My elder sister lives in Houston. When my baby was five months I did something insane. I went to visit her. Since my husband had work, I went without him. I had planned to do so since a very long time. Thought, ‘hey, I’m not working or anything… why not travel a thousand miles alone with baby to visit my sister and solely take care of my little one for a whole month… without travel insurance?’ Yes, five month old baby. Yes, I’m nuts. And yes it was a crazy decision. So, don’t do it. I love my sister to bits and it was awesome to see her and her babies AND my younger sister who surprise visited, was a super bonus. But please, don’t travel alone with tiny babies.
A few weeks before I was to leave for my ‘vacation’ my dad decided to join me. And no, he is not any help at all. He is not a ‘hands on’ grandfather. Heck, he wasn’t even a hands on dad. Some people are just not good with babies. So, basically it was just me with my 71-year old dad and my five-month old baby on a 16 hour flight from Doha to Houston. Two hours from Karachi to Doha. Did I mention SIXTEEN HOURS? That many hours. That situation. And hey, the Universe decided to take a huge dump on me and did what? Baby got diarrhea while on board. My baby who NEVER, EVER gets diarrhea mind you. It was insane. 5000 hours passed by and when our plane touched down in Houston I was all: ‘I’m an astronaut! NASA where are you? Gimme a certificate yo?! Space program? Boo’
So excuse me, but I do think I am in a position to sit on my Did-Long-Haul-With-Tiny-Baby- Throne, orb in hand and issue forth some suggestions Advice on how to travel with baby. Yes, I’m a gonna be all hoity toity about it. I will look down the bridge of my not-so-narrow nose and judge you cuz I made it there and back (on way back I was alone, mind you as my dad decided to stay on).
Not just that trip I travelled to South Africa (8 hour flight) again with baby when he was ten months old (along with husband this time). Yes, I will have you know that I don’t learn from past mistakes. So please hush. Oh and this list aint for you Business & First Class travelers. This advice is strictly COACH. Here goes–
- You will need a very trustee knapsack that can house EVERYTHING. You need the regulars – half a million diapers, diaper rash cream, changing mat, wipes of all shapes and sizes, tissues, change of clothes (for alllll weathers as cabin temperature is super unpredictable), blankets, nursing cover if you are nursing (MOST IMPORTANT), toys, books (for baby, duh, LOL you won’t be reading trust me), snacks (for you and baby), meds of all types, hand sanitizer, hand cream (frequent hand washing after diaper changes makes hands dry), documents like vaccination records and baby’s birth certificate, your sanity (you need this before you travel as you will lose it on the plane). I am forgetting a lot of things.
- Carry baby carrier (not wrap) separately.
- Kindly travel in gym clothes and flip flops and please have spare clothes for yourself on hand too.
- Don’t wear makeup or jewelry or your self respect, no such thing when travelling with baby.
- You have to keep diapers, wipes and changing mat with you and not in overhead compartment. And if you are breastfeeding you gotta keep the nursing cover on your person at all times. You cannot stow these away because you can’t place baby somewhere in order to pull these out.
- Bassinets provided on the plane are useless and don’t rely on them. As soon as baby is comfortably settled or sound asleep, there’ll be turbulence and they’ll ask you to pick up sleeping baby and put on infant seat belt which will wake him up. I’m dead serious, not kidding. They ask you to ‘wake up a sleeping baby’ believe it or not.
- Keep your phone charged and resort to whatever videos you have saved as contingency for catastrophic moments (all parents keep some form of back up).
- Do not, under any circumstances, count the hours. I’m telling you. DON’T. Please believe me when I say this, time really is It’s no joke. I’m not kidding. I held my baby while he slept for an impossible number of hours and woke up and it was 45 minutes in reality. It felt like the at least 10 of the 16 hours. So yeah, don’t do that. Don’t even reset your watch. When someone says Long Haul, in your head say Space Program.
- There are usually three loos at the very back of the plane. It’s usually near a food station. There is a greater chance one of those will be free. And if none of them is, you can always chat up the stewards/stewardesses. Trust me a little courtesy really pays off. They heat up baby food for you, hand you extra snacks and water bottles, and hold your baby while you pee. So, a little compliment here and there is recommended.
More important than anything else is to ignore the non-verbal cues from people around you who are unkind when the baby is crying. You may receive grunts and groans and eye-rolls and some may be nasty enough to utter something rude. In which case I have six letters for you.
Be as thick skinned as you possibly can. Just keep muttering under your breath, ‘KARMA…KARMA…. KARMA….’ Remember Karma? She is a beautiful Goddess and will do her work in good time. Just relax.
Unless you are a very frequent traveler (in which case you don’t need advice from me and would not really be reading this post), this trip may be one of two, three or maximum four that you would be making with an infant. If you don’t plan on popping more than two, then it is one of maximum six trips that you will be making with an infant. Keep that in mind. This is one of those rare, six in a lifetime experiences. No need to stress so much.
Let me tell you one thing, once you are off that plane and across Immigrations, you will be experience something truly overwhelming. The sense of achievement that follows is INCREDIBLE. Honestly, you can actually hear the crackling of fireworks in your head. You are a Supermom.