We took a little hiatus from daily life to enjoy a trip to California for a friend’s wedding. A
week ago at this time, I was having a bit of a nervous breakdown thinking about flying with our six month old daughter… however, I am SO GLAD THAT WE WENT both for our daughter and for us. Here’s what happened:
My husband, the master packer, packed all of our daughters things into one large suitcase. The airline that we were flying, Jet Blue will let a ton of baby gear fly for free – so we took full advantage and stuffed it all (car seat base, pack n play, clothes, diapers, ect ect ect) in a large roller bag. Along with this roller bag, we toted our stuff (crammed into one bag), a thermal bag full of breast milk bags and frozen water bottles, our hard-cased breast pump tote and of course, our daughters diaper bag.
The night before we left I was a bit frantic about uprooting our daughter from her usual schedule and adventuring out into the unknown. What if the hotel is noisy and she can’t sleep? What if she interrupts the wedding? I considered playing it safe and staying home with her, but after much consideration and a genuine hunger-pain for a bit of travel, we left home at 4am to catch our 6:30am flight. Ugggghhhh…..Soooo tired. I am so glad I went and took our daughter. Here’s why:
First, have you ever noticed how strangers will smile at you and your baby when you are out and about? Sometimes this creeps me out, but at this particular time, it was fantastic. The gate agents, TSA, fellow travelers and airport employees all made our trip just that much better because they were smiling at us the whole time we were around. We mentioned to the TSA folks that this is our first time flying with our infant and they helped us with handling of the breast milk, all of her gear and getting us all through security without holding up the line for too long. When we completed the security process, we headed for the main terminal for the three Ps: Pumping, Potty and Pastries. Side note: lots of airports now have nursing rooms! SCORE!
We made it to our gate, boarded the plane and endured the 2 hour flight with minimal
hassle. The gate agents helped us understand everything that was available to us since we were flying with our infant in arms rather than getting her a seat. They even tried to find us a spare seat on the plane so we could keep her carseat with us, but alas, the flight was full.
The weekend was so much fun. One big reason why I will never hesitate to travel with our kiddo in the future is all of the new experiences that she would never encounter in our daily lives. Talk about major socializing. Being in a plane, new restaurants or events with friends provided tons of entertainment, new types of stimulation and new ways that both my husband and I could help her interact with her world. There were lots of restaurant visits with her on our laps, the aquarium where she could stare at, reach for and even touch new animals. New noises, people speaking different languages and experiencing a new place with both mom and dad experiencing it along side her were just a few of the bonus perks of this trip. Since we had a wedding, there were lots of new faces who wanted to hold her and chat with her. We even got to eat together side by side while some of our generous friends held our daughter!
The trip home was as equally as uneventful except for one difference: she slept most of the way. This evening as we got ready for bed, I noticed so much had changed since we left just 5 days ago: She can hold herself up a lot more steady, she is speaking new sounds and interacting with us in new ways (reaching, mimicking, tracking us and the dog around the house). While in the bath tonight, she was more into splashing, kicking and playing with her rubber ducks than I had ever noticed before. I know that all of these milestones may have happened anyway even if we didn’t take a trip, but at the very least, I think I noticed more because we were away from our routine. I snuggled our daughter a little bit extra tonight thinking about how much she grew in just the last 5 days.
I think this is why I love travel so much. You get to take in other parts of the world and experience new people, places and things. You also get to return home to your own environment with a renewed perspective on yourself and your life. Traveling with our daughter was no exception and even added to our enjoyment as we got to experience things from her eyes as well as our own.
Now that you know how enlightening and exciting the trip was, here are some of the things that we did to make it easier:
- Pre-Check, Pre-Check, Pre-Check. Skip the hassle of taking off your shoes and standing in the longer line. We found that signing up for a Nexus pass if you are in the US is the way to go – its cheaper and lasts longer than paying for it via the airlines.
- Travel with a buddy: I couldn’t have carried all of the stuff on my own and enjoyed spending time with her if my husband wasn’t also there. I chatted with a mom of a two month old who was travelling by herself. She was not as relaxed and while people helped her, she was clearly under a lot more pressure.
- Book a hotel with a kitchenette: The microwave and fridge saved us for breast-milk storage and bottle/pump accessory sterilization. Plus it keeps your beer cold for a little end of day happy hour with your special someone.
- Check out the free stuff: Each airline has a list of what it will allow you to take at no additional charge. We had FOUR carry-ons (diaper bag, breast milk bag, breast pump and duffel bag) and we weren’t charged for anything. This is in addition to our free checked bag with her sleeping gear and the car seat base as well as the car seat that we gate checked.
- Do half the stuff you used to as kid-less people: We tried to respect her nap and bed times as much as possible (ok half the time). And we didn’t pack as much into our day as we used to when we were without child. As an exclusive pumper, my pumping schedule helped us with that. I could hand pump while out on the road and not get as much or I could plan to be back at the hotel room so that I could relax and use the double, hospital grade pump.
- For pumpers: Bring breast milk storage bags, the microwave bottle sterilizer, whatever soap you use to wash and extra bottles and parts. (You know those little white membrane things ripped as soon as we got there – I was glad we had extra). We also carried emergency formula wherever we went for a little peace of mind.
- And finally, enjoy all of the little adventures: All of a sudden, seeing a fish at the aquarium becomes the coolest thing you have done all week. Same with riding the elevator with all of the light up buttons, seeing all of the other tiny humans out and about, playing with different types of paper table clothes while you are at different restaurants and of course, listening to all of the new sounds (the airport intercom was the source of lots of laughs). I’m hoping all of these new adventures will help expand her breadth of experiences that lead to a more open, curious mind.
- Bonus: The trunk of your rental car is a great place for emergency diaper changes when you can’t find a bathroom.
I was anxious, but I am so glad we went both to build up my confidence as well as expand her breadth of experiences. What are some other travel tricks that you use when adventuring with kids?