Ever thought of traveling internationally with your infant?! I didn’t want to pass up the chance to visit Munich, Germany with my husband, who had a work-trip scheduled. I packed us up for a week-long adventure with baby! While we prepared for the flight, more than one person asked me to tell them how it went traveling with Ada, so I figured I’d share for posterity on the blog.
We’ve lucked out that Ada is a happy, easygoing baby. (I’d like to think it comes from my side!) With the combination of her temperament and going to a western European country, I knew we’d be able to handle anything (and that in Germany, buying diapers or other familiar baby essentials wouldn’t be an issue). Even if we had to make a trip to the hospital, I knew we’d be ok.
This is the biggest deal. You are trapped on an aircraft with no space and a curious, 10-month-old baby who just started crawling. First, erase the idea that you are going to have a relaxing flight. If you start from that things can only get better! I’ve found that if I consciously reset my expectations when doing stuff with my daughter, I feel emotionally better about the experience. I knew that I couldn’t zone out and sleep or read. I knew that I would play with her in my lap, let her press all the buttons on the TV, watch her try to play with the other passengers, etc. I didn’t try to travel as I had when I was single.
Second, if you are flying with an infant, request a bulk head seat and a bassinet. The bassinet clips into brackets on the wall. The extra leg room on the bulk head means that the baby can play on the floor. Ada had a great time unpacking my carry-on bag! I brought some toys but honestly, I knew she’d like the tea cup from the lunch tray and my cell phone more than anything else. When food was served, I put everything that she couldn’t touch on my husband’s tray and basically let her feed herself. Lufthansa also gave us jars of baby food.
I like to travel light. When I was flying for work every week, some of my colleagues were aghast/amazed at how little I packed (black pants go with everything!). I tried doing the same for this trip. I made sure to pack diapers and some food for a few days. This allowed me time to find supplies without stressing but free up space in my suitcase. I made sure Ada had 4 meals packed, mainly for the flights. I had four containers of pureed food and two packaged meals in a tray. I had baby cookies, powdered formula, and two bottles as well. She’s eating pretty much anything we eat, so I knew she would mostly want to have our food. That made it easy to go light on the baby food. I am still breastfeeding, so in a pinch, I knew she wouldn’t go hungry.
The trick for not over-packing baby clothes is knowing that you can wash things at the hotel. In total I had:
- 7 daytime outfits
- 3 footed onesie pajamas
- 3 bibs, 3 burp clothes, and 1 blanket
- 2 pairs of socks
- A sun hat, a winter hat, and 2 jackets with hoods
Baby clothes are small, and she re-wore things if they weren’t too food-stained. All of it got used, so I feel like it was just right.
When you book your hotel, let them know that you are traveling with an infant, and they will provide you with a crib or bassinet. (I mainly used it for when I showered.) My husband had to leave at 7 a.m. for work, so I was on my own for the rest of the day. While the hotel room was pretty sparse as far as things that Ada could hurt herself with, I couldn’t relax in the shower knowing she could get into something. (Not to mention the ultra-fancy shower with no door, where Ada crawled right in and up to my legs while I was showering!). So I would plunk her down in it with a few toys, so I could shower in peace.
The hotel room was pretty safe for our little explorer. Some drawers and the mini-fridge were fascinating and also a bit finger-pinchy, so we called the front desk and they provided us with a strap to keep them closed. It turned out to be one of Ada’s favorite toys! It was a win-win.
I knew that for a few days, I’d be going out alone with Ada and would need to feel secure traveling around. For this we brought a folding umbrella stroller that we gate checked on the flight (rather than paying to check it with our luggage) and our Moby Wrap. The Moby Wrap was bulky to pack and because of that I almost left it at home but I’m really glad I didn’t. We used it everyday I was in Munich. Plus, you don’t want to be stuck carrying a 20-pound infant in your arms all day!
Munich had every kind of public transportation you could want (oh, Europe!) so I wrapped her up in the Moby and went out and about without having to worry about navigating stairs or gaps with a stroller. I let her out of the Moby when we got to a restaurant or a museum where she could sit or practice walking for a bit. And when my husband was with me, we could use the stroller because I had a second pair of hands to lift it in and out of places.
The baby’s schedule
Now this is the one thing I stressed the most about. Ada has sleep and meal schedules at home. It is flexible but we stick to it because it keeps the crying to a minimum. I knew that traveling would make that all bonkers, so I let her sleep or eat whenever she needed it. However, this was trial and error, because it was the first time we’d really messed with her schedule.
Mornings: I would let Ada wake up when she wanted (usually around 9 a.m.). Then I’d breastfeed, change her, get her dressed, and I’d shower. Next was breakfast (I stocked up at Aldi on fruit, cheese, bread, and yogurt, or we ate hotel breakfast). After that I’d let her roam around the hotel room until her first nap, around 11 or 12ish. Finally, we’d gear up and hit the town.
Afternoons: I would make my way to a restaurant/cafe as my first stop. Then Ada could have some lunch right around noon and I wouldn’t worry she was hungry. We’d eat and then do some sightseeing. Around 2 p.m., she’d fall asleep on me in the Moby wrap. She would fuss a bit but the walking would put her right to sleep.
Evenings: At around 4 or 5, we’d head back to the hotel to meet up with Greg. Ada could get some energy out by crawling and I could rest up. I would feed her some food while Greg got changed, gave her a bath, and put her in pjs, and then we’d head out to dinner. I knew we’d probably be out late and I wanted her to have some food and be in pajamas so we could just put her right to bed when we got back.
Sleeping: Because we were in a hotel and didn’t want to annoy anyone, I let Ada fall asleep in bed with me. She ended up sleeping about 50% of the time with us in bed. At home, this does not happen because I’m a light sleeper and don’t really sleep if she is with me. But I managed to make this work for her sake.
All in all, we all adjusted well to the time difference and made a modified schedule work for us.
Oh, what fun we had with this. We arrived back in the states at Newark Airport at 7 p.m. local time (but 1 a.m. in Germany). Greg and I muddled through and didn’t sleep until 10 p.m. However, Ada didn’t get the memo about adjusting to jetlag. The first day back, she went to sleep at 3 p.m. and woke up at 3 a.m.! I’ve never experienced jetlag this bad! After about 5 days she was finally back to normal, but those early mornings are burned in my mind as cautionary tales about international travel with a baby.
Also, the co-sleeping we did with her was probably not a good idea for us. She didn’t want to nap or sleep at night by herself anymore. I can’t blame her; cozying up to Mommy every night was probably wonderful. Mommy, however, has several extra lines under eyes because of it. (I’d spring up in bed, thinking that I had smothered her or let her fall off at least once every night. Anxiety is real!) So basically we’ve had some very tearful naps and bedtimes since being back. I’m hoping that I haven’t scarred her too much by letting her cry it out a few nights. Isn’t motherly guilt wonderful!
Have you traveled with an infant? Got some tip or tricks?! Share them with us in the comments.