I used to be one of those travelers who would see a mother and her screaming child in the boarding area of an airport and secretly hope they wouldn’t be seated near me on a crowded flight.
Well, that’s not entirely true. What I was really hoping for was that they wouldn’t be on my flight at all.
Fast-forward a few years–now I’m the one with the baby. I might be older and wiser than I was when I was single, but giving birth didn’t gift me with the power to read minds. Then again, I don’t have to be Merlin to know when other passengers see me schlepping down the aircraft’s narrow aisle with my kid and multiple carry-ons those half-smiles they’re flashing merely act as masks to hide their utter disappointment that I wasn’t on a different flight.
Still, facts are facts. I am forced to travel 20,000 miles a year with an infant in tow and I offer no apologies for my packing practices. I am a mom who doesn’t travel light. A baby, a stroller, and two carry-ons is the way I roll. Frankly, in the past I have gotten away with having three carry-ons, but the flurry of activity associated with getting us settled into our seats usually serves as a distraction to flight attendants and they don’t balk at my overpacking.
I realize that I am the source of angst for many business travelers, but such is life. I figure traveling with a child (or children) is a learning experience and you are bound to make mistakes along the way. The important part is to learn from those blunders and be better prepared the next time.
So what mistakes have I learned from? Here are just a few:
Mistake #1–I have enough wipes.
No you don’t. You can never have enough wipes. Not diaper wipes (yes, you will need to bring an extra container of those as well); I am referring to anti-bacterial wipes—-pack a ton. If space is an issue, empty the wipes into a Ziploc bag and store them in the corner of your diaper bag. Here’s why: First, the wipes that are used on a baby’s behind are not anti-bacterial (pediatricians confirm this) and won’t protect you from germs. Second, there is no way you are going to want to get up from your seat and run to the restroom every time you soil your hands (keep in mind that airplanes are havens for bacteria). You will need anti-bacterial wipes for your hands, your child’s hands, and to use on all the toys that your baby will inevitably throw on the floor of the plane.
Mistake #2–”We are preparing for take off,” doesn’t always mean you will be departing soon.
In fact, in some cases it doesn’t even mean that the airplane’s doors are closing for good. On our last 10-hour flight to Hawaii I made the mistake of believing a flight attendant when she announced that we would be “departing momentarily.” I immediately got my then 6-month-old to start breastfeeding (doctors encourage parents to have infants nurse or suck on a pacifier or bottle during take off and landing to help alleviate earaches caused by pressurization). My daughter breastfed for 45 minutes, but because of a backup on the runway by the time we actually started to ascend she had no desire to nurse anymore and since she didn’t take a pacifier we had to make do with her sucking on my fingers. Bottom line: Don’t stick anything in your child’s mouth until you actually feel the aircraft racing down the runway at a high rate of speed.
Mistake #3–I can empty my bladder on the plane.
Big, big mistake. I honestly don’t know what made me think that using the airplane’s restroom would be a piece of cake while traveling solo with an infant. First of all, as much as we often defy the laws of balance, we moms only have two hands. I don’t know why I thought I could carry a squirmy infant and use the toilet on a turbulent flight at the same time. If you are flying solo and feel the need to empty your bladder you will need to enlist someone to watch your child while you visit the restroom. If you don’t have a problem having a stranger look after your child (after all, how far could they possibly get at 35,000 feet?) then this not an issue you need to address. However, if you have issues with leaving your child in the arms of a stranger while you are in the lavatory and think you can instead tote your baby into an airplane’s already cramped restroom while he or she sleeps peacefully in his or her baby carrier, think again. I tried to do just that and was met with opposition from the restroom’s accordion door. Take it from me; life will be much easier if you use the airport’s lavatory prior to boarding your flight.