Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Planes and babies do mix!

by silvermom

Last weekend, with my husband away on a business trip, I traveled with my 10 month old to visit my best friend and her family.  While the flight from DC to Rhode Island is a short one, about an hour, I was concerned with how my baby will take to flying. So I meticulously packed, unpacked then repacked all the essentials again 1 week before the flight to make sure that I've got everything down pat. Taking a cue from a friend who had blogged about the must-haves for infant travels, I decided to write down what worked and what didn't after we got back so that I can refer to this post for future travels and maybe I'll be able to help other anxious first time parents like myself.

For starters, I was contemplating between taking the baby Bjorn or the umbrella stroller or both. I was bent not to check in any bags, so a carryon backpack was a given.  However, I was facing a conundrum on how to hold the baby, hoist everything up, and fold either the Bjorn or the stroller or both onto the security checkpoint belt - and singlehandedly unload and rebuckle everything after.  After much deliberation, I decided on the umbrella stroller alone, which worked with minimal (but still existent) pain.  While the stroller required 2 hands to close, it was very brief, so I was able to hold the baby in my arms and closed the stroller all at once. On other times, some wonderful volunteers willingly helped us out.  But the choice of stroller over Bjorn was a good one.  The baby and I were comfortable and I was even able to feed her solids with free hands to wipe her gooey face.

As far as backpacks go, I am so happy that, with the exceptions of a few paint stains, my "backpacking" backpack from REI was in great shape. It has withstood the outdoor elements, and now, the munchikin element too. It's ultra lightweight and has many pockets to compartmentalize her stuff and my stuff.  Because it had a hipbelt and a chestbelt, it was secured on me even as I held the baby in my arms. Also, the hipbelt features two zippered pockets where I placed the digital camera and some change that I could access without taking the bag off me.  My favorite part, however, is the top pocket.  It is so big that I was able to stuff multiple toys, snacks, books, bib, wash cloth, etc. on it which I could easily access from under the seat and while holding my baby. If only it had external pockets to hold water (or milk) bottles, then it would be perfect!

So, which toys were musts or busts? 

1) Labeling tape - When I read infant travel tips online, I was a little bit skeptical with the masking tape suggestion. As it turned out, it was actually the biggest hit of all.  I brought a bright yellow labeling tape from my office, tore little sections and stuck them to the back of the food tray or on my arms.  The baby had a grand old time trying to peel each one of them, and when it stuck to her fingers, she waved and waved, wondering why this piece of paper is not falling off - or I assumed as much. When she got tired of that, I slipped the roll of tape on my finger and let her try to take it off.  

2) Comb - After the tape, we moved on to her clean comb, which she alternated between bending and putting in her mouth. I expected no less, so I made sure it was clean.

3) Old MacDonald hand puppet board book - Between looking at the book, cooing at the animals and chewing on my dressed up fingers, this toy/book was a winner.  She was so excited as I bobbed the animals up and down, and have their synthetic furs tickle her nose. 

4) Stacking cups - Even though they didn't take much space in the bag, I decided to bring the smallest 2 cups because I was so afraid that she'd lose them.  And we almost did! She absolutely loves banging her cups together, but she's also at the "Oops, I dropped them again...and again...and again" stage.  So, she managed to drop them inside the plane.  Until motherhood, I never knew how truly flexible I can be.  And then, she managed to drop them again...and again at each restaurant we went to.  Simply put, we played fetch. And I probably won't be bringing those cups again...and again until she outgrows this phase.

5) The reliable Mr. Toutou - Mr. Toutou is more than a toy, he is a "pacimal" friend.  Look him up for your next baby shower.

6) Vtech song books - While these books are fun off the plane, my baby didn't really enjoy them on the ride.  First, the hum of the engine is louder than the book. Second, it was surprisingly big and unweildy in a limited 3x3 feet of space.

One last tip, don't forget to ask for an empty row at the last minute.  I knew that the flight was full when I checked in, but I was determined to have a little bit more space if there's any available to give my baby a little bit more "wiggle" room.  So, just before boarding, I approached the flight attendant by the gate explaining my concern that it was my baby's first flight and I didn't know how she'd do.  I was really trying to consider the comfort of whoever will be sitting next to us should baby T uncharacteristically throws a fit.  Surely enough, something opened up, and we were pleasantly moved to an empty row. This happened on our way to and from our destination.  As it turned out, my baby did amazingly well during the flight both ways and the experience was such a great and memorable one. She certainly took to traveling with flying colors! 

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