Saturday, April 22, 2017

NZ/Aus: Tips for Travelling with a Baby (0-6 months)

This looks like a good spot for a diaper change...
We've already alluded many times to the fact that our baby is super easy and awesome, so we are by no means experts about what works best for everyone. Every baby and family is different with its own quirks and priorities. But we thought we'd share what's been working for us because we were surprised pre-trip by how few blogs were out there about long-haul, long-term travel with an infant (it's almost like people stop travelling once they have kids, or something). ;)

Keep in mind that our babe is 3.5-5.5 months old for this trip. Things will be different for the next one when she'll be eating solids and moving around. For tips on travelling with a 6-12 month old, click here.

Packing list
We took one giant suitcase with ALL of her clothes,toys, diapers, and wipes, etc, and put the dock a tot on top which worked really well and was easy to keep her things organized. A collapsible hamper was super useful since between the three of us, laundry piled up quickly. I did laundry usually once every four days. We had to be prepared for both hot and cool weather so layers were key. I'll also note that i brought twice as many shirts as I would have normally for myself to account for spit-ups. I didn't need that many, but i always had a backup in my day pack just in case.
Throw the Dock-a-tot on top, zip it up,
and we're good to go!

Clothes for Baby
4 Short sleeve onesies
3 Short sleeve footless sleepers
4 Long sleeve onesies
3 Long sleeve footless sleepers
2 Sleepers
1 Fleece sleeper
2 Sleep sacks
3 pants: 1 thick,  1 thin, 1 with feet
3 pairs socks
1 fleece sweater
1 raincoat
1 rashguard long sleeve bathing suit (she wore the top lots just as a shirt for sun protection-I'd highly recommend this)
1 thin white long sleeve shirt (to keep covered from the sun on hot days)
1 dress
Sun hat

We recommend bringing a collapsible tub
but the froggie takes FOREVER to blow up
even with a small hand pump.
2 muslin blankets
3 burp cloths
6 face cloths
1 car blanket
2 waterproof change pads to set up a little changing station at each accommodation

Wipes container
Bouncy Chair (was great for places where the floor wasn't the cleanest)
Dock a tot
Nursing pillow
Sun bed: Kilofly Travel Bed. This was super has SPF 50 protection; great for when we were at the beach or out on a deck. We used the mat lots just to put down on hard floors at different accommodations, and even put the dock-a-tot in it for her to sleep in at places that had mosquitos. Our critique: it doesn't stay closed well. I'd recommend looking for one that zips shut.
Inflatable bathtub and small hand pump
Wet/dry bag
Medical supplies: d drops, nail clippers,  nail file, baby Tylenol, snot sucker, saline drops
Sun shields for the car windows
Baby carrier

I cannot stress enough how much we recommend taking diapers if you're travelling internationally. We ended up bringing two packs because we'd already bought them and knew she wouldn't fit them when we got back and we had the space. We were so glad we did! New Zealand diapers were terrible in comparison. Sizing was different, they didn't wick as well. We tried both brands offered, in multiple sizes, and couldn't find ones that fit. So, for the first three weeks we had enough diapers from home to put her in one at nighttime so there weren't poop explosions while sleeping. After we ran out, there was one almost every night... Take diapers.

We did not take our car seat because New Zealand and Australia have really strict regulations that are different from Canada for car seats. So we rented one with our rental car.

Toys/Books/Teething Aids
I brought WAY too much. I had this moment right before we left where I felt guilty for not bringing more things, thinking that I was depriving her of academic stimulation, so I threw in a bunch more stuff. It wasn't necessary. Our two Lamaze toys: the moose and the mermaid, are so great for encouraging different types of play as she grows, so they've been wonderful. We give her mermaid in the car and she's been happily playing with her for six weeks now. What I wish we had more of but they take up so much room and weight allowance is books. Craig has gotten really good at reading "Sleep Tight Little Mouse" upteen different ways so that Baby has variety. Another favourite is our soft picture book with real photos of our family members so she remembers everyone back home. :) I brought the blue mesh bag as a way to easily store them all in her suitacase, which has been helpful.

Day Pack
I became the queen of packing for day trips. My typical day pack would have:
3 small toys: a teething ring, her bunny rattle, and a small lobster rattle
An extra outfit for her
An extra shirt for me
Her fleece sweater or raincoat depending on weather
4 diapers, our refillable travel wipes container, change pad
1 burp cloth
Travel-sized hand sanitizer
2 granola bars, water bottle
2 hair elastics
Wallet, phone, camera, etc

Travelling Days

At the Airport
We're big fans of using a stroller at airports, especially with long-haul flights, connections, etc, because Baby sleeps well in it. She's not a fan of the carrier unless you're WALKING so we have it on hand but generally don't use it.

When arriving at the airport, you'll probably need to go up to a desk to check in so you can get a gate-check tag for the stroller, if you're taking one. Many airports don't let you gate check a stroller, so check in advance so you're prepared. Here's a list of the ones we've encountered so far:

Calgary-Ottawa (Air Canada): Yes
Toronto-Calgary (Air Canada): Yes
Calgary-LA (Air Canada): Yes
LA-Auckland (Air New Zealand): Yes
Auckland-Christchurch (Air NZ): No
Christchurch-Melbourne (Air NZ): No
Melbourne-Adelaide (Virgin Airlines): No

So at these places, we had to pick up the stroller with our checked bags, sometimes from oversized baggage, other times it was just set beside the baggage carosel.

