So, here are my general guidelines for what to have on-hand. 

Sizing

This is the first tricky issue.  The average newborn clothes fit babies weighing 5 - 7lbs. (varying wildly by brand, with Carters being on the smaller side and GAP being on the larger end.)  The average baby in the U.S. weighs 7.5 lbs.  You see the problem.  I had a 7.5 lb baby and an 8.5 lb baby, and both wore the newborn sized stuff less than a month.  Odds are, your baby will not wear newborn sized clothes for very long – if at all!  I would also bet that most of the clothing gifts you’re about to receive are in the NB size.  Congratulations, you’re about to write about 20 thank you cards for clothes your kid will never wear – or may only spit up on once.

So: my first piece of advice is that you tell everyone who’s prone to gift giving to either (a) stick to your registry or (b) buy clothes for your child in sizes over six month sizes.  They won’t all heed your request, but it’ll cut down on the number of pint sized hand me downs you have to deal with. 

In reality, you should have 5 onesies/bodysuits, 5 pairs of pants, and 5 jammies in the NB size.  If you end up with a small baby, that number will get you home and allow you to place an emergency AmazonPrime order for reinforcements.  If you have an average sized baby, that’s probably sufficient.  Remember, it’s easier to put a little baby in big clothes than to squeeze a big baby into tiny outfits. 

Sleep clothing

You’ll want at least 7 jammies in the 0-3 month size for your kiddo to start, but then you’re also going to want to have swaddles on hand.  Despite every nurse’s admonition that all babies like a good swaddle: every kid is so different.  Our first baby had zero tolerance for swaddles or sleep sacks and my second baby loves them. There’s a great variety of options available, so my advice is to buy a few of what you think you’ll like best, then stock up once you figure out what your little angel will tolerate.  At any given time, my youngest had 4 sleep sacks in the rotation – but we had zero use for the cute swaddle blankets we were gifted.  Here are a few of the best of the best:

Basic swaddle blankets:

https://www.amazon.com/aden-anais-silky-swaddle-indigo/dp/B01CDEP4HO/ref=sr_1_4_s_it?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1488321864&sr=1-4&keywords=aden%2Band%2Banais%2Bswaddle&th=1

Halo sleep sack with Velcro:

https://www.amazon.com/SleepSack-Micro-Fleece-Swaddle-Cream-Small/dp/B001D7JO1U/ref=sr_1_1_s_it?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1488321838&sr=1-1&keywords=sleep+sack+velcro

Woombie:

https://www.amazon.com/Woombie-Little-Peanut-Beige-5-13/dp/B01LY7LS7Z/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1488321817&sr=1-1-spons&keywords=woombie&psc=1

Basic sleep sack (aka wearable blanket):

http://www.hannaandersson.com/pdp.aspx?from=SRCH&styleid=42584&simg=42584_HF3

The various swaddles with Velcro can be really handy if your baby likes a snug swaddle and you don't want to be doing the blanket folds in the dark on a squirmy baby.  But again, don’t invest too much on these fancy and adorable items: your baby may resist the swaddle entirely.  Buy a few and then wait to see what works. 

Accessories

Baby accessories are entirely about you, as a mom.  Do you want to be constantly looking for missing socks or adjusting head bands?  Then go for it, mama because, I can tell, your kid looks fantastic!  I had no patience for baby shoes and the like.  Despite my kids being born in the winter, I rarely found and used the adorable myriad of hats they were given, instead opting for the one we kept by the door.  Don’t feel like you need a great variety of socks, hand covers, shoes, or hats.  Only stock up if you are the type of person who wants to play dress up on 3 hours sleep.

Checklist

When you come home from the hospital, in your drawers you’ll want:

  • 5 NB jammies
  • 5 NB onesie/bodysuits
  • 5 NB pants 7 0-3 jammies
  • 7 0-3 onesie/bodysuits
  • 7 0-3 pants and/or dresses
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 1 set of hand mittens
  • 2 small sleep sacks
  • 2 small swaddle blankets
  • 1 small swaddle with velcro or woombie
  • 2 small hats (depending on season: these can be sun hats or cold weather hats)

A cup is a cup, right?

Didn’t Shakespeare say that?  No.  He didn’t.  And no.  Sippy cups are somewhat confusing to start.  Experts will say that babies should start using sippy cups around 6 months of age and drop the bottle completely by 1 year.  This means you’ll need starter or “transition” cups initially, and then you’ll end up with a different set of cups before your kid can be trusted with an adult glass. 

When I was initially looking for sippy cup recommendations, there seemed to pro-straw and anti-straw groups.  I’ve read about the dangers of dental decay or potential delay in using adult cups. There are articles saying a spout is good and there are articles saying spouts are bad.  While not based in science, I can tell you that it is unlikely your child will fail to learn how to drink out of a cup based on your initial purchase.  That said, your kid may develop a preference for straws, hard spouts, soft spouts, or even the cup-like edge sippy cup (a modern miracle, to be sure).  As with any purchase for a toddler, maybe don’t go out and buy 10 right away.  Buy a few then wait to see what they like before making the investment. 

Below are my recommendations, based both on practicality and cuteness.

Starter cups

Look for mouth pieces that resemble a bottle or nipple and sturdy handles.

Tommee Tippee

https://www.amazon.com/Tommee-Tippee-Closer-Nature-Transition/dp/B01GG2C8AA?SubscriptionId=AKIAINJNYNCDYDBGXQVA&tag=bab0284-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=B01GG2C8AA&th=1

Nuk.  Great spout and inexpensive spout replacements (for those kiddos with sharp teeth).  This also comes in a larger size and we love the designs.

https://www.amazon.com/NUK-Fashion-Elephants-Learner-Patterns/dp/B00BEVSSDA/ref=sr_1_3_s_it?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1488323011&sr=1-3&keywords=nuk+sippy

Avent.  These are great because you can transition with a more bottle-like nipple before you get to a spout.

https://www.amazon.com/Philips-Avent-Natural-Trainer-Ounce/dp/B00PF844K4/ref=pd_sbs_75_10?_encoding=UTF8&refRID=K8TKZ2ZAADJP9FQYQVJ5&th=1

Toddler sippy cups

Look for cups that can withstand travel and being tossed across a room.  Also, your toddler may express a preference for the design on his or her cups.  So there’s that to worry about, too.

Munchikin Miracle.  I’ll be honest – the concept totally confused me until I personally tried it.  I’m a fan.

https://www.amazon.com/Munchkin-Miracle-Sippy-Orange-Ounce/dp/B00MRZIGXY/ref=pd_sim_75_2?_encoding=UTF8&refRID=W7BKBSGDZHMV25KM035K&th=1

Take and Toss.  These don’t withstand being hurled across the room perfectly, but for a brand called take and toss, they last longer than you’d expect.  I’d advise having some on hand for travel.  Well worth the price!

https://www.amazon.com/First-Years-Spill-Proof-Sippy-Ounce/dp/B000096M59/ref=pd_sim_75_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=J2XMQWN9RRC4Y2Q5CT5T

Camelbak.  Scores high on the cuteness factor.

https://www.amazon.com/CamelBak-Kids-Water-Bottle-Scouts/dp/B01AL6XIO2/ref=sr_1_2?s=sports-and-fitness&ie=UTF8&qid=1488323266&sr=1-2&keywords=camelbak+kids

Thermos.  The thermos cups are insulated and offer lots of cute designs as well. 

https://www.amazon.com/Thermos-Funtainer-Ounce-Bottle-Frozen/dp/B01ATVJW7Q/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1488323741&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=thermos%2Bkid&th=1