Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Surviving International Travel with Your Baby: 5 Month Old Edition

I can't believe it's been over 2 months since we went on our big trip stateside! We spent three weeks traveling between Southern NJ, Nebraska, and Philadelphia to introduce Oswin to friends and family, and packing for it was enough to send me crazy. Not only were we packing for 2 legs of international travel, but 6 additional flights as well. What if we ran out of diapers on the flight? What if our bags were lost? What if we unexpectedly were laid over or re-routed? These things all seem like worst case scenarios, but they happen to us all. the. time. Our bags are lost on average once a year (going strong since 2008), and we've also been unexpectedly laid over at connecting cities once a year as well (going strong since 2011). Or what about the "rare" case of gate checked carry ons being lost/temporarily misplaced? Well it's happened to us twice within this past calendar year, if you can believe it. It's bad enough when it's just you and your significant other, but when you add a 5 month old into all these possible scenarios, it's scary to think about. 

So, with the fear of the travel Gods within me, I went into super organizing mode for this trip. In fact, I wrote out an inventory for what was in every single bag we brought. Seriously. Every. single. bag. It definitely slowed up the process, but it was definitely worth it. Before I get into my packing list for all of you, here are a few other tips I have for traveling with your adorable wee one:

1. Wear dark colors. Seriously. Do it. Maybe your baby NEVER blows out a diaper. Or spits up. Or knocks over your drink onto you. Maybe your baby crawls around in pristine neatly pressed white garments all the time. This is not my baby. Out of 8 flights, we had 2 blowouts. Not bad in my opinion, especially since some of those diaper changes were rushed or completed during turbulence with a squirmy wormy baby. So why wear black? Because if said blowout occurs, no one but you will know that you're maybe possibly covered in pee. Or worse. 

2. Use a sling or carrier. We have a BOB running stroller, and yes it's awesome for running with baby in our mountains, but it's a BEAST to get through the airport with. TSA couldn't believe how big and heavy it was. The only reason we had it with us was because we bought it in the US, and were bringing it back with us. Our Sakura Bloom sling was a savior. Dan handled our carry on bags, and I was able to just throw Oswin in the sling, and be hands free to handle her and my purse. It also acted as a great cover for nursing while in flight.

3. Use what you've got. At five months of age, Oswin wasn't really "into" her toys yet. I brought a few little board books with, even though she was only just starting to let us read to her without hating it. I also brought a little lovey, Sophie the Giraffe, and a rattle that she liked. We used absolutely none of those things on any of the flights. In fact we didn't use the books at all, or Sophie, for the duration of the trip. We used the rattle to help her go to sleep at night, and I wanted her to have her lovey so that she had something familiar to snuggle with before bed, since she'd be sleeping in three strange environments over the course of three weeks. What did get her attention on the flight? The plastic cups that the airline served water in. Who knew they were so cool?! Oswin, apparently. We got a good 30+ minutes out of pretending to drink from the empty cup, then letting her pretend to drink from it, and on and on. Also, don't underestimate the power of the empty water bottle. It's another device to pretend to drink from, and if squeezed makes apparently really cool noises. Again, a good 30 minutes out of that one. Become the MacGyver of baby distraction and win the potential fussiness war. 

4. Pack light. This is an easy one. It is miserable to have to worry about cumbersome bags while keeping baby happy. 

5. Make an "oh merde" bag. I had fun with this one and literally wrote "oh merde" on the bag. In it were 3 diapers, a spare onesie and pyjama, wipes, and a few plastic bags. It was definitely our worst case scenario safety net. By putting everything you need in a plastic bag and bringing that with you, you have at everything at your finger tips for the worst case scenario. 

6. That being said, make produce bags your friend. Yes, I know, they're horrible for the environment. But you know what they're great for? Not being bulky in your diaper bag or "oh merde" bag to help contain a messy situation. Stick about 10 in your bag on your last trip to the supermarket and thank me later. 

