Saturday, 1 November 2014

Travel With a Baby

We just got back from a little family getaway before the cold weather hits. Winter is long and cold in Saskatchewan, so we needed one last week of fun in the sun before packing away our sun dresses and sandals. We got home at 2:30 in the morning two nights ago, and it's been a flurry of laundry and unpacking and groceries and driving to pick up the dogs from my father-in-law who watched them while we were gone and all the other errands that need to be done before we can fall back into our home routine. I told Andino when Paloma woke up at 6:00 a.m. the morning after we got home and I'd only slept 4 hours that I don't think I was that sleep-deprived even when she was a newborn! I'm still catching up on things around the house (I didn't even manage to wash my face today!) but I've been writing this post in my head since we started our trip ten days ago and I want to get this written before too much time passes and I start to forget. I apologize in advance, because this post is going to be long...

We spent the week at Hard Rock Hotel in Riviera Maya with our 5 month old daughter. This was the first time Andino and I have stayed at an all-inclusive resort, as we are much more inclined to the adventure/budget type travel, but we thought it would be easier with the baby to do an all-inclusive. This was the second time we flew with Paloma. The first time she was 13 weeks old. (Now she is 22 weeks.) Let me tell you, flying with a teething 5 month old is a lot different than flying with a 3 month old! When she was 13 weeks old, she still took a pacifier and she was still a sleepy little newborn. All we did was keep giving her the pacifier during the flights and she basically slept through the plane rides and was awake during connections and boarding. It was easy. I fed her right before boarding and as soon as we got off the plane. I also brought a bottle, which she took with no complaints. Other passengers complimented us on what a good little traveller she was and I regretted all the time I spent worrying about how it would go.

Fast forward to travelling with a 5 month old teething baby who rejects the pacifier & bottle. Flying with her was a lot different the second time around. What follows are my tips for keeping your sanity and enjoying your family vacation with a baby. I hope you can learn from our experience.

Boarding

Take advantage of priority boarding. It's not going to be easy because you are new parents and if you are anything like us, you are perpetually running late. I remember when I was a single traveller and I saw the other passengers anxious to get on the plane as soon as possible and I wondered why they were in such a hurry to sit down for hours in a cramped space. I always waited to board last so I could stretch my legs until the last minute. This strategy doesn't work as a parent, because you need that time to get your baby situated. For the first flight, we missed priority boarding because I was changing Paloma's diaper when they announced it. I was in the bathroom and I heard them calling it over the PA system and I rushed out, with the baby in one arm, backpack slung over one shoulder and wrap trailing behind me all in a fluster. It's not a good way to start a long trip.

Tip # 1 is: Get there early and allow yourself the time to change the diaper and feed the baby and still have time to make priority boarding.

Nap Schedule vs. Flight Schedule

An overtired baby is a cranky baby. We all know this, but for some reason I thought it was a wise idea to board a flight with an overtired baby. What was I thinking?? For the first flight, I held Paloma off from her nap. I thought if she was tired when we boarded, she would sleep for a good portion of the flight. Ha! What actually happened was, I boarded the plane with an overtired baby who just got more tired as the plane filled up with passengers and by the time we took off, she was scream-crying. Not because the cabin pressure bothered her ears (because she didn't react to that at all for other flights) but because she was overtired. I'm sure if you are a parent, you know how challenging it is to deal with an overtired baby in your quiet nursery at home, let alone in a plane full of people. To be fair, I felt like the other passengers around us were understanding and kind towards our situation. (At least the ones who gave us sympathetic smiles) But still, it's really not easy being the person holding a baby who is scream-crying at the top of her lungs in a confined space jammed with people.

Tip # 2 is: Don't board the plane with an overtired baby. Let her sleep when she wants to sleep as you normally would. 

Comfort & Clothes

We dressed Paloma in pyjamas during the flights so she would be as comfortable as possible and we wouldn't have to worry about socks falling off, pants being too tight or sweaters falling off the shoulders. I dressed in a v-neck t-shirt so I could have quick and easy access to the breast as I had to nurse her often during the flights. I used my wrap (baby carrier) while flying as well as in the airports and at the resort! I tied the wrap before boarding using the basic X carry. so I could just pop her in while we were already up in the air (because Air Canada required me to take her out of the wrap and hold her  during take off and landing.)

