Pack Your Bags

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It is that time of year again – the holiday season. This time of year is full of visits with family and friends. For some reason I always sing this song in my head “over the hill and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go..” as we are making the trek to visit our loved ones.

I have come up with a new version now that we live here “over the ocean and through several airports to Grandmother’s house we go..” After all that is really what a trip to see loved ones involves now. It is a much bigger undertaking full of so much more planning. I must admit now that I have children I do not like to travel to visit loved ones and I much prefer if they come to me.

I have to put in so much work and effort to get us ready for the trip and make sure we have everything packed and then there is the traveling itself. Maybe if my girls were better travelers I would enjoy it more. But my girls are the loud, yelling rowdy kids that everyone rolls their eyes at and whispers about. If this wasn’t hard enough now that we live here in beautiful Okinawa the trip to Grandmother’s house is about 4 times longer and let’s not forget the time difference.

I realized that if I ever plan on making a visit home while we live here I am going to have do a lot more planning and preparation than before. I am also going to need help from those who have managed the trip before with relative success. Turns out I am not the only parent who needs help. I received and email last week from Katie.

“I’m a new mom…I’ll be traveling back to the states for the holidays in December, and am wondering if anyone has some tips for traveling that far with a six month old!!  What is on your “Must Pack” list?  How did you handle switching from day to night with your babies?  Any tips for things you wish you’d known before flying?  I’d appreciated any and all advice!”

So can you lovely readers help us out? Please share your traveling wisdom with us both!

16 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you all so much for the GREAT information from those of you who’ve “been there”!! I posted the original question and keep checking back in to find even more great advice. Thank you!!!

  2. We’ve done two overseas moves ( in our sons three year existence)….One thing he always does is vomits (only on long plane rides). Bring a few extra pairs of clothes. Also, as he’s been bigger and weve taken shorter trips (I don’t bring the car seat)- which I found he is much harder to manage on the plane. If I bring his seat, and I tell him the pilot says….You have to stay strapped in- he’s somehow better than squirrming and kicking all over the place.

  3. Sorry, me again! That link above didn’t click to the right page for some reason. So when you open it click on the blue “Kanku Lounge” thing on top to open the correct page. Then it will show you pics of the regular (non-members only lounge) w/ playground and rates.

  4. If you are traveling through Osaka airport, there is this relaxation lounge place that is GREAT!!! We stopped there with our 4 month old on the layover to the States and coming back. You pay per hour (or half hour?) and it’s quiet and clean and has MASSAGE chairs and unlimited access to their drink bar. There’s a playground in there and you can also rent private family rooms w/ TVs and couches. I think it’s on the 2nd floor but not certain. I almost wanted a longer layover.

    Ask for the bulkhead and bassinette (if your babes still fits in it). Baby Bjorn/sling. Large blanket for baby to play on airport floors/tuck in bassinette/keep warm.

    People were very very friendly, even when baby cried. The savvy travellers should have those noise blocking headphones anyway!

    No advice on the time change. A week on the east coast and a couple on the west and then Japan…and his schedule was all kinds of crazy when we got back!

    Have fun!

  5. Great topic! I freaked out about bringing milk here when we were flying out here from LA. A flight attendant told me not to count on them having enough for everyone. So, I bought a stash and had no way to keep it cold but literally a “sick” bag filled with another bag and ice. That flight attendant obviously had never been on an international flight because the flight attendant on the international flight thought I was crazy when I mentioned the conversation. She said there was plenty to go around for all:) So, don’t worry about that. Also, there’s a company that makes great earplugs for adults to regulate ear pressure. I’ve relied on these things for years and they work great. I saw that they also have kid sized ones now too! Here’s a link to check them out…http://www.cirrushealthcare.com/EarPlanes-C8.aspx. I used to buy them at CVS or Walmart back in the day but I’m sure you can find a company that will ship them over here too. Good luck!

