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We are about to travel for the first time as a family of four with our two month old, and even though I have traveled with a kiddo more times than I can count, this is still a first. While we did do some road trips (to visit grandparents) with my first daughter starting when she was just a few weeks old, we didn’t fly with her when she was this little. With a road trip you can pull over as much as you want, fill the car to the brim with “gear and supplies”, and run into a store to get anything you may have forgotten or suddenly decided you need along the way.
When you are strapped into a plane flying at 35,000 feet and heading to another country, all of those things that make a road trip a little easier with an infant are out the window. I know that no matter what I do there will be some things that go well, some that don’t go as well, and we will (God willing) get from Point A, to Point B, and back again despite whatever tears and stress we may encounter along the way.
That said, I want to keep stress and tears to the minimum required threshold (this is a “working vacation” after all), so as I am prepping our family for this new sort of adventure there are naturally some things I am more concerned about than others. Since this is what is on my mind, I thought I’d share my thoughts both so I can look back on it later and see how my concerns played out, and in case it is interesting to others in a similar situation.
1. Crying on the plane
This is probably most parents’ number one concern when traveling with a baby, and indeed it was the first thing my husband mentioned when I asked what he was most concerned about for our upcoming trip. Our flights aren’t terribly long at about 2 1/2 hours scheduled, but we all know that delays can stretch that number. My two month old does cry. Shocking, I know. I’m betting pretty much all babies cry, it’s kind of their thing.
Since of course she doesn’t cry while she is nursing, my plan is to nurse her as much as possible on the flight. If we win the baby lottery, she will fall asleep nursing and we will simply not move or breathe while she is passed out and hope that when she wakes up she will be happy to nurse some more until we land and all deplane with smiles on our faces.
However, that plan may or may not work out. Sometimes she is just not in the mood to pass out and be peaceful while nursing and she may want to bounce, rock, explore, etc…all of which is difficult to impossible in an airplane seat. If only they made rocking airplane seats…
So, we are just crossing our fingers and hoping for the best on this one. Thankfully it isn’t a terribly long or overnight flight where folks are trying to sleep for hours. I can promise we will be doing everything possible to keep her quiet and happy for as much of the flight as possible, but some of this will be left up to chance based on her mood, unfortunately.
Here are some tips for your child’s first flight.
2. Diaper changes on regional jet
One of our flights is on a regional jet, specifically the CRJ-700, and from what I can tell based on some online research, I don’t believe United has changing tables on these planes. I hope I am wrong, but that will make for an interesting situation if she needs a diaper change…and that is quite likely given her regular diaper changing schedule. Again, we are just going to have to change her right before the flight and really cross our fingers there are no serious diaper incidents while on board. If there are, we will just have to get creative and fix the situation as best we can until we land back in Houston (luckily for everyone diapers from breastfed babies don’t really stink nearly to the extent of other diapers).
3. All sleeping (or not sleeping) in one room at the resort
My personal largest concern isn’t related to the 2.5 hour flight, but instead it is related to all sleeping together in one room for three nights. Baby S has had a few nights where she slept at night for 8 hour stretches, but then she will turn right around and take hours to go down in the evening, or get up four times in the night. In other words, her sleep is still very unpredictable even at home – I’m sure on the road it will only be even more unpredictable.
At home we can keep our five year old mostly sheltered from the noise so her sleep isn’t too disturbed, and my husband and I can take turns so that we aren’t both up all night. However, when we are all in one hotel room I highly doubt any of us will be getting much sleep if S has a bad night. We can have her crib in the bathroom with the door shut, but that will only slightly muffle the normal sleeping noises the baby makes – it certainly won’t drown out screams. Since we are staying at a resort, we will have the option of walking around outside with her if she is unhappy in the evening which will help a little. We will also have earplugs/headphones available for our daughter and whichever parent is “taking a break” from tending to the little one.
I would have loved to upgrade to a suite of some sort, but the price to do so when I inquired was pretty staggering. I’ll inquire again at check-in, but since we don’t have top status with SPG at the moment, I’m 99% sure we will be relegated to a normal room this time around.
Sure do wish there was at least a rocking chair…
4. Finding time for activities
The next concern is that we will go through all the hassle of getting to our vacation destination only to not really be able to find the time to take advantage of the activities there. Since S isn’t at an age yet where she can do much of anything, we will be taking turns doing things like swimming, playing at the beach, etc. which could be totally fine, or it could be a bit of a drag. There is a kid’s club that our older daughter can also visit, but our little one is far too little to be able to go there.
We could hire a babysitter through the resort at an hourly rate, but I’m not sure how I feel about a stranger caring for our newborn in a foreign country. Well, I guess I am sure how I feel about it, and it isn’t good. If we were able to have someone watch her while we were more or less in eye-shot that would work, but I wouldn’t personally feel comfortable going off and doing something else away from the baby and babysitter in this situation.
5. Finding things I can eat
Thanks to Baby S’s tummy issues, I am on a pretty restrictive diet that includes no dairy, soy, nut, or eggs. I am having a hard enough time here finding things to eat around here when I don’t have time to cook at home, and this issue will only be magnified when I am at the mercy of a resort to have food available that I can eat. To help with this situation I am packing my own snacks to bring, and I have also been in contact with the food and beverage team at the resort in advance to try and identify menu items that will be safe for me to eat. Thankfully if I slip up it isn’t a life threatening situation, but it will pretty much guarantee a fussier and more uncomfortable baby…
Since I am nursing I also have to drink water way more frequently than normal, which could be pricy at a resort with water bottles unless we plan ahead and get some of our own at a local store. These eating restrictions in addition to being an added challenge are also a bit of a bummer since eating is one of my favorite things to do while on vacation – I really feel for those who have to deal with restrictive diets on a more permanent basis!
6. Not having the baby gear we want
At home we have baby gear like rocking chairs, baby bathtubs, changing tables, a swing, endless diapers and clothes, etc. and on vacation we will not have most of those things at all, and the things we do have will be in limited supply. Baby S is a “spitter”, so we will have to pack extra clothes, burp rags, etc. to deal with that reality. This may lead to having to pay resort prices for a load of clean laundry before the end of the trip, but we will pack some extra items and see how it all plays out.
Should we even travel at all
Now is where I could put on my Pollyanna bonnet, but I’m not going to. The reality is that now clearly isn’t the best time to head out on a trip, at least not under this set of circumstances. If our baby didn’t have any tummy issues, I could eat whatever I wanted, we were going somewhere with more room to spread out, or with more family members available, etc. it might make more sense, but this situation is not exactly ideal. I can spin it any way I want, but the truth is that we have already cancelled or delayed two trips we should have already been on at this point, and we just can’t push them off any longer. Like it or not, this is a trip we need to make work and we are just hoping that it works out as good as it possibly can.
I am a bit worried that this trip will add to our collective stress levels rather than diminish them, but I’m also happy about the prospect of a change of scenery. I know what my biggest concerns are (and now so do you), and I will plan potential solutions for as many of them as possible in advance. I hope that relaxing in a beautiful environment will be a welcome change for all of us and that the issues we face will be relatively minor and fleeting. Either way, I promise I will share the adventure so we can all laugh (or maybe cry) together!