Last week E. and I got to tag along with D. as he attended a work conference in South Lake Tahoe, Nevada. We decided to combine his work trip with a four-hour drive out to California to visit family.
I realize that there are endless blog posts on the InterWebs about traveling with an infant, many of which I found immensely helpful in planning my own trip: nurse during take-off and landing, pack light, bring lots of snacks, wear comfortable clothes, and other tips.
Well, four flights, two airport connections, one car ride, and 16 hours of travel time proved all of the above true.
They also taught me five other things I’d like to share with you about traveling with bebé. These are suggestions that I hope will make your next trip con bebé a bit easier and, of course, more fun!
What I Learned –
1. Make busy bags –
Many seasoned parent travelers recommend you purchase a toy or two prior to the trip to keep bebé entertained on the plane. However, in my experience, every time I’ve purchased a new toy for E., she’s quickly lost interest in favor of my tupperware collection and living room knick knacks. So, a few days before our trip, I scavenged our apartment for bebé-friendly potential toys: zippers, thread, stickers, Christmas ornaments, clean sponges, empty salt shakers, measuring tape, just to name a few. I then divided the objects into two gallon-sized ziplock baggies, one for each flight. I also pulled about five never-before-read libros from E.’s bookshelf.
Sure enough, those busy bags and “new” books did the trick! (By the way, a big “thanks” and “sorry” to the teenager in the seat behind us who picked up a slobbered-on sponge and returned it to E. with a smile!)
(Note: E. is eleven months old, so busy bags probably aren’t appropriate for younger bebés.)
2. Bring your own car seat & stroller –
D. and I had not planned on taking our massive car seat and gigantic (but, beloved) stroller. But, after some friendly advice and reading these articles, we changed our minds. And, boy am I glad we did! Although car rental companies provide car seats, they don’t provide you the specifics – like the make, model, and condition – of the seat. Nor do they give you the accompanying manual for installation. So, not wanting to take any risks, D. and I chose to take our car seat.
What’s great is that airline companies allow you to check both your stroller and carseat at the gate, so they’re waiting for you upon arrival at your destination. Taking your stroller frees up your hands to carry your luggage through the airport without slowing you down. In the end, it was a win-win situation: convenience and peace of mind.
3. It’s okay to break some rules –
Bebé is ready for bed at 4:30pm on the first day? Go with it.
Bebé only wants to nurse? Let her.
Bebé wants to nap at 7:30am? Head back to bed yourself!
As my mother is fond to say, “major on the majors and minor on the minors.” So, in line with her advice, D. and I strictly enforced the biggies like proper car safety, necessary clothing for the changes in temperature, and remaining consistent with our use of Spanish even among our English-only family. The other parts of parenting a bebé, like breastfeeding to solid food ratio or bed time or naps, well, we allowed ourselves to break some of those rules.
That’s okay! It’s vacation!
Sleep boot camp resumed upon returning home (sorry, E.!).
4. Be nice to yourself –
A.K.A., cut yourself some slack, lower your expectations, take a deep breath, remain calm, and slow down.
I confess: the day before our trip was not my best of days. I put too much on my plate so to speak, and the result was stress and more stress on my part. Besides committing to volunteer at my church’s Christmas bazaar (a good cause, for which I’m ultimately glad to have helped), I insisted on cleaning our apartment head to toe and doing four loads of laundry. I went to bed a bit frazzled: not the best way to begin a trip. Thankfully, D. was there to help me put things in perspective…and, do the dishes!
5. Make it fun! –
It’s amazing what a dose of positive thinking can do for your travel state of mind. In fact, did you know that the simple act of smiling can boost your mood? It’s true!
So, when I entered the bathroom stall in the Reno airport to change E.’s diaper only to find there was NO changing table, I smiled and exclaimed, “¡Mira, E.! ¡No hay cambiador! ¡No pasa nada! Te cambio el pañal en el suelo. ¡Qué aventura vamos a tener!” (Rough translation: This is going to be fun!). I found myself laughing as I wrestled a squirming baby from escaping to the neighboring occupied stall. Just think of the funny stories you’ll have to share when you get home, I reminded myself.
So, don’t forget to smile, find the positive side of stressful situations, and have fun!