Happy Travelers

How to keep baby (and you) content on the road and in the air

When you have a baby, just getting out of the house can feel overwhelming, what with the car seat, stroller, diaper bag, clothes, toys, snacks and so on. So it's no surprise that many parents regard baby's first trip with more than a little trepidation. So much to remember. So much to carry. So much to worry about. While there's no single formula for success, there are some strategies you can adopt to make the getting there — and back — a fun-filled adventure, rather than a dreaded rite of passage.

What's in the bag? As you prepare for your trip, you'll need to pack two bags for your child: one for travel — the diaper bag — and the other for the bulk of the trip. The diaper bag should include everything your baby needs in a typical day, multiplied by three. If you're traveling by plane, don't count on the airline for anything. Bring snacks (with spoons); bibs; water; formula in pre-mixed packages if you're bottle-feeding; a towel for diaper changes; resealable plastic bags for dirty diapers; extra wipes for cleanups; a hand sanitizer; and, for the comfort of other passengers, a small bottle of air deodorizer. It's also wise to pack extra outfits for you and your child in case of spills. And don't forget snacks and water for you. You'll also need to bring items to keep baby (and therefore you) happy. Ann Douglas, co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Having a Baby (IDG Books, 1999) and mother of four, has this suggestion: Take toys that won't be missed if they're lost or that are easily replaceable. Also, save room in your bag for surprise items, such as board books, stacking toys and coloring books. When packing your child's main bag, bring plenty of the basics, as well as items that baby might need. "I think about what if and plan accordingly," says Shawn Corwin, a mother of three from Bloomington, Minn. This includes a first-aid kit; thermometer; decongestant; acetaminophen (carry some in your diaper bag as well); gauze; bandages; diaper-rash cream; sunscreen; childproof outlet covers; and ipecac syrup, in case of poisoning. Also bring your child's medical history and pediatrician's phone number with you. If your child is on medication, make sure you have enough for the trip — and bring a copy of the prescription in case the supply is lost or spilled. To help lighten your load, consider sending some necessities ahead. Leah Fine of San Francisco shopped online and had essentials shipped to her parents' house in New York. If you do forget anything, check out Baby's Away, a rental firm with locations throughout the United States and Canada that offers almost everything for young children. Call (800) 571-0077 or visit www.babysaway.com.

Up, up and away If you don't pay for baby's ticket (often a reduced fare until age 2), there's the chance she'll be sitting in your lap, which is not necessarily safe or comfortable. For safety's sake, buy your child her own airplane seat and secure her car seat in it. According to Alison Duquette, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, the car seat should be certified for aircraft use; check the label to be sure. Also check the car seat's width; one wider than l6 inches probably won't fit properly in the airplane seat. For more information call the FAA at (800) 322-7873 or visit www.faa.gov. Another safety option is the Baby B'Air turbulence-protection vest, a safety device approved by the FAA for infants and toddlers ages 6 weeks to 2 years who are held in a parent's lap. When properly secured, the vest helps protect a child from injury during sudden air turbulence by securely attaching the child to the adult's lap belt. It is available through The Right Start stores, catalog or Web site (www.rightstart.com). Other tips: Book a nonstop flight if possible, and ask about off-hour, midweek travel, as the rates are often cheaper and the planes less full. Also try flying when baby is sleepy; some parents swear by red-eye flights. Finally, nurse your child or give her a bottle during takeoff and landing to relieve ear pressure.