Category Archives: Kids – the Extra Carryon

Tips and ideas on dragging your little ones with you

My Travel Hats went to Los Angeles, Chicago and Spain… with a newborn! An introduction to dragging your child around the world

First of all, much apologies for my complete and utter neglect to update this blog. It’s been a fairly exciting time. If you haven’t already met her, I’d like to introduce you to my new child:

baby

(Jon with our baby in Toledo, Spain)

Because I believe the Internet is an unharnessed and somewhat precarious state of existence, along with having watched way too many Law & Order SVU episodes about child molesters and pedophiles during maternity leave, that is about the extent of the photography you’ll get to view of my little one until she is 18 years of age.

However, it is time to return to the blogosphere so I’ll begin with an introduction to Traveling with a Newborn.

Before we took her overseas, we first flew her from Baltimore to Los Angeles at exactly six weeks for my cousin’s wedding. Kind of like a trial trip before the big one. Our doctor suggested having her vaccinated before getting on those germ-filled planes that are spread around the air vents easily, so we had her shots done (you can get them done at six weeks, although traditionally they start at two months), then hopped on a plane the next day. We spent about a week in Los Angeles, then another week in Chicago with the grandparents, and then jetted home for a few more before we embarked to Madrid.

At two months, she doesn’t do much but sleep, eat and digest everything into her Pampers. You soon realize how little a baby actually needs, despite what Buy Buy Baby and Babies ‘R’ Us might make you believe. It was relatively easy flying around with her, and no one, not even the unhappy bankrupt airlines and their unhappy employees, can resist a cute little baby. We got to cut the line everywhere, from security to the boarding gate. We took her to museums, restaurants, cafes, bars, and a bullfight, and probably permanently messed up the wheels of our second-hand Graco stroller frame from dragging it across cobblestone streets in Spain, but we all had a great time. As I write this, she is whining a little from her bouncy seat, probably wondering why she’s not rattling across some rocky street with Moorish archways and cathedral ceilings to stare at overhead.

A few things we had to learn about flying with a newborn that we didn’t know before:

1. Baby does not need an ID. But it’s probably a good idea to carry a copy of the birth certificate with you just in case.

2. Baby under two years of age is free if you sit him/ her in your lap. According to my sister, they stop sitting on your lap before then though. But if you decide to buy them a seat because you’re tired of holding a squirming toddler, they won’t sit in it, and then you’ll be out a few hundred dollars.

3. Baby gets to bring a carry-on in the form of a diaper bag, so pack that thing full.

4. You can take the stroller and carseat up to the gate, and then they gate-check it. I decided to get a cover for our carseat so it wouldn’t get dirty in the cargo, and it was a great idea since that bag came back with a whole lot of dirt marks on it that would have otherwise ended up being ingested and digested by our kid. I’m all for exposing her to dirt and building that immunity, but licking the inside of the cargo hold of an airplane is not in my plan. I ended up sewing my own from a very loud mustard-yellow curtain of my parents from the 70’s, so there’s no mistaking whose carseat that is, but you can also purchase one at Amazon. (You can buy anything at Amazon)

5. You can bring a cooler with ice pack and milk through security. They’ll run the bottles through some special little milk detector machine and not question the ice pack.

6. Doctors will suggest feeding the baby during take off and landing, to help ease ear pressure. Believe it or not, there are actually breastfeeding policies for each airline, ever since Delta threw a passenger off a flight for breastfeeding her kid. To summarize each one, prepare to have some kind of cover for the kid. Airline blankets are not the cleanest, so bring your own scarf or swaddle and tie it around your neck.   Sure, there is a whole army of breastfeeding women who want to fight for their right to breastfeed in the open, but I will save this for another blog post.

7. Baby needs to be listed on one of the boarding passes as a passenger. We learned that the hard way and had to go through many more lines to make sure she was.