  6. PS – one more thing. 🙂 Let your kids be kids. Don’t stress out about them acting like children. There’s gonna be alot of grumpy people out there, don’t sweat them or their thoughts about your darlings. Make the trip enjoyable, be noisy WITH your kids, focus on the experience of being with them instead of struggling to make them conform to adult behavior to placate stoogy travelers. Go with the flow, stay as relaxed as possible – the kids will pick up on your laid back attitude and they will be calmer, too.

  7. I just made the trek to the states from Oki for business – our flight from Osaka was delayed for more than six hours, which made our travel time a whopping FORTY SEVEN hours. We ended up in Chicago at 2:30 AM, everything in the airport was closed and our layover was hours and hours. My best travel advice to anyone, regardless of how old their kids are is to make sure you have plenty of SNACKS and wear COMFORTABLE SHOES (forget looking like a fashionista you’ll regret it thirty hours into the travel time) just be cozy and make sure you have a sweatshirt – temps in America are cold, even in the airports!

  8. Thank you all! My blood pressure has dropped 20 points just with your information. Charise, I am also a germ nut and the lysol wipes will be a must. The last thing I need is sick kids when we get there. God bless you all.

  9. I would recommend checking out the website BABY’s AWAY for things you might need once you get to your destination. We used them when we went on vacation to Hawaii and it was great. Saved us having to bring lots of baby equipment with us. I think there is others that will even deliver diapers and such. As for the plane ride I would recommend a portable DVD player with two batteries. Sometimes Benadryl is a good option for helping the kids sleep, but check with your DR first.

  10. We were on a 23+ hour airplane ride from Texas to Japan with at the time a 16 mths old. Milk i bought at terminals and the flight attendents gave me a ice filled waterproof bag to keep them in my bulkhead, another strongly reccommended perk in booking your airline seats, more room for little one to stretch legs. The flight attendents were super helpful and heated up the milk when I asked. And always make sure that your little one is drinking something when flight takes off and lands, due to air pressure in ears,unless they are sleeping and dont’ seem bothered. The Earplugs never heard of and hats never heard of that either, Air pressure is air pressure. ITs nice to be on a big flight because most likely there will be other mommies or daddies walking their little ones up and down the isles, so never feel like your bothering anyone. Oh don’t forget to bring a small bag of cleaning wipes, if your like me when it comes my child, I was very germ a phobic on the plane of complete strangers.
    I always kept an eye on certain toilets ,who were going in and coming out when i walked up to it, if i didn’t like it i’d find another one, thats just me though. Keep to your babes schedule as much as possible like pajamas for nite time and change of clothes for morning. My son only took 3 days to adapt to Japanese time, so no worries there. Oh I do agree with bringing an extra pair of clothes, so glad I did, i brought a new pair for my babe and just a new shirt for me and my husband, came in handy. They do offer bassinets in airplanes, for younger babes, look into that, and having his own carseat is fantastic, becuase after the first 8 hours or so you’ll want your own space to stretch out..Have fun and safe journey!!

  11. to answer Kristine – we PCS’ed here over the summer with our 2 year old & a dog. The plane ride wasn’t fun, to say the least. But we got a whopping 4 hour nap out of our daughter when it was her usual nighttime so that was nice. Our plane ride was 23+ hours!

    They had milk on the long flight, from Chicago to Tokyo. & I’m sure they could heat it up for you in the microwave.

    My daughter adjusted pretty quickly, within 3 days but I think that’s because of how little she slept before the flight. Our hotel messed up our booking & didn’t have pack&plays..so she went in the bed with us, but refused to sleep. The next day our flight was cancelled & she refused to sleep again. So by the time we finally got to Okinawa she was pretty tired.

