Parenting Resources

If you've traveled a lot, you'll find it somewhat more complicated if you're pregnant or have a baby in tow. Here are some ideas for smoothing the way from here to there. 

If You're Pregnant

For most women it's best to avoid traveling to high altitudes during pregnancy, because the adjustment to the oxygen levels may be too great for you and your baby. It's also not a good idea to travel to places where the water is of questionable quality or where vaccines are required.

You'll probably be most comfortable if you travel during the second trimester. This is also when there's the least danger that anything - such as miscarriage or premature labor - will go wrong. Ask your doctor for the name of a local obstetrician where you'll be staying, just in case. And it's a good idea to wear support hose when you travel, because you'll probably be spending more time than usual sitting. 

By Car

Wear your seat belt below your abdomen, with the diagonal strap between your breasts. If your car has air bags, adjust your seat so it's as far back as possible.

Leave plenty of time so you can take frequent breaks. Stop every hour or so to walk around for 10 or 15 minutes and to use the bathroom. Make sure you eat and drink enough. Carry a towel to roll up if you need extra support for your lower back.

By Plane

Talk to your doctor before your trip to find out whether he or she thinks flying is advisable. Also, be sure to ask about the airline's policies; most airlines will let you fly only until the thirty-sixth week of pregnancy (you may have to provide a doctor's note).

Preselect your seat, if possible. In the first trimester, you'll want to sit by a window, which may help prevent morning sickness. Later in pregnancy you'll be better off in an aisle seat, where you'll have easy access to the rest room. The seats over the wings offer the smoothest ride, and bulkhead seats (the first row in coach class) have the most leg room.

Don't try to carry heavy luggage; you don't want to further strain your back and abdominal muscles. It's worth the extra money to hire a porter or rent a cart from the baggage-claim area.

Your feet and legs are prone to swelling. To avoid increasing your discomfort, wear shoes with good support - preferably the largest you own. Drink plenty of fluids; ironically this helps prevent swelling. Avoid salty foods; order a special low-sodium meal ahead of time. During the flight, remember to stroll up and down the aisle whenever you can - for about 15 minutes per hour.

A Baby in Tow

How difficult travel will be depends on your baby's age, among other things. Before an infant becomes mobile, she's more "portable." As long as she eats and sleeps close to her accustomed times, she probably won't be too adversely affected by your travel plans. With an older baby things are a little more touch-and-go and will depend upon your child's mood and developmental stage and your own attitude toward the trip.

Tip: For any trip, pack twice as much food and twice as many diapers as you think you'll need en route - you don't want to get caught short-handed in an unforeseen delay.

By Car

Because car rides for vacation tend to be lengthy, they're a special challenge for parents of young children. What you want to do is minimize the amount of "straight" travel time by scheduling the trip around baby's sleep times. If your baby sleeps well at night, try to do a portion of the driving then if you're sure you'll be alert enough to drive safely.

Plan for your trip to take about twice as long as it would without a child on board. This will allow you to take plenty of feeding breaks, as well as leg-stretching ones for mobile older babies and toddlers. A rule of thumb for long trips is to stop for 10 to 15 minutes every hour.

For toddlers on solid foods, take along snacks. Good choices: oat cereal, bite-size pieces of apple, or cheese cubes.
If you're not traveling alone, consider sitting in the backseat with your baby. This will allow you to entertain her - or tend to her if she becomes fussy. The trip will pass more quickly for everyone if baby has some music, plenty of toys, and favorite snack foods if she's started solids. Babies old enough to drink juice straight from the box will enjoy feeling independent holding it themselves. For other fluids (or for diluted juice) the No-Spill Cup is a must.

If you rent a car and don't take your own child restraint, be sure to get one from the car-rental agency. A baby or toddler in a car should be in an infant or child restraint at all times, and all other passengers should be buckled to protect themselves and to avoid striking the baby in the event of a sudden stop or crash.

