I braved my first big trip with Genevieve this past Wednesday, traveling from Minnesota to Florida to visit my parents. Tyler was unable to come with me, so it was up to me to haul all of her baby gear and my own items across the USA.
(1) When traveling without a partner, make everything one-hand accessible.
One thing is certain, unless you are wearing your baby, you will only have one hand free. I checked both bags, and chose to bring: the stroller, car seat (both of which we gate-checked), my diaper bag, and another small bag that held my arm cuff nursing pillow & Moby carrier with me on the plane. I thought it would be nice to bring my carrier, but when I fly home I am just going to leave it in my checked suitcase. It has a lot of straps, and really I require help getting it on so it is more inconvenient than convenient for me. That will eliminate an extra bag to hold on to.
Anyway, having only one hand makes breaking down the stroller (separating the car seat and the stroller base) rather difficult when you’re halfway down the jet bridge holding your 3 month old, diaper bag, extra bag. So, after relying on other passengers and employees to help me on my first flight, I thought ahead for me connection. I placed Evie in the car seat, broke it off the stroller and set her on the ground, then picked her up, and set the car seat back on the stroller without “clicking” the two parts together. That way, I could take the break it down with one hand.
(2) Wear a nursing-friendly outfit [if breastfeeding].
I do not personally own any nursing tops or bras. I usually just wear a sports bra (yeah I don’t dress up much…) but if you plan to nurse at the airport in public or on the plane, you’ll want your outfit to be accessible for your baby. For some that might mean a nursing bra and nursing top, bu
t for me a loose shirt I can pull up and a sports bra works just fine.
I struggle to nurse without a pillow since I have small breasts (a post on nursing with small boobs to come later), so I bought the arm cuff (link in bullet point #1) and it works great. I can squish it under the stroller and it is just enough support to prop up her head.
Another thing I learned was to wear your hair up. I at first just had mine half up half down, but quickly learned that I would get hot and flustered because Genevieve would be yanking on my hair, or it would be dangling in my way making me look less put together! So I pulled it up into a bun and whew was I not only cooler temperature wise, but it was also out of the way!
(3) Carry yourself with a smile.
If there is one thing that is a big turn off to others, it is naturally resting bitch face. I’ve got it, and you probably have it too (sorry not sorry). People are naturally going to avoid you or get a negative vibe if you look pissed off or angry, so if you can manage to smile or make friendly eye contact then do so! People will smile looking at your baby, and if you smile back or at least look friendly they will be more likely to help you wether its boarding/deplaning, using the restroom, etcThere was a family with twins on my first flight, and I watched them and took their lead when boarding the plane (i.e. do I board in family boarding, priority boarding, when my boarding group is called… do I sit in the isle or the window seat… etc.) and we exchanged silent smiles with our babies. When welanded in ATL, I bumped into her in the women’s restroom. Her husband must have had the babies, and I was waiting with my stroller for one of the handicap restrooms to be open. At least half a dozen people I ushered in front of me because I couldn’t fit my stroller into the tiny stalls, and after she used the restroom and seeing me wait for a solid fifteen minutes, she offered to watch Evie so I could pee. You should always use your best judgement in trusting strangers to watch your child, there is a huge risk involved since someone could easily walk off with your baby! However, I know moms like to help out other moms and I took her up on her generous offer.
Needless to say, I had a lot of help from strangers when traveling! A retired couple carried Evie down the jetway so I could pick a seat, the woman who sat next to me and allowed me to have Evie lay down across both of us so I could change her diaper, the woman in the bathroom, the TSA officer when I went through security, etc. Never underestimate the power of a friendly face!
(4) Schedule Flights with Normal Nap Times
On our first flight to Tampa, it was right when she normally takes her nap. For us, it was at 930am, and 2pm. It worked out great, because although she only dozed, she was happy to nurse and be held in Mommy’s arms. On our layover she was nice and awake, but I could play with her on my lap or stand to bounce her. Same with our second flight to Tampa. When we arrived I even had an appointment at the Apple store for my computer, which took at least two hours, plus another 40 minutes home in the car, and she was rested and calm enough to make it through without too much fuss. Granted, she was extremely tired, but she wasn’t overtired to the point of a meltdown.
Coming home we weren’t so lucky.
Our first flight returning wasn’t until 4:40pm. It gave us more time with my parents before leaving, but
it was not smart traveling wise. We had to leave for the airport at 2pm, and then we didn’t board until 4:10pm. Upon boarding, she was already quite cranky! I was hoping she would sleep since 4-430 is another prime-time nap time, but because she had already been so stimulated throughout the day she as not having it. She didn’t wail, but she certainly moaned and groaned the whole flight with the occasional scream, and refused to nurse.
We had a two hour layover, and were lucky enough to have access to the Mother’s Room at Midway airport, and then head over to the USO lounge. She laid around on the couch in there and it was much quieter! I think that really helped, because when we headed over and immediately boarded the plane for the second leg of the trip she fell right asleep and slept the whole flight!
Moral of the story: fly during nap time earlier in the day!
(5) Don’t Make Immediate Plans After Getting To/From Your Destination
When I flew in to Tampa, I had an appointment for my computer at the Apple Store (as I already mentioned). Thankfully, she did okay. She was tired from traveling, but since we landed at 3:30pm it wasn’t took bad. We didn’t land in MSP on our way home until 9:15pm. Her normal bedtime is 7-8pm, so she was not only overtired from traveling and being up since about 2pm, but she was also cutting into her deep sleep time. She did finally conk out for our second flight, but then was awake for part of the way home.
Dad was so excited to see her! But her exhaustion had taken its tole. Right when we got home he went to change her diaper, and All. Hell. Broke. Loose.
She screamed bloody murder. The high-pitched, tears streaming, face-is-red, vocals on high blast, screaming. Poor Genevieve had reached her limit, and I don’t blame her. Her body was exhausted, and I can’t imagine the headache she had when we finally pulled into the driveway let alone change her diaper around 11:45pm. If you do the math, she hadn’t slept in over
ten hours nine hours, considering her sleeping on our last one-hour flight.
If you are traveling with your baby, I don’t recommend making plans for the day you arrive. Even if you get to where you are going within say, five hours total travel time (which is insanely quick!), I still would plan on hanging at the hotel, or home. It will give your baby time to adjust and take in the new, stimulating surroundings. Also give lots, and lots, and lots of on-demand snuggles to make them feel secure!