I have traveled a TON with Jack mostly due to the fact that being half English, he is in serious demand for some face time with his English roots on the other side of the world. Jack has been all ages during his travel experiences and has traveled to over 7 countries. Every time we go somewhere I learn more and more about what I am doing right, but mostly about what I am doing wrong. Which is expected, he keeps changing every month he grows. So how am I supposed to see what terrors and joys are ahead of me? I’m not psychic! We recently just returned from a trip to England where I stayed for over a month with extended family. In that time, we went to Ireland to attend the wedding of close friends, and then off to Spain for yet another wedding of close friends. I am happy to say I have returned to Los Angeles still a married woman and with a happy and healthy baby, which I didn’t think would be possible. On both accounts. Without going into the nitty gritty, we dealt with some serious illness for little Jack during this trip and I am happy to say he made it through and I am in love with the English health care system above all health care. Not only did they see Jack immediately each and every time, it was completely free including his medicine. But that’s another story. SO, without further ado, I am here today to give you the heads up on the ins and outs of travel with babies to far places across the globe and what to expect during these treacherous excursions, mostly the plane travel part. Obviously, your baby may be the one who has none of these issues that I mention below, and to you I say, ugh. No offense.
Things to expect and ways to combat them if possible:
1. Long Flights: Your baby, depending on age, will have trouble sleeping. I mean, it’s loud and people are sneezing and coughing and listening to techno music and shining overhead lights directly into your tired baby’s eyeballs. Most flights oversees are red eye flights, so you don’t get a choice, it will be during their bedtime. So just prepare mentally in advance that you will get no rest and be a sweaty and greasy mess when you finally touch down, probably with 2 or 3 new pimples. But your seats can make a world of difference. You can opt to upgrade to a sky couch which gives you a tiny bed to lay down in, but this is more expensive and sadly not very comfortable with a baby squirming all over the place. Plus you have about 20 things you need like toys, a changing pad and diapers, and food and snacks all taking up space around you. My favorite option is to get the front seats with leg room and request a bassinet. Here is what it looks like usually, and they fasten it to the wall in front of you:
Even if you baby doesn’t want to sleep in the bassinet, they love to sit in it AND you can use it for them to play in as well as for storage of all the items you may need to keep them happy and relaxed. So when booking my flights, I always request the front seats with a bassinet. It has worked wonders when Jack does sleep in it, as well as some hands free time when I set him inside during a meal and he plays with his toys while I eat and feed him. Quick note: Have them either eat, drink, or suck on a binky during take off and landing. This will allow their ears to pop and save you the grief of a baby with ear discomfort. We all know what the slightest discomfort of our little ones results in…….HELL. We must keep the masters happy.
2: Food. You can totally bring food. Bring all the food you like, they will not stop you. You do need to have all the food gone by the time the plane lands, but for the flight you can have your bases covered. We brought scrambled eggs, steamed salmon, peas and carrots, berries of all kinds, bananas, puffs, bars, an orange, you name it. All prepped and cooked before we left. When going through security, just remove the items (You can keep them in the tupperware) and place them in the tray, as well as with any sippy cups of water and milk you may have. This is ok for shorter flights as well. You are allowed to bring any food and drink that a baby may need, and the most they will ask of you is to sip some of the liquid. Then you are free to go. This goes for milk and formula too. Jack was very happily fed his regular comfort foods and had a full belly throughout our journey. *Side-note: If you are going out of the country, pack some of the squeezy foods your baby can eat on the go. Some countries just don’t have the same options and it’s good to have just in case.
3: Strollers and Car seats: We have done trips with both when Jack was younger, but this most recent trip we only took his stroller. Here’s the skinny: They do not count it as luggage. You can bring both, take them though security, take them to the gate, and leave them with the flight attendant before you board the plane. Then, when the plane lands, it will be waiting for you when you get off. So easy. Now that Jack is 1, we didn’t need to transport him in a car seat and just used one that we had waiting for us in England. If you intend on having a rental car, you should request that they provide a car seat. That way you won’t have to lug one around.
4: Sleep: In previous posts I have recommended calling a baby rental service who will bring you a crib and toys and anything else you may need for about $8 a day. BUT, almost all hotels have the Pack n’ Play upon request, and I have also blogged about the Mamadoo Travel Mattress that you can bring with you to make the Pack n’ Play super comfortable. This is what we brought with us on this trip and it worked perfectly. It fit in our luggage and we brought it to every hotel we stayed in. Lifesaving people, lifesaving. We also brought our blackout material that we use on the windows in his room. I got it for around $5 from Joann’s Fabrics, and it worked to make every room we stayed in dark. I also brought a few tacks to stick it up with. Like a charm people. I also brought a TON of binkies in case one or two went missing, so we were always covered there. *Side-note: Try thinking outside the box sometimes. It isn’t always easy having the baby crib in the room with you. In one hotel that was especially nice, we had a massive bathroom with separate rooms for the toilet and shower and one main space for the sinks and vanity. We found it was the perfect size for a crib and tried putting Jack to sleep in there for one night. (Yes it sounds bad that we put our baby in the bathroom, I know.) BUT he LOVED it and had the best nights sleep of the whole trip! He finally had his own room and didn’t have to hear us rolling around in bed and we could watch t.v and not have to be quiet in a dark room at 7 pm. Win win.
5: Jet lag: This is a whole other problem that you may think you know about because maybe you yourself have experienced jet lag in the past. Let me inform you that a baby or toddler with jet lag is a whole new bag o tricks. The 8 hour time difference is painful my friend, brutal in the most savage of ways. Here is what jet lag for your little one will be like going to Europe: Bedtime: Up at around midnight, fully wide awake and running circles around you until they tire out between 4am and 7am, Then they go into a deep sleep till around 10am if you let them (and you will because you will fall down with exhaustion and need a snooze yourself). This will happen each night for about a week, of course lessening with each night. Just accept your circumstances and try and go with it. All I can say to speed up this process is to use daylight as your friend. During the day, have them outdoors and in the sun so that their internal clock knows that it is time to be awake. Even in the afternoon and evening hours, have sunlight in the room or keep them outdoors. It won’t save you, but it does move things along a little faster.
Things to pack for the plane:
__ Medicine (So important. You never know if they may need something, and this trip Jack needed all the medicine we had)
__ About 5 Toys (Plus 3 that they have never seen before)
__ Extra clothes
__ Warm socks and Hat (Planes can get cold)
__ Food and snacks
__ One or two small books (During take off and landing you need to keep them strapped to you, so it helps to distract them with snacks and reading)
__ Diapers, wipes and a changing pad (Plus my homemade tush spray to keep things extra clean)
__ Small blanket
Now, we screwed up on this trip because we didn’t think through the actual times and realities of the flights for Jack (We had a total of 6 plane flights to plan). So we had him stretched to his limits on all the small connecting flight which resulted in terror, marital distress, and a child who looked at me with anger and betrayal in his eyes. So, I would just say to plan the journey with as little stress and as much ease as possible. If it feels like you are squeezing in a flight and a 2 hour commute afterwards with a flight again the next morning at 5am, just stop and ask yourself how much fun this trip will be when you are flying with the exorcist. Then arrange the traveling a bit better and more spaced out. I think trying to cram too much in will only result in a total loss of fun and sense of well being. Just saying.
Thank god I got to see some wonderful old friends who offered comfort, solace, and my favorite Warner Edwards Gin and Tonics free of charge and in endless supply. Mommy needs a cocktail.