Jet Setting With a Baby.

The best view of Manhattan
Aboard the (free) Staten Island Ferry 

During the first year of her life, our daughter traveled on approximately twenty round-trip flights.

While our little family appreciates (and often lives by) schedules, routines, and proper planning, we also appreciate the adventures life provide us. As new parents, we desire to share what we love with our children in hopes that they will one day love those things, too. My husband and I absolutely love to travel - to get off the beaten path, meet new people, and take in a blend of sights and culture.

So, off we went - baby in tow. Several of our trips were to our hometowns to visit family and friends. There were also many travels for my job, which still included a lot of fun. We have literally traveled coast to coast, and made many of lasting memories. I'm so grateful for the time we've had together!

Joshua Tree National Park

I should also mention that several of our traveling adventures included just my daughter and me while Andrew was deployed (womp womp). I am beyond thankful for family willing to meet us in many of the cities to lend a helping hand. I look back fondly on my first year as a mom, and one of the favorite aspects has been traveling with my little girl. Since our family lives far away, I cherish the special moments we were able to have with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends.

That's not to say traveling with a little one is not without its stresses. Over the year though, I've learned what does, and definitely does not, work for our family. We have found a manageable rhythm and will continue to travel as much as we are able.  If you're thinking of traveling with your baby for the holidays are a future vacation, I say go for it!

On the way to her grandparents!
(She stayed in my lap for takeoff/landing)

Here are some of my tried and true travel tips. These helped make travel smooth and a lot of FUN.

I'll start with a little "duh-huh." Carry-on a reliable diaper bag and pack more than a normal trip to the grocery store.

Taking in the sights in Midtown Atlanta

The most essential part of this process for me is planning out in advance what exactly to pack, based on what our days at home look like. I am traditionally a pen and paper list maker, but I found myself making the same list ten times over. I downloaded the AnyList app to make life a little easier. It was also nice to have everything on my phone or ipad.

Here is a more traditional carry-on bag list if you would like to download and use:

I always pack my regular (affordable) diaper bag, with extras in case of a delay or (shudder) a lost piece of checked luggage. In the checked bag, I'll have more diapers and wipes, bathtime items, clothing, and a few extra necessities. If you've toiled over your list and are still feeling stressed, remember there are always Targets and drug stores that carry most everything if you're in a pinch!

...but also simplify your pack and utilize baby equipment that lightens your load.

Strolling along Laguna Beach

You'll find that after you've packed the aforementioned necessities, your luggage has easily doubled in size. Traveling solo replaced my arm workouts many days. Lugging my work-materials suitcase, personal suitcase. carry-on diaper bag, stroller and carseat (thank goodness for lightweight click-connect systems), plus a tiny human strapped to my body toned my delts in ways no fitness class could - laugh!

All that to say, leave what you can at the ticket counter! Unless you have a long layover, or you don't prefer to baby wear, check those large bags AND your stroller system. It will make life that much easier I assure you. The only time I would hassle with carrying on my stroller was if Maggie was due for a layover nap. Which, I quickly learned wasn't going to happen due to her desire to socialize with all her new friends. Sigh, I digress.

There were a handful of trips home where I wanted to save fees and pack only in a carry-on. If this is you, at least check with the gate attendant (after you've gone through security) about gate checking your bag. In most cases they will check the bag plane-side. This is what they will do with your stroller/carseat (if you don't have a separate purchased ticket for baby). Sometimes though, they will check that carry-on all the way to the checked baggage carousel. One less thing to lug through a busy airport - yes!

If gate checking, go ahead and see the gate attendant first-thing to get your tags so you aren't holding up the line when boarding. ALSO BE SURE TO ASK: 1) When family boarding begins (different airlines have different policies) and 2) If the flight is full and if there are any spots with extra seats, which is always nice to have when traveling with a baby in your lap.

We invested in a BOB jogging stroller since we take a family run or walk almost every day, often through grass and gravel. Bobs are also wonderful for taller folks like us and push SO easily! Although the travel system strollers aren't as luxurious, those "basic" strollers are SO much lighter in weight and, if you have a Graco model like mine (pictured above), will collapse with one pull. I would suggest that or even an umbrella-like stroller when traveling - with an added plus if your car seat clicks in to it.

Have a game plan for during the flight (but expect some unexpected)

Each baby is different, but my one major piece of advice is to give them something to eat or drink during both takeoff and landing. I'd even start the snacking those last twenty-ish minutes of the flight during the gradual descent. As soon as you yourself feel any pressure, whip out the milk or paci or whatever to get baby's ears poppin'!

For us, we always try to book flights that are earlier in the day. Maggie would have some fun early morning play time and then at takeoff, I would nurse and she would doze off to nap. Sometimes she would forego a full nap, but get some sort of rest before landing and completing the rest of our travels. I would also pack an extra bottle of milk in case my body parts needed an, ahem, break. We always choose seats towards the back of the plane since the engine lull often helps her sleep. Also, if she was having any trouble resting or crying, I could easily slip back to the bathrooms to bounce and soothe.

