Traveling with infants is hard. Yes, even for this LGBT family with two hands-on Moms who in their pre-Mom days both flew over 50,000 miles a year.
My wife and I recently flew to New Orleans for Mardi Gras with our 6-month-old daughter. Sure, this could be considered a ludicrous first trip for an infant, but we figured if we could swing it in a land of raucous revelers on Bourbon Street, there’s no place we couldn’t go!
Beyond the obvious suggestions like feeding your little one a bottle or breast during takeoff and landing, here are my tips for traveling with an itty bitty in tow:
1. Use curbside check-in.
Nearly every major airport has curbside check-in which is a lifesaver when you plan to check bags and baby gear. We opted to bring her car seat (free to check on airlines), so we unloaded her and popped it in our travel bag right at the curb along with our other checked luggage.
My wife then parked the car and I waited with or little inside, schlepping only her and her diaper bag. Curbside check in is free for most airlines, but I advise tipping a few bucks a bag, because it’s just the right thing to do.
2. Splurge for a suite.
Bambinos clearly nap a lot and go to bed early. That means that unless you have a little one who can sleep anywhere (we don’t), when they sleep you will be shackled to a room with the lights off, tiptoeing around in silence. Since this gets old after about nap #1, pay the extra money for a suite. Your little one can sleep in peace and you can still feel like you are remotely human, sipping Cabernet and catching up on Netflix in the living room next door.
3. Bring beyond the basics.
Beyond all the things any reasonable parent would pack, here are a few unsung heroes I’d recommend:
- Ready-to-use formula bottles: Although our daughter was still nursing, if you are stuck on the tarmac or in traffic, pre-mixed formula in mini bottles will get you through a hunger-induced screaming spell.
- Dish soap: Bottles and breast pump parts won’t wash themselves on the road and you won’t want to opt for the bar soap in the hotel room.
- Laundry detergent: Bring a little bottle full of laundry soap to wash out your little one’s clothes when she inevitably has a blowout, or four.
- Snacks for yourself: Don’t forget that whenever your little one is sleeping you won’t have access to a fully-stocked fridge like home, so bring snacks for yourself to get you through some odd times, especially if you are still breastfeeding and consuming calories like a teenager running track.
4. Skip the stroller.
We gate checked our convertible travel stroller (each adult can gate check one stroller or car seat free of charge), but didn’t use it once the entire trip. Since our little nugget only weighs around 15 pounds, our can’t-live-without-carrier was much more convenient and felt safer when we wove through crowds on Bourbon Street. Because she’s at the age where she can face in or out, it also let her be a part of the party, or snuggle in.
5. Most hotels have cribs.
Call ahead to make sure your hotel has cribs and then happily leave your pack-n-play behind. Bring a crib sheet from home to make it feel cozy.
6. Don’t book a balcony room on Bourbon Street.
When booking our hotel room in New Orleans, these two cool chicks clutched to our pre-Mom getaways and thought, “How loud could a balcony room on Bourbon Street really be?” The answer is ridiculously loud. Resist the urge to opt for a room near the action, albeit the pool or the party street below, otherwise neither you or your little one will be able to sleep until the mayhem dies down. After one night we switched to an interior room and thankfully, our dream of vacationing regularly wasn’t ruined forever!
Pro tip: Don’t forget to ask for a credit if you downgrade rooms, most hotels will at least give you a resort credit you can use for parking or room service.
As a final thought for all the wanderlust-loving parents who are hesitant to take your little one on a plane or be away from the modern conveniences of our over-accessorized nurseries, just go for it. Yes, she will inevitably cry on the plane and you will be overwhelmed by both guilt and panic, but trust me, many of the people on the plane are parents themselves and will smile at you with a knowing look you will never forget. And if anyone has the audacity to throw you some shade, who cares—because you are out there showing your little one how amazing this great big world is!