Sunday, August 24, 2008

Traveling Alone with a Baby

Two weeks ago, I made my first solo airplane trip with the little man. This is the first of several posts on the things I learned on the trip. Overall, it went really well, and the little man was a little prince nearly the whole way. For the record, he is 10 months old, and not yet walking.

The trickiest part of traveling alone is navigating from the car to the plane, and from the plane to the rental car. Here are some of my tips.
  1. Minimize the large bulky items that you take with you. If you're staying with family or friends, have them borrow a pack n' play, stroller, etc, so that you don't have to lug that with you. If you're staying in a hotel, nearly every hotel will provide you with a crib.
  2. Use curb-side check-in. This is a little tricky with only one driver, so you have to have two car seats. One to check at the curb, and one for the little one to ride in on the way to the parking garage. If you have more than one child, well, I guess I'll have to figure that one out when I get there. This was also nice when we returned to the car on the way home - I didn't have to install the car seat with the little man on my back, or sitting on the front seat getting into stuff he wasn't supposed to.
  3. Use a baby carrier. In #1 above, I recommend leaving the stroller at home*. My ergo baby carrier got us through the airport in a breeze, and you get lots of nice smiles from strangers who like to see a cute little baby riding on your back.
  4. Pack only one wheeled suit case, if you can. I used our bigger-than-the-ones-that-fit-in-the-overhead wheeled suitcase. Then check and see if you can hook your car seat onto the handle of the suitcase somehow. Our Britax Roundabout has a strap near the top that works perfectly for this. I hooked the car seat over the handle of the suitcase, and was able to make it to the rental car bus pretty easily. I didn't even need a Smarte Carte. If you need more than one bag, then you'll probably have to go the Smart Carte route.
  5. I was committed to taking only the diaper bag onto the plane (and checking everything else), so I had to put food, blankie, toys, my wallet, diapers, changing pad, bottles, etc, etc, into the one bag. I packed a little bag of little toys, which were variously successful. Also successful as baby entertainment was the in-flight magazine, the silverware from my lunch, the three people sitting around me who were making faces at the little man from time to time... All back to the Fun for Nothin' concept. You don't need to bring a ton of toys, and you can't if you only want to bring one bag on the plane.
*Note that if you leave the stroller at home, you may have issues using the restroom! I found I had several options (listed in order of preference): 1) Go with the little man still riding on my back, 2) Go in the airplane bathroom, holding him carefully up as high as I could (elastic-waist pants recommended, as the belt buckle was the biggest challenge), 3) get a flight attendant or the nice lady sitting next to you to hold your baby while you go, or 4) put your baby on the floor in the bathroom (ew). I only tried #1 and #2.

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