Tip #3 is: Dress the baby and yourself for comfort and convenience


Crying on the Plane

The most successful daytime flight during this trip was one that had two seats per aisle so once we made priority boarding, I didn't have to stand up to let someone in after I'd gotten Paloma settled. She was in the perfect state of hungry and sleepy when we boarded, so I fed her and rocked her to sleep and she napped without disturbance and woke up in a happy mood. Andino and I took turns entertaining her with the toys we brought and Andino walked up and down the aisles with her so she could look around. The people sitting across from us played with her and made her laugh so the flight went smoothly. However, with as many flights as we took during this vacation (2 flights on the way there for a total of 6 hours flying time and 3 flights on the way back for a total of 8 hours flying time) we knew she was bound to get fussy on the plane. I just tried to accept it and told myself she has just as much of a right to be there as anyone else and we were all babies at one point in time. I also nursed her very frequently during the flights although I felt a little awkward whipping my boob out with so many people so close to me (and even tried to use the nursing cover a few times but that didn't go well as Paloma's not used to it and she kept batting at the fabric.) I told myself it's either a little boob or a lot of crying. I'm not saying I was unfazed, calm, cool & collected when she cried on the plane, I'm just saying I knew it was likely going to happen when we booked our tickets months ago and I did my best to take deep breaths and accept the situation.

Tip # 4: You can do everything in your power to make your baby happy while travelling, but you must accept the fact that if you fly long enough, your baby might cry. Just accept it as an unfortunate part of travel and move on.

Travel Partners

We travelled with my parents. It was so helpful to have Paloma's Grandparents there who were eager to take her off our hands and help us out everyday. Whether they took her for a few hours while Andino and I went on a romantic date or the 4 of us took turns keeping her entertained & happy when she was fussy at a restaurant, there's no doubt it was easier having them there with us.

Tip # 5: If possible, bring help!

Sleep & Flexibility

At home, we have a routine. Obviously, on vacation that routine flies out the window. During our first vacation, Paloma had been sleeping through the night for a month but began waking 2-3 times a night while on vacation. This time, she's been able to sleep through the night without being swaddled for a month, but now needs her swaddle again. Expect some sleep disturbances, things will go back to normal in a couple days or weeks after returning home.

Paloma coped really well with all the unfamiliar surroundings, smells, sounds etc. but there were times when she seemed overwhelmed by it all and needed a break. I noticed she had a really hard time at the big, busy restaurants we went to, especially at supper. She's never really been exposed to that at home, because we always go to quiet, small places to eat. If we ever go somewhere busy with a lot of people (like a festival) she's in my wrap, snuggled close to me for comfort. By supper time she was tired from all the sightseeing and swimming and wasn't up for sitting in a high chair in a busy restaurant with so many unfamiliar sounds and smells. We usually gave her the benefit of the doubt and brought her anyway, but when she started fussing and wouldn't stop, we'd either quickly finish our food and go, or I'd take her back to my room and order room service while the rest of the family finished their meal.

Tip # 6: Listen to your baby when they tell you they've had enough.


Packing

For as often as I travel, I'm a terrible packer. For this trip, however, I did a good job only bringing what was really needed. We didn't pack a tonne of clothes that were never worn or toys that were never played with. We brought Sophie the Giraffe, her keys and a rattle. For some reason, I decided to bring a bottle on the plane even though I know she doesn't take one anymore. As expected, I never used the bottle and ended up having to dump it all down the sink - what a waste! The only way Paloma takes a bottle is if I am the one to feed it to her - what's the point in that? It sucks unpacking, so do yourself a favour and don't overpack. Babies need surprisingly few things.










Tip # 7: Don't Overpack.

So what about you, have you travelled with a baby before? Any tips you can share?

Coming up next: A post (with pictures) about our vacation

5 comments:

  1. I'm so bookmarking this for future reference. I guarantee I would have tried the "tire them out beforehand" trick, but now I definitely won't bother!

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  2. Awesome tips!

    We just went out to eat supper yesterday and ended up just getting our meals to-go because Sofia had a big toddler meltdown. We didn't get a bite until we got home but it was much more enjoyable there. I kept thinking geez what of we were on a plane or a long bus ride, I guess we would just suck it up like all other parents do. :)

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  3. We flew with the girls when they were 8 and 10 months and I was pleasantly surprised with how well they did. Especially since they were crawling by the 10 month flight and always wanted to move and explore. We let them crawl around in a big empty space in the airport before we boarded to let them get some energy out. There was some crying and fussing but nothing too bad. We are traveling with them at christmas and they will be 15 months. I am a little worried about it because they are in constant motion now - walking everywhere. They do not want to sit still. It's going to be a much different experience. Thankfully, the flight is only a couple hours so hopefully we can keep them entertained on our laps. Traveling is disruptive to the schedule, of course, but I tried to book flights that would be the least disruptive to their nap schedule. I know they won't want to sleep on the plane sitting in our laps so I booked the flights for between naps. The hope is that they will nap on the way too and from the airport. We'll see how that goes. We made sure to bring toys they hadn't seen in awhile or new toys - the novelty will make them more interested. We also brought snacks to keep them busy. In the end, we just have to do our best to keep them happy and comfortable and hope they aren't having a bad day. If they are really cranky, then we just have to hope other people will be understanding. I just hope the more we travel with them, the more routine it will be to them. I really want to have good little travelers.

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  4. I love your candor in all of this. These are great travel tips. We won't be flying anywhere anytime soon, but I still enjoy hearing about your trip!

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