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the mommyhood memos: tips and tricks for traveling with an infant

Sunday, June 6, 2010

tips and tricks for traveling with an infant

Call me crazy, but when my son was 7 weeks old we were saying goodbye to Daddy and boarding an American-bound plane from Australia for a 10-day visit to see my family. If my husband could have come, he would have, but circumstances wouldn’t allow at the time. Still, we felt it am important part of Levi’s life to meet the rest of my family early on (or, more accurately, for them to meet him).

I’ve done my fair share of travelling the globe over the last 14 years (both independently and with my work), and would consider myself somewhat of an unofficial expert on the matter… But traveling with a newborn was a completely new challenge! It was crazy, but I was up for it. Here’s what I learned and want to pass on to other adventurous mommies:

12. Plan ahead. This cannot be overemphasized! By nature, when it comes to travelling at least, I am a “winger”. Meaning, yes, I like to have my tickets booked in advance… but things like hotels and itineraries, and places to go, well, I’ve always thought those were best left to “feel” my way through once I hit the ground. But a baby changes everything! I could not have done this trip well unless I had put some thought into it ahead of time: what I would bring, what I would borrow, where I would stay and go, and how I would get from place to place. You get the idea. Plan it baby, plan it!

11. Minimize your gear. Isn’t this one a no-brainer? I had one suitcase, one diaper bag as my carry-on, and a stroller (plus my precious baby cargo) and it still felt like a mountain of gear! If you travel with more than one suitcase and more than one carry-on… you’re asking for trouble! (I speak from experience. Even though I left Australia with what I’m recommending here… I returned with an extra carry-on AND an extra suitcase, jam-packed with pressies from all Levi’s adoring fans. It was great to be well-stocked with clothes, toys and little baby books… but hard to manage for mommy!) In summary, if possible, avoid too much luggage… or at least think about it long and hard before biting off more than you can carry on your own in one trip! (And for the record—just this once—the extra luggage on the way home it was worth it.)

10. Reserve a bulk head seat (and a bassinet if it’s available) and board the plane early. I hate boarding planes early. I drive my husband nuts with this one. But seriously, who likes to spend more time sitting in that confined space than you absolutely have to?! I like to be free as long as possible and only jump on the plane during the final boarding call. Babies change everything! Get on that plane as early as possible so that you can make sure to stow your gear in a place that’s as convenient as possible. And do reserve the bulk head seats (and a bassinet for long-haul flights). This will give you a place to tend to your baby as comfortably as humanly possible while camping out in a glove-box.

9. Along with packing bubby's change of clothes in your carry-on… pack yourself a change of shirt as well. Not much explanation needed here! We all know that spit up and blowouts reach far beyond the personal space of our innocent little bubs. It's best to prepare for the worst!

8. Feed your babe on take off and landing. This keeps their little jaws going and their ears adjusting to the changing elevation… and keeps them from screaming their heads off (hence keeping you from being beaten needlessly by that rude guy two rows back). Oh yeah, and most importantly it helps your sweet one to avoid the unnecessary pain of blocked ears.

7. Take a few key familiar items from home. For me this meant traveling with a portable soft bassinet. Could I have done without it? Technically yes, but I decided since my bub and I would be sleeping in five different locations over the course of two weeks, it would serve him to provide some consistency for his immediate sleeping environment at least. I packed my clothes in the bassinet and then packed it in my suitcase, so really it didn’t take up that much more room… but it did give him a cozy place to snuggle into each night, even though the rest of his surroundings were constantly shifting.

6. Don’t order a caramel macchiato an hour before boarding. Yes, it tastes good, so good... but it also creates the need for an extra trip to the loo before it’s “convenient.” Ever tried to hold a baby while going to the bathroom? All I can say is... don’t. I wouldn’t advise asking the next lady in line to hold your wee one either (not that I've tried that one!). So hold off on that coffee (or coke) until just before boarding the plane. That way, when nature calls one of the friendly flight attendants can attend to your darling while you use the facilities. Those adoring flight attendants are safe – they’re definitely not leaving the plane – and you score some points by giving them some cuddle time with the cutest of all passengers. (Points that may come in handy later when you’re desperate for a snack or an extra drink at 3:00am!)



5. Smile going through check-in and security and customs, and politely ask about jumping the que. You’d be surprised at how far a nice smile, a polite question, and a gorgeous baby will get you. Doors will be opened... but you mustn’t be afraid to ask!

4. Build in extra time... for everything. Okay so this is a rule for mommyhood in general. No more last-minute flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants for this young lady! A baby makes everything take twice—--ok three times—-as long. Expect the unexpected and plan accordingly!

3. Use a baby carrier or wrap and try to get your babe to sleep at strategic transit times. I tried to time my bubby’s feeds and naps so that he’d go to sleep just before check-in. This would buy me enough time to get checked in, get through security, and find my gate before my active little guy decided he wanted my non-existent third and fourth hands. Believe me, hands free in an airport is the only way to travel with an infant! (Love the moby wrap for this purpose!)

