Even after doing a TON of work for our awesome Babywearing Birthday Bash and Community Expo, Katie has found the time to write up October’s Babywearing 102 post on Traveling while babywearing. Maybe next month, she’ll let us in on some time-management secrets! Take it away, Katie!
Travel season is upon us and that means many of us will be catching planes, trains, and automobiles to the far flung corners of the globe and everywhere in between. One of the most practical and helpful uses for babywearing is while traveling. You may be wondering how to ensure a pleasant trip for all and curtail some of your anxiety, and we’re going to share some of the BEST tips and tricks for those of you who find yourselves traveling with little ones over the Fall and Winter seasons to aid your journey!
My family and I love to travel and babywearing has played such an important role in helping us get from Point A to point B. Babywearing has never saved me so much as it did when I traveled alone with my two year old and 7 month old for the first time over the holiday season when my husband was deployed. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Cancelled flights due to weather, getting bumped off of flights, losing the car keys before our flight and having to trek across the airport and parking lots with all of our luggage to get the keys back from the police station when we returned (thank you to the unknown kind individual who found them!) and finally getting back to the car to discover a dead battery. As precocious children like to do, the two year old had turned everything on while I hurried to get all of our luggage out so we wouldn’t miss the airport shuttle and failed to notice. Thank goodness for roadside assistance. We would have been completely lost without babywearing during that trip, and thankfully enough time has passed that I can laugh without being too traumatized over the ordeal!
Babywearing through Airports
When traveling through airports, the toughest task can be figuring out how to carry and stow everything while you make your way through security and to your gate. I’ll share my preferred method along with tips from other seasoned babywearing travelers.
I prefer to wear baby on front and pack all of our necessities in a backpack for myself or my adult traveling companion to wear. In this post, I’ll be describing front or hip carries but back carries are perfectly fine if you aren’t carrying a backpack. Backpacks hold more than the average diaper bag and being able to distribute weight over both shoulders while babywearing can be more comfortable. Backpacks that clip at the chest can be a bonus for helping to keep the straps on your shoulders. What might you pack?
-A few toys. You can buy new or stow some away a few months beforehand to make them more appealing during the flight.
-Favorite snacks for the flight. Don’t depend on the airport to have everything your child likes. Do fill sippy cups or purchase water or juice once you’re through security and before boarding the plane.
-Extra change of clothes for baby and yourself.
-Any electronic device chargers.
The key to packing efficiently when traveling with a child is to not overpack your carry-on, because you most likely won’t end up using everything you bring and don’t want an overly heavy bag or items scattered all over the airplane. Travel blankets that pack down into small pouches can be a comfort during chilly flights, and it’s a good idea to dress in light layers. If you’ll be using a stroller for storage, it can be gate checked prior to boarding your flight.
When bringing a carseat onboard the plane, I like to either store it in a backpack-style carseat bag for one of us to wear, or store it in a stroller. There are also specialty carseat carts that can be purchased. When traveling with my older children, it helps to give them jobs and have them help with pulling smaller luggage. If I’m traveling alone, I try to pack as efficiently as possible in the fewest pieces of luggage to make my journey through the airport easier.
The carrier that you find the easiest to travel with through the airport will be subjective. It’s best to use a carrier you’re familiar with wearing and adjusting safely and comfortably. Traveling is not the time to try out a new carry or carrier that you haven’t used before! You should be comfortable exposing it to the occasional grime of travel, so that wrap requiring special laundering may not be the best choice. We’ll explore a few common choices and their pros and cons:
Pros: Packs down small. Easy to put on and pop baby in and out of.
Cons: Not one size fits all. One-shoulder carry may get uncomfortable for long term wearing.
Pros: Quick to put on and adjust. Easy to pop baby in and out of. Tail can be used as a blanket.
Cons: One shoulder carry may be uncomfortable for long-term wearing. Aluminum rings may set off metal detectors, so nylon rings may be a better choice to avoid having your carrier screened separately.
