Traveling with Tots


I’m a mom. wife, ex-doula, ex-teacher, ex-yoga-teacher, and current Health and Wellness Advocate. The truth is I still love all my “ex” jobs, but made some choices to be home with our two kids. My daughter is almost 2.5 years old. My son is 5.5 months, and we’ve lived overseas since before they were both born. My husband and I were born in America, but lived in Swaziland for 5 years. We have always loved travel, so traveling with kids was just a given. Since children were born, we did a lot of road trips to see other parts of Southern Africa, or flew transatlantically to visit family, take vacations, etc.

Flying with kids is no joke, but it’s also not as difficult as some may assume. Yes, every kid is different, but there are some general hacks that may travel with young ones easier.

Because I’ve flown to and from the USA several times with our kids, I have experience traveling with children aged 2.5 months, 3.5 months, 13 months, 15 months, and 5 months. My husband has solo traveled with our daughter at 27 months, so I’ve consulted him on some ideas.

By far, the easiest age to travel has been before 4 months of age! At this age, Baby sleeps most of the time, is flexible with nights and days, is usually only drinking milk, and sleeping locations are more flexible. When flying internationally, you can also get a bassinet for baby, so big win there. BIG win.

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Headed out for our 40+ some hours of travel. Asa was 4.5 months old.

Flying with Baby/Toddler Tips Internationally 

Cost: Children under 2 years fly free domestically, but very discounted internationally. Their fare is usually 10% of an adult ticket on the day the ticket is purchased. If you’re booking a ticket before the infant is born, you’ll need to phone back with birthday, child’s name, and gender once baby is born. The child’s ticket price will be 10% of an adult fare on the day it’s purchased (not 10% of your fare). If you want the child to have his/her own seat, you will pay about 80% of an adult fare. 

Seating: 

Infants Under 6 months: When traveling with a child under 6 months, you can request the bassinet seat. Bassinet seats attach behind the bulk head (think by the bathrooms, or after first class) to the wall. Bulk head seating has extra leg room, so it’s considered Economy Plus seating and usually costs extra, but with a child, it’s free! Have baby, will travel in luxury! Because of bassinets, I actually think traveling with an infant is easier than on my own! Who doesn’t want extra room to stretch out?

Rules (may vary between airlines, but in general): Infants must be under 10 KG (22 lbs), be unable to sit on their own (the more strict airlines like Lufthansa will not allow a child who sits to be in the bassinet).

How to Book: Book a ticket for all adults, other children, and any Lap Infants. You’ll need the Lap Infant’s name, gender, and birthdate at booking. When booking online, there’s no way to request a bassinet seat. As soon as you book, call the Airline’s Reservations number. You can request a bassinet.

Some airlines allow you request the bassinet seat months and weeks in advance (United, South African Airways are ones). However, some airlines (Lufthansa for one) only allow seat assignments for any Economy passengers 24 hours before check-in. That means no one gets an assigned seat in Economy until just before the flight. It’s harder to secure bassinets in this way, so I always book with airlines when I can secure a bassinet beforehand.

You’ll call the airline, request the bassinet, they’ll assign one if it’s available. Your seat assignment should reflect the bulk head position.

When flying a multi-leg journey, you’ll need to secure bassinet seating for each leg of your trip. If you’re flying with different carriers, you’ll have to contact the carrier of each leg to book the bassinet.

Listen! This may sound like a little hassle, but that extra room with be amazing! You’ll especially want this if your child sleeps independently. Holding even a 10 lb baby in your arms for 10 hours is exhausting. 

Even when my daughter was too big for the bassinet, I still requested it, and we got seated by the bulk head. During a mostly-full flight, we swapped our bulk head seating, for a row at the rear of the plane where we had 4 seats together. My husband and I book-ended my daughter & she was allowed to sleep on the 2 middle seats. Game changer for us since airlines don’t allow anyone to sit or sleep on the floor. (boo!)

Sleep: If at all possible, consider your take-off times and landing times. If you can, book a flight that leaves around or slightly before your child’s bedtime. You’ll board early, can feed them, put on pajamas, then hopefully as they take off, they’ll be lulled to precious sleep. If your child does not sleep well in other places, booking a day-time travel may be your best bet.

For jet lag:  All of the rules that apply for adults work for babies and kids, too. Eat meals at the “new time zone’s” time, but eat snacks when hungry. While adults may resist napping, I’ve found that letting my kids sleep whenever is better. However, I may wake them from a jet-lag nap around the same time they’d wake from a normal nap (no more than 2.5 hrs of napping).

