There are literally 8 million posts about this online. I counted. All of them will tell you a bunch of stuff about how amazingly smooth it went because they had this, that, or the other thing. They might even tell you some things they would do differently. I’m here to tell you, none of it matters. Your kid is going to do whatever the fuck they want to do despite all your greatest intentions and packing wizardness.
Our flight to Crete was 9.5hrs overnight. Most posts I had read (because I read pretty much all 8 million of them) said heading to Europe is easiest on an overnight because the baby will fall asleep for most of it. HAHAHAHAHA those fucking bitches lied to me.
We tend to travel light, and that was my intention for this trip too, BUT I wasn’t willing to be unprepared for our first flight, especially since other passengers would be trying to sleep. I brought a cheap bag I was okay with leaving in Crete if necessary, I brought his snuggly blanket, headphones designed for kids (safe decibel level), hours of his favourite shows on the laptop and my phone, and a crap load of toys (old and new) that didn’t make too much noise, so that we didn’t annoy the shit out of our fellow passengers. I had his favourite bath toys to signal to him it was his normal bath time (yes, you read that ridiculous statement correctly) I had PJs to change him into after he had played with those toys, I had the sleep sheep and his other stuffies from his crib, I had formula, puffs, goldfish. I even had an express pediatric pharmacy in my bag.
We upgraded our seats to business class so that we would have more legroom and the chairs would lean back further. Most sites will say to pick seats on the ends of the row, with an empty seat between and you can usually get that seat to yourself at no cost… I wasn’t willing to risk sitting next to someone I didn’t know with an active 9 month old. We picked the bulkhead seats for the chance we could use the bassinet, (which at the time of booking they didn’t say anything about him being too big/old for it) and so that he wouldn’t be pulling on the headrests of the people in front of us. It would have been hell.
Well, more hellish than it already was.
He slept for 1.5 hours of a 9.5 hour, overnight flight.
ONE AND A HALF HOURS.
Instead of sleeping he screamed, tried to play on the ground (which the flight attendants wouldn’t let him do), and ate all but one serving of formula, while simultaneously breastfeeding almost every hour. He played with every single toy for about 30 seconds, then he would toss it on the floor and start climbing and yelling again (he is loud, in general).
The flight attendants would come by and look at us with this look; it was a specific mix of wonderment, pity, and amusement. Then they would ask if we’d like another alcoholic beverage or coffee. They didn’t even offer water, they just knew.
By the time we got to our layover in Zurich, Tyler and I were done. Callahan was done. We were all wondering what the hell we had been thinking. And then our stroller didn’t arrive at the gate. Thankfully I came overly prepared, and had our baby carrier (we love this carrier, as it fits us both comfortably. It is available for purchase on Amazon, but I purchased it directly from Lillebaby on a Black Friday sale for $100 CAD) in the diaper bag.
The good thing about Zurich, is that they have a family room in each terminal. There are toys, microwaves, couches, change tables, breastfeeding/sleep rooms, and most importantly, other kids and space. Callahan went nuts, he was everywhere and he was happy. He licked almost every surface and then at about an hour he started to crash. I stuffed him in the carrier where he slept for about 2 hours. When we tried to take him out to wake him he stayed asleep. Face down, frat boy level of unconsciousness.
Our next flight was 2.5 hours and when they announced the passenger count, there were 7 infants on board. Which was a huge relief, he wouldn’t be the only one crying this time. The lady sitting next to us was super sweet and Callahan loved her. He was good for about an hour and a half and then we got him to sleep (with some screaming of course) and even managed to sneak in about a 20 minute nap ourselves before starting the descent.
Looking back on this circus of a travel day, there are some things I would do differently.
- I would bring enough formula to feed an army.
- I would not book the bulkhead seats (or the last row, or anywhere people/flight staff tend to congregate). He would be just about asleep and then people would come in/out of the bathroom or the flight attendants would start a service and basically yell, waking him. He’s just too easily distracted and disturbed for that level of activity.
- When possible I would split that flight up, or extend the layover for an overnight in a hotel.
- I would try to limit the amount of contact his mouth has to airport/plane surfaces. A jetlagged sick baby is not cool, and even less so once you catch it too.
- I would not travel with a baby that can move.I think he was too old/too young. He could crawl, but not walk. He wanted to move, but had to stay in our arms. And he still hadn’t mastered any coping mechanisms for sleeping at this point.
Each age has different pros/cons for traveling, but between his desire to move when he wasn’t allowed, and starting to teeth again right before the flight, it was not ideal.
So to summarize, traveling with a baby is hard. Don’t stress about making it easier, and have zero expectations. We don’t negotiate with terrorists for a reason, because they’re fucking nuts and its futile.
(also, don’t say terrorists, on a plane or in the airport).
I wish you many blessings of a sweet angel baby on your travels (I hear those are real, albeit rare).