Over the last decade I have racked up around a million miles and spent on average 60-70% of my time on the road. A master traveler, I had the system down. Bags neatly packed, toiletries in the plastic bag, laptop easily accessible, passport and boarding pass in hand, hotel booked, car service scheduled. Check, check and check. I was the one in the stilettos gliding effortlessly through security and check in, casually picking up a bottle of water on my way to the gate and then swiftly following the prompt for priority boarding to get on the plan and settle into my seat. Until I became a mom.
Standing behind people with kids in the security line ups used to drive me mental. All the liquids that needed to be checked, screaming kids, folding up strollers, unfolding strollers, herding kids through the x-ray machine. Missing shoes, missing teddy bears, fighting siblings. No thanks. Though I have always wanted kids, I never thought that would be me. Then one day it was.
My first post baby business trip I took was a power trip to New York. Three days in and out, slammed with meetings and business dinners with baby, a colleague and a nanny in tow. The pre-trip execution was flawless. I booked an apartment through AirBNB close to my meetings so I could check in and hang with my son in between. We could bring and prepare our own food, and we had ample room for me, colleague, baby and nanny. (Unfortunately, we were also on the third floor in a no elevator building – but we even managed to deal with that.)
To our collective surprise, when encountered with a SCREAMING baby at 2 AM after a full day of meetings and another to follow, all three of us panicked. A desperate middle of the night phone call to my step mom (otherwise known as the baby guru) resulted in a trip to the pharmacy. She narrowed down the possible causes and I loaded up with supplies to address any possible scenario – Children’s Ibuprofen, Teething Gel, Saline Spray, Little Tummies. We would later come to learn that my poor little man was experiencing his first ear infection and his first tooth coming in. It was from my 3 AM panic shopping spree in CVS that I came up with the baby emergency kit – an on the go bag of goodies any power mom (especially NEW moms!) should have on hand when these moments arise. And it was on this trip that I established the Traveling Mom To Do List (Baby Emergency kit included below):
1) Be Organized. Start packing at least 3 days before your trip. Keep the baby’s clothes separate from yours and make sure you check the weather where you are going so you can pack accordingly. Print your boarding card and place it with your passport and keep them readily available when you get to the airport.
2) Plan Your Attack. If you have not traveled with your child before, focus on getting checked in and getting through security as quickly as possible. If you are traveling with strollers and car seats, you will need extra time to get this checked in, through security and loaded on the plane. If you take the stroller to the gate, you may have to find an elevator to get you there. Who knew that LAX has one elevator per terminal that goes up to gate check in? A very busy elevator at that!
3) Say Yes. If anybody invites you to go ahead of them in line, offers to help you carry something, take their seat, change seats, hold your baby while you go to the bathroom – drop your pride and just say yes. Traveling with a baby is hard, anybody that has ever done it is very sensitive to that and they will genuinely want to help you. ALWAYS ask at check in and at the gate if there is a row with an open middle seat or a complete open row. If you don’t ask, they won’t think to give it to you, even if it’s available. You will have a much more comfortable flight than trying to hold a baby for a flight – any flight.
4) Baby’s Carry On Bag. Make sure you have a good set of supplies in your carry on. For your baby to travel comfortably, you need to bring:
– enough milk, formula or food for at least double your expected travel time, you never know when you might have a delay or if you will have the privacy (or space) to breastfeed.
– One or two blankets – one to cover baby, another to create a pillow or cushion against the arm rest, to cover the seat belts, and provide a shield from the plane’s bright lights so your little one can sleep. You may also want to use that blanket on the change table when you need to change your little one’s diaper.
– Enough diapers for double the expected travel time
– Baby wipes (ideally you would put a few wipes in a couple separate ziplock bags so you can access for changings easily)
– An age appropriate toy that will entertain them and/or calm them
– Baby Emergency Kit (which you should have with you every time you travel): Teething gel, Diaper rash cream, baby Advil, saline nose spray, soft tissues, pacifier, change of clothes)
5) Be Prepared. The moment you sit down, put all the things you need immediately accessible in the back of the seat. I always put a diaper, ziplock bag with a few wipes, bottle (or food like a banana and crackers or cereal bar), pacifier and toy in the back of the seat. If you are lucky enough to have the seat beside you, place the blankets there so they are easily accessible. At takeoff and landing, you will want to have the bottle and or pacifier handy to get them swallowing, sucking or chewing to help them with the change in pressure.
6) Breathe and Relax. Now that you are in your seat, get buckled in, take a deep breath and try to remain calm and present for your little one. Don’t worry about who the baby is bothering with their crying, the mess they are making with their food, or anything else. Just soothe your baby and try to make them feel as safe and comfortable as possible. And don’t forget – if someone offers to rock your baby or walk up and down the aisle with them – just say yes. You will appreciate the break, no matter how short. Especially if you are traveling alone – it might be the only chance you get to use the rest room!
Traveling can be stressful in the best circumstances, but traveling with a baby is a whole other ball game. But if you can follow the above, you can make it a lot more manageable – if you are really lucky you can even make it easy.
Submitted by Jennifer Koster start-up strategist turned entrepreneur, writer and single mama. Jennifer is a partner in Scala Construction Inc (www.grupposcala.com), a high end residential construction company catering to celebrities and entertainment executives, founder of Idealight Inc. (www.idealight.net) a management consultancy working with start-up companies on strategy, fundraising and international expansion, and a partner in Type A Group (www.LiveTypeA.com), a company that provides leadership tools for individuals to achieve abundance in work, love and life.