With the changing regulations and costs for baggage on most airlines these days, it is hard to pack a single bag for one person, let alone an entire family. Since our child count has doubled we have to be even more strategic about packing and planning our travel arrangements. We travelled a considerable amount with our daughter, including a trip to Europe when she was eight months old, so we already had an idea of what infant travel was like and knew that we could do it. We put travelling with two to the test this past February as we booked a trip to Orlando. Here are ten tips that allowed us to remain in good spirits while travelling by air, with two children, to the Happiest Place on Earth:
1. Be Real– Set yourself up with realistic expectations before you begin planning your trip. Think about the stages your children are at and what they can realistically handle in terms of a travel itinerary and destination. If your 18 month old can’t sit still for longer than 5 minutes, it is likely not a great idea to plan a ten hour cross continental flight. Determine what they truly can handle and plan accordingly. Now that I have two children I know that everything takes longer and is more involved so I also have to be realistic about what I can handle too when travelling with both.
2. Fail To Plan, Plan To Fail– The more information you can have about your destination and navigating it, the better. This applies to all aspects of the trip, including your baggage allowance, the ride to the airport (what terminal are we at again?!), your seat assignments on the plane, the expected weather conditions, estimated driving times for car travel, location of rental car terminal within the airport (don’t book at an “off airport” location. Yes they have shuttles but you will also be shuttling all your humans and their stuff), restaurants that are kid friendly, etc. Take full advantage of online check in, early check in, GPS technology, and travel review sites to plan the most efficient journey which will also be less stressful.
3. Baggage Claim– When packing your bags, know your limit and stay within it! I have found it is easier to bring two larger bags for the four of us than four smaller bags. Having each adult share a bag with a child means there is room for some larger clothes and some itty bitty clothes. Planning complete outfits for each person and each day is also helpful so that you avoid bringing a whole bunch of random items to piece together during your trip. For children’s clothes I pack the complete outfit (along with any accessories) in a small ziplock bag and that way I have an outfit ready in a moment’s time and it also packs down much smaller. I have back ups where necessary but have definitely found that this eliminates most of my unnecessary items that I would otherwise throw in “just in case”.
4. Hands Free– I’m not talking technology here, I’m kicking it old school with the original hands free invention- carrying straps! I have a strict policy now that anything that does not get checked upon arrival to the airport must be able to be carried without using my hands. Backpacks are key here, and, if you have older children they can carry their own small backpack and be responsible for hauling their activities, snacks and treasures that will get them through this leg of the journey. My daughter loves this backpack for travel and it is just the right size, while I carry this backpack style diaper bag and it is perfect for all of the baby’s necessities and a few of my own. Once I check my stroller at the gate and sit with my infant on my lap, I still want to be hands free. This is where a baby carrier comes in handy both for the airport and also for use at your destination. We love the BabyBjorn Carrier One Outdoors as it works well for both my husband and I, wicks away sweat so we aren’t a dripping puddle upon arrival, and can be used as a back or front carry depending on the age of your child. This was a life saver at Walt Disney World where the sun was out in full force and we needed to let our son nap on the go. Being hands free of baggage allows you to open snacks, wipe faces, lift up children, push a stroller and hold small hands instead.
5. Homestyle– With the increasing popularity of AirBnB and private home rentals, small hotel rooms are no longer your only option. Forcing your entire family to stay in one room for the duration of your stay can be difficult as once bedtime arrives for the littles, the adults are stuck in a dark room, trying to be quiet. Booking a house with multiple rooms allows you the flexibility to put your children down for a nap or bedtime while you still have space to relax and enjoy yourself. There is also more room for kids to play, to store all that carefully packed baggage and these homes often come equipped with many of the supplies needed for children (like cribs, playpens, high chairs) so you don’t have to haul that with you. Bonus points for a location with laundry facilities so that you can bring less clothes and not panic when your infant blows out four outfits in one day (not that I’m speaking from experience…).
