Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Traveling with a baby

Everyone always says to travel before you have kids. We wanted to follow that advice. We visited each others' homes overseas and always said we wanted to do a backpacking trip Europe before we had kids. Actually, I said Europe and Isaac said Mediterranean and we never quite agreed on that one.

Then... along came Judah.

My friend Clare reassured me that having kids doesn't preempt traveling, as all my friends should know since our parents took us around the world regularly when we were little! So when my friend Rachel (who lives in England) got engaged and I was determined to return the message of love she sent by coming across the ocean for my wedding, Isaac and I decided to give this whole traveling-with-kids thing out.

Conclusion: It is do-able (clearly). It is also way more complicated and slightly less fun (at least for us).


Just being honest, guys.

Airport Travel 
I think that compared to how other people travel with kids, we did pretty well. Airports are chaotic regardless, and we didn't want to have to mess with strollers or car seats, so we pretty much just did all of our air travel with Judah like this:

Sorry, really really bad picture. Isaac hates photos so I didn't get a chance to retake it. :) In any case, the front pack is highly recommended. At least for Judah, he's generally calm when he's in them, it means I have hands free to carry other bags or unload things in the security line, etc. The Baby Bjorn baby carrier is my favorite, but I'm dying to get an Ergo for our next kid.

STILL though, even though we were a lot faster and streamlined than other families with kids that we saw, Isaac and I used to be rock star travelers who did the vast majority of our traveling with carry-ons only. Despite taking minimal baby stuff, taking baby stuff at all meant we had to check a bag.

Oh and... you have to consider the whole baby food/formula thing. We could pack baby food and juice, but they made us TASTE it in security lines to verify that it was really food/drink. Weird, huh?

As for flying, you pay full price to buy a seat for a kid. If you're flying internationally you pay a percentage even just to carry a baby on your lap. We went that route because financially we had do. I knew that growing up they used to have these seats with little baby beds or bassinets, but you can't request those before you get to the airport. We requested them as soon as we got to the airport, but it turns out that American Airlines has done away with them altogether. I can't speak for the rest of the airlines, but for us it meant that Judah would be on our laps for the entire flight to England in the standard small seats. Lisa-Jo at Gypsy Mama just wrote a piece I totally resonated with about all of this here.

It wasn't bad, it really wasn't. Judah stayed pretty quiet for almost all of both flights and didn't cry at takeoff or landing (their ears can hurt with the pressure changes). We didn't have neighbors having to put up with a screaming baby - everyone commented that he was great. However, it was exhausting. Try eating from a tray that is designed to be right at your stomach, but there's a baby there and he wants to grab EVERYTHING and there's no room to move it out of his reach! The person next to us whose personal space I am trying to keep Judah out of is about four inches away... how do you keep a kid corralled? And poor daddy is trying to watch the movie, but those ear phone cords are THE most desirable item in the general area. At some points we put both of our tray tables down and laid him on top of them, where he wiggled delightedly, happy to have us both captive and attentive.

On one flight we happened to have an empty seat seat next to us, thank God.

why's this camera in my face?

much easier for him to sleep when he has his own seat! So cute...

And as for playing tourist, we generally had Judah out in a little stroller, which was great sometimes: because we didn't have to hold him and he could doze off.

But other times that meant we were out and about late at night and Judah would stay awake and watch us from the stroller with huge disoriented eyes like, "Where the heck are we and what is going?!"

Or... you hit stairs. Or escalators. So we did a lot of this:

And if you're going to end up carrying the stroller, why not just carry the baby? In retrospect, when sightseeing, stick with the baby carrier instead of the stroller if you don't know what all you'll be doing.

In general, your pace is slower. You have to stop for the baby's eating, play time, sometimes nap time... and if you don't stop for nap time you may pay for it later. The worst moment for us was after a whole day in London when Judah was just great, we were going home on the train and Judah was in my arms, and he went from being an angel to suddenly welling up with tears and crying... and crying... and crying. I looked at Isaac across the pack of people with desperate eyes, and we jumped off at the next stop while yelling across the crowd to our friends that we'd find our own way home. Poor Judah was so tired and hungry, I felt so bad for him.

Then there's baby gear. Car seats, pack-n-play, diapers, wipes, toys, etc. We didn't worry about this because Isaac's mom took care of it all for us, and Judah's stuff was all set up when we got there. If you have to carry all of that with you (as we will when we drive to my parent's for Thanksgiving), you add a whole new element to the trip.

Fun fun.

Here's what I learned for next time:

  • Use the front pack most of the time, but have a light stroller as backup.
  • Carry emergency food and drink supplies
  • Be casual. Don't schedule much. Focus on hanging out instead of doing things.
  • Let that baby sleep. As often and as much as possible.
  • Encourage other people to make plans separately from you. Meet them when the baby's schedule allows.

Oh, and PS - jet lag going East rocked. First night Judah slept 13 hours, and he NEVER does that. Going the other direction he traveled so well, until we got home at 2am in the morning after traveling forever. When we pulled him out of his car seat and put him in bed, he looked at us with confusion, and started crying with desperation (just like the train). Again, so confused. He was inconsolable for two hours. Four AM people. And us running on no sleep. And me headed to work in the AM. 


    Jaimie said...

    Oh my God, this post totally reaffirmed my belief that I never want a baby. In that way, it was an awesome, fascinating post. Lol.

    Jaimie said...

    PS. I hate how airlines pocket the baby tax. They should give it to the passenger in the next seat (as a credit or something). What do the airlines care if there's a baby? The person having to put up with crap is the passenger. Ugh, airlines. I mean, they should give it to the passengers or not charge you. One or the other.

    Kacie said...

    airlines should come up with a better seating system in general. Isaac needs a way to get seats he can actually fit into (he's six four). Kids and babies are a different situation. overweight people need to be able to fit into some seats....

    And yeah, I was terrified that we'd bother the people next to us. The two times we sat next to someone it was fine. One lady slept the whole way, and the other one was a totally sweet socially awkward lady and Judah was great that flight.

    cclarbear said...

    I've just emailed this post to my boyfriend.


    Jaimie said...

    Yeah, I'm 5'11 and it sucks. I can't imagine how it must be to be 6'4.

    Team Vang said...

    Happened upon your blog via Lauren Roberson's. We will be making our way overseas in September with a 6 month old. I'm not sure how much you plan on traveling internationally in the near future, but if you are like us it is unavoidable if you want to see family! SAS does have the bassinets you can reserve ahead of time, and they fly all over Europe, not just the Scandinavian countries. I'm not really sure how agreeable our little one will be in the bassinet, but hopefully it will give us at least a couple of hours of respite on the long journey.

    web hosting india said...

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    rahul verma said...

    Hello, you have a very interesting blog here. I really enjoyed reading it -- Keep Writing.
    Web hosting