2. Don’t stress about your schedule, but do try to keep a rhythm. I have no idea how to help your little one conquer jetlag... so don’t ask me for a magic solution. But, I did find it helpful to not watch the clock and try to hyper-schedule his transitions. Instead I tried to keep him in a consistent rhythm, which for us is eat/wake/sleep... eat/wake/sleep. (On our way east it took four nights of being up until midnight or 1:00am before I began being able to get him to bed at a reasonable hour; going west on the way home, it only took two nights. But in both instances it took a week or more for him to fully adjust to the new time zone. Don’t rush the little munchkin, but pay attention to their cues and help them through it.)

1. Keep a sense of humour. Lastly, and most importantly, keep a positive outlook! Don’t let the extra stress of travelling with an infant rob you of the special time you have to bond with your baby as you take them on a new adventure to discover new things and new lands. Things will go wrong. Plans will go askew. Babies will confuse night for day. But really, who wouldn’t enjoy making memories like trying to use a bustling airport bathroom with your baby strapped onto your chest in a moby wrap? After all, you’ve got to have something to put in the baby book...

Yes mommy friends... traveling with an infant is possible! It’s also fun and eternally memorable!

Take courage – you can do it!!






P.S. I just noticed that Levi happens to be sleeping in every single photo I used in this post... it's an illusion folks - don't be fooled! Those may be the only four times he slept during the entire trip.... ;)

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12 Comments:

At May 10, 2010 at 5:58 PM , Anonymous Rebekah said...

Hey! I was just browsing your blog but I'm not gonna read this one because this was going to be one of my upcoming posts! LOL!

 
At May 10, 2010 at 9:13 PM , Blogger adriel said...

love it bek! i don't mind. swapping tips is part of the reason i'm writing this blog! you go for it. :)

 
At May 12, 2010 at 2:49 AM , Anonymous Jill said...

Great posting. I've also given a lot of thought to traveling with a baby, since I will be doing it sometime fairly soon. Do you have any idea what weight those airline bassinets hold? We have one reserved, but I am afraid my little one will be too big for it once our flight date comes. Did Levi show any signs of discomfort with take offs and landings? People keeping asking me if its safe to travel with such a young baby, the ear thing is the only concern I'm aware of, am I missing something?

 
At May 12, 2010 at 7:04 AM , Blogger adriel said...

That's a great question! The woman seated next to me had a 22-month-old and he was sleeping in it! I think the airlines cut you off at 24 months. :) Weight-wise it was no issue; he did have his legs hanging out over the edge though - pretty cute and funny. He slept curled up into it most of the time and seemed happy and fairly cozy. And yeah, there should be no concerns about traveling with a bub health-wise as far as I know other than the ears adjusting to the elevation (which should be easily avoided). I think people can get a bit over-the-top with paranoia about babies in general, but when it comes to flying the reality is that they are little humans and if we can fly so can they! :) Maybe those folks are just secretly jealous of your upcoming adventue and want to keep you home. ;) Happy travels!!! x

 
At May 15, 2010 at 10:38 PM , Anonymous Debi Adams said...

This is a great post! Travelling tips are always needed...especially for those that don't travel much. As you have more babies you will add to the list! I travelled back in August on my own with a 2 1/2 year old and 14month old while 6months pregnant...alone! WOW that was a trip and learned a few things myself. teehee

 
At June 3, 2010 at 3:03 AM , Blogger Mama Hen said...

Great tips! I can't believe you did that trip by yourself. It can be a pain to travel and with a baby - wow! Good for you! have a great day!

Mama Hen

 
At June 3, 2010 at 3:22 AM , Blogger flyrish said...

Awesome tips! I'm trying to decide if traveling to Rome with my toddler is worth it for my cousin's wedding in October, but this gives me hope. Great to know about the bassinet, too. Thanks for this!

 
At June 3, 2010 at 8:13 AM , Blogger The Mommy said...

Great tips! I agree with all of them and can totally relate. I could chat with you on this one for hours:)
We traveled on a 16 hour flight with my 5 month old twin boys to see my family in India. We went for the same reason as yours, we wanted the rest of the family to see them early on. Although I couldn't ever go alone with two babies and my husband was with me.
I was on another long flight with my mom on our way back and my kids were 10 months old then. I
would say it is definitely better to travel when they are younger and not mobile.
The second time was more challenging because they wanted to explore and would hardly fit in the bassinets (those things are so small and flimsy)
But, isn't it great how you are allowed to jump long lines and you are right, if you dare to do it, you will make amazing memories:)
You have put everything together very well:)

 
At June 3, 2010 at 8:14 AM , Blogger The Mommy said...

BTW, I have passed you a blog award because you are so awesome! Enjoy it and enjoy your day.

 
At July 20, 2010 at 10:18 PM , Anonymous Maureen said...

Awesome list! :D All very true! You're one brave, Mama. The first time I flew internationally with my son was when he was around 8/9 months.

 
At July 20, 2010 at 11:44 PM , Blogger Broccoli Cupcake said...

Love this post! Practical but made me laugh. I didn't know you could reserve a bassinet on flights. Mine are 5 and 2 but I'll be passing that tip on to friends. I'm getting ready to check out your camping list next. We're planning a trip with our boys.

 
At July 21, 2010 at 1:30 AM , Blogger becca said...

that was a fabulous post! i'll definitely remember those tips when the time comes. thanks for sharing. i voted for you!

 

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