Talk with your doctor, but we’ve used melatonin drops for our kids at different ages. Melatonin helps their bodies relax into sleep, but won’t necessarily keep them asleep. We gave this to our kids (with PA approval) both on the airplane, and each night at bedtime for several days. Also, some homeopathics may approve Relax-a-Tone for you to give preceding travel.

When the sun is out, let them get sunshine and exercise! Hold them up to a window. Go for a walk. Play outside if the weather permits.

Get Organized: I’m quite the organizing freak who likes to maximize efficiency, so I’ll brag and say I’ve got traveling with a baby on lock-down! I’ve traveled with a 2.5, 3.5 and 5 month old solo on transatlantic flights longer than 30 hours, so I know how to survive.

First. Luggage. You’ll want a baby carrier (I used an Ergo), diaper bag, and carry-on rolling suitcase. Strollers are cumbersome in airports and when traveling alone, it’s tricky having a stroller with other luggage.

In the diaper bag, I pack: diapers for about 8 hrs, wipes, a few toys, an outfit change, snacks & water for me, any carryon items for me (ditch the book, you probably won’t have time!), a blanket/warm layer for the chilly plane, pacifiers, etc.

A neck pillow acts as a great arm rest when you’re holding baby or putting him to sleep/feeding. Those seat arms are uncomfortable!

In the rolling suitcase, I very strategically packed:

  • diapers enough for beyond the 30 hour flights. You never know when a stomach bug will be caught, or your stash might go faster than you think!
  • several wet bags or plastic bags (for blow outs, wet clothes, etc).
  • an outfit change for YOU (we’ve all been peed on before, right?)
  • more snacks (you may be up a lot more than you’d like and need a snack)
  • any food for baby – bottles, nursing covers,
  • If you’re traveling with a child who eats, pack way more than you think. Squeezy-packs are great; freeze-dried meals (found at outdoors and backpacker stores or websites) if kids have dietary restrictions (flight attendants will give you boiling water); dried fruit; nuts, and their own re-usable cups.
  • extra of everything your child uses during a 24-hr period.

Whenever I need to get into my rolling suitcase overhead, I restock the whole diaper bag. So dirty clothes go into plastic bags and into the luggage. New diapers, a change go clothes, snacks, and anything else Ill need in the next 4+ hours goes into the diaper bag.

Once You’ve Arrived: Generally, if you have only traveled a few time zones, you may keep your child on the same schedule, especially if your travel is less than a week.

I prefer flights that have us arrive close to the evening. That way baby and parents are tired, and your child will likely pass out!

Expect some rough nights the first few days. I’ve found that fighting a un-tired baby back to sleep is fruitless and frustrating, so don’t do it! Instead, keep the lights low, but let baby play. When she is ready for bed, quickly whisk her back off to sleep. If baby usually wakes up at 5 am, but jet-lagged sleeps till 8, by all means – LET HIM! If you have an agenda when you arrive to your destination, try to keep it light the first few days. You’ll likely be tired.

After 4 days, gently push Baby back onto his normal schedule. You may wake him from naps after his normal duration has passed, but don’t stress yourself too much.

Traveling with kids, especially babies can have its challenges, but remember why you are traveling in the first place – because you love it, you love doing it with your family, and it’s worth it. Travel at a pace that honors all of your family members. Take time to slow down and take naps with your kids. We’ve found that by keeping SOME of our routines, our kids can handle the break of other parts of our daily rhythm. For example, my toddler daughter does best when we eat meals at the same time, have regular snacks, and can maintain bedtime. If she misses a few naps while traveling, she survives, but we can’t forsake all of the routine without having ourselves lots of meltdowns.

And a note on meltdowns – if you notice your baby or child is having more “meltdowns” aka tantrums or behavioral outbreaks, LISTEN. Your child is trying to tell you that they’re tired, stressed, or just cranky from traveling. So LISTEN. Slow down your pace. Re-root yourselves in the aspects of life your child thrives in (naps, playing, nursing sessions, etc). The Eiffel Tower can wait because aint nobody enjoying it with a screaming toddler!

I’m happy to hear some of your tips when flying with your littles! You can contact me with further questions.

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Lufthansa gets me. Stroopwaffles and a bassinet!

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One way to keep track of your toddler.

