Traveling with an infant #likeaboss

My husband and I have traveled far and frequently with our now ten-month-old since he was born. Together, we’ve traveled between our San Francisco home and India, New York, Virginia, Seattle and Hawaii. Other parents’ eyes bug when they hear this, asking how we are still sane. Well, we barely are but the truth is that like most things, traveling with a baby gets better and better with practice.

First, change your mindset

The way you used to travel will no longer work. All the rules of the game have changed.

  • I’ve had to rewire my brain to stop traveling like a college student who is optimizing for cheap and fast above all else. I choose the longer layovers now and avoid snowy airport connections during winter. (I’m looking at you, Chicago.) Yes, this does sometimes add to the cost. However, saving that $50 is not worth getting stuck snowed in at O’Hare with an infant. Unlike me, baby can’t thrive with just Cinnabon, a good book and a neck pillow for a weekend on the floor of a slimy terminal.
  • I’ve learned to plan for the inevitable. Before traveling, I now take time to think through all the potential heart-pumping moments that could throw me off my travel A-game. How will I help baby cope with the time change? What will I do when baby spills husband’s entire Bloody Mary on me while I’m enjoying the middle seat on a cross-country flight? How will I respond when the taxi driver in a foreign country asks if he can kiss my baby?!
  • I now force myself to ask for and accept help. I even have become a mom who tips well and often. This yields more proactive, thoughtful support, and I hesitate less in asking. Curbside check-in at airports is a good example of something I never bothered with before because I hated the awkward interaction of tipping. However, as a parent, I quickly found the Olympic event of lugging suitcases, car seat and baby through the airport and through long check-in lines much more painful than digging for cash in my purse to pay someone to do it for me. With curbside check-in, you can simply hurl your luggage from the car onto the sidewalk and they’ll take it from there. No more luggage trollying or pushing suitcases with your knee because your hands are full.

How not to pack your entire house

We invested in a lightweight (5lbs) travel bassinet that folded into our suitcase. We had baby practice sleeping in it before the trip. We also invested in the most lightweight stroller on the market. We even sometimes use Amazon to send a few toys, diapers and food to the places we are going ahead of time instead of packing it all.

  • I’ve learned to approach packing for myself like I would if I were going hiking alone for a weekend. I pack far, far less and focus on only essentials (underwear and pants!) For baby, I’ve developed a carry on strategy that might be described as “neurotic,” but I prefer to describe it as “apocalypse-ready.”
  • An aggressive carry on strategy is key. I pack with the assumption that we will get stuck in highway traffic for 8 hours or delayed at the airport (or luggage gets lost). Any item that would cause undue stress without it on hand goes in the carry on — Pacifiers, teething gel, a extra day’s worth of baby food and diapers in case of an airline delay, etc. This inevitably feels like you are overpacking for the apocalypse. That’s okay.
  • Pack toys. Let’s talk about toys. Toys can be a packing pitfall because it feels stupid to pack so light for yourself that you might be wearing underwear twice yet still bring books and rattles and multiple goofy stuffed animals that light up and sing. My purse and carry on bags look like I’ve been aggressively shoplifting from a toy store. This makes travel more enjoyable for everyone. Sometimes I see parents who have packed one sad little toy for a six hour flight and seem surprised that sweet baby turns demonic.

Worried about baby crying on the plane and upsetting everyone else?

I’ve found a cheap and pretty simple hack that has solved this one for me: I allow myself to stop giving a shit.

It’s a waste of time and energy focusing on the things beyond your control. This is one of them. If I’ve brought food, toys diapers, etc etc. and if baby is just pissed about being trapped in a low-pressure, airborne tin can with 80+ coughing sneezing farting loud-talking strangers, well that’s not surprising! I give myself permission to not make it my job to control this situation more than just being prepared with what I bring on the flight and being a present, good mom in the moment. If baby fusses, I smile and soothe.

If some other itchy passenger scowls or talks about how annoying babies are, I enjoy the fruits of revenge and hold back the paci to let baby screech a little extra in that person’s ear. Muhaha!

Everyone was once a screeching baby on plane at some point in their life. It’s not exactly breaking news that babies cry on planes. I’m convinced that the people who act shocked and irritated by fussy babies on planes are the same people who also seem shocked when the TSA tells them to take their laptops out and throw away their water bottles. (“What?! Excuse me but I just bought this water for $14.77 in the shop!!!”) If people who are irritated by children haven’t brought headphones and ambien for a flight that was guaranteed to have babies on it, well that’s out of my control. I give myself permission to let go of the guilt and anxiety. And guess what, everyone has survived so far.

Keep traveling mammas, and send me a postcard!

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