6. Made for life on the road– If your destination does not come equipped with infant cribs/playpens/gear, it may be smart to invest in a few travel specific products. The most useful item I have ever purchased for traveling with small children is a travel crib. With the ability to fold down small, weigh less than your child and fit in an overhead compartment on a plane, this gives you the security of knowing your little one has a safe place to sleep and bringing it won’t weigh you down too much. Runner up in the “most useful travel gear” awards is a car seat travel bag. Though it is possible to rent car seats with your rental car company or other gear rental services, safety is always a huge concern for me and there is little history or information about what this seat has been through or where it has been. I prefer to take my own seats and these travel bags make hauling them so much easier. An added bonus is that airlines are legally required to check your car seat for free so I have been known to stash a few bulky items in with my car seat to save me luggage space. #protip. This bag is my favourite and is worth every penny in protection, ease of carrying and space for a few extras
7. Hitch a Ride– In almost any travel situation, having a stroller on hand makes traveling with two so much easier. Even if you won’t use it at your destination, navigating just the airport becomes a much easier feat with a mode of transportation for the littlest members of your party. Where possible, have a seat for each child- there are so many great double stroller options available. In our case, our daughter has mostly outgrown a stroller but we knew that without an option to be pushed we would be forced to carry her, which is really no option at all when adding in a second child and all of our bags. If your first child is too big or unwilling to ride in a stroller, a ride on board is a duo dream come true. We could push the baby in the stroller while our toddler could hitch a ride on the board to give her tired feet a rest. This also allowed us to walk at a much faster pace and keep her contained in the airport and at Disney World- winning all around. With gate check right before we boarded the plane, we had our travel system and it’s occupants on hand for the entire airport rush and also used it extensively once we arrived to our destination.
8. Less is More- While it is tempting to pack as many things into a trip as possible, it is usually not as enjoyable when traveling with tiny
tantrumers children. Pick the things that you want to do and see the most, with something on the list for everyone, and try to build in rest and relaxation time and days in between. While our daughter would have loved to spend our entire trip at each of the Disney parks, we knew that it would be too hard on our infant son. So instead we chose to do one full day at Magic Kingdom and then one character breakfast at a resort separate from the park on another day. This way we got to experience more of the magic but the breakfast lasted only about two hours and left the rest of the day free to fit in naps and other play time. Where possible choose a shorter/easier alternative so that you can still experience things but in a less taxing way.
9. Creature Comforts– As much as I am preaching to pack light and only what you need, it is important to bring a few things from home that allow you and your children to function normally. A favourite stuffy or pacifier for the kids, your white noise machine or video monitor for peace of mind at bedtime and anything else that is key in your routine at home (within reason) should be accommodated. We have found that if we can set up our environment to be at least somewhat similar to home it allows our children to adjust much quicker to the change in scenery.
10. Have Fun! The bottom line is, you are making memories and among them should be fun ones. Take a deep breath, take breaks when you need them, take lots of photos, and take a moment to see sights through your children’s eyes. Experiencing all of these new things leaves a lasting impression on children and even though they won’t remember things they did as babies, you will, so do your best to enjoy it!
Your kids won’t be babies forever and traveling will likely get easier in the future. Exposing them to new and exciting places now and the means that you need to take to get there is a good way to create perfect travel companions down the road. Keeping a few of these tips in mind may help you keep your sanity and, if you are like me, may make you crazy enough to book your next trip!
Katie is a new mom of two and will be sharing her experiences in parenting a toddler and a newborn though this series “New with Two”.
After an active summer, the winter months are a hard pill to swallow. If you and your baby have grown accustomed to being outside and getting fresh air daily, don’t let cold weather stop you! As the famous Scandinavian saying goes, “there is no bad weather, just bad clothing”. Here are a few tips to dressing baby (and mom!) for the weather.
Start with thin, flexible base layers. Restricting clothing like jeans or overalls are not a good choice for snow play as they’ll bunch up in the wrong places and don’t breathe under snow pants. We opt for leggings and two pairs of socks, and then put on a second layer of warmer pants – sweat pants or thicker wool leggings. Same with the top half – start with a thin long sleeve shirt or thermal underwear and then top with a thicker version.
