Technology journalist Amber MacArthur, 34, has done her share of travelling, sometimes with her son, 16-month-old Conner. The TV personality and author of Power Friending: Demystifying Social Media to Grow Your Business offers tips on travelling with young ones.
As a new mom, what's your top tip for travelling with a baby or young child?
Make sure you have stuff for them to do. What I've done is load up on content for my BlackBerry so I can access Teletoon for my son to watch on road trips. If we're travelling by plane, there are lots of applications available for children on our iPad. It's a good way to keep him entertained, although we all know that toddlers are not really distracted for long. However, it will buy you 10 or 15 minutes of free time.
Where's the best place to sit on a plane when travelling with kids?
Take advantage of pre-boarding so you can choose your seat and put all your stuff away – chances are you'll have lots of stuff. Make sure you sit toward the front of the plane so you're not stuck at the back when the plane lands. Kids are always anxious to get off and get on with the trip. Another good idea is to ask for the bulkhead seat at the front of the plane. It's the seat just before you get into first class or business class. There's more room for kids to move around.
What can you do if your child's ears hurt during takeoff and landing?
I did a plane trip with my son when he was only two months old and he was crying during takeoff. If you're nursing, it helps to nurse during takeoff and landing because sucking helps relieve the pressure on their ears. If you're not nursing, have a couple of bottles prepared so the baby or toddler will be sucking and their ears won't hurt as much.
If you have an older child, make sure they have something to drink. Get it ready before you take off because their ears can begin to hurt very quickly and they need to have fast access to it. A school-aged child can chew gum or suck on a hard candy to help avoid that pain. Explain in advance that their ears may hurt a bit so they're aware and aren't scared.
How do you make kids comfortable on a plane?
I always ask for extra pillows and blankets. If you have an older child, you can ask the flight attendant if they have any toys. Often they have little toy airplanes for kids.
If you haven't packed snacks, what child-friendly food can you find in an airport that you're allowed to take on the plane?
Go to a snack shop and see if they have fresh fruit or cheese and crackers. A lot of places sell those in little sealed containers that you can take on the plane, so your child can have a nutritious snack on the go.
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Do you have any advice for fellow passengers travelling without kids?
If you notice that there are moms or dads with very young children standing behind you in line at check-in or customs, and you're not in danger of missing your flight, a really great gesture is to change places with them, especially if the kids are fussy or upset.
Do you have a travel story to share?
A couple of months after my son was born, I was flying on my own while I was still breastfeeding. If you're away from your child for a while, your breasts can get engorged and it's very painful. What you can do is ask the flight attendant for some hot towels – those little steaming hot towels that they give out to people travelling in business class – and go into the bathroom and use them to help relieve the pressure. Another option would be to bring a hand pump along.
What's your worst experience travelling with kids, and what did you learn from it?
I've taken a few road trips with my son where he's gotten carsick. The first time it happened was in Chicago on a really hot day. I thought I was being such a smart mom because I had brought along a change of clothes, but within 20 minutes he got sick again and I didn't have any more clothes for him. By the end of the trip, he was actually naked in the car seat and it was a mess.
So bring lots of clothes along, not just one change, and lots of wipes and towels for cleaning up messes. Be prepared and organized, but don't bring more than you need. You can always buy things where you're going.