8. Give yourself a LOT of time. Pad it on. There’s nothing like racing to the gate when she suddenly needs three diaper changes in a row. That being said, it’s also helpful to bring a spare outfit for the kid. And perhaps one for yourself, if baby decides to barf on your mid-flight.

9. For Spain, we realized she would need a passport, which requires a social security number and birth certificate, and it took four weeks to receive the social security number. I had to physically go to the DC Department of Health to get a copy of her birth certificate, but it was issued the same day. Not only that, both parents have to be present to get the passport. We made an appointment at the local post office and brought her social security card, copies of our drivers’ licenses (front and back), birth certificate, two 2″x2″ pictures and application. I also took her pictures, which was a task in itself, since the head is supposed to be centered and eyes open, staring straight, but she squirmed a lot and liked to rotate her head or stare anywhere except straight at the camera. We decided to expedite the passport, to make sure it would come back in time.

More updates to come on our three-week voyage across Spain!

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Kids: Traveling while pregnant

The only time anybody welcomes a small child on a flight is if it’s still in utero, and for some reason, people just love pregnant women. I recently flew to Chicago for the weekend with my kid, even if it’s still in a fetus stage and doesn’t count as an extra passenger. You get smiles out of the airline agents, which is rare these days, and suddenly everyone is dropping their luggage to help you with yours. People let you ahead of the lavatory line, and maybe even the flight attendant offers you an extra snack, if they have such a thing (snacks at all).

Still, I had to lug my luggage around the airport by myself for a while, since I was traveling alone. Fortunately I only have about three pieces of maternity clothing that fits at all, so that’s all I packed into a roomy laptop briefcase, along with several snacks. A month ago  Jon and I flew down to the island of Anguilla, and even though he was there to drag our suitcase around and help me out, we still managed to get a bit of star treatment.

It’s amazing how a protruding belly can suddenly get in the way of a lot of ordinary habits. For example:

  • You can’t lift your own luggage to put in the overhead anymore
  • You can barely bend over to access the bag under your seat
  • Airline seats are designed to make you hunched over, which is even worse when all your want to do is bend in the opposite direction (and there are no pillows or blankets to be found anymore)
  • You and the tray-table compete for space, especially when the guy in front reclines his seat. Makes typing on a laptop difficult
  • If you don’t have an aisle seat, your neighbors start to hate you for needing to pee every 20 minutes.

Some benefits, however:

  • I ended up on a “priority lane” at the TSA security point and skipped ahead of everyone, and nobody questioned me
  • Nobody saw me naked on those new X-ray machines since I opted for a pat-down instead
  • The pregnant belly distracts people enough so they don’t notice you are still wearing a cardigan or have three carry-on items as you enter security.
  • People feel sorry for the solo pregnant traveler.

Some tips for pregnant travelers:

  • Pack light. Seriously. You can’t expect someone else to do all your hauling, even your spouse.
  • You already look disproportional and weird, so don’t worry what your shoes look like. Sneakers go a long way. Wear them in the airport.
  • You already look disproportional and weird, so don’t worry what your clothes look like. Pack light. Pack few. You probably don’t own much that fits anyway. Less is easier to haul around.
  • Bring snacks. Lots of them. Granola bars, saltines, pretzels, fruit, raisins. And bring enough for your husband who will have “sympathy hunger”.
  • If you’re going to a beach, just wear a bikini and ignore the comments more conservative people make about pregnant bellies and bikinis. There were plenty of potbellied men on the beach who looked like they could go into labor any minute, and I think I looked better than they did. Same applies to overweight women.
  • Bring Tylenol (for headaches), ginger candy and/or tiger balm (for nausea), hand sanitizer and drink lots of water.
  • Give yourself plenty of time before your flight. You really don’t want to be racing through the airport, even if you’re wearing the sneakers I recommended.
  • Have fun. This is going to be nothing compared to the next time you travel, which is with a kid and all the accoutrements kids come with.

 

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