By Plane

Although a baby can ride for free if he sits on your lap for the flight, for safety reasons the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly recommends that you buy a ticket for baby so he can ride in a child restraint. Call the airline ahead of time to find out whether you can use your type of restraint. Different airlines have different rules and practices and are not required to follow FAA guidelines and recommendations. If you'll be traveling by car during your trip, remember to take along your child restraint and check it at the curb even if you don't use it on board the airplane.

Babies under 22 pounds should ride in a rear-facing restraint, which also can be used as a stroller and makes the best use of an airplane's baggage allowance. Some airlines, however, prohibit rear-facing seats and will insist that you turn the seat so it faces forward. This is because airline seats are designed to break forward in the event of a collision. Children from 20 to 40 pounds should be in a forward-facing toddler car seat. Over 40 pounds, a child can be accommodated by the plane's regular safety belt.

When you book your flight, request bulkhead seats (the first row in coach class), which allow baby more room to stretch her legs.

It's best to travel at off-peak times: midday and midweek. In case of the inevitable delay at the airport, take along a blanket and some favorite toys so baby can lie down or crawl around on the floor. Walks in the stroller are a sure cure for boredom for both of you. Older babies will usually be happy simply toddling around the terminal.

Change your baby's diaper right before you board; once on board, your only alternative for a changing table is your lap or the cramped confines of the lavatory.

If you're with someone who can stow your luggage when your row is called, consider waiting to board when the final boarding announcement is made--this avoids having your child sit in his seat longer than necessary. If you're alone, you'll probably want to board first to make sure there's enough room for your carry-on gear.

To prevent ear discomfort during takeoff and landing, give your baby something to drink so she'll swallow, which encourages her ears to "pop," or equalize in pressure. If your baby has graduated to a cup, you can offer her fluid in a No-Spill Cup.

By Ship

Family cruises are more popular than ever these days, due primarily to competitive industry pricing. While you shouldn't expect a cruise with your baby or toddler to be a relaxing time, it can still be fun. Some things to consider:

The travel package is important - sometimes babies travelfree, but more likely you'll pay up to one third of the cost of a ticket. Talk to a travel agent.

You'll also want to find out about the availability of high chairs - you may have to take one along.
Find out the minimum age for babysitting and children's programs.

Cabins can be tiny, so space is of the essence. It's a good idea to take along a portable play yard, because it folds up small.

Ask your child's pediatrician what to do in case your child develops seasickness.

Sidewalks at ports of call are rough or nonexistent. Now's a good time to pack a stroller.

The ship's decks, as well as ports of call, are likely to be extremely hot and sunny, so make sure baby gets plenty of fluids. Also, take along plenty of sunscreen (for babies over six months), and keep the stroller's canopy extended at all times. Whenever outdoors baby should wear a wide-brimmed hat, light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and pants, and broad-spectrum-protection sunglasses (if he'll keep them on).

Because most ships won't have diapers and other baby supplies - and they may be difficult to get at ports of call - take along a good deal more than you think you'll need.

Packing Pointers

As a new parent, you've discovered the riddle of the luggage rack: with all of baby's paraphernalia, how can you fit anything of your own? The solution is to take the time now to think about what your baby really must have.

To keep baby occupied and out of harm's way once you're atyour destination, you can take along her play yard or a stationary "bouncer".

Try to anticipate your baby proofing needs: If your baby crawls, take along a dozen outlet covers, as well as a safety gate to block off any staircases or off-limits room.

For touring-type vacations with a young baby, you might want to take along a soft carrier, which lets baby snuggle against you or face out to see the world. At your destination, you can't forget about safety just because you're on vacation. You'll be able to relax if you make a home away from home for baby.

First, find out how to get emergency help and how to contact a nearby pediatrician.

You'll need to babyproof if your child is mobile. Take a good look around, and move out of reach any choking hazards, poisons (including plants), and breakable objects. Seal electrical outlets. If your baby can cruise or toddle, look for and secure any items she could topple onto himself, such as a heavy lamp. Secure out of her reach electrical and drapery cords, tablecloths, and heavy books.

While traveling with a baby has its trying moments, good planning and realistic expectations can make the entire experience rewarding and fun for the whole family.