  12. I have flown with my son at 3 weeks, six weeks, two months, six months, and then frequently eight through ten months. Most of those flights were alone, some were Space A, most were commercial, three were international.
    The last flights were the worst, because he was soooo much more mobile. I would not at this point ever travel with my son without him having a seat of his own. Six months, however, was relatively easy.
    I second the car seat advice. I have a bag for our car seat that makes carrying it much easier. Flying from Hawaii to Okinawa, I tried to do the bring the car seat to the gate and use it if there’s an empty seat thing, but I’m not sure if JAL doesn’t do that or if I didn’t explain myself well. Also, all those last domestic flights in the states were completely full and I couldn’t use it anyway. They REALLY are jamming them in. I found using a wrap and tying my son on me was much easier than using a stroller for navigating airports. Also great if you’re traveling alone because you can still get up and go to the bathroom on the plane without either having to leave your child behind or do the crazy juggle with your hands full. Have enough diapers to last you much longer than your travels will require. Have clothes for you both. A hat will also help hold in ear plugs for your baby if you want (I’ve also used bandaids to tape them in). Don’t bother bringing much to occupy yourself, you probably won’t use it and you’ll be annoyed you had to lug it around. An ipod to me is essential. Frequently give your baby saline nose spray. Some airlines have “baby meals” (I know JAL does) that you can call and reserve. Also on those international flights they sometimes have “infant bassinets” you can reserve for those bulkhead seats- 10kg weight limit. Good for babies who may not sleep well in the car seat. Some of the bathrooms on the larger planes have the fold down baby changing tables- look for the little picture and use those rather than doing the balancing act on the toilet seat.
    My philosophy was the opposite of Carol’s. I fed my son more often, whenever he wanted, to facilitate the adjustment to the time change. I think that helped him stay awake longer during the day so he was more ready to sleep normally at night. Coming back is definitely easier.
    I LOVE the Phil & Teds travel bed. It has saved my life on many occasions. Well worth the money. I also have their portable high chair, the me too. Also a life saver, we still use it all the time. And very light weight. I bought both on giggle.com and had them shipped to my first destination. Nice if family you’re staying with don’t have crib/highchair/etc.
    Just relax! And be flexible. And ignore anyone who’s mean. Most people are very helpful and friendly and understanding. I think especially during the holidays becaue most people are thinking about family. The flight attendants can be your best friends! And don’t be afraid to accept help from strangers.
    Sorry Kristine- I don’t know anything about milk availability. I know once I asked about a microwave because I had frozen baby food, and they didn’t have one. They can bring you hot water to make a sort of bath for whatever you need to heat, but it’d have to be small I guess. I think it depends on the plane you’re on. Hopefully someone else can give you better info on that one.

  13. We are coming to Okinawa in January with 1 and 2-year-old little boys. I am more afraid of the plane flight with our darling but oh so rowdy boys than anything else at this point. Dumb question but how do you prepare a bottle on a plane – my kids won’t do powdered milk. Will the flight attendant have milk, and a lot of it, can she heat it for me?

  14. Our son was three months old when we flew here to PCS, we took him to Hawaii and back at 5 months old , and just returned from a trip to Virginia and back with him at 7 months old.
    The best advice I got was to try anything and everything to get a bulkhead seat, the extra space is precious. If your child is travelling as a lap baby, take the car seat to the gate with you and ask if they have any empty seats and if you may bring it in the cabin. Sometimes you score and get an extra seat, although, they are packing flights these days so it is rare, but worth try.
    Our son had trouble going to sleep on the airplane with the noise and lights. We tried using a hat that would pull over his eyes like an eye mask. He slept longer with the hat, but didn’t like waking up with it over his eyes.
    As for the time difference. The time change was difficult, and I didn’t find a lot of advice out there on the internet on how to help an infant deal with a huge time difference–I wasn’t smart enough to write OkinawaHai to ask 🙂 We gritted our teeth an did our best to get through the nights and during the day, I usually feed on demand, but I tried to feed the baby meals and wake him in the morning based on the new time and limited daytime naps, within reason. I figured one thing that helps adults with time change is to adopt the new meal and sleep patterns so I tried to do it for my son, only in a gentle way. I guess I am trying to say I did set a schedule for the first week, but wasn’t totally rigid about it. If the baby needed food or sleep he wasn’t denied it, we just tried to manipulate his little world. My husband commented that he had never seen me mainline coffee before, but we all got through the time change, until it was time to return…
    I am not sure if my efforts made a difference, but that is what I did to try to deal with the time change on several overseas flights.

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