and Traveling Abroad with Kids… while Pumping
I’m not going to sugar coat this, traveling can be stressful enough as it is, even when you don’t have two young children in tow. But try adding in the fact that you are traveling abroad and need to arrive 2+ hours earlier to the airport, you have to go through customs, there are time changes and currency exchanges, etc… and your head may feel like it’s going to explode.
Oh, and then there’s the fact that you are going to have to travel home with 200+ ounces of milk that you pumped while “on vacation” (like I recently did), and it almost seems easier to just stay home… [Except not really because I absolutely loved our trip and wish we could have stayed longer!!]
While I can’t promise you that it’s all going to be cake, I can at least give some helpful advice when it comes to traveling abroad with breastmilk, or even flying with breastmilk, in general, since I’ve done it multiple times – and how to make it all as seamless as possible.
Before I get into the actual tips, I’ll give you a little background on my latest trip: It was our 5th Wedding Anniversary and we decided to go back to where we spent our Honeymoon – Grand Cayman. We stayed in the same hotel (The Caribbean Club), but this time brought our 2 kids (our son is 3 ½ and daughter is 13 months). We also brought my MIL, which was great because we stayed in a place where she had her own room, and my husband and I actually got to go out to dinner by ourselves one night without having to worry about our littles.
I still nurse my daughter (and plan to until she is at least 18 months, as I did my son). I make a very large quantity of milk and so also provide it to 2 other families, and have for their entire lives, thus far. Since these babies rely on me to [literally] feed them, I don’t ever get a break from pumping, and in fact need to make sure I always eat, drink and pump enough as to keep up my supply. This is the reason why “pumping and dumping” on vacation is never an option, and adds an extra element of things to worry about while traveling with kids.
So again, having traveled many times while still needing to pump and save, these are my biggest tips and things I wish would have been spelled out for me.
Advice and Tips for Traveling with Breastmilk:
- All airlines consider items relating to breastfeeding and young children’s feeding needs as a “free pass”. This means:
- You do not have to pay to travel with coolers you use/are going to use to store breastmilk.
- Your pump can be taken on the plane and is not considered a carry-on.
- You can bring enough milk on the plane to feed your baby for the duration of the flight, as well as an additional 2-3 hours longer, in case there is a delay.
- Water and liquids are OK for kids, as long as you are OK with security testing them.
- For large quantities of breastmilk:
- Bring a cooler or cooler box that is OK to be checked.
- Mark it as “Perishable” and “Contains Human Milk”.
- Include contact info directly on the box.
- I suggest including several large gel ice packs, as opposed to dry ice. While I used to only ship with dry ice, I have been using gel packs for the past year (at least once per week) and have never had any “melting” issues.
- If you do choose to use dry ice, you must write that on the box. You are not allowed to include more than 5lbs; write “Contains 5lbs of dry ice”.
- Leave the box open until you “check it” so the attendant can see what is inside; then tape it shut. Bring your own tape; they usually don’t have any.
- Make sure the attendant sticks a “luggage tag” on the box that states your final destination.
- As a side note, carseats, strollers, etc. are allowed to be checked for free when you initially check your luggage. You can also bring strollers up to the gate. They will be stored underneath the plane and immediately be brought out for you upon your arrival. (However, sometimes they do take a while to bring them up, so you may have to be patient).
I will say, I was very anxious and hesitant about having to pump and then bring home so much breastmilk on the plane, but am pleasantly surprised at how much of a non-issue it really was. Granted, I was thoroughly prepared and have shipped more boxes of breastmilk than I could ever count. But still… This was my first time traveling abroad with breastmilk and I am happy to say that it was a success!
Plus, our vacation was absolutely incredible and worth every little “inconvenience” that my pumping may have caused ;). And most importantly, I have 2 [other] babies who are happy and well fed as well – along with my daughter, of course 😉