By the time my daughter was 6 months old, she had circumnavigated the globe. Over the course of nearly 24,000 miles and 48 hours in the air, we learned a few tricks, which are useful whether you’re traveling for an hour or a day.
1. Don’t worry about the crying.
Babies cry. Just like kids who kick the seat in front of them and middle-aged women who get drunk and chatty on long flights, crying babies are a fact of life. Of course you want to keep it to a minimum, but go in expecting that there will be some tears involved.
2. Let the professionals handle the passport picture.
Travel blogs abound with tips for getting a passport picture of a baby. Here is mine: Call in the professionals. Meeting passport photo requirements is tough for anyone, and nearly impossible with a squirming infant. The pros at the post office will have it done in no time. The outtakes from the DIY session, however, will be priceless.
3. The baby isn’t the only one who will need a change of clothes.
My daughter was an angel on our first flight, and I was feeling victorious when we touched down in Dubai...until the baby chose the moment we passed through customs to have a massive blowout all over herself, the baby carrier, and my carefully chosen culturally-appropriate outfit. There’s nothing quite like waiting for your checked luggage in spaghetti straps in the Middle East because your clothes are covered in poop.
4. In-flight meals make great entertainment.
Booking my daughter’s ticket, the airline representative asked if we needed a meal for her. “Even if she won’t eat it, they make great toys,” she said. That woman was brilliant. My daughter was too little to eat much, but the new sights and sounds of a mid-flight meal kept her entertained and let me eat in peace.
5. Capitalize on the public’s love for little ones.
For most of our trip, I was traveling alone, and I spent way too much time before takeoff considering the logistics of peeing with a baby in those tiny airplane bathrooms. Turns out I didn’t have to. In general, people love babies, and I’m willing to bet you can find a flight attendant or fellow passenger who will hold your little one while you use the bathroom with both hands free.
6. Strollers aren’t just for babies.
I wear the baby a lot (expert tip: you can usually wear your carrier right through security), so I almost didn’t bring a stroller. However, I was so glad I did. As you know, babies don’t travel light, and stroller is the perfect place to put your bags, coffee, baby bottles, or anything else that needs to be set down.
7. Pack gear that does double duty.
I practically need a suitcase for a day trip with an infant, so packing for months of travel was tough. Remember that you can probably get most necessities at your destination, and don’t be afraid to get creative. Who needs a pack and play when your infant will happily snooze in an emptied suitcase?
8. Sometimes you have to be shameless.
The night before my trip began I was worried, so I called a much more experienced mom who traveled frequently. She set my mind at ease, before walking me through the worst-case scenario. “Be shameless,” she said, telling me how once, with a short connection and two toddlers she had an airline representative meet her at the gate with a wheelchair, and all three rolled up to their next gate in no time. Sometimes you have to do whatever it takes.
9. Steady yourself for cultural shifts.
In America, it’s not uncommon to have your pregnant belly rubbed, or have a stranger get a bit too close to your infant. Abroad, I found that strangers had no qualms picking my baby up and giving her a hug. Be prepared for the attention, and decide ahead of time how you are comfortable handling it.
Whether you’re going to another part of the state or another continent, traveling with an infant can be intimidating. But remember, wherever you’re going, they have babies there, too. Those mamas and babies do just fine, and so will you.