When you have a baby for the first time, the most basic tasks become monumental feats of courage and willpower. Things like grocery shopping, eating out at restaurants, and doctor’s visits can induce such crippling anxiety that you’ll convince yourself you actually don’t need to go out at all. You’ll pack your things together and decide you’d much rather stay inside with the baby. When your first plane ride is a 6 hour cross-country trip? Stress levels go through the roof.
We knew that it was going to be schlep to travel with a baby, so we adopted the strategy: expect the worst, and be pleasantly surprised when it’s only moderately catastrophic. I think it worked! As it turns out the things that we were most afraid of (being trapped with baby on six hour plane rides) ended up being much better than we thought. The things that we had a hard time with were things that we already knew she hated…being stuck in her car seat and napping/sleeping anywhere but her crib.
It definitely wasn’t easy. Being away from home for 9 days meant hauling quite a lot of stuff with, as you can see above. But we discovered, as with everything else you do with baby, it isn’t as bad as you think it will be. Here’s what we learned during our trip to California:
1. Bring a Baby Carrier– You may tell yourself before your trip, ‘well, my baby is almost a year now, and since they outgrew their baby bjorn, do I really need to buy another carrier that will fit them? I mean how much longer are they going to be in it anyway?’ (*cough**cough* husband) YES. For the love of everything buy a new carrier!! If you don’t feel like spending all that money for a new one, buy one from Craigslist, or borrow one from a friend if you can. I can not stress how important this one is. I asked my husband no less than two times a day on our trip, why oh why did we not buy a new carrier? Do it!
2. Stroller = Diaper Bag holder– We thought we were clever and got a really good umbrella stroller from Craigslist for $30. It is super light. It is easy to open and close with one hand. It is very easy to maneuver through crowded areas. Our daughter refused to sit in it. Because of this I pushed around our diaper bag in the stroller, while holding my child with one hand for the entirety of our trip. Please, please, please, see #1.
3. Bathroom = Hot Spot– The bathroom is where it’s at folks. Nap time for Esmé meant lights out, curtains closed. Consequently Mommy was left to read books on the ipad, in a pitch black hotel room, without making a peep, or, relax on a cold, hard bathroom floor, where you can at least make a little noise, and have lights on. My husband and I also enjoyed an excellent meal or two seated on the toilet and the edge of the bathtub, after we put her to bed. Good times.
4. Pack lightly– This is something that I knew about, but I still packed every cute outfit that she owns. I was also afraid that she wouldn’t have enough to entertain her on the plane, so I brought many toys, books, and teethers. She didn’t touch a single book, toy, or teether on the plane. Family and friends that we visited with were extremely generous, and gave us more clothes, books, and toys. Let’s just say packing for the return trip was a little tricky.
You’ll probably need only a couple extra outfits if your baby likes to spit-up/drool as much as mine, and maybe two toys for the plane, but that’s it. One thing that did seem to comfort Esmé was having a pacifier. She really isn’t a big fan of them, but I happened to have one in her bag, so I gave it to her when she got a little fussy and she loved it. If your baby has a comfort item, I would definitely have it on hand in a bag that you can get to easily.
5. Breast Feeding– If you’re breast feeding, take your cover with you wherever you go, even if you are braver than me, and don’t actually use a cover when you feed. I used ours as a blanket, a spit-up cloth, napkin, a cover so that she could sleep on the plane, and also to shade her from the sun. Seriously so helpful to have on hand. If you use bottles, take a light blanket and you can do the same thing.
6. Solid Food– Squeeze pouches of food, a silicone, or wipeable bib, and happy puffs are key if you have a baby who is eating solids. I generally make Esmé’s food at home, so I was amazed at how much more convenient those little squeeze pouches are. Initially they were kind of a distraction and she wouldn’t eat because she wanted to play with the pouch. So I just squeezed all the contents out into one of her bowls and fed her with a spoon. Happy puffs, or other snacky baby foods are not only helpful if your little one is hungry, but they also serve as entertainment for baby. This way mommy and daddy can quickly inhale their dinner while baby is crunching away.
7. Stroller = High Chair– I know I already said that the stroller serves to push the diaper bag around for #2, but the one time my child didn’t mind being in the stroller was when she was facing me. So I strapped her in and used it as a high chair. Huge help! Not every place you go to has high chairs, and we certainly didn’t have one in our hotel room, so breakfast was served, every morning, in her stroller.
8. Activities– Tune in to what your baby likes to do. I don’t know about you, but before we go on a trip somewhere, I like to yelp everything that is nearby, and make a list of all the places I want to see. Generally there are a lot of dessert places on that list, but that’s neither here nor there. I spent a couple days dragging her around, pushing the diaper bag around in the stroller, trying to shop with one hand, until I finally gave up.
She loved the playground that was at this shopping center 5 minutes away from our hotel. She just enjoyed being outside, watching all the kids around her, eating the playground equipment, and being with me…so why stress her and me out trying to get her to ‘enjoy’ other things? As soon as I let go of my list, and started doing things we both could enjoy, things went a lot more smoothly, and she was a much happier camper. At least until I took her away from the playground.