If skin is visible, it’s susceptible to the wind and cold, so look for a neck warmer and hat that cover as much as possible. The balaclava by Calikids is perfect for the task! Or buy a full coverage tuque and then grab a neck warmer such as the adjustable neck warmer or the knit cozy neck warmer, also by Calikids.
Fingers and Toes
The first places we feel cold need extra protection. For wee ones, Stonz booties (and liners) or Sherpa booties, a similar brand, are beloved by moms everywhere and for good reason. They’re both easy to put on and keep baby’s feet snugly warm.
Until kids are able to put on their own mittens, it’s always a struggle forcing little thumbs into their proper place, which is why I love mittens with side zippers. Snuggle Bugz has a ton of options with zips, so grab a pair and save yourself the frustration before you leave the house!
Warm Baby Wearing
To keep baby completely sheltered from the weather but still enjoy the great outdoors, simply convert your current parka into one with the extensions by Kokoala. There are a range of extensions for pregnancy and baby wearing that will be a mom’s best friend this winter.
If baby is staying in the stroller, he’ll be toasty in a stroller bunting bag. 7 am Enfant adapts to any stroller, whereas other brands (such as Bugaboo and Uppababy) have bunting bags specific to their make and model. These bags are especially great when you’re simply going from point A to point B, not necessarily playing in the snow. They allow a baby to travel by stroller without dressing for the North Pole. Perfect for daycare drop off or errands in the winter months.
Emily is a Montreal-based writer and blogger, but most importantly, a mom of three littles (age five and under). She geeks out over cloth diapers, lattes, and will do just about anything to travel. You can find her on Instagram @emmorrice where she profusely overgrams pictures of her meals, kids and city.
One of the most popular items on any baby registry is the baby carrier, and it’s no wonder why. Baby carriers provide parents with the freedom to move about while still being a nurturing presence for their baby. Mothers have been using some variation of a baby carrier for as long as time, and across all cultures, and today they’re still essential! It’s not rocket science that a baby is most content when in physical proximity to mom or dad, but that doesn’t change the reality that life needs to be lived and things need to get done! A carrier is great because it allows for both.
Simplicity and Mobility
Baby carriers are your best bet to keeping things simple on the go. While the average stroller weighs over 15lbs, a carrier is almost weightless can be stored anywhere. Getting out the door with a baby is hard enough, so parents will love the ease of setting baby in the carrier and having their hands free to grab the diaper bag as they head out.
If you’re ready to enjoy some hands-free parenting and start baby wearing, you’ve got several options. Here’s the low down:
Slings and wraps
These lightweight, fabric carriers are beautiful and simple. They weigh next to nothing and can fold into your purse or diaper bag when you’re not using it. I love how close baby can be to mom and dad and how truly perfect they fit a newborn’s body. They’re especially great for breastfeeding, and for newborns and preemies as they’re soft and snugly. These aren’t the carrier for babies over six months old, ideally, as they don’t provide a ton of back support for mom.
My favourite part about slings and wraps is the aesthetic – no buckles or plastic, just lovely fabric. The downside of slings is that they’re not great for mom’s back, so be prepared to upgrade to a more structured carrier when baby is around 20lbs or six months (whichever comes first). The downside here is that wraps aren’t quick and easy to put on – they require some time and work to get just right.
Front and back carriers
These carriers are the most popular for parents, and can be used up to 45lbs! They’re designed with the child’s safety and carrier’s back in mind and evenly distribute the weight of even the heaviest toddlers. My kids loved being carried, well into their toddler years, and a solid front and back carrier like the Beco Gemini or the ERGOBaby was our best friend.
The most popular carriers tend to be soft structured carriers like those by ERGObaby, Lillebaby, BabyBjorn, Beco and Tula for good reason – they are diverse, affordable, and long-lasting. Our favourite was definitely the Beco Gemini. Like other soft structured carriers, you can use the Beco Gemini carrier on your back, front, or side to side, but what we loved about this one was that the back straps criss-cross, giving more security and comfort, especially if you don’t have broad shoulders.
These are not everyday carriers as they’re rather large, but they are extremely supportive. If your family is active and regularly goes hiking, you’ll want a backpack carrier. These aren’t for newborns, but can accommodate a heavier weight so you’ll use it for many years.
