Gadling Gift Guide: Family Travel With A Lap Child Under 2

After many trips around the world with a baby (we’ll board our 40th flight next week to Brazil), I’ve seen all manner of products labeled for travel. Many of them are too bulky, heavy or otherwise impractical when you are already dealing with a squirmy child, diaper bag, carry-on, and stroller, but I’ve discovered a few things that can make travel easier and collected many of them on Pinterest. Last year, I recommended some favorite gear and toys for young families, and this year, I’ve divided it by stage. From newborn to toddler, many gifts will work well beyond the early years and if you are traveling this season with an infant or small child, check out our tips for holiday travel with a baby.

For newbies (both parents and newborns):

Gift guide - travel bassinetQuickSmart 3-in-1 travel bassinet
Babies sleep a lot of the time in the beginning, and while they are still very portable and can’t sit up alone, they are often happy to snooze in a stroller or car seat. But when traveling, however, you are often faced with the problem of what to do with the baby without a stroller, such as in the airport or out at a restaurant. Enter this handy diaper bag that can unfold into a changing station or bassinet. You might want to stash a small reusable bag to store any objects in the diaper bag while unfolded.

gift guide Flye Baby seat
FlyeBaby hammock seat
Your flight isn’t long enough for a baby bassinet, you can’t afford a separate seat, and the plane is full. This is the perfect time to pull out this brilliant hammock-like seat, which can attach to your tray table and holds a baby up to 25 pounds, though babies able to sit up unassisted might not like being restrained. You’ll still have to switch off for mealtime, unless you want to eat your $8 in-flight sandwich off baby’s tummy. You can also use the FlyeBaby as a portable high chair, but we like the more squashable Tot Seat below.For babies six months to one year:

Gift guide - Tot Seat high chairTot Seat portable high chair
Most babies start on solid food by six months, when they can sit up and may even have some teeth to explore nibbles. Instead of toting around a huge booster seat or limiting yourself to “family” restaurants with high chairs, try this ultra streamlined “seat” that can be tied onto virtually any chair with a back, can be tossed into a washing machine for cleaning, and best of all, easily fits into a purse or diaper bag. It’s one of my favorite bits of gear, and with good reason, it’s ingenious and indispensable.

gift guide - Sophie giraffeSophie the giraffe teether
All over the world, kids and parents know Sophie. She was born in France and has looked the same for over fifty years. Sophie is perfect for teething babies (her soft rubber body is heaven for tender gums) to toddler age, but will be rediscovered and enjoyed when it comes time to play with dolls and stuffed animals. The classic Sophie teether toy can make a great stocking stuffer, but generous gift givers might also check out the Sophie play house.

For crawlers and early walkers (one year and up):

gift guide - Sidekick carrier and bagSidekick Diaper Bag and Carrier
Another cool combo product from the makers of the Travelmate car seat/wheelie bag gear, the Sidekick can be used as a hip carrier, shoulder or waist-strap diaper bag, or both. It’s good for when you want the option of carrying the baby occasionally but without extra gear, though the weight distribution might make this uncomfortable for a long day out. It’s also sleek and un-girly enough that either parent should feel comfortable about wearing as a bag or carrier.

gift guide - Bobux shoesBobux soft-soled shoes
Although everyone loves giving them as gifts, new babies really don’t need shoes. Babies taking their first steps might want a little more protection without too much structure, which is when these soft-soled shoes are perfect. Even as a confident walker, we still pack these for flying days, since they are light enough to be comfortable for a nap on the plane (and not bother the parent holding her), but give some traction and coverage for any airport explorations.

