A First Travel Experience
So I thought it would be fun to share our experiences and tips with traveling with an almost 7 month old. I had spoken to friends prior to our travel, but I think the experience is so dependent on age... so with that in mind, here's our experience with Beau!
Preparing for the trip started for me about 3-4 days prior to our departure. I did a lot of laundry and began packing by setting aside swaddles, bibs and burp clothes. With Beau's reflux I knew we'd need a lot of these. I packed enough for roughly 1 swaddle cloth, 1.5 burp cloths, and 2.5 bibs per day. So for our 5 days that worked out to 5 swaddle cloths, 7 burp cloths, and 12 bibs. It ended up being literally perfect. Phew. I was worried I'd have to do sink laundry and had we gone for any longer that would have been the plan, so for our next trip I will plan to pack enough for 1/2 the trip and then wash/dry mid-way through.
I wasn't sure how many suitcases we'd need and because the weather was going to be so drastically different from home, also struggled with what to pack for not only Beau but myself. We settled on a medium suitcase each for Eric and I, and a carry on suitcase for Beau. Eric took a backpack for his carry-on and I had the diaper bag as my "small item".
In Eric's bag on one side we packed the doc a tot. We weren't sure if we would need it, but since we hoped to be doing a lot of visiting, wanted to be able to bring it around with us wherever we went to allow Beau to nap. In the end, we only used it once, but that was partly because we left it with my sister in law for her new baby. Apparently you can't get them in Canada.
There were a few things we couldn't pack in advance, like his sleep sac, "lovey", and music hippo, but the rest was packed as I did laundry and set aside. I organized each outfit into a ziplock baggie (quart sized) so that no matter who was dressing him, it was all organized and ready to go with no thoughts required and we could just toss one in the diaper bag for a backup outfit while out. I highly recommend doing this. We loved the effort it took off while on the go, and the baggies served a good purpose on the return for dirty/soiled clothes.
I brought in our carry-on two bottles of breastmilk in case he got hungry and we were in a situation where whipping a boob out didn't feel comfortable or appropriate. We also packed two empty bottles. For pumping on the go I brought my Medela Swing pump (which can only do one breast at a time) so only packed one set of connectors & flanges for our trip and just planned to wash as we went. Pumping was a pain and obviously took twice as long. For our longer May trip I plan to bring my dual pump and extra accessories just for ease unless I stop pumping between now and then... who knows. We brought one sippy cup (which is what he takes breast milk from), and one miracle 360 cup (for drinking water).
Other things we packed were toys (obvs), his bucket car seat (no base), a travel white noise machine (we have a Dohm), and a travel stroller (we got the Baby Jogger City Tour which folds to a carry on sized backpack). My sister in law offered for us to use their travel crib & high chair clip seat while in town so that was a win since we already had so much. Babies need so much stuff!!!
We planned our flights so we would be on a morning flight out (and return on as early as a flight as we could find). We woke up before Beau and were able to shower and finish our last minute packing like makeup and toothbrush/hairbrush etc. Once we were ready we gently woke up the baby... never fun, and Eric dressed him and I fed him.
Once at the airport Eric forgot to take the breastmilk out while going through the security line. You're allowed baby food and milk/formula in "reasonable amounts" but you do need to pull it out otherwise your bag gets pulled apart. Luckily it was in the top of Eric's carry-on as we put it there on purpose for easy pulling out. They manually inspect the stroller, and our carseat was put through with baggage.
We took full advantage of early boarding, leaving the stroller at the door to be put under. We could have probably gotten away with bringing it on but it has a bag and you're allowed to drop it so why bother. We did book business class for this trip and were definitely worried about the evil glances we might get (there were a few), but Eric and I pride ourselves on being incredibly respectful and well-mannered individuals and intended on keeping Beau as "under-control" as we possibly could. I had our Baby Bjorn carrier to be able to strap him in as needed and that was definitely helpful!
I am definitely a self-proclaimed germaphobe so I had packed clorox disenfecting wipes and gave our whole two seat section a cleaning before settling in. I also had wet-wipes for our hands, pacifier wipes for Beau's toys if they fell, and water wipes for his bottom or face or whatever else was needing a gentle cleanse. This all made me feel much more relaxed about all the germs on the plane.
Taxi-ing took FOREVER and Beau definitely started getting fussy ready for his first nap and a feed. On our return flight I had learned the lesson and kept a little teething snack cracker for him to munch on as a distraction to buy time... worked like a charm. But on the first flight out I wasn't so prepared and caved, feeding him a little earlier than I hoped. He was almost finished by the time we were taking off and I really wanted him to continue sucking so his ears would pop. He doesn't take a pacifier otherwise that would of course been another option. He fell asleep part way through take off and was out for a good while. He woke up, played a bit, got fussy, we walked him a bit, and then fed and napped again. I was really nervous as he fell asleep prior to landing, but he slept right through the landing without issue. Champion baby!
We rented a large car (hello Suburban) so that we could fit all of our stuff easily, and headed to our AirBnB rental. Because Beau had started on solids I really wanted the flexibility to have a kitchen and sink and separate rooms. It was cheaper than getting a suite at a hotel anyways. We got one close to where a lot of our friends live which made popping home for naps on occasion easier.
Night one was challenging. We stuck to our normal routine, but bath was a little more difficult without his bathtub ring I'll admit. The biggest hurdle was the light. At home we have blackout shades and it gets darker later. Up in Canada it stays lighter later and the place we were staying had standard blinds so when we went to put him to bed at 6pm (which was actually an hour later than usual since it was 7pm at home), he was utterly confused. We had to do multiple check ins with him before he fell asleep, and truthfully I think in part it was just getting dark and he realized we weren't crazy and it was in fact bedtime. Once asleep though he didn't sleep well. He woke numerous times and I ended up co-sleeping with him for part of the night while Eric slept in a different room. That was the only way any of us got some sleep. Naps went alright, and night two was much smoother thankfully. Someone told me about a blackout shades product for travel so I'm going to look into that. Someone else suggested traveling with push-pins to tack up a sheet over the blinds which I thought was also a genius hack!
Because it was only an hour time change, we decided to not stick to a schedule, but rather watch for sleep cues more closely and be adaptable within a 2 hour window. This worked well for us overall. Same went for naps, so his schedule was definitely unpredictable but it made it more possible to be on the go and just rest when necessary.
I definitely wanted to bring him a good collection of toys and books. It's tough because you want things that are compact but engaging. The compact toys we brought that we found most successful were:
Wooden Rattle (from Legacy Learning Academy)
Duckie (which is similar to Sophie the Giraffe)
Hippo "Lovey" with teether (on Beau's head in pic)
Teether Ring Toy (as pictured in stroller shot above "Travel Day")
We did bring others, and I made sure to keep some as a surprise for various points in our trip so the toys felt new for him on the plane etc. I resisted bringing more than one toy out at a time and waited until he was definitely good and bored with one before introducing another, and basically just cycled through them that way. He was definitely boring of the toys by the time we got home, so I'll need a few more compact travel toys for our next trip. Leave any suggestions for myself and others in the comments!
Overall the trip was a success and we feel like we popped our travel cherry and are better equipped for our bigger and longer adventure later this spring.