You CAN travel with your baby. It’s fun, exciting and full of perks. I know you googled it. I did. The forums are full of the helpful nay-sayers. Don’t listen to them, listen to yourself. You know you can do it and just need affirmation. Don’t worry, mama, you got this.
Before You Go
On a relatively last minute whim, we went to Rome in January. About a month before we left, we sought out the cheapest most direct flight we could find. Following the drive to Vancouver, we would only have 1 transfer to get to Rome (in Heathrow both ways). Our travel day estimated an average 14-15 hours, reasonable compared to some of the 24 hour options.
The first perk of traveling with a baby is booking your flight. With Walter being under 2 years, we decided to travel with him as a lap passenger (at our own risk). Walter qualified to have access to the bulkhead baby cots. Score. This was AWESOME. Why? Because the bulkhead means that you have extra leg room. A major perk if you’re 6 feet tall. (FYI – on British Airways, Walter wasn’t free. We paid like $200 in taxes and stuff. We got leg room and these tall adults, are not complaining)
At the Airport
Before you even get to the airport, when you’re packing your diaper bag with the thousand and one things you think you need, take a moment and separate your liquids. Do everyone a favour, and the super all-star mom when asked for you liquids that you just pull out your ziplock and go “bam” that’s it and breeze thru security.
Storytime: The family in front of us was not organized (and didn’t listen to the security personnel). They had liquid formula to be screened, boxes of it in each carry on, that they had not pulled out as instructed. My husbands bag got flagged for additional screening. In the time that it took for my husband to wait for the family in front of and for his bag to be screened – I breezed thru security, found a bathroom, pumped a bottle and then met my husband at our gate. Seriously. Do yourself a favour and separate out all liquids, and/or know where to find them.
We gate checked our Maclaren Mark II, so we dragged it with us thru security. Different security ports ask you different things. Some collapse, some push thru. You never know. Always a guessing game. Even with the stroller, we wore Walter. I had a wrap in the bag, but because I prefer the ease of buckles for quick up and downs, I used my Lenny Lamb SSC for the trip.
FYI: Wearing baby will be the best way get on and off the plane, and even more helpful on the end of the trip when waiting for strollers to be returned to the gate.
Once at the gate, just chill and do your thing. We let Walter play on the floor giving him the opportunity to stretch and wiggle and get some energy out. I bought some water and sugary snacks for the plane. Just before boarding a quick bathroom break for everyone, including baby.
I read different opinions about to pre-board or not to pre-board. I decided it was in our best interest to board early and only myself and the baby boarded early. The boys stayed behind and just chilled. While Eric’s helping hands might have been beneficial, I think he would have just gotten in the way. I used my space to unpack what I needed from my bags, get my bags in the overhead and familiarize myself with the staff and flight. By the time the boys arrived, Walter was settled down and I was ready to sit down and strap myself and the baby in.
The biggest downside to bulkhead seats is you can’t store anything at your feet. So take advantage of stashing a bottle of milk or water in the seat with you and a thin toy in the magazine rack.
Walter is exclusively breastfed, but easily distractible. Just before we boarded I pumped him a bottle. I might have pumped 1.5 oz, so not much. This trick has worked for me in the past, and it worked when I needed it to on the plane. I fed him the bottle and transferred to my breast. The bottle relaxed him enough to take the breast and then he breastfed himself to sleep. He woke a few more times to eat, but after that we were golden! (pretty much, it wasn’t my kid screaming at 3am waking us up).
At 6 months, Walter was 21lbs and 27” long. He was too long for the cot adapter on the British Airways flight. He fit in there with his legs up and over. He ended up sleeping like a champ in his cot. On the way back, after some delay with a chaotic crew, we requested a seat instead. Transferring him to his sleepy state into the cot or the chair was always the hardest part. The cots/chairs can’t be used during turbulence. On our return flight I ended up holding him the entire flight since we kept hitting turbulence.
Aside from being a champ, eating was difficult. I found he often wanted to eat when I did, and then having the space for your tray and the baby in the cot grabbing things or crying. Can you see the bad scenario’s playing out? Be patient the flight staff brought me my meal later once husband could hold Walter the first time, the second he slept, the others were just okay.
P.S. Last time I flew international by myself I binge watched movies and read magazines. Don’t expect to do much of anything. Sleep when that baby sleeps, and when he’s not sleeping, you’ll be busy entertaining him. I brought headphones, never used them. I might have played some video games on my phone at some point, but really childcare continued to be my primary.
I am pretty sure the trans-atlantic flights descend nice and slow. We had no problems with ears or tears. We landed, gathered our stuff (don’t forget to check everywhere) and then impatiently waited for our strollers. We narrowly caught our next flight in Heathrow and made it to Rome just on schedule, but definitely exhausted and ready for sleep!