Safe and enjoyable journeys with infants and young children

My son with his Barney during our trip back to our hometown, Muar, Johor. This photo was taken at Senai Airport, JB.There is one simple secret to traveling with infants – planning. Parents quickly learn that even the simplest trip to the shops requires planning, when an infant is involved. With traveling on a holiday, the planning is simply on a larger scale. Parents have to pack and carry a range of infant goods and supplies, most of which are predictable. But they also have to be prepared for the delays and discomfort that, unfortunately, are often part of travel.

The goal is to make the travel environment comfortable and restful, so that the infant eats and sleep well. For many infants, the regular motion of a train or a car, encourages sleep. With planes, there is no regular motion. Indeed infants ca find plane travel discomforting, in particular taking off and landing, where there is a change of air pressure in the cabin. For parents, there is often the added concern that the infant will become restless and disrupt the sleeping plans of the other passengers. Fortunately, planning can help minimize this risk.

Before the journey

  • Check out the different airlines’ infant facilities before booking. Usually larger planes offer the best facilities (such as bassinets and change tables) for parents and infants.
  • On most airlines, babies aged between two weeks to two years fly free. Usually the child is expected to sit on parent’s lap.
  • Check out seating arrangements first. If traveling by train or coach, seats that offer some privacy are recommended. It is always advisable to reserve seats.
  • Packing should be planned beforehand. Everything needed for the journey should be put in the hand luggage.
  • Parents should work out their respective responsibilities before setting off.

Airports and Stations

  • Allow plenty of check-in time and fill out immigration forms in advance.
  • Most large airports have bathroom facilities with changing rooms for infants.
  • It’s common for airlines to board passengers with infants first – which is useful as it allows mothers to get organized before the plane fills.
  • At the end of the journey, it’s advisable for passengers with infants to avoid the rush and leave the plane last.

Traveling Essentials

  • A bag where things are easily accessible and have separate compartments for the various items.
  • Pack of wipes.
  • Nappy change bag, with nappies, wipes, cream etc.
  • At least one change of clothes for the infant and a change of clothes for the mother.
  • A baby sleeping bag is useful.
  • Cotton sheet – this can be used to wrap the infant or as a light shield over a bassinet.
  • Baby food, bowl and utensils for an infant who is eating solids (Even if the airline has baby food available, it may not be to the infant’s liking).
  • Bottles of prepared formula and pre-boiled water to make extra feeds.

Air Travel Tips

  • The change in cabin pressure at take-off and landing can be painful for infants. So, it’s a good idea if the infant is sucking on the breast or bottle at this time.
  • Airline food can be very hot and should never be given to an infant without testing.

Traveling with more than one child

  • For young children, travel can be restricting and tedious. So entertainment is important.
  • Fortunately, most airlines offer video channels and games.
  • Young children should be encouraged to pack their own bag, and include some of their favorite toys and games (avoiding toys with small pieces that can get lost).
  • It can be a good idea to have some new toys, wrapped up as gifts, for the journey.
  • Young children may have a special blanket or soft toy that is associated with sleeping and this can help them sleep while traveling.
  • It’s a good idea to pack food treats and drinks for young children, but it’s advisable to avoid sticky foods and to have drinks in bottles or packs that cannot spill.

Long journeys by car

  • Before setting off, plan the route ahead, and work out the stops along the way.

Relax

After careful planning and packing, parents should feel confident and relaxed about their journey. A relaxed attitude is important – it can help prevent minor mishaps from turning into major catastrophes. And if parents are relaxed, they’ll sleep better, even if only for short naps that are grabbed whenever possible. With parents and infant relaxed and well rested, traveling can be an enjoyable experience for all.

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