Pardon my absence – between fleeing a hurricane, delicately avoiding baby jet lag, and catching up on work, this blog has fallen slightly to the wayside. In the meantime, a post has been stewing since I returned home from Virginia and mulled the finer points Miles’ first cross country trip.
Traveling with a baby does not need to be a source of massive anxiety. In fact, it can be downright enjoyable! Here are some tips that I think are helpful:
- Don’t expect anything. This goes for traveling by yourself as well as with a baby. Air travel can be full of unseen variables that cause delays, missed flights, hunger, crankiness, etc. etc. Babies are also totally unpredictable. I slept less than I should have before our flight because I was afraid that Miles would scream and cause the whole plane to hate us. Guess what? That didn’t happen (the hating us part) even when he did cry a little bit. So don’t spend time worrying about every little thing before you leave. Just…
- Be prepared. Have enough supplies on hand in case you are delayed, especially if you cloth diaper. I made sure we had extra healthy snacks for me, extra diapers, extra clothes, and Miles’ favorite music at the ready on my smartphone in case of a delay or a meltdown.
- Nurse up, nurse down. As in, feed the kid during takeoff and landing to prevent the horrible ear popping that comes with childhood flying. I remember dreading it well. The advice I got was to let him get hungry before takeoff and landing so I could be sure he would nurse. Well, my little boy has no qualms with nursing anytime, so that wasn’t necessary – but if you think it will be, make sure your timing is right.
- Speaking of cloth diapers, my mother gently suggested that I try disposables for the plane because they would be “so much easier.” I stubbornly refused, but in the back of my mind I kept wondering whether she was right or not. Now I can share with much certainty that using cloth while traveling was fine – and perhaps even more convenient than disposables! Here’s what I did:
- Since Miles is still pretty small at four months, I could (pretty) easily change him in my lap on the planes with the help of the plastic changing mat that came with my diaper bag. Since I had the wet bag with us, there was no need to get up and throw the diaper away (can you even do that on a plane?) This prevented any screaming fits while the fasten seatbelt sign was illuminated. Little man hates a wet freshie. (Practice this in the car a few times before you go).
- Brought extra diapers in my dedicated diaper carry on. I think I carried twenty overall, and ended up using about half of them. I also brought twice the wipes, covers, and clothes that I needed. None of this ended up being necessary, but I was glad it was there. As always, my carry on was a backpack instead of a shoulder bag. They stuff under the seat in front of you better and are easier to carry in the airport, IMO. You can also fit more freshies in a backpack!
- Headed to a grocery store immediately after landing (and going through a horrible rental car experience, see below) for some baby detergent. We didn’t bring our own because I was sure we could find something suitable at our destination. If you are not sure of this, however, I’m sure an old shampoo bottle in a sturdy zip-top bag would do the trick. In fact, I wish I had thought of that.
- We were staying at a friend’s house with a washer/dryer. If you don’t have this luxury, may I suggest a Candlewood Suites or similar establishment with free 24 hour laundry facilities? Otherwise, seek out the best (?) local laundromat before you go. Having to do laundry during a vacation was new for me, but the diaper routine is so down pat at this point that it wasn’t really a big issue. I imagine having to deal with limited laundry facility hours would be a drag, though – but not a deal breaker.
- Get a degree in car seats. Sorry, I don’t know where you find one of those. Maybe everyone in the whole world is just better than me at installing car seats and/or keeping their cool after a fifteen hour day of traveling. Either way, please confirm your car seat arrangements before you get to your destination. And don’t be surprised when you arrive to a car seat that is not installed. This is not an error in customer service, it is a liability issue (although don’t be surprised if the customer service is bad on top of that). In hindsight, I should have gotten better at installing our own wonderful, magnificent, safe, convertible car seat and checked it as luggage instead of trusting that the bottom-of-the-line too-big bucket seat that couldn’t get tightened enough to be safe. Of course, the airline would probably have destroyed said beautiful car seat in transit. So really, I don’t know what you should do. I sat in the backseat with Miles and prayed we did not get into an accident. Any better ideas for the future would be much appreciated!
- Once you get to your destination, set a schedule. Kids thrive on routine, even during vacation! We only had a three hour time difference, so I followed what I have always done while visiting the East Coast as a left coaster – I kept my schedule just where it was. I would go to bed around 1 am and wake up around 7:30 am (out West, this would be 10 pm bedtime and 4:30 am wake up, of course). For Miles, bedtime around 10 pm (7 pm PST) suited him just fine. Of course, this really only works from west to east and not vice versa, so I will echo the advice of a fellow mom I met recently: pay attention to the sequence, not the timing. We kept our bedtime routine (mostly) intact – freshie, jammies, story, bed – but the location and timing were a little off every night.
- Speaking of sleeping, I was faced with the challenge of cosleeping without my husband. I didn’t want to put Miles in a crib just because we were traveling! The sleeping arrangements worked out so I had to get creative with a twin bed. I pulled that mattress down onto the (carpeted) floor and set up a diaper station right next to it. Miles never fell off the mattress even though he has just discovered rolling! It worked perfectly. I did pack an extra thin but warm blanket (for me) just in case, since I don’t like to use a traditional comforter when he is in bed with me. Most likely you can find an extra one where you are staying, but better safe than sorry I guess (I have a huge suitcase).
- Stay present. We did have about a half an hour of off and on fussing on our last plane ride. I could feel my blood pressure rising, and I started to get that “oh man why the hell did I do this” feeling. Being the perfect little biofeedback mechanism that he is, Miles started to escalate right along with me. Thankfully, I caught myself on the way up and started to focus on my breath rather than the rising emotions. Ahhh. Both of us calmed just in time to nurse for landing.
Most importantly, have fun! I can’t believe how much fun it was traveling with Miles. The plane ride went by more quickly just because he is so entertaining (and requires lots of freshies!) I barely had to wake up my Kindle the whole time. Once we arrived, the family love around us felt amplified with the excitement of showing Miles off for the first time. Although I got a bit less sleep, visited like crazy, and found myself fleeing from the Frankenstorm, I came home feeling quite nourished.
I know that my one (mostly) idyllic experience could have easily been completely different. What travel tips and stories do you have to share?