When Andy and I first learned we would be going to Prague for my cute little best friend's wedding, the biggest point of stress was how in the world would our seven-month-old Lucy do on a plane for that long. How she would make the adjustment to a timezone six hours ahead was a close runner up. Having made many an international trip as a childless person, I know what people are thinking the minute they see a baby on your hip and to some degree I can sympathise. However, babies are people too and you can't just board them or stick them in a cage in the luggage compartment when you need to travel so we all must learn to have a little more patience in public spaces [end mini rant].
I scoured the internet for any tips or product recommendations I could get and thought through every worst-case-scenario I could imagine, but there is just no way to anticipate all the things you may find yourself needing. My biggest piece of advice for parents traveling internationally is to stay relaxed, roll with the punches, and try to channel your inner MacGuyver. Difficult situations will arise (like forgetting a formula scoop from the land of ounces on a train ride through the central european countryside) but you will live to laugh at yourself. Getting tense and critical of your partner will only make things worse. Your baby will feed off of that negative energy so it's best to just try to stay positive and do what you can with what you have.
Ask ten traveling parents for a list of their essentials and you will get 10 different lists, but these were the things we found most helpful:
1. Ergo Baby Carrier: This is one of our favorite purchases period, but it was espcially useful on those long flights. We tried every possible sleeping arrangement we could with her but putting her in the carrier and letting her sleep against our chest was by far the most successful. We heard a lot of good things about the bulkhead bassinet, but Lucy would only sleep for 10 minutes at a time without waking up either from the bathroom line noise or someone bumping into the bulkhead itself. We spent a lot of time standing in the back of the plane bouncing her so she would stay asleep. The hood kept the little Irish grandmothers at bay who just loved to get right in her face and talk very, very loudly. My other favorite feature is the zipper pocket. When you're wearing your baby on your chest you can keep all the things you need quick access to in the pocket!
The carrier also came in handy when Lucy had just had enough of her stroller (this happens quite often). It can be worn on your chest (recommended until your wee one has excellent head control) or on your back and is very comfortable. Most of the baby's weight is on your hips so you don't have all the pulling on your shoulders like you do with the more popular Bjorn. They do have an insert for newborns, but I liked the Moby Wrap best when Lucy was itty bitty. There are a few different models but I chose the organic because the fabric was so soft. We bought ours at Sprout Soup but they can be found at Buy Buy Baby or numerous online sources.
2. Teething Bling Necklace: Lucy LOVED to play with this necklace. It kept her entertained in her carrier so I could keep my hands free for toting luggage or showing our travel documents. I ordered mine on Amazon.
3. Piyo Piyo 360 Bottle: Words cannot express how much I LOVE this bottle. Lucy was not one for reclining once she could sit up, so bottle feeding became a real struggle around five months. This bottle gave her (and me!) some freedom to feed herself. The handles are a great size for tiny grips and the 360 straw meant she didn't have to tip the bottle for drinking. The straw is flexible and there is a weight at the end so no matter what position your little one is in, it works. Genius. They are made by a Japanese company and I found ours on Zulily, but All Modern carries them all the time. Because TSA and their respective international counterparts are a giant pain in the tushie, if you are bottle feeding your infant I recommend putting the bulk of your formula in your main suitcase (still sealed) and bringing individual packets of formula on board. We used Enfamil Individual Packets and they came premeasured for 4oz so it was easy to just fill the bottle with water and pour these in. It also eliminated the need for a scoop which can be tricky business on a bumpy airplane.
4. Sophie: This toy is over fifty years old and there is a reason she's been around that long. The design is genius. Babies LOVE her. Your fellow passengers may not love her squeaking feature, but it has to be preferable to a crying baby, right?
5. City Mini Stroller: We absolutely love this stroller. It has a smaller footprint than most sturdy strollers and it was super easy to get on and off of public transit. In some cities you are required to fold your stroller before boarding busses/trains/subways. The City Mini has a handle on the seat (where your baby's bum goes) where all you have to do is pull up and the stroller collapses. No extra buttons or levers, just pull up and walk away. We bought ours locallyat Petit Green and they were so helpful. You can also find them online.
6. Hunger Games Series Audio Books: I had already read the series, but wanted something to keep me entertained while I was bouncing Lucy to sleep in the aisles of the plane. Watching a movie wasn't an option because she wouldn't sleep very long if I was sitting and music just wasn't keeping my attention. An audiobook was a perfect fit and Hunger Games is easy to follow and fast paced.
7.Mommy's Bliss Gripe Water: This is the one thing we DIDN'T bring and I wish we would have. Lu's tummy was very unsettled after all that traveling and once we actually arrived in Prague she had painful gas issues that kept her from sleeping very soundly. Luckily our hosts had friends with babies who could make recommendations because we would have been lost trying to hunt this down in another language. Also in the Czech Republic all medications must be purchased from a pharmacist so we couldn't peruse shelves of products to look for it. Mommy's Bliss brand seems to work the best for Lucy. We've used it since she was a newborn.
8. Secure a Toy: These are great for keeping your twenty-dollar Sophie secured to the stroller or high chair. Once a baby can throw an object, a baby will throw an object so these will save your sanity and your back.
***Honorable Mention: An iPhone. My phone is my favorite baby distracting tool of all :)