Try them out!
As with all baby gear, it’s best if you can test a few brands and styles before you buy. And make sure both parents have tried on the carrier, as carriers will fit certain body types better than others. All of Snuggle Bugz’s stores have a selection to try on to make sure you are getting the perfect fit. If you aren’t close to a store, ask around and borrow a friend’s carrier to see if you like it. Don’t be shy! I’ve had moms at the park ask me if they can test out my baby carrier. It’s totally normal, and doesn’t it take a village? You want to make sure you’re comfortable taking the carrier off and putting baby in, so practice as much as you can before baby’s arrival. If you’re not comfortable with your carrier, you likely won’t use it often, and trust me, you don’t want to miss out on the glories of baby wearing!
Krystal is back for the second instalment of our two part series on babywearing in celebration of International Babywearing Week. Today’s post explores the various carrying options available with wraps and ring slings.
One of my favourite things to introduce new parents to is a wrap carrier and then a ring sling. Both baby wearing options have a learning curve but, once you have the technique down, your life will be changed forever. There are a few different options on the market and the choices can be overwhelming when deciding what to try first, but I am going to try to offer a easy breakdown.
Before we start talking about the differences and uses, I am going to point out a few tips on safety and technique:
1. You always want your baby to be up high enough that you can easily kiss the top of their head and monitor breathing, etc. I have seen many, well intentioned parents with their babies wrapped too loosely, too low, and incorrectly. As with most baby items, there is a risk of injury if you do not use proper instructions and care when using a product.
2. Stretchy wraps (i.e. a Moby wrap, or ones similar) are only meant for a front carry, with baby facing in towards you. They are NOT to be used for a back carry, or to have baby facing outwards, as they do not provide the support needed for that.
3. Baby’s legs should always be out, not bunched or ‘froggy-d’ up inside the fabric, even from newborn age.
4. Always ensure there is a lot of fabric tucked up between baby and yourself, making a proper ‘seat’. Baby should be in a seated in an “M” position (see graphic below), with their knees higher than their bottom, and their spine curved. There should be no weight on baby’s knees/legs, but only on their bum.
Since there is such a learning curve to wrapping and ring slings, I always recommend mom/dad watch a few tutorial videos to practice the wrapping technique with a doll or stuffed animal, getting the technique down pat, before adding their own baby into the equation. This allows you to become more comfortable with the process so you can make sure baby is situated safely and securely. I practiced with a doll for a few days, until I could do a front wrap, nice and tight, without the use of the video, and only then did I go ahead and try it with my daughter. Once you are ready to add a real baby, practice in front of a bed or couch, so you have a safe place to put baby down if you get overwhelmed and need a break. One really important thing to keep in mind is this: you will probably not get it perfect on your first few times, and you may get overwhelmed, and that is OK! If you need to take a break, come back and try again later. Many of us have been there and have gone on to lead happy wrap-loving lives.
With wraps you have two options:
Stretchy Wrap (i.e. a Moby Wrap) or a woven wrap (Tula Woven, Chiparoo, Girasol & Didymos, to name a few). The main difference between these is how they can be used.
Stretchy Wrap: These wraps are amazing to use with a newborn and smaller baby up until around 3 months. Most stretchy wraps say they are good up to 35lbs, but I personally find that much more than 15lbs and they do not have enough support to be comfortable or wrapped properly. Stretchy wraps are made out of a cotton/jersey material, which is super soft like a well loved t-shirt. These wraps come in one size and varying colours. I absolutely love giving these as a gift for a new parent (with the promise of teaching them how to correctly use it). Once again, the stretchy wraps are ONLY meant for a front carry, with baby facing in towards you. They are NOT to be used for back carries, or with baby facing out.