When you get to security, you will most likely need to take everything out of the stroller, put all of it, plus your bags through the security scanner, then walk through the metal detector carrying your baby. At some airports, they will take your empty stroller and swipe it down, at others, you need to fold it up and put it through the scanner. Once, we were allowed to leave her in it and push her through the detector because she was sleeping (AUK-thanks, guys!!!). If you are carrying your baby in a carrier, same thing have to take Baby out of the carrier, put the carrier through the machines, and walk through carrying your baby. Be prepared that they may swab his/her hands and feet. ...seriously.

We've had great experiences so far at airports. We often get waved through in priority lines and have had friendly security and airport staff help us out. We've made use of the extra carry-on we get to bring with her stuff in it and of boarding before everyone else so you have the chance to get settled. I've flown alone with her and the flight attendants have been helpful with getting my stuff on and off the plane and offering to hold her if I need to go to the bathroom. Everyone loves a baby!

The crossover sweater I wore on the plane. 
Baby wore a short sleeve onesie and a fleece sleeper on our overnight long-haul flight because the plane gets so cold and she seemed warm enough. She wore a long sleeve footless sleeper for our short haul day flights which were warmer. Her "I'm new here" sleeper went over well with security and aisle-mates... it's good to break the ice and make her as charming as possible.  :)
I was skeptical about her ability to sleep in the bassinet but she did amazingly! Try to get the bulkhead and bassinet if you can for long haul flights. Even if your baby doesn't sleep in it, it's really nice to have the extra room at your feet and the ease of getting up and down, if needed.

On the plane we carried:
- Diapers (for our 40 hour journey, she used 10 but we had more with us just in case. The standard rule is one per hour of travel.)
- Wipes (I brought the equivalent of one wipes container in a ziploc bag and used about 1/3 of them.)
- Extra clothes for Babe: 3 extra onesies, 2 extra footless sleepers, her fleece sweater
- Extra clothes for me: an extra nursing tank and long sleeve shirt
*Note: For travel, I have found this old Lululemon sweater to be perfect. When nursing, I hold out one side to shield Baby from seeing people and getting distracted (giving me more privacy, too). She won't nurse with a nursing cover so this is a great solution.
- My nursing pillow. For me, this has been essential. It's something familiar and calming so Baby nurses better. She falls asleep on it meaning that I don't get "dead arm." It fits on a domestic Air Canada flight. It was tight on Air New Zealand but doable if you're sitting beside someone you know and can steal a teensy bit of their space.
*Note: I didn't worry about nursing during take off. For almost all the flights we've done, she's nursed once we boarded the plane then fell asleep as soon as the plane started moving. She's always slept through the ascent and her ears weren't a bother to her. I try to nurse during the descent when the flight attendants come through one last time to check. But sometimes Baby has been curious at this point and she'll look around and doesn't cry. So maybe she just has "good" ears or maybe it's not the big deal everyone makes of it? I think the main thing is that you stay relaxed.
- 3 small toys to provide comfort and distraction
- 1 muslin blanket,  1 burp cloth

You've likely driven with your baby, so you know what the expect. We strung up some toys for her to look at, which went over really well, especially for getting her in and occupied before we got driving. Our baby LOVES blankets..they are absolutely her favourite thing in the world. So we give her a blanket to hold on to and she's usually happy with that. If she starts crying, I reach back and shake the blanket to remind her that she has it and she grabs on and starts sucking her thumb. Problem solved. Ok, it wasn't that easy. Sometimes, I'd hand her toys from the front seat or reach around and dangle something in front of her for a minute to distract her. We also did a ton of singing, which really soothed her.

We found a rhythm that worked for us and fit with her schedule. Our preference was to wake up, feed her, get the car packed up, make and eat breakfast ourselves, then feed her again. This typically took us 1.5-2 hours. By this point, she was ready for a nap so we'd drive for 1.5 hours roughly, then take a break for her to nurse. stretch, etc. You know your baby, so do what works for you. Ours slept much better when we kept her head supported so it didn't roll around as we turned corners. This made her less cranky. And most surprisingly, even after a day of driving where she seemed to sleep a lot, it didn't affect her sleep that night. If anything, she slept more because it wasn't a truly restful sleep in the car.

Mama sleeping in the second bedroom
to get a much needed good sleep

We opted to stay in Air BnBs/VRBOs/Bookabach spots. This was the pricier option, for sure, but we are big self-caterers so we saved money that way. Baby was very happy in places that resembled our condo and she quickly adjusted. We'd arrive, I'd walk her around the place so she could see it, I'd lay her down on the floor and she'd stretch away, playing with a toy and be happy as a clam. Hotel rooms were harder because it was tough for us to have enough space to spread out or take a break, or have room to cook. This is what worked well for us, but again, everyone has their own priorities.

Spending time together as a family has been the most amazing part of our trip. Experiencing the world together, while also both getting to be there for Baby's firsts and developmental milestones is priceless. We are so, so fortunate!
I hope this insipres you and reassures you that you can travel with your baby!

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