(This article was written pre-covid) however it is still very useful. Please make sure you you wear a mask at all times and place a mask on your child/toddler, or you might be asked to leave a flight. Check for specifics regulation to make everyone's holiday enjoyable.) While a family reunion may not sound as exciting to your grown children as a trip to a theme park or an exotic land it will provide them with an intimate understanding of their heritage. Family reunions are an opportunity to teach the kids about family: Who your ancestors are, where they were born, and if they were involved in the making of history in any way. You can talk to your kids about who will be attending, how they’re all related, and where they’ll be traveling from. These are but a few of the themes that could potentially spark the interest of your children.
Even a newborn baby can enjoy listening to your voice as you tell her about the family you are going to visit and she will pick up on your feelings of enthusiasm and love. If you are reading this and are saying to yourself, “Feelings of love and enthusiasm? What is she talking about? I am more weary and afraid of all the unwanted advice I am going to receive, not the love.” Well ok, I hear you, but you can still drum up some good memories somewhere along the way and you can share them with your children. But if you really are having negative feelings about this trip you might need to reconsider.
Nevertheless, if you talk to your newborn throughout the trip about all the things you are going to show her, you will engage her and she might even be a bit more quiet as she engages with the sound your voice. But of course if the baby is a newborn you may have other concerns: carrying all of the necessary items for your baby, making sure you have toys and food, the variety of gadgets, and whether you must drive or fly to your location. There are a variety of solutions for this. First remember you might not need that many gadgets, after all we have survived for thousands of years with just mothers’ breasts, clothing, and a means to transport the baby. But let’s face it a bit of comfort is what we call progress after all.
So here are a few ideas:
First get your own pediatrician’s opinion for when it is safe to travel with your newborn. Many people suggest not taking an airplane before 6 weeks. However, if you must travel with your newborn, bring some help with you, try to get a nonstop flight, choose a flight during an off-peak time, and be prepared for everything.
But what about all the gadgets you with which you have become accustomed to? Car seats, strollers, co-sleepers, etc?
If you can afford it I found this interesting website called Traveling Baby Company. Here’s their pitch and promise: “[TBC] offers you high quality baby products that are clean, safe and comfortable. Our network is dedicated to provide outstanding customer service and making your trip stress free. Experience the ease of traveling with children as trusted brand name items are delivered straight to your door. You will never have to pack extra luggage or carry bulky equipment again. The convenience is amazing!! Relax while you travel and put your mind at ease, we will do the rest.”
A client of mine swears by them. As a bi-coastal (LA- NYC) family they used this service to manage the back and forth in the first few months of their baby’s life. Eventually they bought enough stuff in their second home to live comfortably in both places. The site is called traveling baby co.
If you can’t afford it don’t worry, you can still make it work. The most important item in your traveling luggage for a baby (or a toddler) is a car seat. All car rental companies rent car seats too, so it might behoove you to rent a car so that you are independent and you have enough car seats for your kids. But you can also rent just a car seat. Make sure whomever picks you up at the airport has it securely installed in their car ahead of time. Do not ever risk traveling in a car without one.
The most important items to pack for a newborn are:
A good sling
A Snuggle Nest (which is a small comfortable traveling bed that will accommodate a child 0 to 3 months)
Enough snuggling blankets
A white noise maker I love the Cloud Sleep Sheep because you can take the little noise machine out of the sheep and place it just about anywhere. Babies love noise.
If you got used to breastfeeding with a bopy, just know that you really don’t need one. Before you depart on your trip get a lactation consultant, postpartum doula, or lactation peer from La Leche League to teach you how to feed your baby using just your arms, and free yourself from that gadget.
When you travel via airplane make sure you breastfeed your baby on take off and landing and if you have a toddler it is a good idea to encourage him to eat something (a small piece of his favorite fruit for example) during the same time. This will ease ear pressure and make them comfortable. Include a change of clothes for both mom and baby in your carry-on. It is better to be safe than sorry. And don’t forget extra diapers!
