When I planned this post, I thought it might be punctuated with a bit of regret. All of those voices that said not to travel with a baby so young, gnawed away at the back of my mind. Was I doing the right thing? Was I an irresponsible parent? Should I wait a bit longer? However, I thought of my particular kid who happens to be 1. super easy going, 2. an excellent sleeper, and 3. very curious, and weighed the pros and cons, ultimately making the right decision for us.
The fact is, there's a case to be made for travelling with a baby. Young children are sponges. The first few years of life are important for development, but it's years 0 to 3 that are crucial. I can't afford to talk at length about the brain, but based on my Google research, what it boils down to is: new experiences = more neurological pathways in the brain.
I'm happy to say that 90% of our travels were amazing. We had our ups and downs, and a couple of meltdowns (nothing like a screaming baby on the MTA to remind you never to miscalculate a feeding time by so much as 1 minute ... ever. again.) But for the majority, we couldn't have asked for better.
We flew in and out of Toronto through Porter. With a 5 minute Uber away, and none of the chaotic line ups of Pearson, it was well worth it with a baby. So if you're travelling with your little one, and the option is available, I highly recommend flying Porter. I can't lie, I was nervous as hell getting on. A baby is like a ticking time bomb - anything can set them off and it can take an eternity to calm them down. As we cautiously buckled into our seats. we had bottle, pacifier, toys, and carrier all ready to go. But when we peered into his little face, he simply looked up at us with those big curious, smiling eyes.
1. Feed them during take off and landing - the swallowing motion helps avoid ears popping.
2. Research policies well in advance! For instance some airlines allow ready made formula, while others allow bottled water and powdered formula. Most are pretty accommodating and some will even warm your bottle for you and provide a carry cot for your babe to sleep comfortably. We unfortunately didn't get this luxury (sorry Virgin 'Murica - you were kind of a disappointment)
3. Take your carrier - feed them, burp them, put them in your carrier. Between your heartbeat, the humming of the plane, and the altitude, there's a good chance your little angel will sleep. This trifecta worked like a charm on our little guy, so he slept for the majority of our flights.
4. Give yourself extra time - things will get annoying. Let me break it down for you:
- push them in the stroller in one hand and your suitcase in the other (which will lull them to sleep by the time you get to security)
- wake them up to take them out of the stroller for security check
- balance them in your arms while emptying all of your 'contents, electronics, coats, belts, and shoes'
- dismantle the stroller
- wait off to the side while they forget about you..then remember you..then check the stroller (for traces of drugs? I guess your kid's stroller is the perfect disguise)
- reassemble the stroller
- walk to your gate and dismantle the stroller again for plane storage
*shout out to the hubby for doing the last 4 steps for 4 different flights - he became a pro!
My advice here is, start adjusting bedtime a week or so before you travel. Adjust by 15 minutes each night. If you're going East, put them to bed earlier. If you're going West, bedtime is later. We went West, so we basically just had to keep him up a little longer each night, which was pretty easy. It also helps to expose them to as much light as possible to give their biological clock cues. And when you get where you're going, rest that first day. Your body and theirs alike need it. I thought the changing time zone would be one of our biggest issues, but thankfully all of our daily activities tired him out and he slept soundly.
There was a gorgeous tree house hotel during the PCH drive. We're talking Smith Family Robinson - that we did not stay at because they didn't take guests with kids under 6. (ouch - hurts to be in that category now) So yes there were some pitfalls during our trip. We couldn't do everything we wanted, and we were in bed by 9pm in Vegas, because bedtime comes first. So there are definitely some trade offs - you just have to re-prioritize. For me, seeing the Golden Gate for the first time and being engulfed by ancient redwoods with my son, trumped the nightlife scene.
Show them around! Everything is new for them. What may be mundane for you, is magical for them. Our little guy spent most of our trip with his head craned back, staring up at everything from skyscrapers to trees to just nature in general. As soon as we got to San Fran, I jumped out and showed him the palm trees - to my delight and amusement, he gasped!
So do I regret it? Not at all. He did get a little sick toward the last two days, which made me second guess myself for a split second. But ultimately, it was an unforgettable trip, he's stronger than ever, and we have memories with him to last a life time. Could it have gone a different way? Absolutely. The plane altitude could have been painful, he could have cried through all flights, he could have had difficulty adjusting to the changing environments or not slept well in strange cribs. It could have been a disaster, and definitely wouldn't work for every baby/family. But for us, it did. He took the flights like a champ, adjusted to time zone shifts sleeping 8-11 hours a night, and genuinely enjoyed taking in all of the sights. So hopefully, somewhere in there, there are some new pathways. Call it good luck or whatever you will. Either way, I'm glad I learned to read my kid early on in, and stuck to my guns. When you feel like you're flailing in parenthood, trust your instincts - they will guide you.