Lessons learned and advice for traveling with a 6-month-old baby...
- Each airline handles infant passengers differently. Some make you call in before flying to "register" your infant even it they don't have a seat. They'll want to know name, birth date, gender and may even insist on seeing a birth certificate, so bring a copy with you.
- Each airline has different policies about bringing an extra piece of carry-on luggage (diaper bag) for lap infants or if all carry-ons count toward your individual allotment. Check the website before you go.
- One awesome thing about traveling with an infant is that you get to board the plane first. You are guaranteed room for your carry-ons and there will be a little bit of time to get to the seat and situated before the masses come aboard. I love it. (But having a fidgety baby sitting on my lap as I precariously balanced an airline meal on a snack tray--um not loving that so much.)
- Gate check stroller and if renting a car, consider renting the car seat.
- I discovered airplane bathrooms are just barely big enough to execute a successful diaper change. Just barely. But it was not nearly as bad as I imagined.
- Changing must-have: Skip Hop Pronto Changing Wallet This is perfect for the above mentioned airplane bathroom.
- When packing for the airplane ride, here are some things that may not seem obvious but were very useful: Lap pad to save your pants, baby bottle just for water, pacifiers (if you have a kid who doesn't normally use them--Sidney took one even though she gave hers up at 2 months), toys that they've never seen before to provide variety and distraction, blanket to help contain them and shield their eyes from light when sleeping, extra shirt and pair of pants for Mom & Dad if lap pad fails.
- Some people have recommended a soft front carrier to hold the baby in when sleeping or in general but I found it was only useful when I was standing up and bouncing or walking the aisles with her. Sitting with that thing on did not work for me because there was not enough room.
- Temperature regulation: Being that it's never been above 60 here, I wasn't sure how Sidney would do in 80+ weather. I was constantly messing with the air conditioning and fan controls in the room she slept in. It was pretty stressful to the point that I would go in during the middle of the night and check her skin temp. I eventually relaxed but it was concerning.
- Sunscreen/sun exposure: I am paranoid about sun exposure for myself so I avoid direct sunlight at the hottest part of the day. Tanning is no longer my idea of a good time (wrinkles, sunburn, melanoma) . So with Sidney's pale complexion and delicate skin, we always kept her covered in sunscreen and never exposed to sun for more than 30 min. The sunscreen we used was a non-fragrance, non-paraben SPF 30 by California Baby.
- Travel with other adults/family for relief--this was our biggest regret. (We should have taken Dave up on his offer to be our travel nanny.) Seriously though, next time we will go with others because Ken and I didn't get to eat dinner out once nor have a chance to do something more active like snorkeling.
- Rent baby gear (crib, bathtub, high chair, Jumperoo & hiking carrier). I can't say enough good things about how those items maintained a sense of normalcy in a completely new environment. In Maui, Akamai Mothers is great.
- Time zones & schedules: With Hawaii only 3 hours behind Pacific coast time and our vacation being less than a week, there was really no sense in trying to adjust her to a new time zone because we'd have to shift her right back when we returned. This won't be an option for travel to the East Coast because we tend to be there for longer.
- We always maintained her first nap of the day that is an hour and half after she awakes but the rest of the other 2 naps were up for grabs. If we wanted to drive around she could nap in the car. But if we were out walking, unfortunately the travel stroller is not very accommodating and she didn't seem comfortable enough to sleep.
- Bedtime ritual: This isn't so much a ritual as it is supporting the crib environment she was used to. We brought her Lovie and satin blanket. When she was younger and we traveled to my mother's, I went even farther by bringing the pad she laid on and all the other paraphernalia around crib like her Gentle Giraffe and other stuffed animals. Turns out the Lovie and blanket sufficed.
- Last but not least, don't forget: a bottle brush, baby spoons for solids, jumbo mirror to see rear-facing baby while driving, lots of burp cloths, baby soap/shampoo, a canvas bag, small duffel bag or backpack to schlep things around in addition to the diaper bag.