Have Baby, Will Travel

It was one of those moments when you see yourself outside of yourself. They don’t come often, so I pay close attention when this happens!

It was Christmas time, and I was traveling with my very good 4-month old. He habitually impresses people with his good behavior, so that’s not just my opinion. Judah wakes up smiling, like his Dad, and doesn’t see fit to cry on airplanes. He’s the best little traveling companion. But, people don’t know that when they see him.

So, here we were flying from Michigan to California by way of New Jersey (huh), and I had just been happily informed by a gate attendant that although he was my “lap child,” the seat next to me was going to be empty. We were going to have some sprawling room! This was very good news since it was going to be a 6-hour flight. We boarded the plane in high spirits and started chatting with the gentlemen two seats away. We had the window, he had the aisle, and I wanted to let him know that we’d be “sharing” that middle seat. The scenario went like this.

Businessman in expensive-looking suit sits in his aisle seat.

Tired-looking woman with baby squeezes past to take the window seat.

Businessman: That’s a young one.

Mom: But he’s a good traveller! And if we’re lucky, there shouldn’t be anyone in this middle seat!

I settle back in my chair, and then that moment happens, the one where I see myself. And I say to my poor row companion:

I guess you probably don’t feel very lucky since a woman with a baby just sat down next to you!

It’s true: I’ve felt that dread when seeing a baby on an airplane. I’ve even been that person thinking mean thoughts during a 12-hour trans-Pacific flight when the lights have been turned off for fake night-time and then –the nerve!– a baby starts to cry. What are those parents thinking? How could they just let that baby cry? Don’t they see we are trying to sleep?!

As a parent myself now, I can tell you there is no one on the airplane who wants that baby to stop crying more than the parent. They are desperate. Have some compassion! Not only do they have to hear the crying, but they’re the one who needs to find a way to make it stop!

I guess this is the part where I should tell you some helpful hints for traveling with a baby. And since our child took his 50th flight before his 2nd birthday, I feel like I’m maybe a little qualified. So here you go. You’re welcome. 😉

1. Bring a stroller, baby carrier, car seat, etc. Even strict airlines like Spirit will let you take a stroller and car seat for free. Strollers in airports have saved me from missing my flight during too-short layovers. Sometimes the baby is in his carrier and the stroller is carrying the rest of my crap so I can just run.

2. People have all told me the popular “make sure they are sucking on something during take-off and landing!” I’ve rarely done this. It must just depend on the kid, because neither of mine seem phased by this part of the flight.

3. If you plan on having them try to watch movies with headphones (we have these, which are great!), make sure you practice ahead of time. As cute as the kid looks wearing them on the package, yours might just hate them at first. Once they get the hang of it, though, it is so nice to distract them for half an hour or so with brain-melting media via an iPad.

4. Bring snacks! Sometimes all they need is a little bit of distraction or redirection to get them back to being happy on the plane.

5. Be kind to yourself! Sometimes you’ll be the only one. 😉 But really, traveling with a little person(s) is hard work. My very worst flying experience by far was roundtrip from Indonesia after having arrived one week before. My 6-month-old and I were re-jet-lagged and both had colds. During the longest flight, from LAX to China, I remember being in this crazy stupor wherein I needed to breastfeed the baby but his nose was too stuffed to breathe and nurse. So I had to suction him out, which made him scream, then nurse him back to happiness, all while my eyelids were so heavy that I was barely awake myself. Fortunately most of the people on the plane were Asian, extremely accommodating and kind towards families, which is how we all should be!

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