For older toddlers:

gift guide - Boba Air carrierBoba Air
For the first year and a half, the Boba wrap has been my go-to carrier and I included it in last year’s gift guide. As babies get heavier and more independent, parents will use carriers less and less, but they still come in handy in situations when you can’t use a stroller but need to keep your child contained. The Boba Air is a good option to keep stashed in a bag for when you need it. About half the weight (and price) of an Ergo, it can be folded into its own pouch when not in use, and worn as a front or back carrier.

gift guide - Leapfrog LeapPadLeapfrog LeapPad
I like to limit my daughter’s travel toys to things small and inexpensive, like a cosmetics bag with travel-sized toiletries, a deck of cards, or a metal pencil case filled with magnets, all available at a 99-cent store. But for really long-haul flights, you want to break out the big guns, and the Leap Pad learning tablets from Leapfrog are a good investment. Technically, they are for kids age 3 and up, but these days, as babies are able to operate iPhones practically out of the womb, toddlers can still find it entertaining. Yes, there are also plenty of educational apps and kid-friendly accessories for tablets, but if you’d rather keep your iPad to yourself and free from little fingers, this $79 (for the original LeapPad 1 shown here) device is a worth putting on your Santa list. Remember to keep volume low on flights, even though the sound beats that of a screaming child, it can still be an annoyance to other passengers until your child is ready for earphones.

For dreamers:

gift guide - map blanketSoft Cities blanket
Can’t travel this year or want to instill a love of maps early? Get a customized blanket with any map of your choosing. Enter your home address, or perhaps that of a dream destination, and you can add multiple “I am here” or “I was here” markers within a two-mile radius. Available in several color schemes for girls and boys, as well as a watercolor design, the blankets can be customized in different ways to create real works of art. It’s a bit late for this Christmas, but could be ordered for a 2013 trip!

gift guide - phonetic alphabet poster
Phonetic Alphabet poster

Know a frequent flier expecting a lap child? Future aviators and air traffic controllers will need to learn their Alpha Bravo Charlies early. It’s a cute way to show a little travel nerdery in your nursery without a too-obvious airplane theme or being oversimplified for kids. Other travel decor ideas might include airport codes, luggage tags or chalkboard maps.

[Photo credits: QuickSmartGo.com, FlyeBaby.com, Meg Nesterov, GoGoBabyz.com, BobuxUSA.com, BobaFamily.com, Leapfrog.com, SoftCities.net, AllPosters.com]

Knocked up abroad: planning travel with a baby

travel with babyLet’s get this out of the way: you can travel with a baby. Many new parents feel that once they have a child, their travel days are over, but many parents will tell you that the first six months are the easiest time to travel with a baby. Is it easy? Not exactly, but with enough planning and the right attitude, it’s not as hard as you might think. Is it selfish? Probably, but so is most travel. Again, planning, attitude and a good amount of luck factor in to ensuring that you and baby aren’t a nuisance to other passengers and that you and your child have a safe and healthy trip. My baby is too young to remember her early adventures, but she’s learning to be adaptable and sociable, and does well with travel, new people, and noise. Is it fun? Your carefree days of travel may be over, but you can still enjoy exploring new places, indulging in great food and wine (it might just be at a sidewalk cafe at 4pm instead of a trendy restaurant at 9pm), and engaging with locals more deeply than you ever did before baby. Given the patience, resourcefulness, and ingenuity that I’ve developed while traveling with a baby, I’d say it has made me a better traveler, maybe even a better person.

Living in a foreign country like Turkey puts me at an advantage: I deal with a language and cultural barrier every day and everything is much more complicated and difficult than it would be at home in New York. Because this is not our permanent home and imported items are expensive, we made it through the first few months with little more than a stroller, a baby wrap to carry her, and a portable changing pad, so we already travel light. I say it gives me an advantage because I’m already used to the challenges and unfamiliarity inherent in travel. What makes foreign travel daunting (even without a baby) is the foreignness of it all, which has become my normal (after nearly two years abroad, I can tell you that knowing what’s going on all the time is overrated). The skills I’ve honed as a traveler and an expat — problem-solving, thinking ten steps ahead, and planning an exit strategy — are the same I use as a parent; you can apply the same lessons with a child or on the road.Now with a few trips under my belt with baby both solo and with my husband (and more travel planned in the coming weeks and months), I’ve developed some guidelines to help with traveling with a baby. I’ll be posting some additional articles on how to cope with a baby on a plane and on the ground, travel gear recommendations, as well as some destination-specific info, but first: some tips on planning a trip with a baby.

