Luca and I went on a little trip last week. We went to Florida to hang out with my best friend Jen and her two beautiful daughters, Ella and Avery (and her husband, but he was out of town for most of the trip!). Although it was a little chilly there, it was a fantastic trip and Luca was awesome!
From the day we booked the trip, I started stressing about it (surprise, surprise). I was worried about the airport. The flight. Whether Luca would adjust to a new place. Would he sleep. Would he scream. Etc etc etc.
So here is what I learned from my first solo trip with Luca...
1. Travel Light: I was lucky that Jen had a stroller and a car seat that Luca could use, so we didn't NEED to bring those things. I also worried about navigating the airport alone with all of that gear. I didn't know how I would get through security because once you take your kid out of the stroller, where do you put him while you fold it up? So I left that stuff at home and just used a baby carrier (we have the Beco Gemini). It was perfect. I had my hands free for dealing with all of the paperwork etc and Luca stayed happy.
Other than the carrier, I checked my luggage and only brought a diaper bag. Well, since my diaper bag was stolen, it was just a bag with my baby gear in it, but you know what I mean. I was tempted to fit my stuff in a carry on, but then I'd have to deal with getting it through the airport, putting it up in the overhead bin, etc. Didn't seem worth it. So ya. Baby in carrier. Diaper bag on shoulder. Done.
Here's Luca once we reached the gate. I put down a blanket and we chilled out, picnic style on the ground until it was time to board.
Lil guy was tired - so I brought his lovey hoping he'd have a nap. Ha.
2. Luca Likes Food, Not Toys: Everything I read said to bring toys for the plane, and to even buy some new toys so that they will be excited/interested/whatever. I followed that rule. I brought two of his favourites and a new toy. He could have cared less. The only thing he cared about was FOOD. Seriously. He was decent on the way there but on the way back, the only thing that pacified him was food. Half a container of puffs. A whole banana. 5 ounces of explosive milk (see below). Once he finished all of that, he yelled and climbed and cried and fussed. I would have done anything for some baby yogurt or a box of Cheerios. My kingdom for some Cheerios.
3. Sit Near the Back: This goes against my usual preference for sitting near the front of an airplane. Not only do you get off faster, but you are farther from the bathrooms (so you don't have a constant stream of people bumping your elbow) and I once heard a statistic about chances of survival in a crash being higher in the front. Morbid, but it stuck with me. Anyhoo. If you have a baby, sit near the back! That is where the other babies are! With babies come parents who won't hate you. They will even give you that look of "I've been there" as they sit semi-smuggly with their well behaved 4 year old who is happily munching on Goldfish, watching Tarzan on the mini tv with those special kid headphones, all while mom sits back with a complimentary non-alcholic beverage and a book. Sure I was jealous of those moms, but at least they didn't stare daggers at me when Luca started climbing the seat in front of me and yelling at everyone who walked by. Like the people in the front. Those people didn't like us. I only ventured up there once, trying to follow the "just walk up an down the aisle if he gets fussy" advice I had been given, and vowed never to return. (shudders thinking about it)
Another upside to sitting near other parents (and people who obviously got discount tickets or booked last minute) is that they are willing to help you! I was lucky and sat next to fabulous seat-mates who were more than happy to make faces at Luca and even hold him once in a while when I probably looked like I was going to offer him for sale over the P.A. Even the passenger behind us helped keep Luca entertained by playing peek-a-boo and letting Luca blow raspberries towards him. Awesome.
4. Bring Sleep-Stuff: I think one of my biggest fears with travelling was whether Luca was going to be able to continue sleeping as well as he does at home. After all of
our his hard work, I didn't want to blow it. So I made sure to bring all of his sleep-gear to try to mimic his home sleeping environment as much as possible.
We were lucky and I knew Luca would get to use baby Avery's nursery for the week so I didn't have to schlep a portable crib or anything. So every night I would follow his regular routine and you know what? It worked! He woke up super early after night one (5:30 a.m., little bugger) but after that, he slept 11-12 hours at night and usually had his 3 naps during the day (ranging from 1-2.5 hours each) unless we went out somewhere. He was a total champ.
Luca enjoying a rest in a very sweet pink nursery :-)
5. Be Prepared for Things to Go Wrong (aka My Milk is the Bomb): This one is tough if you are already nervous and stressed out. Things might not go according to plan when you are dealing with air travel. Flights can be delayed. Customs agents can be cranky. It happens. I was ready for some bumps, but I wasn't ready for what happened on the way home from Florida.
As we were going through security in Tampa, I had to pull out my pumped breast milk (like you would other liquids) before going through the metal detector. There are special rules that apply to breast milk (i.e. you can bring more than the usual amount of liquids permitted, etc) and I knew that. I had two bottles - one for the flight (because breastfeeding an 8 month old in those tiny seats is TOUGH) and one for his night feed once home. The bottles were pulled aside for special screening and...
I'm sure you can see where this is going...
One of them tested positive THREE TIMES for explosive material. That's right. My milk is the bomb.
I was pulled aside and told that because it tested positive three times, I would have to be subjected to a secondary search (i.e. a very touchy pat-down and my diaper bag would be ripped apart, tested and then jumbled back together). Oh and the bottle would have to be confiscated.
The pat-down wasn't as bad as the thought of the milk being thrown out. A) Pumping sucks. B) It was the bottle ready for drinking on the plane so I was worried about what I'd do without it. C) Pumping sucks and I needed that milk! Oh, and D) I didn't have any explosives on me so I knew it was a false positive.
I had to put Luca on the ground while they searched me (since they weren't allowed to hold him). The female TSA agent got all up in my business (just doing her job, I know) while Luca crawled on the dirty floor, and they said an exception might be made if they call in an expert.
An explosives expert.
So we waited for the explosives expert to come. He did another test. Chatted with me for a bit and then let us go on our way with the milk.
Didn't see that one coming.
Luca waiting for the flight home after the milk fiasco. The crying that ensued MIGHT have been related to the fact that we almost lost his milk. Don't let the smile fool you. Crying did follow. Oh did it follow.
* * * * *
So that's that. We survived. We enjoyed the sun and made it through the flights. Most of all we loved spending time with our favourite girls!
His first high-chair experience at a restaurant.
Next generation of best friends :-)
So tell me - do you have any great tips for travelling with a baby? We are heading out on another trip in April so I'm still trying to perfect it!