On-The-Go Guidelines

Getting away occasionally can be healthy for both you and your little one. But how do you manage a vacation with a baby and all her gear in tow?

Chances are, you haven't had a vacation since your baby was born. First you were too busy getting your new life in order, then you were concerned about how you would all adjust to travel as a family. But now both you and your baby are probably able-and you are more than willing!

Getting away on occasion is in fact good for your baby: It gives her a chance to see a new environment, which she's always eager to explore. Taking a trip that used to be easy can seem daunting, however, with a baby and all her gear in tow. To minimize some of the hassles, follow these tips:

Plan ahead. Make a list and start packing at least one week ahead. Include two diaper bags, one to keep in the car or to carry on the plane, and one to pack with the luggage. Each bag should be filled with the following:

  • wipes in a sealed plastic bag
  • liquid baby soap (use for shampooing, too)
  • talc-free powder and diaper-rash ointment
  • two or three burp cloths
  • gentle laundry soap
  • disposable diapers
  • changing pad
  • two baby blankets (one lightweight, one warm)
  • two changes of clothing
  • emergency kit containing infant
  • decongestant and acetaminophen, a thermometer, baby bandages, syrup of ipecac, gauze, nail clippers, antibacterial cream, copies of any medication prescriptions your baby may need, and your pediatrician's phone number
  • pacifiers, rattles, favorite toys
  • finger foods packed in resealable bags and thermos of juice or water
  • baby food
  • formula
  • several bottles
  • bibs and utensils
  • hat and sunscreen if you'll be outside

    You should also pack a portable stair gate, outlet covers, bottle brushes, and an umbrella stroller.

    Keep your itinerary loose. Set a reasonable pace and include rest stops to allow time to care for your baby. Don't expect to do as much as you would have been able to do before she came along.

    Safety-check your bedroom away from home. Make sure that crib slats are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart (or bring a portable crib), outlets are capped, and electrical cords, drapery ties, and open windows aren't accessible to the baby.

    Bring a child carrier or a backpack if you're flying, so you'll have your hands free to juggle luggage. Either reserve an aisle seat or arrive at the airport early to get a bulkhead seat, which offer you and baby the most legroom.

    Don't forget the car seat. Most safety experts advise that you buy your baby a plane ticket and then use your car safety seat to buckle him in securely. Still, there's the additional expense. Some airlines will allow you to use an empty seat on an uncrowded flight, but if you're traveling at a peak time, you'll have to weigh your options-and your baby's safety-carefully. At any rate, you'll definitely need the safety seat to transport your baby in a car once you reach your destination. Remember to make sure the car seat you bring is approved for air travel (it cannot be more than 16 inches wide).

    And of course, if you're traveling by plane, try to change your baby's diaper just before boarding, since in-flight changes can be a challenge and may disturb the other passengers.

    Take regular breaks. If you're traveling a long distance by car, some discomfort may be inevitable. Try to plan your road trips around your child's sleeping schedule. When your baby is awake, take her out of her car seat every two hours or so for some cuddling, movement, and a little fresh air. Remember, she's at a very active stage, and the car seat will be likely to cramp her style somewhat. Also, adults should take turns sitting in the backseat with her so that she doesn't get bored and lonely while you're covering the miles.