I consider myself a veteran traveler. I’ve been traveling around the world since my early 20’s – traveling alone or with my husband. But the time had come to add traveling with a newborn to my resume, and I’ll admit… I was terrified!
The day had come when I was ready to hit the skies with my little 4-month old Mia. Since we live overseas, my family back home had yet to see her. I wanted to make the trip while I was still on maternity leave – to take advantage of my time off – which means traveling with a newborn.
Anyone who has a dual citizenship family, knows that the process of acquiring passports/citizenship papers/traveling documents takes time so we made sure to start the process early. Needless to say, Mia’s passport picture is when she was a mere week old. 🙂
Tip #1: Start all paperwork processes early. It takes weeks to receive all the necessary documents needed to travel, and you don’t want to be sweating bullets at the last minute.
Once we had all our documents in hand, we were physically ready to travel, but mentally I was NOT prepared. I had talked to other friends who had traveled with babies before, but actually going through it is a completely different thing. Here’s what I learned from this glorious adventure:
Tip #2: Talk to the airlines before your flight and request a baby cot.
This is crucial while traveling overseas on a long flight. Even if your baby never even uses the cot, the seating is what you need. The baby cot seats are located at the front of the section with extra leg room. They are also right next to the middle bathrooms, for all those diaper-changing trips you will likely be making. Mia didn’t actually use the cot so much for sleeping, because she slept better in my arms, but we did take advantage of the proximity to the bathrooms, OFTEN.
If you are not traveling on an overseas flight, and there is no cot option, try to get a seat in the front row or a row with an empty seat next to you if possible. (Talk to the check-in desk about this option. If it’s available, they are usually sympathetic to women traveling alone with babies.) Typically they have a bit more room, and even if you have to pay a bit more, trust me, it’s worth it. Having to hold your baby the entire time is no easy task.
Tip #3: Familiarize yourself with the layout of the airport(s) you are traveling through.
This was key for me, especially on my layover in Amsterdam (which happens to be the most baby-friendly airports I’ve ever been to). Most airports have family or baby-changing bathrooms, and Amsterdam had an entire baby care lounge for families. They have baby “pods” with cribs, sinks for giving baths, microwaves for heating bottles, and a quiet area for sleeping babies. Mia and I spent most of our layover in a pod, saving me the hassle of wondering around aimlessly to keep her occupied.
Tip #4: Be completely prepared with EXTRA bottles and milk.
Since I was still breastfeeding, I was able to lessen the burden of bringing lots of bottles with me, but I made sure that I had extra bottles, “just in case”. Most airlines allow you to bring bottles with a certain amount of water in them (check your airline for the specific amount), so I pre-filled bottles with water and brought formula with me on the flight.
This was such a time and stress saver, because I didn’t have to ask the flight attendants for boiled water for my bottles (which they will do for you, but it takes time to cool the water). When you have a baby who needs the milk NOW – like Mia does – this little tip comes in handy.
You can never be too prepared!
Tip #5: Bring at least 3 changes of comfortable clothing for your baby + plastic bags
Thank goodness I followed my own tip, because I needed each one. On the first flight, Mia had 2 explosions (mothers, you know what I’m talking about), so the extra outfits came were essential. She went through the last change on our second flight, so thankfully I didn’t need more. I suggest bringing plastic bags with you so you can wash out the soiled outfit in the bathroom and roll it up in the plastic bag.
I also suggest dressing your baby in PJ onesies. You want your baby to be comfortable and warm enough to sleep, and we all know how cold those flights can be.
Tip #6: Bring a baby carrier and stroller with you.
Most all airlines will allow you to bring the stroller with you in the airport instead of checking it in. This is important, especially if you have a layover. Having the stroller with you is helpful, not only for the baby, but for you. I traveled with a stroller, diaper bag, backpack, and baby carrier. Yes, it was a lot for one woman to carry, and the stroller alleviated some of that weight.
If your baby is anything like Mia was at 4 months, she only wanted to be on me in the carrier, seeing what was going on around her. Bringing the carrier with me was the best decision for our trip.
Tip #7: Going through customs: Don’t wait in line!
Entering into a new country = going through customs + long lines. Did you know that traveling alone with a baby allows you to skip the lines and go directly to the front? I was able to enter the “special needs” line and avoid the 1 hour line. Don’t be shy about doing it either. Traveling alone with a baby definitely fulfills the definition of special needs. And you’ll be thanking me when you avoid the meltdown of your screaming baby.
Tip #8: Find a friend.
There is usually one empathetic person who will help you. For me, there was a really sweet mom, traveling with her family, who offered to help me with anything I needed. Even if it’s watching the baby as you run to the bathroom, every little bit help. Which brings me to my next tip:
Tip #9: Ask for help!
This was difficult for me, because I typically don’t like asking for help. I’m pretty independent and used to doing things myself. But, I learned that there are times where asking for help was crucial, and this is one of those times. I was actually surprised with the lack of help offered to me by the airline staff, and asking was required of me. Ladies, don’t hold back… ask for help when you need it. Going to the bathroom with your little one isn’t very fun at all, trust me!
Tip #10: Don’t worry what everyone else thinks. You can’t please everyone.
I’ll be 100% honest, I was terrified of what everyone else on the flight would think when my baby started to cry. I didn’t want to be “that lady” who couldn’t keep her baby quiet on the flight. I did everything I could to calm Mia, just to avoid people getting mad at me. But when Mia had a complete meltdown on our last flight, and I almost had one too, I learned that there is absolutely nothing you can do to avoid it. I did everything I could and it still happened.
And no matter what amount of stress it causes you, you have to learn that it’s a part of the journey. After Mia’s meltdown, and we finally landed and I was able to stand and quiet her down, multiple people around me comforted me and let me know that it was no big deal, and babies cry. Yes, I’m sure it annoyed multiple people on the flight, but I’m sure they got over it too. Your baby is what matters in the end.
In the end, no matter how many trials and tribulations, you will make it! I remember at the end of our trip, walking out of the airport with my husband – completely emotionally and physically exhausted – thinking, I did it!
It’s not always easy, and it’s not always an experience that I want to repeat, but we did it!
And that’s what I’ll always remember to the end of time.
Our first flying adventure together. 🙂