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I admire my mom for many reasons.
When we were younger, my father worked abroad a lot. So for the first few years of our lives, we would travel back and forth between Canada and the country he was in. Most of the time, my mom would travel with 3 kids in tow to international destinations. How the heck did she manage to travel with infants and toddlers?!
So, inspired by my mom, hubby and I decided that having kids wouldn’t stop us from travelling. Heading to a sunny destination at least once a year is an absolute must, especially to get away from our crazy Canadian winters.
When Little J was 3 months old, we took the plunge and took him to the Dominican Republic. We did a lot of research and planning ahead of time, which resulted in such a great and easy-going trip! We’ve travelled a few times since then, and he’s now grown into a toddler and added Little N to the family. We were lucky enough to be able to take a trip with both of them last November and we had an amazing time!
If you’re planning a trip with your kids, here are some great tips and tricks that helped ensure stress-free vacations.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
1. Check the CDC website and Travel.gc.ca
Checking for travel advisories before leaving on your trip is a very important step. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (a.k.a. the CDC – USA-based) and Travel.gc.ca (Canada-based) will give you the low down on your destination’s current situation (warnings, dangers, health risks, etc.).
2. Talk to your medical professional
At the time of our Dominican Republic trip, the Zika virus outbreak had just begun. So when we talked to our son’s doctor, he gave us all the recommendations necessary to avoid any issues (because – surprise – Zika can affect babies up to 18 months old according to a study out of Harvard!)
3. Prepare yourself mentally to travel with kids
What I mean by that is: think about your kid’s temperament and habits. It will make a difference in whether you should pick a morning or evening flight, if he’ll fare well on multiple flights or if you need to figure out a way to get onto a direct flight, etc. If you’re not sure where to start, you can read my post about how I come up with a game plan before I go anywhere with my kids.
4. Get Nexus cards for all travellers
This nifty little card only costs $50 (good for 5 years) and essentially helps speed up the process of border crossing – so really, it gets you through the much shorter lines. Visit the CBSA website for more information about applying for the Nexus card.
Once you’ve got these first steps figured out, it’s time for your vacation!
The tips you’re about to read are divided into 4 categories:
GENERAL TIPS FOR TRAVELLING WITH KIDS
1. Only bring the stroller
Leave the carseat at home and only bring the stroller with you. Most airlines will allow you to check the stroller at the gate. You’ll get it back either when you step out of the plane, or with your luggage. Either way, it helps tremendously while you’re waiting to board the plane. If you’re renting a car at your destination, ask to have a carseat as part of the rental.
2. Take advantage of family lines at the airport
Most people don’t know they even exist until they have kids! At the Ottawa airport, we’ve bypassed long security lines and went through in a matter of minutes. If nobody tells you about the family lines, enquire with an airport officer – it’s worth it and much less stressful, especially if you’re on your first trip with baby.
Fun fact: When we got to the Punta Cana airport with Little J, the customs officer picked us out of the line and APOLOGIZED for not seeing that we had a baby, so we skipped that line too.
3. Change the diapers at key times
Make sure you change diapers right before they call you up for boarding. You don’t want to be stuck maneuvering your way through people to change a poopy diaper as they’re settling in or as the plane is about to take off. Same thing applies for the landing: change diapers right before the descent.
4. Keep a mini-bag inside your diaper bag for quick diaper changes
Keep a small bag inside your diaper bag with the necessary items for 1 diaper change. The washrooms on the plane are too small to carry the whole diaper bag. And honestly, you only need a few items, so it helps speed up the process. You can purchase a nice diaper changing clutch*, or we’ve been known to use those plastic zippered bags from when you purchase pillows cases/bed sheets.
5. Change the kids into climate appropriate clothing
While you’re changing diapers on the descent, change the kids into clothes appropriate for your destination. You don’t want them to be too warm or too cold when you get off the plane, particularly if customs lines are super long or if you have to walk outside between the plane and the airport.
6. Be strategic about your seat selection
Unless you’re breastfeeding or exclusively pumping and prefer privacy, I highly recommend getting the aisle and middle seats (if travelling with someone. Otherwise, you should pick the aisle seat). You’ll be making more trips to the bathroom than you think and that can be bothersome for the passengers sitting next to you. It could also mean more work for you and your child.
7. Be strategic about what you put in your carry-on
We were very proud of ourselves when we walked onto the plane to the Dominican with only a diaper bag for little J’s stuff, a small backpack for us and a cooler for my breastmilk. However, because the cooler had to stay at my feet, we only had room for one of the other bags. Clearly, the diaper bag would trump, but we still needed items from our backpack throughout the flight and had to make the aisle passenger move every time. Therefore, make sure that whatever bag you have at your feet has all the items you need to avoid the back and forth. If you don’t have the cooler problem, then you’re good to go with both bags with you.
8. Bring baby laundry detergent, stain remover, and dish soap
Bring these items in small travel containers. You might need the dish soap to wash bottles/pump parts, and the stain remover/laundry detergent combo will be very useful for any blowouts that might happen throughout your trip!
9. Bring the kids’ health booklets
You never know if you’ll need to see a doctor while abroad and having your child’s latest health information on hand will be helpful for the doctor doing the check up.
