You all know what a
brave fearless silly girl I am, right? I moved to hole-in-the-bottom-of-the-boot Calabria, had a baby in italiano and most recently, traveled with said baby on six separate flights.
As soon as our bambino was home and the doctor approved him for travel, I began planning our first international trip. There were passports to be ordered, flights to book, baby bassinets to be reserved … I wasn’t sure where to start.
I’ve been a frequent international traveler for the last 11 years and am comfortable in most air travel situations. But I gotta tell you, I was scared to death to travel solo with a two month old.
When you are single, you don’t pay much attention to changing tables, strollers or lap seat children (unless they are bawlin’ in your ear on an 8-hour flight) and for the first time in more than a decade, I was worried about flying. So, I did what any good expat mom would do … I emailed my expat mom friends for help.
And mamma mia did they come through!
I’d like to take a moment to give a big shout out to Vanessa and Hilary in Messina and Michelle (Viva la Pappa) and Joanne (Frutto della Passione) in Milan for all of their emails, tips and tricks for traveling with babies.
Here’s a bit of what they told me and a few tips I picked up along the way.
1. Be Prepared!
One thing that all of the expert mom travelers told me was that being prepared would make a world of difference. And it did. Hilary told me to pack easy snacks for myself (since my hands would be full during the trip), Vanessa told me to pack a few extra pairs of baby pants in case he got dirty, Joanne advised me to carry one diaper per hour of the trip (excessive, yes, she said, but better safe than sorry!) and Michelle taught me a neat trick involving a kitchen sponge, dish washing liquid and a Ziploc bag (for on-the-spot cleaning of bottles, pacifiers or other toys.)
They also advised me to give him a pacifier (or something else to suck on) for take-offs and landings. I did-and he traveled like a champ, only crying briefly on the first of six landings.
2. Don’t Expect Help
All of the girls, along with Jen, my Irish expat friend in Catanzaro, warned me not to expect help.
“Allow yourself plenty of time and carry him in whatever is most convenient for you,” they told me.
So I did.
I debated whether I should take his stroller or carry him in a Baby Bjorn and in the end opted to have two free arms. Perhaps it was because my son was *so* young (he was two months old, but because he’d been premature, he only weighed eight pounds), but I was offered help every. step. of the. way. Which brings me to Tip #3 … .
3. Accept Help!
As an independent traveler, your instinct might be to play tough or refuse assistance during your travels, but as a solo-travelin’ mom with baby in tow, I’ll tell you … accept that help.
From before I stepped through security in Lamezia (when a Roman family toted my carry-on and pushed me to the front of the line) to our second flight (from Rome to Frankfurt) when a young American man stopped the flow of passengers and put up my bag to our third flight (Frankfurt to Houston), where the flight attendant carried my bags to the front of the plane … I had help all of the way.
I know I was lucky with the good-natured travelers I met, so I’m sending positive travel karma vibes to them with this post (and urging you all to pay-it-forward, should you see a single traveling parent with a child who might need an extra hand.)
I’m interested to see how traveling with a child will evolve, how things will be different when he is six months, 12 months, 36 months … for I know each age will bring a new set of travel-related issues. But I feel good about it. I trust myself and my new traveling mom instincts and will hope for the best. And let’s face it. Hilary, Vanessa, Michelle, Joanne and Jen all have kids older than mine anyway. So, if I get stuck, I’ll just call for reinforcement and know that no matter how long a flight may seem, that plane will land and we’ll get there … eventually.
What other tips do you have for new moms (and dads) traveling with their babies?
Until next time … Buon Viaggio!
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