Last month we took our June bug on vacation to Savannah and Charleston, to soak up some sweet southern sunshine and stroll through some of the most beautiful streets in America. It was June’s first flight.
Andrew and I love to travel. We both have flexible jobs, friends and family scattered across the globe. We are usually out of town two weekends a month, and then several weeks a year. My biggest fear of having a baby was that we would have give up this lifestyle, because, as I was warned by so many, life is harder with a baby.
Before this flight, I researched forever about traveling with a baby—what to pack, what to wear, how to keep her calm during take off and landing. I scoured the internet, waiting for someone to give me the secret to traveling with a baby.
Here is the secret:
You just do.
Yes, it is a little more complicated. Yes, it requires thinking ahead and extra planning. Yes, it can be slightly more stressful. But why on earth should that make it any less fun?
Here is this—for the last five months, Andrew and I have kept June alive. We know how to feed her, bathe her, comfort her, keep her clean and safe. When you travel it is no different—you are just doing it while transporting yourself across states and countries.
June was just over four months at the time of the trip. Like any four month old, this meant her world would be fantastic and would fall apart on a daily basis. We had to accept it, roll with it, and be okay with it when traveling. The flight was both amazing and terrible—amazing that she slept through most of it, terrible that she woke up in time to scream along with the plane’s engines for the landing and throw up on me, on Andrew and on the sweet lady sitting next to us. But when we landed in Charleston, picked up our luggage (aka. June’s luggage—stroller, pack and play, carseat, and diapers), and got into our rental car, Andrew and I felt so elated. We had done it. Yes, June was happy, yes June was devastated, and none of it made any difference to the fact that here we were in a rental car in Charleston on VACATION.
I will say that planning ahead and preparing for the trip definitely made it easier. Here are few things we, in our infinite wisdom of flying once with a baby, learned along the way:
Dress your child in hedgehog pajamas.
June has an adorable sleeper from our cousins in England. It is a hedgehog complete with ears that pop out of the shoulders. In it, June instantly goes from so cute to cutest baby ever. And she knows it. We arrived at the airport at 7:00 a.m., and June decided to great every one of the TSA agents with a huge smile and her latest b sound. We heard the the names of every TSA grand baby, were put in a priority security line, and were given so much help getting all of our baby gear through those security belts.
Don’t dress your child in anything you care about because she will likely blow out of it.
Those adorable hedgehog pajamas? The back is stained brown and it’s not the hedgehog’s hair. Turns out 30,000 feet can really wreck havoc on a baby’s digestive system. I can’t put them away yet because I love them so much, but I also can’t bring myself to put June back in them, so they are hanging forever in limbo over our changing table at home.
Plan (Ever so slightly) Ahead.
We travelled to Savannah with Jonathan and Marcy, some of our dearest friends and two of the best cooks we know. This meant our trip to Savannah was largely centered around food—experiencing the best this small city has to offer. I know this doesn’t work for every parent, but we keep June on a pretty regular schedule. She eats, plays, and sleeps at pretty much the same times every day. Because of this, we could plan our day out a little—June will drink her bottle while we have our breakfast, then she will play on a blanket on the floor or in one of Savannah’s beautiful squares for a while, then she will sleep in the stroller while we walk around. Rinse and repeat. The loose structure kept the predictability June is used to in her day, but it also allowed for us to relax—knowing why your child is crying is half the battle, and it helped so much to be able to look at the clock and say, she’s hungry or it’s time for her nap.
Don’t Plan Too Much.
Jonathan and Marcy are probably the easiest people to travel with when you have a baby. They are encouraging, beyond flexible, and more than willing to take a turn rattling toys or making funny faces to make June laugh. They are also some of our favorite people to talk with, which meant our days stretched out as one long conversation while eating, walking, and taking pictures. This simple agenda made it easier to stick to June’s schedule than had we tried to visit every museum and tourist attraction.
And that is the paradoxical essence of traveling with a baby—wear cute things but things you don’t care about, plan but don’t plan too much, hold everything loosely but hold your baby tightly. If things fall apart it is okay because you are out there and you are doing it and you are not letting a fear of a thing not going perfectly get in the way of you doing life.
My mom traveled with four children under five years old to England several times—by herself. I always asked her how, how did you do that and stay alive and sane? She always answered the same way:
“You just do.”
It’s because my mom just did that I grew up with a love of traveling, that I was able to have such a close relationship with grandparents and cousins on the other side of the world, that I was exposed to so many countries and ways of life before leaving home and starting my own way of life. It is my hope that as June travels now because she has to, she will do so later because she loves to.
It may be years before I can read a book on a plane again in peace, but there are some things that are just so very worth doing.