I will begin with the most important part of this post: WE SURVIVED! And then shall move to an apology for only just now writing about it. For all I know, one of my two loyal readers could very well be eagerly anticipating my traveling-with-an-infant advice!
As I am now constantly pressed for time, I thought I might create a recap of sorts with bullet points, rather than attempt to write long, witty paragraphs. Not that I'm really that witty, anyway.
what worked for us:
- timing the flight for maximum baby sleep time. A slept like a CHAMP on both of the long transatlantic flights. He woke up and nursed a few times, as he STILL does at home, but essentially kept to his normal night sleep. We selected late afternoon departure times, and we only spent an hour or two playing and eating before he was ready for bed. I think that for the most part, babies that are around A's age just know when it's time to sleep. Even though we had to deal with horrible jet lag on our return, I am still glad that A slept on our flight home. Side note: this is not rocket science, but we made sure to recreate our bedtime routine as well as we could: bath (in this case, a cool washcloth), book, boob (I apologize, sensitive readers! I had to keep with the alliteration theme!). We also changed him into pajamas.
- Ergo carrier in the airport. I didn't think twice about bringing my carrier, but am now incredibly glad I did. I was able to carry A this way through security, and it made traversing through various terminals so easy.
- new books. These were by far the most successful items in what I like to call my "bag of fun," which I ruthlessly safeguarded and constantly reminded my SH not to disturb without my express permission. I divided all the new items up into three separate groups, one for each new flight-heaven forbid there be any intermingling! Two books that were particularly successful were Karen Katz's Baby Loves Spring and Dr. Seuss's All Aboard the Circus McGurkus, both of which were spur-of-the-moment purchases at our local used bookstore. I'm not the biggest fan of the Katz lift-the-flap books, but Baby A was all over the $2 copy I found.
- stuffing the car seat bag with extra items you can no longer fit into your giant suitcase. My dear sister-in-law shared this tip with me, for which I shall be forever grateful (though you would think I might have been able to figure it out). Because A is already in a big convertible car seat, we purchased a bag to enclose it and then checked it for all our flights. There is lots of room in the space where a wee one normally goes, and I filled it to the brim. Car seats are checked for free, so no one blinked an eye when SH lugged the bag onto the counter. *Note: Packing light is always your best option, but because we were traveling abroad with lots of uncertainties awaiting us, I felt better being as prepared as I could possibly be.
- small canvas bag with a few toys and books for the car. I used the aforementioned car seat bag to store this item, and while not necessary for every trip, I have to say that it was SO nice to have a few familiar car toys to hand to Baby A when we embarked upon a three-hour drive as soon as we landed. We've gone through a brutal phase of car seat rebellion at home, and since then I've always made sure to have two or three special, car-only toys that I can count on to appease A. Our favorite is this Leapfrog phone, which we have had for MONTHS now and still retains its charm.
what we didn't need:
- miscellaneous inexpensive toys. I raided the Target $ bin before the trip thinking it was a great place to snag things that might keep A's interest for a short while but wouldn't be devastating to lose. As it turned out, he was absorbed mostly by his books when he wasn't sleeping or jumping up and down on my lap, trying to touch the hair of the person sitting in front of me. I think it's still a good idea, but just didn't seem necessary during our experience. While we were actually on vacation, A mostly played with the items I'd brought from home that were completely familiar.
- 500 blankets. Even though we traveled to a cooler locale, I would have been fine with just one or two. They take up too much space (even in the car seat bag) and proved to be a hassle in the airport, when A threw them down to the floor repeatedly.
for next time:
- more food. I rationed my baby food pouches fairly well, but by the end of the trip, we had to supplement with local baby food. This turned out to be okay for the most part, but A definitely didn't eat with as much enthusiasm as he does at home. I think for a big trip, it is a great thing if you're able to have access to what is most familiar to your baby. If we had been in the U.S., the problem wold have been easy to rectify. It didn't turn out to be a huge deal, and now that we're plowing through all kinds of new dishes (clam chowder! refried beans! crunchy kale and coconut bowl!) it wouldn't hardly matter at all, but I'll remember for future babies.
- pack the medical stuff! Fortunately, baby A was completely healthy for the vast majority of the trip. He picked up a tiny cold (while I developed a monstrous one) at the end of the trip, and while his nose was running only slightly, it was enough to send panicky waves through me when I realized I had forgotten the nasal aspirator and saline drops. Even if you never use them, it's a good idea to have a small bag containing those items, along with baby tylenol. Again, not something that would have been an issue if we had been local, but still helpful. And comforting.
All in all, our trip was a marvelous success. A was a complete and utter gem the entire time, even though he faced daunting crowds of unfamiliar people and had to endure two rounds of jet lag. While we probably won't be planning international travel any time soon, it was a good experience, and proved to us that our baby (and most babies) are much more resilient than we give them credit for.