Woven Wrap: Woven wraps come in tons of different colours, patterns and fabric blends. They also come with varying price points, depending on the type of weave and fabric content. Woven wraps are also great to use for newborns, and will provide the support needed for almost any weight that you can carry, in fact, my 6 year old will ask to go up on my back for fun every once in a while and I can do it easily. Woven wraps have literally dozens of different ways you can wrap and carry your baby: front, hip and back carries, with many different variations. Again, it is not typically recommend to do a front carry with a woven wrap, as many find it hard to get a ergonomically correct positioning for both the baby and the wearer. When starting out with a woven wrap, there are many sizes to chose from, ranging with size 1 being the shortest at 2.2 meters and a size 8 being 5.6 meters. Most people start out with what is called your ‘base size’ and that is the size that you would be able to do the most of your basic starter carries with. I am very petite at 4’11 and around 110lbs, and I use a size 5 for my base, but the average base size is a 6.
Another carrying option available is a Ring Sling. Once again, there is a learning curve until you find the sweet spot and learn how to position baby properly in a ring sling. But as recommended above, watch videos and practice with a doll before adding your baby into the mix. A ring sling is my personal favourite with newborns and toddlers because of the ease of use (less fabric to fiddle with). Ring slings come in many different fabric choices and you can also get woven wrap slings (like the Tula Woven ones). There are lots of different colours and patterns to chose from!
Important pointers I was given and have learned when using a ring sling:
- Start with your ring sling properly threaded, with no twists in the fabric.
- Loosen the fabric only wide enough to get your elbow in, that way you have less to tighten and adjust.
- Start with the rings on top of your shoulder so when you tighten it slides down and ends up approximately where a corsage would be placed.
- Baby should be tummy to tummy with you until they are closer to a year old, sometimes older.
- Baby’s head should be high enough that you can easily kiss the top of their head.
Hopefully this has been informative and not too overwhelming for you. As always, feel free to check out your local Snugglebugz store to try out a wrap or ring sling. Call ahead to see that they have the style you are looking for on hand. Take the time to search Facebook for local babywearing groups as these communities are usually happy to help with tips for beginners. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below. Happy babywearing!
In celebration of International Babywearing Week we have created a series of emails, videos and blog posts to educate and inform you on the various carrying options available, safety tips, comparisons of popular carriers, and tutorials for using them. Stay tuned all week as we take you through this series and feel free to leave us a comment with any babywearing topics you would love to see us tackle.
Part One of our Babywearing Series will be focused on soft structured carriers. We have invited Krystal, one of our favourite babywearing fanatics, to provide some tips on safety, fit and choosing the right carrier for you.
Hi! My name is Krystal, and I am a very passionate and enthusiastic babywearing Mum. I began baby wearing with my first child, 6 years ago, and although it was sporadic we loved it. When my second child was born and diagnosed with reflux, I needed something to keep him comfortable and happy, and to also keep my sanity. I quickly started wearing him daily, exploring ring slings, wraps and soft structured carriers. Babywearing was a complete game changer for us, making everyday life easier and happier. I attended many local baby wearing meetings, learned different ways to wrap my son, and formed some beautiful friendships throughout the community. At any given time, I have had anywhere from 2-20+ different kinds of wraps and carriers in my home, and have also been sent an array of them to be tested and reviewed for babywearing companies. At this time, I am expecting our 3rd child in February, and have continued to wear my son, and look forward to having a new baby to bond with through babywearing. At this time, I am not a licensed babywearing educator, but it is something I hope to accomplish in the near future.
With the booming popularity of baby wearing, and soft structured carriers, often referred to as a ‘buckle carrier’, we thought it would be helpful to give you a little breakdown on how they work, and what to look for in the search to find one that best suits you and your needs. A ‘soft structured carrier’ (I’ll shorten it to ‘SSC’ for the rest of this article), is a baby carrier which carries baby in an ergonomically/physiologically correct position for the baby, and the person wearing the baby as well. Most SSC carriers on the market offer the option to wear baby on the front (facing in and/or out), on the back and sometimes on the hip. I have found that many people, especially dads, love the simplicity of a SSC as opposed to the learning curve that comes with a wrap or ring sling. The lure of a simple ‘load, click and go’, with very little to fuss with, is very attractive and easy for almost anyone to learn and love.
Some of my favourite things about babywearing:
- Hands free! I can calm and soothe my baby, while still having my hands free to play with my other children, work or perform other daily tasks.