When you travel with your newborn try to reserve a bulk seat in the middle of the airplane. Many airlines carry infant cribs that you can hook up in front of you. If mom is flying alone, the portable crib is a great place to safely place your baby while you eat, rest, or search for that one pacifier that got away. Ask the flight attendant for help if you are flying solo. They are usually happy to assist you or hold your baby if you need to use the restroom. Utilize a good baby carrier or sling. These keep your baby close and safe and they also keep your hands free. If possible, schedule your air travel during the sleep hours of your baby. You might also consider asking your homeopathic doctor for an emergency remedy kit. Check out Dr. Feder’s Family Kit.
Newborns are much more vulnerable to germs than older children since their immune systems are still developing. Maintaining minimum exposure is important. Without being rude, try to avoid allowing each and every family member and friend to breath on or touch the newborn. Be adamant that only those with clean hands and no colds can get close. The power to breastfeed conveniently and safely is best, and it will also help them since they’ll get your immune system to help fight anything that they may come in contact with.
Make sure you pack a variety of clothing to be prepared for changing temperatures. Temperature variations from an air-conditioned car to the hot sun at grandmother’s house. Or it can similarly be from the heated car to a house that is a little chilly for the newborn. Moving in and out of air conditioning can be an assault on a newborn. Be ready for either situation.
With toddlers remember to bring along distractions:
Bring toys that travel well and can be used quietly
For young kids bring books and coloring books (new ones they are not familiar with are better)
Stuffed animals (these can help them cope with new environments and for falling asleep in unknown beds)
For older children bring activity books and travel versions of their favorite games. Again sometimes a little trip to the .99 cents store can go a long way in getting something new your children can get excited about.
STAY AWAY FROM SUGAR SNACKS. You don’t want your kids to bounce off the walls. Remember many airlines these days do not provide meals, so pack some food for your children.
Here are some yummy ideas. Ziplocs filled with:
Fruits & veggies: carrots – cucumbers – grapes – apple slices
corn chips low in salt
Organic cereal to munch on made of quinoa
peanut butter and bananas sandwiches (cut in small bite size pieces)
one avocado (you can bring a spoon and give your toddler half. It also makes great fresh baby food and it is good for 6 months and up.}
Don’t forget to bring either a sippy cup or a bottle (they must be empty for security reasons) but you can always ask the flight attendant to fill them up with water. There’s no need to feed soda or juice to your kid. All that sugar can get him/her restless.
Remember to breathe deeply (from your belly rather than your chest) if you start feeling tense. Traveling can be stressful not only for parents but for kids too. Make sure you discuss your travel well ahead of time, talk about rules at the airport, on the train, in the car and on the plane. When I traveled in the car with my kids we often played great games like the alphabet game where you need to find each letter of the alphabet on different signs on the road. In fact on our last trip from LA to San Francisco, we still played the same game and my son is 27 and my daughter is 25. Games like this just make the time go that much faster and for us it provided laughter the whole way there.
Once you arrive at destination make sure the each day contains at least one activity that everyone will enjoy, for example:
A tour of the city can end with a visit to the local zoo.
A visit with adult relatives can include games for the kids or a trip to the local park.
If you have a baby make sure you spend time alone in a quiet room with him/her. Over-stimulation can cause your baby to be fussy. For small babies a great portable bed is the snuggle nest. It’s small and your baby will enjoy having her own familiar territory.
Don’t always make food a reward. Often parents use it to compromise: “We’ll go around the city and then we’ll get ice cream;” or “We’ll visit Aunt Maggie and get cake and pizza.” Food should not be a reward nor should television. Remember you are raising a human being and working on the foundation of his/her future habits. Engage your kid. Ask the adult your visiting not to offer sugar treats to your child, but ask them to tell your kids a story about their past and your relationship when you were kids etc., (most adults love telling stories, especially about themselves.)
When you tour a city make sure you engage your child’s imagination. Making things fun can change the experience dramatically. If you are going back home to where you grew up, consider driving around and pointing out the school you or your family members attended, the house you grew up in, or the park you used to play at. Tell your children what you know about family members. They may be surprised to learn that chubby Aunt Meggie, the one that gives slobbery kisses, once marched against the war in Vietnam.
Make it fun!
Take lots of pictures and when you get back home involve your kids in creating a scrapbook for the trip. Create a healthy travel ritual from the very beginning and your kids will turn into pro globetrotters.