Traveling is my favorite modern luxury. It is an experience I'm so grateful to be able to share with my young son.
After all, there is no greater gift than the one of rich adventures and exposure to new places, people and cultures.
That being said, I am the first person to admit I like my kid way more on land than I do on a cramped airbus flying high in the sky.
The reason for this is simple: At 15 months, he is in that stage between being content to nurse and snooze for the whole flight (zero to six months is awesome for this), and being physically capable of sitting quietly with an iPad watching "Bubble Guppies" for an extended period of time.
My guy wants to walk, crawl, play, throw things and sing, and he wants to do all of those things with absolutely no regard for his surroundings. Good times.
But, air travel is a means to an end, and if you want to escape the mundane and go somewhere exciting then you, my friend, are just going to have to deal.
But don't worry; after eight plane rides with my wee one, I've figured out a thing or two about flying with little rascals.
So, I have decided to share my knowledge with my homegirls. We, mamas, have to look out for each other, and sharing tips and anecdotes from experience is the best way to do it!
Here are a few post-baby travel dos and don'ts that you may want to take into account for your next family vacation:
DO travel in numbers.
The more hands on deck, the smoother the whole experience will be.
DON'T leave packing to the last minute.
You are going to feel like you're bringing the whole damn house, and you kind of are.
It's easy to get overwhelmed, but not attempting to do it all the night before will help keep high anxiety levels at bay.
DO bring a change of shirt for yourself in your carry-on.
Something will inevitably get smeared all over you during the flight
DON'T expect special treatment.
Should you get it? Yes. Will you get it? Probably not. (Example: Your kid falls asleep in the stroller in line to go through security.
That's too bad because you'll have to take him out anyway.) Just roll with the punches; the whole ordeal will be over soon.
DO bring your baby carrier.
It frees up your hands while you're navigating through the airport, and it may even allow you to flip through a magazine if your baby conks out on the flight.
DON'T bring toys your kid loves to whip around.
They will inevitably wind up hitting an unsuspecting passenger a few rows in front of you.
DO bring books.
Pack lots and lots of books. They might be a little heavy, but their ability to distract makes them worth their weight in gold.
(Alternately, you can download some books to a Kindle or iPad, but I find they don't keep babies engaged as well as old fashioned cardboard books do.)
It's tempting to get in and get settled, but I have found the less time spent on the plane, the better! I'll take being last to be seated any day for 20 fewer minutes of wrangling a restless toddler.
DO smile a lot at surrounding passengers.
If you are nice to them, they are more likely to engage in a game of peek-a-boo or hand you back a toy that was launched in their direction.
DON'T feel the need to bring special "care packages" for people on the plane.
This trend is bullsh*t. Crying kids on a plane is just a reality of traveling. We have all been witnesses to it; hell, we've probably all even been that very kid!
Obviously, do your best to keep your kid quiet and happy, but an occasional outburst is pretty normal. People just need to chill.
DO bring snacks.
Load up your diaper bag with finger foods that will keep your little one occupied. Mum Mums, blueberries, grapes, steamed carrot sticks — pile it all in.
This is not for hunger; this is for distraction. Just do what you got to do to keep that little mouth distracted.
DON'T skimp on diapers.
One for each hour of travel is a good rule of thumb. You never know when there will be a three-diaper poop explosion just around the corner.
DO purchase a seat for your baby if you're a baller.
I am not one, but I often wish I was for this very reason (well, for many reasons).
If you buy your baby a seat, you can bring your car seat on board and strap him or her in there, making him or her more comfortable and, therefore, more likely to sleep during the flight.
DON'T rush yourself.
Travel pre-baby was easy and allowed you to have an attitude of, "All I really need is my passport and credit card," and, "I checked in online; I can show up 60 minutes before departure."
That is no longer your reality. Be organized, leave early, give yourself time for emergency diaper changes, impromptu feedings and properly checking in your 18 bags..
DO keep traveling.
This is the biggest "DO" of all. Is it a pain in the ass? Yeah, it kind of is. Is it well worth the trouble?
The memories you make during family vacations will stay with you forever, and instilling a love of travel in your child from a young age is a gift he or she will thank you for a million times over in the future.
Bon voyage! I swear you can do this!