10. Use a baby carrier
Putting baby in the carrier at the airport was a key component to the success of our trips. Security is unlikely to ask you to remove the baby from the carrier, particularly if baby’s asleep. Once you’ve gone through security, feel free to put the baby in the stroller. But once you’re ready to get on the plane, put the baby back in the carrier. It will also be helpful once you get off the plane, particularly if you won’t have access to your stroller until you get your luggage.
11. Clean the area around your seat once you’re settled
We carry antibacterial wipes in our carry-on and wipe everything down around us when we get on the plane. If your little one is too young to have received proper immunization, then this is an important step. Planes harbour so many germs!
12. If you’re bottle feeding, use drop-ins and new nipples
This is a very neat trick that I picked up through my research**: If you’re bottle feeding (whether formula or breastmilk), use drop-ins* and a new nipple every time. Yes. Bring enough nipples for the number of anticipated feedings during the time you won’t have easy access to clean water to wash your items (eg. on the plane + waiting around at the airport).
If you’re already using the drop-in* system at home, then you’re ready to go. But if you don’t (we used the AVENT Natural bottles with Little J), you should know that we used the Playtex drop-ins* anyway. However, because the measurements are different on the drop-in liner and the AVENT bottle, we measured the milk in an empty 8oz pumping bottle and then poured it into the liner, dropped the liner in the bottle and carefully closed it. It worked like a charm! That way we didn’t have to worry about Little J having to get used to new nipples on the plane. Once you’re done, throw away the liner and change the nipple (keep separate bags for clean and dirty nipples). Once you get to your destination, clean everything and do the same on the way back!
**I honestly can’t remember where I saw this. So if this is your original trick, please let me know and I’ll credit you properly!!
13. Warm up baby’s the milk in half a cup of hot water
Since we were carrying my breastmilk in a cooler when we travelled to the Dominican Republic, the milk was always a little chill. Little J didn’t mind the cold milk, but if you need to warm up your milk, simply ask the stewardess for half a cup of hot water. They’ll gladly help in any way they can!
14. Check your pump’s voltage
If you’re going to bring your pump abroad, make sure that the voltage at your destination supports your machine. If not, make sure you bring converters and adapters.
15. Check with your airline for carseat requirements.
If your child is just over two and you’re not planning on bringing their carseat, check with your airline to see if a 5 point harness is mandatory.
16. Prepare busy bags
Prepare 2 busy bags, one for the flight there, and one for the flight back. Keep in mind your kid’s attention span and the length of the flight. Check out my tips on preparing travel busy bags for infants and toddlers.
17. Bring snacks
Save yourself some money (because snacks on the plane can be quite expensive) and prepare some snacks ahead of time. In my post on travel busy bags, I share this really neat idea for bringing snacks on the plane.
ALL-INCLUSIVE VACATIONS WITH INFANTS
18. Pick the right resort
That is key. Picking a resort that caters to young families should be your first priority when looking into going to an all inclusive down south. We stayed at the Alsol Luxury Village in Punta Cana and it was amazing. There are ramps everywhere for strollers and they have 2 kiddie pools. There are enough palm trees around the pools to provide some great shade for babies. Plus, the room had a fully equipped kitchen (except for a microwave), so if you need to sanitize pump parts and/or bottles, as well as warm up bath water (more on that below), then having a kitchen should be a priority.
19. Only bring the stroller
As a follow-up to the above tip: If you’re heading to a resort, the stroller will be your best friend and the carseat will be unnecessary.
20. Get a UV tent for baby
We used the BabyMoov Tent* with both Little J and Little N on our trips. It is a fantastic item to use by the pool or at the beach. It covers baby from the sun and it has a mosquito net to keep away any bugs.
21. Bring your own sheets
Since we were a little paranoid about going to a foreign country with an infant and any possible germs he could catch, we brought a pillow case for little J to lie on at bedtime instead of lying him directly on the hotel sheets (we had to co-sleep given that the hotel didn’t have any cribs available for us). We also brought a large bed sheet to cover the couch so he could kick around outside the room.
22. Buy jugs of water and avoid Hepatitis A
If you’re worried about hepatitis A contamination like we were (since babies can’t get immunized before 6 months), then have a game plan for baths and bottles. The store at our resort sold 5L jugs of water that we used to give little J his baths. The number of water bottles that the hotel provided was never enough for both sanitizing my pump parts/his bottles + his baths. Technically, we could’ve asked for more water bottles every time, but it was easier to purchase the jugs at the store when we knew we would need a large quantity for the night.
23. Continue to use the drop-in bottle system
Because of the limited amount of water we had, I would use the bottle drop-in system throughout the whole trip if I had to do it all over again. While not environmentally friendly, washing nipples only would’ve been much easier.
24. Use the coffee maker to warm up bottles
Another neat trick to warming up bottles, use the coffee maker in your room to prepare hot water!
25. If your baby doesn’t sit yet, don’t forget to bring something for the bath.
I wish I had brought an inflatable bath or a travel bath with me. Instead, we had to make due with what we had, i.e. we transformed our bouncer into a baby bath by wrapping a towel around it. Not ideal, but it worked!
26. Bring a stroller fan
A stroller fan* is definitely a must for your travel to any hot destination. You can easily hook it to anything, and provide a nice gentle breeze for your babe!
I hope these tips and tricks will help you plan your next trip. Leave a comment below and let me know if you have any other tips for traveling with babies!