{Welcome to 'Merica Baby Girl!!!}

7. Traveling alone? Always say a little hello to the gate attendant. And while you're saying hello, double check the placement of your seat. Doc and I are often on separate reservations, which means they frequently separate us, even if we've booked seats next to each other. Why? Because people traveling alone are the first ones to get moved when a family needs to be seated together. Or someone gets an upgrade. The solo fliers get screwed. This happened to us on this trip as well. We noticed and brought Oswin with us up to the desk, because even though you assume that they know you've got an infant on your lap, well, you know what they say about assuming things...long story short, the nice man with the power took one look at baby girl and said, "yeah, we'll get you two seated together...I think it's better for everyone involved." Amen man...

8. Is your baby eating soilds? Even though we bought the cutest bibs while we were home, they were a pain in the butt to wash after every use when traveling. When we got back to SwitzerFrance we immediately bought kid art smock bibs that are water resistant, taking away the need for a serious washing when getting down with some wanderlust. Just rinse it under water and hang it up to dry for a few minutes and you're ready to go on your next adventure

9. Does your kiddo take a pacifier? Then get a pacifier lanyard. Seriously. Those airplane bathroom floors are GROSS. Lanyards are saviors for keeping that binky clean. 

So what did I pack for our big ole 3 week adventure? Read on and take a look into my OCD mind...

(Keep in mind that we had access to a washer and dryer, but I throw virtually nothing into the dryer...if I did, I probably could have brought even less in the way of clothes.)

Rolling carry on bag: 

1. Two backup pairs of pyjamas for Oswin
2. Two backup onesies for Oswin
3. One backup nursing tank/change of shirt (When you unexpectedly have to spend the night in Houston, it makes a world of difference to be able to change your shirt before starting travel again the next day...)
4. Pyjamas for me (See above, because sleeping in pyjamas in Houston and not your travel clothes is awesome too...)
5. One baseball hat for me (messy hair, don't care...) 
6. Headphones
7. Fourteen diapers (I essentially planned for diapers for 2.5 days worth of travel, because the last thing we'd want if we got laid over or re-routed through say, Brussels, would be to have to find somewhere to buy diapers...)
8. Backup box of wipes (See above)
9. Breast pump, pump bottles and batteries
10. An extra long sleeve shirt for me 
11. Plastic baggie with permissible liquids, including tea tree oil, face wash, toothpaste, saline for Oswin's nose, and coconut oil for her bum)
12. Hair brush (messy hair, don't care, but hell no to knots...)
13. Six backup nursing pads (say no to leakage!)

Diaper Bag: 

1. "Oh merde" bag (See Tip #5 above)
2. Bib
3. Hand sanitizer
4. Extra pacifier 
5. Hat for Oswin (...because those planes go from hot as Hades to a tundra in the time it takes to tell the stewardess if you want tea or coffee...)
6. Swaddle 
7. Breast milk (4 bottles) and bottle insulators to keep it cold. (...because if your baby is as distractible as ours, nursing may be a bit difficult. There were times when she wouldn't nurse, but would take a bottle.)
8. A few small toys or books in case water bottles and empty cups lose their luster...   

Checked bag:

Note: When it came to packing for myself, I packed light, knowing that I'd be able to wash my clothes. Everyone is different, but my general rule of thumb for travelling back to the United States is to bring one week's worth of clothes, and do laundry. Some people need more to feel like themselves, some need less. Take a good honest look at yourself and your needs, then pack accordingly. 

For Oswin: 

1. Three additional pairs of pyjamas
2. Three additional onesies
3. Five long sleeve shirt/hoodies/etc. 
4. Five pairs of leggings/pants
5. One pair of tights
6. One dress
7. Moccasins 
8. Her special bath soap
9. Bath thermometer
10. Her spoon
11. Travel Pac 'n Play 
12. A few hair, or in her follicly-challenged case, head, accessories 
13. Any weather necessities. It was March when we went, and NJ got 9 inches of snow while we were at my parent's house, so I was glad I had packed her little bear cold weather suit. 

Ok, phew! That's it! I hope this list of how we traveled internationally with our little bundle of awesome and set of tips will be helpful to some of you hitting the tarmac this summer, or whenever you're taking your little on a big ole trip. Don't be intimidated by flying anywhere with your baby, you can do it! And if they scream and cry the whole time just remember that the flight, though it may seem like it takes forever, is a finite amount of time, and it will end. The experiences you can provide for yourself and your baby through traveling far outweigh the inconveniences. So get out there and explore my friends!

A la prochaine friends...


No comments:

Post a Comment