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It's hard to believe, but traveling with a new baby is a piece of cake compared with hitting the road with a squirmy toddler. If you're feeling up to it, then by all means pack up the diaper bag and make the trip to visit your far-flung relatives. Your baby will probably sleep most of the way there and back, but be sure to bring along some soft books, musical toys, or stuffed animals for entertainment when she's awake.
Travel can disrupt an older baby's sense of security and routine, especially when visiting an unfamiliar place or meeting lots of strangers. Schedule plenty of downtime away from new faces to let him decompress. Bring along a favorite comfort item, such as a blanket or stuffed animal.
Your baby may still sleep most of the way to and from your destination (especially during car rides), but is likely to be more demanding when she's awake than she was a few months ago. Bring soft toys and books (they're easier to pack than more bulky items) to keep him entertained.
If you have an early walker or an active crawler, watch out: He won't be too happy about spending time restrained in a car seat or on a plane. If you're driving long distances, plan for rest stops to give your newly mobile child a chance to move around. If you're traveling by plane, give him a chance to spread his wings at the airport before boarding.
Holiday time means more cars on the road – and a greater risk of accidents. Pay particular attention to how your car seat is installed. The National Safe Kids Campaign found that over 80 percent of child restraints are used incorrectly.
Common mistakes include using the wrong seat for a child's age and size, placing a child younger than 2 years old in a forward-facing seat, not securing the seat tightly in the vehicle, and not securing the child correctly in the seat.
You can make sure your baby's seat is properly installed by visiting a child passenger safety seat inspection location – find one on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website or call (866) 732-8243 for locations.
You're not required to buy a plane seat for kids under the age of 2, but we recommend that you do. To keep your child safe during takeoff and landing, and in the event of turbulence, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FFA) recommend that children under the age of 4 be securely fastened in certified child restraints while flying. You'll have a more relaxing trip with the extra space and more peace of mind knowing that your child is safely strapped into her own seat.
Remember, bad weather during the holiday season can put a crimp in the best-laid travel plans. You might even have to hole up unexpectedly in a hotel for a day or more. And it's no party holding a dirty, hungry child on a crowded airplane as it circles an airport. Prepare for the unexpected by packing a carry-on bag with extra diapers, clothes, formula, food — whatever you think you might need if you're delayed.
Read more tips on traveling with a new baby.