But, many many mothers and fathers have crossed great oceans with their little ones in tow. I mean think about the mothers who prepared to board a trans Atlantic steam ship WITHOUT an iPad. If settlers in America could cross the plains and rocky mountains in a covered wagon with no help from packets of tiny teddies or Peppa Pig, then YOU CAN DO IT! YOU can survive 14 hours in a tin capsule with a baby.
Or at least this is what I tell myself in the days preceding each and every flight across the Pacific Ocean. YOU CAN DO IT! I exclaim quietly when I rise on the day of the flight. I chant “YOU WILL SURVIVE” as my partner drops the baby and I off at the Virgin Australia counter. “YOU’VE GOT THIS,” I say as I awkwardly get all our crap and the baby out of our stroller and onto the security belt. I then remove my shoes (in the U.S.) or do not remove my shoes (in Australia), grab the baby and walk through security. “YOU’RE A SUPERMOM,” I say as the TSA or Australia SA ask to screen me further because the baby who’s screaming and dropping her bottle on the dirty floor is clearly a threat to national and international security. I tell myself “YOU’RE OWNING THIS!” and get frisked and then grab the stroller one handed while some old man tries to help, but then gives up because he can’t figure out that you have to kick hard here and there to pop the stroller back into place. I put my laptop, her bottle and all the other crap that’s yard-saled across the three plastic bins I needed back into my bags, baby into stroller and away we roll to the next stage. “YOU KILLED IT,” I exclaim.
And with that completed, I’ve achieved step three of fifty in my quest to cross the ocean with a baby. Just 47 more hoops to jump through and then I can take a nap. Here are a few of the things I keep in mind besides “YOU CAN DO IT,” when planning for a long haul trip with a baby.
TIPS and TRICKS
1. Know Your Baby
During our first 14 hour flight, Baby Valle was 5 months. It was super easy. She slept every 3 hours or so still so we got on, had lunch, she had a 2 hour nap, we had dinner and she went to bed again for 8 hours or until we landed in L.A. Each subsequent day time flight has gotten more difficult with age (all the night time ones besides a very crowded red-eye to New York City have been a dream). The last daytime flight from Sydney to L.A. was an absolute shocker that pinnacled with a two hour crying fit at right about the time everyone was trying to go to sleep. I was not popular.
So know what to expect of your baby. If he or she is young, rejoice, your baby cannot physically get away from you in a confined cabin full of grumpy, sleepy adults. If your baby is older anticipate how long and how frequent naps will be during your trip and stick to your routine. Then bring lots of shiny plastic things and hold on for the ride while he or she is awake.
2. Know Your Travel Preferences and Fight for Them Like It’s World War
I have to pee, a lot. My love of drinking water is never greater than on a long haul flight. I hate feeling trapped in my seat, needing to go to the bathroom or stretch my legs or chase Valle around. I always ask for an aisle seat. Always. If your baby is under 2, you need to request a bassinet from the airline. I ask when I book and then call a couple weeks before I fly and ask again and then make sure we have the bassinet when we check in.
I also found that when you’re traveling alone and are unlucky, the airline may seat you in a position so that the bassinet and your baby are in front of random strangers who, as a result, cannot put down their tray tables properly or get by to go to the bathroom. They are trapped in their own little hell with your baby (aka Saddam Hussein to your neighbors) twisting and wiggling in front of them all night long. I can remember my life B.B. (before baby), I would have had a shit fit if this happened to me. Oh, and the guy in the middle seat was about 6’4″. SO, I now make sure they NEVER EVER put me in this position again.
When your baby turns into a kid and get his or her own seat, you should always request to be in the bulk head where the babies, tall people and recently injured usually sit. You’ll get some extra floor space for your little airplane priya to crawl around and yay, you’re close to the towel!
3. Smile a Lot and Try to Make Friends with a Sympathetic Steward(ess)
At least on Virgin Australia, we usually are able to make a friend with a sympathetic stewardess who may hold your baby for a second while you dash to the toilet. One time a stewardess even carried young V all the way to our seats. I always do a lot of smiling and apologizing but it’s really the luck of the draw. On the aforementioned flight from hell, I had a gay steward who obviously wasn’t lamenting about not having his own biological spawn. He kept telling me she couldn’t be on the floor. Good luck with keeping a crazed one year old who’s been stuck in a tin can for 7 hours off the floor. God help me. But, you can always try and it helps to be as positive as possible while chanting my “YOU CAN DO THIS” mantra.
4. Come Prepared
Bring everything you need and then some! Obviously, you need formula if you’re not longer breast feeding, bottles, diapers, wipes, and toys. But don’t forget blankets! I once was told that there was only one blanket for both of us and the plane was freezing! Also, if your child is eating bring lots of food and snacks because I’ve never received any sort of child’s meal on an airplane. An older child will need lots of entertainment. We bring an iPad with games and movies, stickers, pipe cleaners to make crafts and coloring equipment. Oh, the novel you wanted to read, forget about it! It took me 8 hours to watch the Entourage movie.
5. You Can Go To the Toilet
Ok, so I said I pee a lot. I couldn’t ask a stewardess to hold V every hour on the hour so I figured out that in the bathrooms with the change tables, I could fold down the change table, lay the baby on it and sit down to pee while wedging the baby between my body and the change table. Now that she’s older, she just stands around in there ripping out all the Kleenex and toilet paper and saying “poo poo.”
6. Stay Positive
Keep your head up and your eye on the clock. I like to figure out what time it is in my destination and work backwards. It seems to go faster. I also do more smiling and apologizing and try to get on with my life! So many people are in this position every single day and I assure you, your child is not the worst the flight attendants have ever seen! Ask them! YOU CAN DO IT!
7. Rest When You Can
The maxim, “sleep when the baby sleeps,” that all those horrible people tell you when you have a newborn and are up all the damn time and have no chance to even eat, applies here. If the baby is napping, you take a nap and try to relax because when she gets up you may be doing several hundred laps around the plane knocking each and every aisle-seaters’ elbow on the way.
8. Make Sure There’s Support on the Other Side
When you get off the plane, give yourself a pat on the back or a stiff drink if that’s your pleasure! You made it! Now, endure picking up your luggage and going through customs (on my first 14 hour trip alone, I brought a surfboard! If you could see me with my luggage cart, 5 month old strapped on, surfboard blocking my view, you’d feel real bad for me or laugh). Then hand that child off! Before you fly, tell the blessed person picking you up that they are on duty when you arrive. I usually hand the baby to my mother or partner and take a well deserve nap!
See, I told you, YOU CAN DO IT! Now you’re off in some foreign land, where I’d rather be. Enjoy!