Rewind about 3 years and I was in Sydney meeting up with some English friends travelling through with their 4 month old baby girl… they were stopping in Sydney en route to Los Angeles from London… ‘Crazy!’ Is what I thought, I sat there in absolute awe of this couple who had either the balls or the stupidity required to attempt something like this!
Present day, I am a survivor… I honestly think I deserve a badge or plaque or something 🙂 We did it! Last Christmas my ridiculously good looking hubby and I slummed in on a 36 hour flight journey (and back), braved the wrath of fellow passengers, struggled with a jet lagged baby (our darling bubba Evie), slept in 6 different beds over 3 weeks, and all in all had a wonderfully memorable, exhausting and well worth it trip!
We planned, planned and planned before departing (well I did anyway)… I think I read absolutely everything on the internet which had anything to do with travelling with babies (which in turn made me freak one minute and feel calmly reassured in the next…. the joys of internet contradictions). So naturally I need to add my 2 cents to this pile (although I do feel my 2 cents is worth a lot more…. 5 cents at least)
Read on for my 7 lessons learnt from international travel with a baby….. (phew)
1. Age is key!
As any parent knows, a baby literally changes before your eyes… they grow and develop at an incredible rate! So taking a 4 month old on a plane is going to be verrryyyy different to taking a 14 month old. For us, we found our little Evie was at a great age for long haul flying, at 4 months old she was happiest when being constantly cuddled, slept easily in new places and with noise, and only needed breastfeeding for sustenance. As babies go, she was at a low maintenance age.
2. Never enough nappies!
Someone suggested doubling the usual nappy/to hour ratio for when on planes and I’m glad I did. It must have something to do with the cabin pressure….. or maybe the hideous plane food travelling through to my milk, because I swear she has never ever pooped so much! You know those teeny tiny bins in the plane bathroom toilets?? I was terrified it was going to be overflowing with 5 hours of travel still to go.
3. When you gotta go….
While we’re on the subject of baby poop… There’s always one comical moment that you’ll joke about being the worst time for your baby to fill their nappy. Yes we joked, and yes we were not the last ones laughing. It was the beginning of our very very long journey home, 40 hours to be precise, we had settled into our seats, seat belts fastened as the plane started to taxi along the runway. My precious, delicate little girl was in my arms with her own seat belt fastened around mine…. she hadn’t pooped in 3 days…. as she gazed at me with her perfect big blue eyes she started to frown…. and go red…. and… oh god…. what was that noise?? Her little body actually shuddered for about 2 minutes as the most horrendous smell seeped through the cabin. The plane hadn’t even taken off at this stage so we were still confined to our seats for what seemed like years (and probably an eternity to the poor souls sitting nearby). It was what is know as a uber poo… filling every single layer of clothing and dousing mum just to be sure. As soon as that seatbelt sign switched off we run like Usain to the toilets. No item of clothing was salvageable, everything was binned. I’m sure somewhere on the net you will be able to find the horror story written from the viewpoint of our fellow passengers.
4. Jetlagged baby
Jetlag is a horrible horrible thing for anyone afflicted by it and I have always hated being struck down with it. But while preparing myself for the usual middle of the night wakings, 3pm nodding off and general uneasiness, I just never even considered that my baby would be jet lagged too. And while adults have the ability to ‘push through’ mentally, bubs just have no bloody idea what is going on….. She would wake up at 2am bright as a daisy, getting more and more frustrated as to why mum and dad wouldn’t play with her, and the afternoons saw her getting ridiculously overtired and agitated. I’m not sure if I actually have any advice as to helping this, except if at all possible try and keep some kind of routine for them to get used to (pretty difficult when visiting and staying with different relatives every two days), and as much sunlight as you can find always helps the body clock.
5. Prepare for lots of luggage
Plan to be comfortable wearing the same outfit A LOT! Because something a whole lot more deserving of valuable luggage space is all the baby stuff! so so so much stuff! Pram, car capsule, capsule base, pram winter cover, pram rain cover (it was England), winter clothes, winter snow suit, so so many baby blankets, baby wipes, nappies, nappies, nappies, bottles, breast pump, breast pads, dummies (pacifiers), teething rusks/medication, comforting blankets/toys, familiar toys…… oh the list goes on and on. Tips are …. use your pram to wheel all the crap around, gate check your pram if your airline allows it, get a GREAT baby carrier to use in airports or while on the plane (safer than walking the aisles with no spare hands), beg borrow and steal baby paraphernalia from your contacts at the other end, and just be ready to spend a lot longer than usual juggling all of your stuff in the airports…. it’s not going to be glamorous or fun… I’m sorry.
6. Don’t expect relaxation
If we had planned this trip to the other side of the world with expectations of a grand European adventure I am pretty sure I would have been bitterly disappointed. 3 weeks is way too short a time to fly that far, expect a baby to adjust, adjust yourself, and take in exciting sights every day. Although we enjoyed ourselves across England, Holland and Spain, our primary reason for the whole trip was to see our family and introduce them to the newest member of the family. The highlight for me was the entire extended family getting together to celebrate Oma’s 96th birthday in Holland…. incredibly priceless and worth all the jet lag and travel problems in the world. After the whirlwind journey we came home utterly exhausted and entirely in need of a post-holiday holiday.
7. Prepare for after
Which takes me to my final point…. prepare for afterwards. If you can swing extra days before returning to work (or return on a Friday) and plan to just recover you will thank me! Bribe family and friends with overseas treats to bring you healthy food for a few days, help with your laundry and make sure you don’t sleep all day…. but only invite people you’re comfortable with seeing you in all of your blood-shot, panda-eyes and pyjama-wearing glory. It took us a reeeaallllly long time to adjust back and recover. Healthier food, sunshine, gentle exercise, fresh air and rest will be your best friend. Which is very easy to say but hard to do when all you want is unhealthy amounts of coffee, hot chips in gravy and a week of staying in bed. And prepare yourself for your little one needing to adjust as well, it took Evie a good two months to get back into her pre-holiday sleeping routine.
So be brave and tackle the dreaded international travel with a baby thing! But for me, I’m staying local for relaxing getaways, the long haul is for family only with little’uns.
Have you survived any big journeys with your baby? What are your sanity-saving tips and tricks?