Infant Travel: Traveling With Baby Makes Three And Then Some!
Hitting the road when you have a baby changes everything. Travel just ain’t what it used to be. Even me, a travel expert, was daunted by the idea of traveling with my daughter by plane for the first time. As with everything there is a learning curve and you get better with experience. I’ll save you some of the trouble and share some of my learninngs from our very first family vacation.
Lesson one: Take the family lane at security. Don’t try to rush things. If you have a baby I highly recommend wearing him/her through security in a baby bjorn or ergo which you won’t be required to remove. It makes the process much easier as you don’t have to pass the child back and forth. FOr kids old enough to walk on their own have the parent go through first and then the child follow to them immediately. Carrying our infant kept the entire airport experience manageable for us. We also used the stroller as a way of pushing our carry-on items through the airport and then we gate checked the stroller at the last minute.
Lesson two: Bring it. Despite all of my usual packing advice to pare down, take out, and leave it home I can honestly say that a well stocked toy bag was a real help on the trip. We used almost every toy during the cross-country flight but we also had a host of familiar options to play with as we moved around to various unfamiliar environments on our trip.
Lesson three: Avoid over stimulation at all costs. What I wasn’t prepared for was how interesting everything about all of these new places would be. It was hard to account for how distracted my daughter could be! Everything about the interior of the airplane cabin was fascinating the overhead lights and windows to the passengers nearby and passing flight attendants. I could barely get her to eat. I had brought along a muslin cloth for more discreet nursing but it turned out to be a lifesafer for napping along the entire trip. I could use it to shield her eyes from the environment around us. This is critical because an overstimulated baby = a tired baby. A tired baby = a crying baby. A crying baby = frazzled parents and unhappy people around you. Frazzled parents = unhappy baby. This tends to lead to a really unproductive cycle that you want to avoid from the get-go.
Lesson four: Have a well stocked diaper bag. It’s easy to think you still have supplies in there but then open it up in need and discover that someone used the last diaper or wipe. I also keep it filled with an extra blanket, change of clothes, and additional burp cloth and favorite toy. I also made it a mini-medical kit with thermometer, nail clippers, and bandaids. I was enormously grateful for each of these items at different points throughout our trip!
Lesson five: Know where the local hospital is in case of an emergency. This came in handy when our niece was crawling and took a fall and needed a few stitches. Everything turned out ok but we were so releieved that we knew the way to the hospital during the frenzy immediately following her fall.
Lesson six: Be flexible. I had it all planned out how we would handle the schedule on the road from eating to sleeping to adjusting to the time zine change. This all had to go out the window early on and I had to roll with it. Rather than freak out about it I decided to look at the week as a whole. Did she eat less one day but more the next? Same for sleep. The less anxious I was about it the better things seemed to go. Returning home was the biggest adjustment and it took a few days to return to our normal routine.
Lesson seven: Spend up. This is a time when it’s worth getting an extra seat if you need it, or in our case, we used miles to upgrade. On my next flight I’ve alread bought a premium seat with a little extra legroom so that I can sit in coach but still have enough room to keep my daughter on my lap. I found it really useful to put a blanket on my lap and create an area to play and give her tummy-time as a change of pace on the long flight. But also with our rental car we opted for a bigger vehicle to ensure we’d have four doors and be able to maneuver in and out with the car seat.
Lesson eight: Plan in advance. Reserve the items you need in advance. If you’re staying at a hotel and you need a bed, or if you require an infant seat for a car, restaurant, or anything else it’s smart to plan ahead as these items are usually limited in numbers and given out on a first-come first-serve basis.
Lesson nine: Perform a danger sweep in every new place. When you arrive take a walk around and remove items that could be harmful to your child, depending on their age and/or stage at the time. We took our own pack-n-play so that we could always set up a safe place to leave our daughter without worry.
Lesson ten: Have fun! After all of this preparation your work is done and you can relax and enjoy. It’s time to show your child the wonders of traveling. We got to show our daughter the sand and sea for the very first time. It’s something I’ll never forget. Though she may not remember we have pictures to prove it.
My name: Amy is my name, but I'll answer to Ame, Ames or Aimee.
How I earn my keep: My beat is travel, but my passion is collecting stories from people I meet on the road.
Hotel I could move into: Must I pick only one?! The Palacio Duhau a Park Hyatt in Buenos Aires tops my list. For the stunning restoration of the palace and tasteful new tower that create a thoughtful intersection of old and new. Every public and private space captivates. I'd move for the grand Alvear entry as much as for the manicured garden. For the wine and cheese tastings, the dulce de leche, the art gallery, the flower shop and for all the careful attention to detail that went into creating a hotel that is transcendent. If I were to pick a hotel that most felt like me, it would be The Inn at the Manor in the Cotswolds. Oh, I could definitely live there curled up with a book in a leather chair in the bar or outside among the English wildflowers. If I wanted to live in a land far away, the Ngoro Ngoro Crater Lodge would make a unique home with a view of the crater floor from every room (including the loo!), sumptuous beds, endless roses and the most unusual neighbors - massive water buffalo who won't bother you if you stay close to your Maori guide.
If I won the lottery, I'd live in: A historic farmhouse with an enormous barn and hundreds of acres tucked into a small town in New England or a Malibu beach house with stunning views and the surf just steps away. On second thought, winning the lottery means I could jet from coast to coast and enjoy them both.
Favorite way to get around: By foot. Whether in the city or country, I find the best way to get to know someplace is ambling around to discover and sample the distinct sights, sounds, smells, and tastes a place has to offer.
View that took my breath away: Looking toward the sky in Arusha and watching black and white Colobus monkeys scramble among the treetops, jumping from one tree to the next, floating through the sky like a primate version of Superman. Monkeys know how to have a good time!
My most beloved place in the whole world is: The place I visited last. What can I say? I'm fickle.
Follow me on twitter @amyziff