We have done a couple of weekends away involving short-haul flights, but we just returned from the first official vacation as a family and the word epic comes to mind. Two weeks, three countries, five flights totalling 30 hours in the air, two weddings and countless baby-viewings with friends and family; traveling long-haul with Baby N was a whole new ball game. One of the nice things about parenting is that you write your own rules… here are a few things we learnt along the way.
Milk that baby for everything she’s worth! Usually it’s the baby that does the milking, but the flights were payback time. By plopping her on top of the counter during check-in, we were offered the seats of our choice (even on the budget airlines that usually make you pay to choose a seat) and priority tags for all the luggage. Sans-baby, I never like to spend more time than I have to on the plane and always jump on last minute, but now I understand that being able to cut the queue at the gate is an essential advantage when you need to prepare your nest for the following 13 hours.
You can literally change a nappy anywhere. Why limit yourself to toilets with changing tables?! “Anywhere” includes (and these are all true): during takeoff with the baby seat belt fastened; on the back seat of a moving car; on the stainless steel counter at airport security where they rifle through your luggage looking for lighters and water bottles; and on the steps of Edinburgh castle.
Never underestimate the power of the nipple. Emotional and physical benefits of breastfeeding aside, when it comes to flying, boobs wins hand down. Whenever Baby N started to fuss, particularly during take-off and landing when the pressure got to her ears, B tucked her under the nursing cover and voila – silence! Endured a fair amount of wailing while two other families prepared and heated bottles for their children. I won’t pass judgment because I know breastfeeding isn’t possible for all women, but if you travel a lot, this is definitely one more good reason to breastfeed!
Baby Carrier vs. Stroller? No contest. If you are visiting friends and/or family, someone on the other side is bound to have a stroller you can borrow. In some countries, you can even rent! While you might not get your beloved Bugaboo or stylish Stokke, surely it beats having to lug it around on your travels?! Unless you have a bad back or giant baby, there is really no good reason not to use the baby carrier for trips. It was probably the one item we could not have done without and we were reminded of this after disembarking as we walked past the exhausted parents who, after surviving a 13 hour flight with a baby, had to wait an extra 15 minutes while their strollers were fished out and brought up to them. I know there are a few fold-ups that fit into the overhead, but most parents are already overloaded with carry-on bits and bobs.
We should have brought extra luggage. If you plan to take your baby to meet family and friends for the first time, bring an extra bag. We received so many gifts that our case literally popped at the seams on the flight back! I swear this child has more clothes than me, five months old and already taking after her mother…
Most blogs and articles about traveling with a baby in tow make it sound like a complete nightmare but overall, the trip went much smoother than we anticipated. Despite major teething action, Baby N was very easy on the plane and so well-behaved. In fact, a few passengers seated nearby thanked us after the flight! Having friends and family around to hold and play with her at every opportunity provided a much deserved break for B. That said, we are really looking forward to our first family beach vacation later this year!