Pros: Short wraps can be tied quickly. Pre-tied carries allow baby to be popped in and out without untying. Can be used as a blanket. Stretchy wraps can be pre-tied and worn through the airport. Two shoulder carries to distribute weight can be more comfortable for long term wearing.
Cons: Long wraps may be overwhelming for travel so shorter wraps in size 2-5 may be preferred depending on the carry. Disembarking a cramped plane and long tails don’t mix well.
Travel – friendly carries: Front Wrap Cross Carry Tied Under Bum, Short Front Wrap Cross Carry Tied at the Shoulder, Front Cross Carry, Short Cross Carry, Kangaroo, Rebozo, and Hip Cross Carry to name a few. Pocket Wrap Cross Carry with a stretchy wrap can be left on without untying to pop baby in and out of.
Pros: Once correctly adjusted, it can be put on quickly and baby can go in and out easily. Two shoulder carry along with waist support can make long-term wearing more comfortable. Certain buckle carriers, such as the Beco Soleil, have snap on storage bags. Just remember to remove it for scanning before going through the security checkpoint.
Cons: Must be adjusted between differently sized caregivers. If using an infant insert, you should be comfortable putting baby in and adjusting as necessary.
Pros: Can be put on quickly. Two shoulder carry to distribute weight and make long-term wearing more comfortable. Can be worn easily between two different sized caregivers.
Cons: Tying long shoulder straps may be difficult with limited space in an airport.
What about wearing through security? Or on the plane itself? Your experience going through security will depend on the airport you’re traveling through along with the security staff you encounter that day. This is the most common course of events that you can expect when going through security.
-Everything must be scanned or pass through a metal detector. That includes backpacks, purses, strollers, contents of your pockets, etc.
-Advanced imaging technology cannot be used when wearing or carrying your child and you will instead be asked to use a metal detector.
-You may or may not be asked to remove your child from your carrier before going through the security checkpoint.
-Expect security staff to swab your hands for a special screening before you leave the checkpoint.
The TSA guide for traveling with children can be found here. Have a game plan in mind for each scenario and how you will get yourself, baby, and belongings through the checkpoint as efficiently as possible.
The FAA recommends that a separate ticket be purchased and an FAA approved carseat or harness device (CARES) be used during flights, as this is the safest place for children on a plane. I highly recommend contacting the airline you’ll be flying with for standard procedure if you intend to wear your child on a flight in lieu of using a car seat. The FAA guide to flying with children can be found here.
Babywearing for Car Travel
As always, safety is most important when traveling with your child. A baby carrier does not replace a carseat, and you should always secure your child in a carseat in a vehicle.
If you’ll be going on a road trip, many of the above carrier suggestions will be helpful for frequent stops and quickly getting your child in and out.
If you have a child who doesn’t travel well in the car, wearing before and during your trip at rest stops can be calming and provide a familiar comfort before getting back in the car. After doing several cross country road trips with my children, I can confirm the validity of that statement!
Babywearing at Your Travel Destination
A frequent question is how many carriers to bring on vacation. That’s largely going to depend on the type of activities you’ll be doing and who will be wearing your child. Consider where you’re going and the type of weather you’ll encounter, and what you and your child will be most comfortable in.
Many caregivers find that they enjoy packing light for travel and forgoing the stroller in favor of a baby carrier. A stroller can be difficult or impossible to use in certain locations (Hello, Grand Canyon) so you may find a carrier easier to use instead. Strollers CAN come in handy for storing gear or shuttling older children with tired, little legs. You may opt to include a carrier designed for older children if they too enjoy being worn.
Babywearing can be a comfort for children who are anxious around new people or places, or have difficulty falling asleep in unfamiliar places. If they tend to be little explorers, a baby carrier can be the perfect spot to keep them safe and happy.
If you intend to be around water during any part of your vacation, you may choose to bring a carrier specifically designed for use in water. See our blog post here for more info on water wearing!
Travel with children can seem completely overwhelming when you think of all the logistics involved, but with a little planning and your favorite baby carrier I hope you’ll feel more confident in your travels with children in tow! Please join us during our 102 segment for the month of October with all your babywearing and travel related questions!