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Categories: aDventures in Doula-ing, Family Life, just for fun, Swaziland Updates, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be All Here. 19 days and Counting 


I may be flying this coop in 19 days, but God isn’t done with what He’s doing here. The way He moves will continue long after we’re gone from this physical place. Yet, it seems He also saw fit to use us tonight. Where we are. With what we have. . . 
At the end of our 5 hr road trip from saying goodbye to wonderful friends, we turned off the highway onto our road. About 2 Kms from our house we saw two men standing to the side of the road and one woman sitting on the ground. Upon stopping, we learned this woman was having “umhelo”, #contractions. That siSwati word run out in my ear . . . and all the words and phrases I knew slowly came bubbling to the surface. 

Sean asked a few questions from the car, but turned to me, “Do you have some questions you want to ask her, so we know what we’re getting into?” 
I got out and bent over. A few minutes in I apologized! Gah! I had forgotten to introduce myself AND tell her my experiences with #labor, so I wasn’t a total kook! It was dark, but her #fear was obvious. I was rusty, but all of the phrases came back to me. Somehow, surely we communicated. With her more than 4 kms from home, after dark, and #pregnant with her first child, she had a lot of unknowns staring her in the face. Sean decided he’d take her to the hospital regardless, so we loaded her up. 

While Sean unloaded our bags and dog and kids at our house, I timed her contractions. As we talked, it seems her fear and pain lessened. With all of the info she gave me, I made a few judgements and advised her brother on what to #pack when they made a stop at the house before continuing to the #hospital. Those two men! They sure some insights into #labor as I talked with her! 😳 
My heart ached a little to accompany her. I wanted to hear more of her story. Have time to listen to her fears. Have time to educate her on what else to expect with labor. Time to ask about her baby-feeding plans. And give her my number. And teach her to breathe. Because even if you’ve only met a woman in early or active labor, it seems there’s still time to build a significant relationship that can bless the expecting mom throughout her #birth. 

But. I have my own two kids’ needs. As I talked with her, I held a hungry, overtired, sleepy baby boy of my own, who needed his momma to show up and offer myself to the Lord as I met his needs. My daughter needed me to bring her water and scratch her back as she could fall asleep. To protect her and watch over her while she slept. So while I’m not going to the hospital and part of me so loooooongs to accompany her, I’m #thankful. Thankful that we were driving by when we were. That even if for comic relief, this momma had another woman to sympathize and be with her for a few minutes. I’m thankful that I have a #husband who gets this whole labor thing and isn’t intimidated to drive laboring women to the hospital. And thankful that even we’ve got 19 days left, I still get to BE ALL HERE. The Lord knows what He’s doing. 

Feel free to pray for this momma. I know I will. 

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

My Life with Two Kids


Asa turned 2 weeks old yesterday, and I wanted to record some of my thoughts on my recent “upgrade” to mom of two.

I love what a friend said, “These last 2 weeks flew by compared to the previous two!” How true that is. Living with Asa on the outside is much more exciting than the agonizing wait for him. I could pretend it wasn’t that bad – and probably will – as the years roll by, but let me remind  you, Self, being overdue by a long shot is hard and you didn’t exactly like it.

Asa still sleeps rather long stretches at a whack. I’m talking 4-6 hours. Now his rhythm is he’ll wake up in the morning, be up for 1-2 hours. Then go back to sleep (easily or sometimes that’s a little trickier!). Once asleep, he sleeps about 4 hrs. This gives me time to prep dinner (yes at 9 am!) when we don’t have a meal brought or thawing, play with Cedar, do chores and do our lunch time.

Lunch time with C may be my favorite. Around 11 she’s inside and we sit ourselves down to leftovers from the night before. I’ll grab several books, too! We pray. I pray, then I ask if C wants to pray. As we hold hands, she’ll smile and sing a prayer and say, “Am” (amen). Then I read books out loud while we eat lunch. It takes a while for her to eat, so we take our time. I resist the urge to get up and “do something,” instead being with her and soaking up our special time. Some days I’ll make us tea as well. We’ll sit across from eat other at the coffee table. Loving one another with our eyes, sipping tea and trying to teach her the usage of “me.” Of course she says, “Me” as she points to her mother and wants to make sure that I am fixing tea for myself. Or that I take a drink of my tea too. Or to check that my drink is all gone. “Me” mostly means “you” and “person over there,” but I don’t mind. I love figuring out our secret language to communicate in that even dad can’t decipher sometimes!

