Whenever I get on an airplane, I do a quick baby headcount. I just need to get a rough idea of how badly the flight is going to go. And while I’m not proud to admit this, I do quietly judge the parents of screaming children.
In a few days, my wife, five-month-old baby and I are headed to Ireland to visit family, and I’m going to be the one quietly judged. People getting on the plane are going to see me and the lil’ howler monkey and start calculating exactly how many of those little bottles of liquor it’s going to take to make it across the Atlantic.
As this is the first time we’re travelling with the pup in tow, I reached out for advice from friends who had recently done long-distance trips with babies. And advice they had!
“If you think you might need it, take it.” This was the advice of Sara, who recently made the trip to Greece with a one-year-old. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to travel light, because I like to imagine I’d make a pretty good fugitive. Also, I tend to pack while the taxi is idling outside, so I forget a lot of stuff. Not this time! Babies come with a lot of gear to begin with, and doubly so when travelling. You don’t want to be hunting for baby wipes while trying to cross the Khyber Pass. (You also probably shouldn’t be bringing a baby across the Khyber Pass.) If you’re worried about all this extra stuff causing problems with airline staff, don’t. “Nobody says anything to anyone with a baby,” said Steve, who recently made the trip to Ireland with an eight-month-old. So the baby is the celebrity and you’re in his/her entourage. Good to know.
Location, Location, Location
That travel bassinet and bulkhead seat the airline offers you? It doesn’t seem to be all that helpful. “There is no way I could ever see any kid sleeping in that,” the father of the eight-month-old said of the bassinet. “Especially when it’s a foot below a front projection TV.” Sara also had seat issues. “[The baby] was heavy enough that holding her on the flight for 10 hours was a nightmare.” Her solution is expensive but may save you a great deal of headaches: “Next time, she gets her own seat. And I’m bringing her car seat so she can sleep in it. If you can afford it, it’s worth the money.”
Steve wishes he had brought a peace offering to his fellow travellers: earplugs. “Don’t know if they would use them, but I think I would have felt a little less guilty when the baby was wailing somewhere over Iceland.”
Both parents stressed the importance of maintaining space when you reach your destination. Haunted by stories of parents who had to eat dinner huddled in the bathroom so as not to disturb the sleeping baby, Steve was careful to book hotels that had separate spaces. Resourceful Sara fashioned her own suite by draping a sheet to separate crib area from parent area.
If you have any other travelling-with-baby tips, let me know in the comments. Please.
Paul Beer is a Toronto writer, actor and comedian. You can follow him on Twitter @pauldanielbeer.