-Choose a baby-friendly destination. You may find that people everywhere are much more understanding and helpful to people traveling with babies than you imagine, but some places are more baby-friendly than others. In my experience, Mediterranean Europe is full of baby-lovers, even if the cobblestones, stairs, and ancient infrastructure presents a lot of challenges. Istanbul can be a nightmare to navigate with a stroller, but there are always friendly Turks willing to help. I’ve also heard babies in Latin America and Southeast Asia are treated like rock stars. Generally, countries with a high birth rate tend to be friendlier than others, though I’ve found the United States to be the most difficult in terms of other people’s attitudes.

-Prepare to pare down: There are a lot of great things about having a baby in the 21st century, but people managed quite well for generations without wipe warmers (really, this is a thing?!) and baby gyms. There are a few items I use at home every day such as a bouncy seat, a nursing pillow, and a folding bathtub, but I’ve done fine without them for weeks at a time while traveling. I know at some point down the line, I’ll need to pack a myriad of toys, snacks, and diversions for my child, but infants need very little. It may help to wean yourself off of baby gear in advance of your trip to see how well you can get along with less. Let the baby get used to a travel cot if you plan to use one, try getting around for a day with just a baby carrier, and introduce toys that can be easily attached to a stroller and then stashed in a pocket. Think about your destination: will a stroller be more of a hinderance than a help or can you get along with another mode of transport? Do you need a car seat or can you rent one? What can serve multiple purposes? I carry a thin Turkish towel that looks like a pashmina and I can use it as a burp cloth, nursing cover, baby blanket, and a scarf. The less you can pack, the better. Really all you can handle is baby in a stroller, one wheeled suitcase, and a purse and/or diaper bag. Anything more and you’ll regret it. Also, keep in mind that babies are born everywhere, and there are few places in the world where you can’t buy diapers, formula, clothes, or other gear. Pack enough in your carry-on to get through the first day and night in case you arrive at your destination after shops close.

-Schedule travel around baby: Babies are adaptable, but when it comes to travel, especially flying, make it as easy on yourself as possible. My baby generally wakes up early to eat, then goes back to sleep for a few hours, and sleeps through most of the night. Therefore, I’ve tried to book flights for early in the morning or overnight so she’s awake as little as possible. In the six flights we took to and from the US and domestically, the only one we had any trouble with was a 45-minute Boston to New York flight in the early evening, when she tends to be cranky. It’s hard to comfort a baby when you’re standing in line or getting ready to board a flight, so if your baby is already asleep at the airport, that’s half the battle. There used to be nothing I hated more than getting to the airport at the crack of dawn, but traveling with a sleeping, and more importantly, quiet baby is worth getting up early.

-Consider an apartment rental: With the popularity of websites such as AirBnB (even after the home trashing scandal), renting an apartment for even a short stay is an increasingly viable option when planning a trip. It not only gives you more space and a more home-like environment, it can also help you to get to know a place more through the neighborhood and markets when you buy food to cook on your trip. For a parent, an apartment has several key advantages over a hotel room. Having access to laundry while traveling can be a huge help and reduce your packing load significantly. Likewise, whether you are breastfeeding or using formula, having a kitchen with a fridge can be a necessity with a baby. If you’re set on a hotel stay (daily room-cleaning could be a big help too!), make sure your room has a minibar fridge to stash bottles inside and a bathtub if your baby is too big for the sink, and get info on the closest laundromat.