After lunch, she heads down for a nap. These days, I will change her diaper, read a book or say a prayer in her room. She sleeps in a twin bed with a rail, so I usually lean over the rail or lie next to her in bed. I kiss her and tell her I love her. She has (finally!) learned to stay in her bed during nap time, so that’s no longer a boundary we have to enforce. She takes between 30-45 minutes to fall asleep on her own. We leave the door to her room open because she’s used to incorporating her life into ours and gets upset when the door is closed. She lays or sits in bed without interacting with me much. Even the other day I had a friend over for a little bit, and Cedar merrily went about putting herself to bed while she watched us chat in the next room. Friends, this is a FAR cry from the toddler who refused naps for almost 2 months while she was cutting her 2-year molars. Far cry! All my fears of having a toddler who doesn’t nap while juggling a newborn have not been realized. Praise. The. Lord.

Almost everyday (read: 10 days) the kids overlap in their nap time. Because I feel amazing, yet know I can easily overdo it, I do try to take even a 20 minute nap or just sit down with  my feet up to relax for part of the time. Any other moms out there just need that bit of rest time in order to keep your mental and emotional energy up until bedtime?!

Asa enjoys being swaddled as a sleeping cue. Without a swaddle or being held in the ring sling, he will usually only sleep about 45 minutes. Once he’s swaddled, he can easily sleep 4 hours even during an active, noisy day at home! He also likes the wubb-a-nub we introduced around 1 week. Similar to Cedar, he wants to suck to sleep, but would get frustrated when nursing and milk keeps coming out. When I see he’s to that point, I switch to the soother, turn on the pink noise of rain from my phone’s app and if I’ve timed it well, he’s asleep within a few minutes!

Can I just say that having a second child takes about 25% of the energy it took to have the first. With your first everything is new and unknown. You don’t have a rhythm. You’re learning how to care for a baby and how to balance your own needs in the midst. This go-round I know the things that are hard for me – going into a long night without enough rest, or letting a baby get overtired and battling for hours, etc. I know some tricks to soothe a baby. I know some signs of when baby is tired. Breastfeeding is a no-brainer for me. Hah! It should be! I spent 18 months working on that relationship with Cedar, and that only ended 5 months ago!

The best part about feeling like this whole ‘having a newborn is old hat’ gig is that we just get to ENJOY him more. I’m not so anxious or worried if his needs are being met. I’m not too freaked out dropping him when I walk (lol ever plan out how you’d fall with a baby in your arms and not harm the baby? Yup. I’ve got that scenario down pat. Thankfully, my clumsiness has held off when I’m carrying my children!). So we get more joy. I just sit and sniff his head. I smell him so much that I connected he smells reminiscent of his father. There is an essence to both of their smells that echoes one another. I get to notice that. I get to just sit with my two kids and watch them interact. Watch how Cedar kisses and smothers him. Watch how she climbs into his crib and lies down with him while he’s sleeping. I get to cover them with a blanket and smile thinking of all the nights they’ll spend snuggled under blankets together – watching movies, reading books, comforting each other when they’re scared, and plain old bed-sharing. I can’t wait until Asa is old enough to share a bed with his sister.

I’m noticing that Asa’s hair is getting lighter. We may have another blondie after all. I’m noticing how Cedar’s speech has seemed to increase once her brother was born. I notice how heavy, yet familiar she feels in my arms compared to her brother. I miss the bump she used to sit on during these last months of pregnancy. I notice that I see my family more because I’m more intentional at needing to spread my time and hugs, listening and love between 3 people now instead of just 2. I notice how full my heart is. How it bubbles up at any given moment. How I just can’t get used to saying, “the kids” without smiling. How I kiss both of their faces one more time before I crawl into bed. I’ve kissed them a lot today, but I just want them to know they’re safe and secure. They’re loved and wanted. They’re accepted and dear to my heart regardless of what happened that day. I need them to know our home will always be a place to be themselves, to show emotion, to confess fears and wrongs, to receive forgiveness and offer it. To laugh. Oh how we laugh.

Our days won’t always be like today. Things will change. Our rhythms will shift. Teeth will come and fall out. Foods will be favored and then rejected. Nursing will be the fix-all and then gone one day. But for now, our todays are good enough. They’re rich enough with love and peace, rest and excitement. Our todays are not perfect, but yes, yes, they’re good enough. And I am grateful.

 

Categories: Family Life, Swaziland Updates | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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