Guest Blogger: Marni Kent: traveling internationally with infants

By Marni Kent 2012 all rights reserved

As a nanny who is well traveled I have a good bit of experience with the dilemma of trying to change a baby’s diaper (although I try to get nonstop flights as much as possible and that helps a lot!). If you’re lucky, one of the restrooms on the plane will be equipped with a changing table. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen too often. As an alternative find a restroom in the airport between flights for the change, as long as you have time. If you have to do it on the plane and there is no changing table, there are a couple of different methods that work ok. 
If your little one is small enough to fit on your lap, you can sit on the toilet and lay them on your lap to do the change. If they’re too big for that, you can put the lid down, lay a changing pad over top and lay them on that (my least favorite method, I only use it in an emergency). If the diaper’s just wet, you can put the lid down and have your little one stand on the toilet while you do a standing diaper change. It takes a little practice, but is surprisingly easy (and better than laying them down amid the yuckiness that may be surrounding the toilet)!

And never in the seats or cabin. Change in an airport whenever possible and if not possible then try changing them on your lap in the bathroom or on the toilet seat cover once on board.I have traveled extensively in the last 8 months (AA) Carry a changing pad, package of wet wipes, scented disposal bags and enough diapers with you…. we also practised “quick” changes at home to get our technique down pat.
The rich and famous are not immune from the horrors of diaper changing – even when flying on an airplane. Katherine Heigl, who is mom to 20-month-old daughter Naleigh, describes a recent mid-flight incident saying:

This is grown-up kind of poo. I’m in this airplane and they didn’t have these fold down tables to change her on; it’s just a tiny little bathroom. I couldn’t put her on the floor. I had to jam her head in the corner and lay her across the toilet and kneel below her and it was brutal. I was like, ‘What did you eat?’ I had to walk back to get her because she was sitting with the nanny and trying to sleep and that whole plane smelled really bad. I had to wake her up because it was just really mean to all the people around her. Now I’m so committed to potty training.”

Here are some handy things to pack:
  • Your child’s lovey or blanket.
  • A light blanket, jacket or sweater for your child that you can add or remove depending on the temperature of the plane
  • Any electronics or cameras you are travelling with as these often “disappear” from checked baggage and most airlines will not cover them. In a pinch, saved pictures on a digital camera are great entertainment for toddlers and small children.
  • A magazine can double as entertainment for a child. Send them on “treasure hunts” looking for a picture of something specific in the magazine, or flip the pages asking them to make up stories about the pictures they see. For very young children, it can be entertaining just to look at and name the pictures in a magazine. An empty sippy or bottle if needed.
  • Non perishable food for your children, especially if you’re travelling during mealtime. I’ve never successfully gotten baby or toddler food on a flight, and while older children may be able to eat the meals, many airlines are cutting back to light snacks or nothing at all. Nothing makes kids grumpy faster than being hungry and having nothing to eat. If you cannot bring something from home, pick something up in the airport. If your child requires special utensils (E.g. a baby spoon) bring one.
  • Our favorites: sliced cheese, freeze dried fruit, Cheerios. puffed wheat. You’re likely to be in close quarters with other kids, so avoid allergens like peanut butter. If your child is old enough for solids, avoid liquids like applesauce (which need to be declared separately at security).
  • If you have a baby who drinks formula, it’s easiest to bring powdered formula and mix it with water on the plane. Note: Never use tap water from the airplane bathroom to rinse or fill a bottle as it may not be safe.
Milk if your child will need it during takeoff or landing. Note that you need to buy this after clearing security at the airport. While some airlines are happy to provide milk during takeoff and landing, others carry enough milk only for coffee service and will not make more than a few ounces available for your child.

Marni Kent
2002 INA Nanny of the Year 
Authored the INA Mentor/protege program 
Spoken at Denver area nanny conference, INA, nannypalooza 
Household manager. Baby nurse,
Career nanny 26 years, current living in SF. 
Travel with executive and infant