-Do your research: The last thing you want when traveling is to be standing on a subway platform with a crying baby, after hauling a heavy stroller up a flight of stairs, only to discover the train is bypassing your station. Before I travel next week to Slovenia and Italy, I’m looking up everything from how to cross the border by taxi, to what train stations have elevators, to public bathrooms in Venice with baby-changing stations (though I’ve managed many times on the top of a toilet seat lid and a changing pad). All the stuff about a destination you could wait to figure out until you arrived before you had a baby will help you a lot to plan in advance. Here’s some examples of things to research before you go, the more prepared you can be, the better.

Stay tuned for more tips on travel with a baby, in the air and on the ground plus destination guides for foreign travel with a baby. Waiting for baby to arrive? Check out past Knocked Up Abroad articles on traveling while pregnant and what to expect when you’re expecting in Turkey.

Galley Gossip: Traveling with children: a few suggestions…

There he is, the little monster. Yes, he’s an adorable little monster, but a monster nonetheless. Whether he’s traveling with you or he’s headed toward you, either way, he’s on the flight with you. Near you. I feel for you. Really, I do.

Traveling sucks, most of you will agree, but what’s even worse than traveling is traveling with children, even when it’s your own kid you’re traveling with. Why? Because the people around you give you the please-don’t-sit-by-me look. Because you’ve only got two hands. That’s it. One. Two. It’s not easy carrying the kid, the car seat, the stroller, the diaper bag (that’s been stuffed full of fun things things to do, causing it to weigh more than the kid and the car seat alone) while you’re doing whatever it is you have to do in order to keep the kid happy – and quiet – on-board an aircraft, surrounded by all those people giving you that look.

Like I said, traveling can suck, but you don’t have to let the stress of travel ruin your trip. Here are a few tips I’ve used when traveling with my own little two year-old monster who has flown once a month since he was three months old.

ARRIVE EARLY – The line at security just keeps getting longer now that summer is here, so give yourself a little extra time. And by God, check those bags, if you haven’t already, even if you have to pay that ridiculous bag fee. Why? Because it’s even more ridiculous struggling lug all that gear on the airplane where you’ll only end up even more frustrated and agitated when you find all those overhead bins full. So pack light, come early, and check the bags.

BE PREPARED – Don’t be surprised when TSA makes you toss that sippy cup full of milk and the bottle of water out of your diaper bag. No need to remind TSA the liquids are for your little princess. They already know. And yes, you AND the princess will need to remove your shoes – both of you – even if sweet pea is just four months old. Don’t get angry. It’s a waste of time. Just be ready when it happens. That means leave the liquids at home and start taking off those shoes and collapsing that stroller before it’s your turn to walk through the metal detector. No one likes standing in line behind the person who is not ready to go when it’s their time to go. So go! And after you pass through security, please don’t forget to purchase milk and water (and snacks if you didn’t bring any food from home) in the terminal before you board the flight. Chances are the flight attendants will run out of bottled water and food before they even reach your row.

TRAVEL TIME – Whatever you do, do not take the all-nighter when traveling with your perfect little angel who may not be so perfect on a flight at night. There’s nothing worse, or more stressful, than traveling with a screaming child, especially when everyone around you is trying to sleep. Me, I always book my flights during the day, during nap time. That way the kid can run around and wear himself out at home, before we have to head to the airport. Nine times out of ten my little cutie patootie will fall asleep on taxi out, allowing me (and whoever is seated in front of me) a few hours of quiet time. What parent doesn’t need a little quiet time?

DIAPER BAG – Oh sure I spent WAY too much on a designer diaper bag before my son was born, only to use the messenger style Diaper Dude my husband bought every single time we traveled – and didn’t travel. You’d be shocked at all I can fit in that one bag. All I can say is the style of the Diaper Dude makes traveling easy. Why? Because the messenger bag leaves hands free! That means your hands are available to do what they REALLY need to do – like take care of the child.