- Bonding. I have not found a better or easier way to bond with my children than having them close to me during busy and difficult times. A cranky, over tired, or overstimulated baby usually calms quite easily and quickly when supported right next to someone they find comfort in. Even on those hard days, when keeping my baby that close to me was the last thing I was feeling like, it would calm both of us down and bring us together for some quiet time. That is a powerful feeling.
- Crowded areas. Have you been to a summer festival or amusement park and tried to push a stroller through it? Not always very fun, especially if your child is feeling anxious or unsure of the surroundings. Being able to comfortably maneuver through crowded situations with your child kept close and secure is priceless and much better on the stress levels.
- Nursing and feeding on the go. This one takes a little bit of practice, but once you get the hang of nursing in an SSC, it’s a complete game changer. I have been able to walk through the mall with a happily nursing baby, while fully covered (or not, your choice), and no one was the wiser.
- Dad is in on it too! Dads are much less imitated by a SSC. My husband is much, much quicker to take the wearing responsibility over when I have a SSC with us vs a wrap or ring sling. Who doesn’t love seeing a big burly tattooed man wearing a happy baby in a carrier? LOVE.
Tips to keep in mind for safe and proper babywearing:
Do I have you convinced yet?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when trying to narrow down your choices on brands and styles:
- Who will be wearing the baby? Take into consideration the size of those wearing it and the adjustability of the carriers you are looking at. For instance, I am 4’11 and 110lbs and my husband is 6’0 and 210lbs, so I was looking for something that would fit my very petite frame, but would also adjust comfortably so my husband could use it as well. I loved a carrier with straps that could cross in the back, as I found it most comfortable for myself, while my husband preferred them straight.
- How long will you use the carrier? Are you planning on only using it during the newborn/small baby stage, or is this something you would like to last all the way into 2+ years old? Take a look at the weight limits of the carrier, how high the panel comes up or adjusts as your child gets taller and the width of the seat of the carrier. A narrower seat and lower panel may fit an older child, but it may not always be as comfortable long term. It is not uncommon for someone to start out, thinking they will only wear baby for a few months, and then end up wearing them well into toddler age. There is also the option to size up in some carriers, from a baby stage, into a larger toddler carrier, so it’s not the end of the world if you have to upgrade your carrier later on.
- What kind of carrying options do you want? Are you wanting to face inwards AND outwards? Would you like to eventually be able to do a back carry? Do you like the idea of having a hip carry as an option? Keep in mind that it is NOT recommended to have your baby facing outwards in a carrier until they have full head control, typically 4-6 months, depending on the baby.
- What kind of accessories would you like with your carrier? Do you like the idea of a hood to support baby’s head while sleeping, or to use for privacy while nursing in your carrier? Would you like to add drool pads to the straps for when your baby is older and sucking on the fabric? There are also weather shields/covers and bags that attach to store keys/wallet etc. I love, love, love the sleep hood on my SSC carriers, both for nursing, to protect baby from the elements, and to help them sleep comfortably.
- What is your budget for purchasing a new carrier? Think about how much you are going to use it, and how much money you are comfortable investing in a product.
Now that you are armed with some info and tips on what to look for, I always suggest looking up your closest baby wearing Facebook group, as many have weekly meetings and are very helpful. I also suggest heading in to your closest store and trying the carriers on for yourself. Snuggle Bugz stores are equipped with a large variety of ‘demo models’ of popular carriers, and the staff are always happy to help show you how to use them and try them out. Make sure to call the store ahead of time if you have a specific one you are interested in to see if they have that one available to try. Sizing and fit varies greatly between each carrier so trying a few on really does help in deciding which one is right for you. To demonstrate the differences in fit and shape, here is a side by side comparison of some of the most popular SSC brands in a front and back carry.
While this is a high level overview, I hope you have found some of the information you need to choose the best carrier for you. If you are still unsure, please feel free to post any questions in the comments section. Happy babywearing!
Want to win a LILLEbaby All Season Black Carrier? Answer the question in the widget below for your chance to win! Contest ends Monday October 10th at 11:59PM EST. Rules and Regulations.
This contest is now closed. Congratulations to our winner Alena! Thank you to everyone who participated.
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