As a warning, most airlines will make you remove your baby from a carrier on both take off and landing. I love the "snap" carriers like the Ergo for this reason. If she was asleep on my chest, there was less disturbing her (could keep it attached to my waist, but remove the outer layer) as opposed to the Moby wrap. I LOVED my Moby during newborn days, but all the material made it a little too fussy for travel.

Treat yourself to a baby carrier. 

Spokane, Washington

I was so fortunate to be gifted an Ergo 360 carrier before Maggie was born. During my pregnancy, and even now, I've always adopted the mentality of "less is more". I often gawk at all the unnecessary, and downright overpriced, baby items on the market (a baby food blender for $100? SERIOUSLY a $10 Oster will do the same thing. Alas, that's another post for another time). However, my faithful Ergo has paid for itself a million times over.

Like I've mentioned, zipping through the airport hands free is such a gift. I also love the security of knowing my child is literally ON ME and cannot be grabbed or crawl out of my sight. Also, big cities are not kind to strollers. There are crowds and potholes and curbs. With baby wearing, there is less to maneuver and you can get around much easier.

There are many different ways to use an all-around carrier. You can have baby face in to snuggle and nap during flight. Or, like my mini-socialite, you can face out to see the world and greet literally every person and animal that walks your path. You can also wear it backpack style, which I have yet to try, but will report when able. There are also some mama ninjas out there who nurse using a carrier - I cannot speak to that sorcery, but I know it's been done.

When I talk about my Ergo, I often feel like Buddy the Elf,

So if you're contemplating the splurge, I say TREAT. YO. SELF. I'm sure other brands work as well, but I don't love how the babies' legs dangle down in the others I've seen. I know there is quite a level of diaper padding there. but it looks like a super baby wedgie happening and makes me sad. The Ergo sits more like a saddle - yeehaw!

Embrace pajamas and snacks 

Ending our NYC trip in style

Listen, I am all for the cute baby apparel and healthy, organic food. However, sometimes in travel, you mamas gotta do what you gotta do and that may involve Burts Bees jammies and shared Starbucks banana bread. Our NYC flight home with my mama and Mags (pictured above) was literally the most enjoyable flight I've ever experienced. (Ok so the business class upgrade and precious flight attendant carrying mimosas definitely helped).

Airplanes are often cold and well, ALWAYS germy. Towards the end of my travel season I started letting Maggie wear pajamas on our early morning flights. No socks or shoes to wrangle, and no worry of her precious bare feet rubbing up on well, I don't even want to know. Also, she is her mama's girl and loves to eat, so I would often share whatever food I picked up for myself. This put me at a lot of ease if I forgot my go-to Sprouts pouches or veggie puffs. There was always a comfort knowing between me (the moo cow) and any Starbucks, bodega, or cart - my child would be fed and happy. Plus, a lot of these places now carry fresh fruit and even baby food!

Take some trips outside your comfort zone

102 flights up in Chicago's Willis Tower

Sometimes we can get so focused on there getting there and back that we forget about the memories to be made while traveling. There were so many times I let "mom judgment" play out in my head - "What if she gets sick from being around so many people?" "Maybe that old lady was right that babies need to be home" "What if losing sleep during so many travel days affects her cognitive function?!"  (yes. forreal I've thought that. bless.)

If you've been given the gift of travel, take advantage. YOU know YOUR baby the best, and you know what is right and what is too much. Follow your gut and do not worry if your child skipped a nap or got to bed a little late one evening. They are learning so much through the experiences that they are sharing with you. Yes, the schedule is often important, but it's also ok to let up a little.

One of my favorite memories is taking Maggie to the skydeck of Willis Tower. She laughed and giggled and cruised all along the edges. It was a cloudy day, but we could still see down to the street below. And there was my little ray of sunshine, showing me fearlessness and joy in the most precious of packages. 

Lastly, do not be afraid to ask for help!

Making friends in Philly

The kindness and humanity of others shined so bright while I was traveling for work with my girl. I cannot seem to count the amount of times someone offered to lift or carry a bag for us, to play with Maggie so I could drink my water or straighten up my diaper bag, to offer toys or snacks when she became restless or fussy. 

Many people are so helpful and often airlines are beyond accommodating if you just ask! Most travelers do not mind tiny feet encroaching on their (already too small) seat, or letting you hog the armrest to cradle you baby's sleeping head. I've had all kinds - from  veteran moms to men with no amount of English in their repertoire - extend grace and kindness to me in ways I could have never imagined. Worse case scenario, you come across a grump. Try not to sweat it. Even if your baby squirms and squeals and disturbs grumpy's audio book time - you'll most likely never see them again in your life anyways. ;)

I cannot wait to sort through the pictures with Maggie  from this wild and wonderful first year we had with her. I'm so grateful for safe and smooth travels and am wishing you the same!