I am not a traveler. I have been on a plane a total of three times in my life (now 4). To date we have never, ever taken our first child (now aged 2.5 years) away anywhere. After a recent trip overseas with our 11 week old (half for work, half for leisure), I learnt a thing or two about travelling with a baby and thought I would part my new found wisdom your way.
1. Check the expiry date on your passport – before you get to the airport check in counter – a long long time before… like ideally a month before. This will prevent your wife from having a near-nervous break down at the sudden realisation that she will have to fly on her own (having only ever flown in a plane 3 x in her whole life), with a baby for the first time not knowing if you will in fact be joining her overseas at all. (Hubby I love you, but please let’s not go through that ever again).
2. Find passports and have them in a known place at least a week before you travel, do not attempt to go on a passport finding mission the day before you travel. This will again save significant stress, tipping the house upside down and greatly help with point number 1.
3. Breathe deeply. Travel involves a lot of moments where you need to make quick decisions, things do not go according to plan and generally you have a screaming baby attached to your chest. Multiple deep breaths is a more acceptable social behaviour than joining your baby in screaming at the top of your lungs. In the event of the situation in point number 1 – this is your only option and you may need to employ this technique for quite some hours.
4. Check in early…. like HOURS early before the designated check in time. Have a coffee, read a magazine, see it all as part of your ‘holiday’. This will mean that you have a huge buffer of time for the problems that WILL occur (not IF occur). Be the first at the check-in so that your multiple bags (not the 1 allowed bag) and oversized pram/car seat/kitchen sink will be allowed on the plane.
5. Take a dummy. In my very judgemental, obnoxious list of things I said I would never ever do – is use a dummy. I became more obnoxious about this after I navigated child number 1 without ever using one. I took a dummy ‘just in case’. Like a lot of things in motherhood you tend to get cut down to size when your sanity is at play. Given that you expect your child to sleep on your chest, on the plane, in huge waiting lines, in foreign beds – a dummy is an extremely helpful “sleep aid” (otherwise known as a pacifier). For the sake of $10 it WILL SAVE YOUR SANITY and those around you. Example: screaming child at midnight going through customs and the line is enormous. Make sure you take two because you will lose one. (Note: for the sake of my pride I did throw the dummies out when we got home…though I would be lying if I said was not tempted to use them ‘on occasion’).
6. Be prepared to not sleep. Just as adults have to adjust to different time zones so do babies – actually more so as they respond to their natural instincts a lot more than adults. Personally, if I prepare not to sleep and then get granted sleep it is mentally easier to cope than the other way around.
7. Give your child a break. Given that you suddenly expect your child to sleep like an angel everywhere, have a night every few days where you stay in your hotel room like hermits, TV off, and allow your child a sense of normal sleeping – you will benefit from the following 2-3 days going a lot more smoothly and you can also catch up on sleep as well (romance went out the window when child no. 1 came along so no love is lost).
8. Invest in a Rolls-Royce style carrier. If you need two people to get it on you and it costs about half of your normal weekly pay check then that’s the one you need. Even a newborn weighs about 5kgs – if you are carrying that weight around, you need a darn good carrier to make sure the weight is on your hips not your back. Trust me it is worth all the money. One with a hood to easily put over baby in all weathers will help too.
9. Take a cocoon with you. Even if you are leaving your pram at home. Then you have a bed for your baby any time, any how and they feel more safe. Our bubs had his toes sticking up by the end of the week as he decided that was a good week for a growth spurt but never mind – he still slept.
10. Do not book a late flight. Children do not understand that just because you came home at 3am you do not get up at 6am. Think you will save money on a late flight? Wrong! You will absolutely sincerely regret it when you are dragging your body from the depths of sleep and you will wish you had paid what-ever the amount was for a decent bloody flight time.
11. HAVE FUN – Drink wine (if not breastfeeding), park your baby in the pram beside the hotel pool and then pretend it is not yours, order room service, go out to dinner, eat dessert (with all the sugar in the world in it)- it is your holiday and by darn it you deserve a break (what-ever form that comes in), you have very little chance of meeting anyone you know so who cares (I did all of the above and came back a much more sane mother).
xxx Dr Julie Bhosale