In the years before baby, my husband and I prided ourselves on having the airport routine down pat. We arrived at the airport an hour before departure, boarding passes in hand. With everything packed neatly into two carry-on bags, we bypassed the check-in lines. At security, our “liquids, gels and aerosols” bags were ready, and our belts, shoes and jackets were in the rubber bins before the security worker could say “boarding pass.”
However, any notion of being seasoned travellers disappeared when we threw a baby into the mix.
We recently flew from Calgary to Florida with our three-month-old son. We arrived at the airport a little earlier than usual with two large suitcases, a stroller, a car seat, a car seat base, a diaper bag and a nursing pillow.
Our first task: to fit the car seat base into one of the suitcases. Realizing that we hadn’t left enough room for the surprisingly bulky base, we found ourselves rearranging all of our belongings on an airport bench.
Next, we fumbled through the line to check our luggage. Holding baby in one arm, I manoeuvred a heavy stroller and an even heavier suitcase with the other. At that moment, I wondered how my sister was faring – she was meeting us in Florida, and managing a baby, a stroller, a car seat, a heavy suitcase and carry-on luggage all on her own.
At security, we were ushered into a separate line reserved for disorganized parents with youngsters.
At the gate, we became the travellers that every passenger dreads: the parents with a fussy baby. Our son is an angel most of the day, but around 7 p.m. he becomes inconsolable. Learning the hard way never to schedule a flight during your baby’s fussy time, we tried desperately and unsuccessfully to soothe him, whilst the other passengers looked on in horror: “Oh, please don’t let those people be on my flight.”
Relief swept over us when our baby settled down on the plane. When the toddler one row ahead of us threw a tantrum that lasted the better part of the five-hour flight, we felt empathy for his parents – rather than irritation. It could have been us, we realized. It could have been us.
A few things we learned along the way when travelling with a baby:
- Leave enough room in your luggage for the car seat base.
- Always pack a soother and a bottle, and have them ready at a moment’s notice.
- Don’t take four carry-on bags on a plane with a baby, even if you happen to hit the outlet mall on your trip.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself if you discover yourself a bumbling fool: travelling with a baby is a whole new adventure.