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Traveling with an infant

Updated on April 29, 2014
Plane ride from Louisville to Seattle
Plane ride from Louisville to Seattle
Drive from Pittsburgh to Louisville
Drive from Pittsburgh to Louisville

When Flying

  • No liquids more than 3 ounces.
  • Airlines allow pack n plays/play yards to be checked
  • Carrier can be checked at the gate
  • Chest carriers are useful during traveling.
  • Allow extra travel time for being searched and swabbed.

When Driving

  • A pack n play fits behind the front seats of an SUV
  • You can buy a fence like separator for the backseat of an SUV and trunk area for dogs.
  • An X-cargo or other roof storage device may be necessary once you have multiple children and dogs traveling.
  • Premeasuring bottles for formula or keeping milk in an ice pack makes for convenient feeding.
  • Umbrella strollers may be a better option for travel, as they are more compact!

How to prepare

Preparing a trip for an infant, a toddle, two adults, and two dogs can be difficult! In our house, there are only ever two trips... the ones to Seattle to see my husband's family and the ones to Pittsburgh to see mine. Clearly, we don't drive to Seattle since we live in Louisville, KY so preparing for those trips is a completely different battle than preparing for trips to Pittsburgh where we drive.

Flying, in general, is a pain in the ass. I enjoy the actual act of flying but I hate the preparation and inconvenience involved. The perks to flying are that you get somewhere far quickly and you really figure out what you can and can't live without! Also, this is a time where I don't agonize about putting the dogs in a kennel for the weekend since there is really no other choice!

Before travel where boarding dogs is a must, remember to get your pet's vaccinations completed (I'm sure as responsible pet owners, you never let them lapse, but sometimes it happens!) Every year, I wait until the last minute to get out dogs' vaccinations updated and I end up getting frustrated and rushing around and that isn't a pleasant way to start a trip! Also, make sure you have the kennel reservations done in advanced (especially around holiday vacations, they book up quickly.)

Packing for the airplane is like playing the game "you're stranded on a desert island and you can only bring five things..." or at least that's what I feel like! You have to be very selective if you want to fit everything in carry-ons and avoid checking bags. The baggage fees are ridiculous and who really wants to stand and wait for an hour for their bags at the claim? For those of you lucky enough, as we are, to have a cousin with a baby the same age as yours at the final destination, packing can be relatively easy... Clothes, diapers, wipes, formula. However, if you are not you can get by with very little! Most airlines allow you to bring a carrier for infants, which will do double duty for the car seat in a rental car. If they don't have room for the carrier on the flight they will check it at the gate and you'll have to hold your baby the whole flight. Since taking a stroller is a whole bunch of pain, using a front carrier and wearing your baby is much more convenient, you can also use the front carrier if they take your carrier from you at the gate! A pack n play or other type of play yard can work well for sleeping arrangements but you will have to check this at the ticketing area. A wonderful mom once gave me the advice of having your baby nap in the pack n play in different rooms for a week or two in advance so they get used to different sleeping conditions. As a general rule, people suggest two outfits per day plus a sleep outfit when you travel, you know your baby, Shannon rarely ever spit up and is exceptionally clean so we typically just pack one outfit a day and a pair of PJs. Don't forget socks and shoes... you will get some very unwelcomed opinions if you do! We just bought travel sized baby washes and lotions and refilled them as we used them. We go for four days typically and I can pack Shannon's clothes and such in the same carry-on as my stuff with very few problems, my husband is a whole mess of trouble packing on the other hand...

Shannon's diaper bag is my second carry-on, very sophisticated, huh? This thing is usually packed to the brim... just make sure you don't forget to pack your wallet in it or you won't be doing much flying! You can buy diapers and wipes when you arrive where you are going, but if you can fit them why spend more? Also, when you don't have your diaper bag maxed out is usually when a disaster happens at inconvenient times and places. I always pack unopened formula, TSA gets really weirded out by an opened canister of white powder. Don't bother packing the water... they'll steal it. Be prepared to stop at security because they will swab the holy hell out of everything you own and raid your perfectly packed baby bag! Give yourself at least 30 minutes extra for these shananigans. In that perfectly packed diaper bag, pack a few toys, they'll be a life saver later when you realize there is nothing to do in the airport with an infant.

When I originally thought about Thanksgiving and a six hour plane ride gaining 3 hours in time zones, I thought, is my kid going to be that baby screaming on a plane? NO... I wouldn't allow that haha. I did not drug her, however that was the first thing my mother suggested. I took into account her best times of day and when she was at her fussiest. Luckily, our flight was early am so she was sleeping the first half, then happy and playing the second half. Not a peep of anger out of that child! The flight home was a little more difficult but still not many tears (we lost 3 hours and the flight was in the evening when she is fussiest.) If you have a really temperamental child, I would suggest maybe adjusting your schedule ahead of time to try to get them sleepy at the same time as the flights and not being a holy terror to other passengers and hey... if they doesn't work, parents have been drugging their children for years.

Traveling in a car is a whole different can of worms. Flying to Seattle is 6 hours of rushing and connecting and stress, driving 6.5 hours to Pittsburgh is less stressful and an all around more enjoyable experience provided you have two adults to tackle the situation. We usually bring our dogs, so packing our luggage, two dogs, an infant, and two adults is similar to Tetris. If you don't utilize every inch of available space, you will lose and your luggage will be up to the ceiling with no rear window to look out of! We have to bring everything to Pittsburgh since I am the first one to have children. Let me tell you now... just take the umbrella stroller, you may say you're going to run and use the jogging stroller, but you won't. If you are taking a pack n play in SUVs you can slide both seats forward and slide the pack n play on the floor and slide the seats back, fits like a glove and keeps your dogs from going face first on the ground when you stop short. With one infant, you can put your pups in the back seats with her if you trust them; with two, you'll most likely have to put them in the far back and your luggage on the roof in a x-cargo. When Shannon was 4 weeks old we took our first road trip, she was still in the phase where she needed to eat every 3-4 hours so mid-trip (you know, when it was too early to stop for gas and you just don't have the heart to pull off because you're making great time,) our solution was to have the water prefilled in the bottles and add the powder and just crawl in the back to feed her. It was great, worked like a charm but was very illegal, if you are a stickler for rules this may not be the blog for you. Sometimes you just have to stop though, like if your baby can't stand a wet diaper.

Travel, in general, is stressful, when you add dogs and children in to the mix the stress can go through the roof. Remember, if you forget something, there are stores; if something doesn't fit, there are stores... unless the things that don't fit are your dogs, in that case there are kennels. After a few trips you become a pro at packing and timing.


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