BABY SLING / WRAP – The Baby Bjorn made going through airport security completely do-able when I had to go it alone. With the kid attached to me, all I had to do was slide off my shoes (slip-ons when traveling with the kid) and throw them, along with the Diaper Dude, on the conveyor belt without asking a stranger for help, which is something you may not feel inclined to do when the stranger behind you is looking kind of…well…strange. Once on-board, use the sling when baby falls asleep. In other words, let the carrier hold the baby while your hands hold a book. NOTE: The sling cannot be worn on take-off or landing or anytime when the fasten seat belt sign is on.

SIT-N-STROLL – Best invention known to mankind – mankind with kids that is. Once through security, sit baby in the chair and start strolling to the gate. Baby rides like a king in his first class seat. When it’s time to board, roll the little prince onto the airplane and straight to your seat while passengers already seated oooh and ahhh at your precious bundle of joy. Once at your seat, retract the wheels and VOILA – the stroller is now a car seat! After the flight deploy the wheels and you’re off and rolling to baggage claim (you did check the bags, didn’t you?) and then it’s off to the car where once again you retract the wheels and VOILA – car seat again! NOTE: The SIT-N-STROLL does not fit down the aisle of a narrow body aircraft (S80, 737, 757), so if you’re traveling alone leave the SIT-N-STROLL at home, or just ask for help from the strange looking person behind you.

CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System) - The second best invention ever! If your child is at least one year-old and weighs 25 lbs, you can leave the car seat at home and use these simple straps that easily fit around the back of a seat and attach to the seat belt to keep your child safe.

RIDE ON CARRY ON – The third best invention ever! Would you believe the genius behind this was a flight attendant! Oh yeah. Who else but a flight attendant would come up with something so amazing? If you’ve got a roller-board and prefer traveling light, this is the contraption for you – and me! (Of course I already own one.) Just attach the “lawn chair” to the back of your rolling bag and off you go, as simple as that. Once on the flight the chair folds flush against your suitcase and fits perfectly into the overhead bin. Use the chair with CARES and your little one travels safe and sound while you’re off and running. NOTE: Be prepared for pointing and laughter as you sprint through the terminal with your little one attached to your bag.

DVD PLAYER – Never – I repeat – NEVER leave home without the DVD player. And don’t forget the charger. Pack it in your bag, the one that is going under the seat in front of you. Charge the DVD regularly. There are outlets in every airport. Oh and DVDs. Don’t forget to pack the DVDs, too! All I can say is thank God for the Teletubbies. La-La and friends have gotten us through over 35 flights – calm and peaceful flights.

BRING SOMETHING FUN TO DO: Coloring books, crayons, stickers, books, bring it all! Years ago a flight attendant told me that when she traveled with her son she always made sure to give him a small present each hour of flight in return for good behavior. Sure, you’re buying good behavior from a kid, a kid who should be well behaved to begin with, but sometimes kids act out, even the well behaved ones. Hey, kids are kids. And good behavior is worth every penny. Just ask the guy seated in front of you.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE PASSENGER IN FRONT OF YOU – I know you’re going to find this very hard to believe, but the person seated in front of you is not at all thrilled to be seated in front of you and your adorable child, no matter how cute the little munchkin is. Remember, it’s your job as a parent to be aware of what the little monkey is doing, so don’t let those feet kick the back of that chair, please! And stop those little hands from banging on the tray table, please! Sure, kids will be kids and can’t always be controlled, but you can try, can’t you? Please try. For the sake of the passenger in front of you. The passenger in front of you who is begging you. The passenger in front of you who is now begging me.

IGNORE THE ANGRY PASSENGER. Hey you, angry guy, they’re trying their best to keep the kid quiet, okay! Maybe those little ears hurt from the pressurization of the airplane, who knows. Don’t forget, you, too, were once a kid, and you were probably just as annoying as the crying kid seated behind you. Probably more so, based on the way you’re behaving now. Look, you’re not the only one who thinks traveling sucks. Just ask the little stinker stuck sitting behind you. The one that’s acting just like you!

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