|Sleeping in the taxi on the drive from the Denver airport to our downtown hotel.|
Traveling with babies and toddlers can seem daunting. The first time I tried to travel with kids was back when I was a grad student and I took my two nephews from Kansas to California to visit my parents. My sister was being treated for breast cancer so I took her 3 year old and 8 month old out to California on my own! It was trying but I just powered through and did it. I think that experience gave me a lot of confidence when it came time to take my own baby on a flight. One of the problems that I had with my nephews was that they missed their mom, well, I wouldn't have that problem with my own child!
Anyway, the other day a friend asked me some questions on Facebook about traveling with her baby and so I thought I'd share my advice here for future reference. So, let's get to the advice!
First, do you need to buy a plane ticket for your baby? No, if they are under 2 years old then they don't need there own seat. However, a carseat is the safest place for a baby to ride and it will give you a place to put the child so that you can have both of your hands free. If you decide to have the baby sit on your lap you will need to have him/her added to your ticket so that it says "plus infant" on it. You can do that at check in/bag check. When flying try to nurse or give a bottle on takeoff and landing or use a pacifier, the sucking helps the ear pressure adjust.
Second, do I need to bring a carseat on the plane? Yes, if you purchased a ticket for the baby, no if they are going to sit in your lap. The airline allows you to check a car seat and stroller for free. I prefer to check these and not lug them through security. I have a bag for both my car seat and my stroller to protect them from rough baggage handlers.
Since I check my stroller I use a baby carrier (Ergo brand) to carry the baby through the airport. I still use it now that she's nearly 2 years old although now she walks some as long as we aren't in too big of a hurry. You can actually leave the baby strapped to you when you go through security, they will just test your hands after you go through the metal detector.
What about taxis, busses, and subways? In all of my checking and researching I have found that taxis do not require a carseat although that totally freaks me out! If you know that you'll be in a car a lot then bring the carseat. If your baby is little enough to be in a bucket/infant carseat than just bring your stroller that the carseat clips into and it will save you time. Practice installing your carseat using the seatbelt. I use a city mini stroller and have an attachment that allows virtually all carseat brands to be used with it. I love my stroller! On public transit you can have the baby on your lap or leave them in the stroller. Again, having them strapped in a carseat is always safest even without being belted in.
What about renting a car? Yes, you can rent a car seat. When you book the car online you choose additional features and it's usually $8-10 per day. They should have it for you at the rental place ready when you get there. However, it will be a toddler seat and probably a lower end one. If your child is particular then they may not want to sleep in the rented car seat. You also never know the history of the carseat and generally they don't come installed so you have to install it. I just prefer to bring my own since checking it is free and then I know how to install it and I know the baby won't hate it!
Do I need a stroller? I like to have a stroller. A lightweight, easy to fold stroller is ideal. If you do a lot of walking it will be great. It's also nice to just have somewhere to put the baby while shopping or eating. I do a combo of baby carrier and stroller to make stairs easier. I also like being able to put all of the stuff in the bottom of the stroller, quite handy for shopping. When navigating busses and subways I put the baby in the carrier before heading down into the subway or while I'm at the bus stop and that way I can just jump on.
My last tip is to keep in mind that you'll need to go slower and may not get to see as much and that's okay. Sightseeing with a baby has to be a little more relaxed. Take lots of snacks and drinks for baby and just try to enjoy yourself! Also, remember that in a pinch you can always buy something that you may have forgotten!