I don’t know when, but at some point around my late twenties, I decided I knew I would be ready to have kids when I was prepared to fly across the Atlantic with a baby on my lap.
Although I reached that litmus test point a few years ago, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I actually did it: I flew solo with 11-month-old Viva from San Diego to London (11 hours) and then London to Spain (three hours) a few days later.
I’ve now crossed the Atlantic 85 times, so I’m used to doing things on auto-pilot. I normally fly with a pashmina, a sketchpad, a book, a fully-charged iPod, and a set of good headphones to watch movies / listen to music / drown out crying babies, and toss everything else into my suitcase. I’d just about mastered the art of packing late and travelling light when, boom! I realised I needed sooooo muchhhh stufffff for travelling with a baby, so started packing a week before we left.
Here we are, with all our clobber:
Yep, that’s two suitcases, a stroller, a car seat, a diaper bag, a backpack, a handbag, Viva in her Tula, and me with a look of, How the actual fuck am I going to pull this off?
But I lived to tell the tale. It’s mostly boring, but here are a few things someone else might find helpful.
I had to bring one because I needed on in Europe and I didn’t want to buy one (too expensive) or rent one (I wouldn’t know its history). So many people questioned our decision to buy Viva her own seat so she could fly in her car seat, but it is absolutely the safest way for a baby to fly. Best of all, she slept nine of the 11 hours on the way to London, and seven of the 11 on the way back.
Note to folks travelling with a car seat between the US and Europe: LATCH is similar to, but not the same as, ISOfix. My LATCH car seat wouldn’t fit the ISOfix, so make sure your car seat is equipped to be installed with a seat belt. You may need to get a special locking clip to grip the seat belt just above the buckle.
- I did not need a diaper per hour of flight, but I’m glad I brought them.
- My idea of bringing a smaller diaper change bag with handle to hang on the plane lav’s hook was a good one. I used the the IKEA Family’s shoe bag – it holds multiple diapers, wipes, pad, change of clothes very comfortably.
- Snacks were a good idea.
- Little toys were an okay idea. Viva is at the age where she loves throwing things on the floor, so I was more comfortable with toys that I could clip to her car seat.
- I also made toys from empty water bottles that I filled with small objects (a stirrer, salt and pepper packets, etc.) for her to shake.
- iPhone was a bad idea, she screamed when she couldn’t hold it. I hurriedly put it away!
- Change of clothes weren’t needed.
- Breastfeeding shawl appreciated – I got this one from Loop Dee at half price on Zulily, and it’s fantastic! It also worked well as a warm layer for me and as a stroller blanket on a chilly day in London.
- Pacifiers – Viva has never really liked them, but I brought a couple to help her with take-off and landing. Totally unnecessary! She pulled on her ears a bit, but only cried once on all four flights. She enjoyed trying to put a pacifier in my mouth though.
- My paediatrician advised against drugging Viva with Benadryl and recommended something homeopathic instead. (Wot?) Hyland’s Calming Tablets seem to work – who knew? – and Viva loved them.
- Wish I’d brought an extra bib!
On the Ground
Viva slept in the Baby Björn Travel Crib every night that we were in Europe. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth every penny. At home we use it as a play pen in the living room; in London and Spain, it was a comfortable and familiar sleeping space. It’s lightweight, but doesn’t fit into a standard-sized suitcase – we had to get a large (21″ wide) suitcase for it to fit.
I couldn’t have done the trip without our trusty Tula. Having a baby carrier to keep my hands free was essential.
I borrowed a stroller and high chair from friends of the family. That simplified things quite a bit too!
Seeing my parents in their new role as loving grandparents. Being surprised by how tender and responsible my brother and sister were with Viva. Seeing extended family and old friends, some of whom drove for several hours to meet Viva. Meeting friends’ kids for the first time. Returning to Spain after five years. Not worrying about breastfeeding uncovered in public. Meeting Sarah – my fellow chromosomally wonky soul sistah who has been a major part of my accepting my messed up chromosome – in London before our Tweet Up with other loss / infertility mamas. Tapas and drinks at Bar Lola in Tarifa for my mum’s birthday. Stopping off for the umpteenth time to take in this view of the African continent (specifically, the Atlas Mountains) from southern Spain – but this time with my daughter in tow.