My daughter is only four and a half months old and she’s already been on 8 international flights and visited 4 countries. With parents that are travelers and with grandparents that are an ocean away she really has no choice but to also become a traveler. So as the saying goes, “Start ‘em young and raise ‘em right.” My husband and I had an elaborate plan to enjoy our summer vacation in one of our favorite places, Costa Rica, while simultaneously having our friends and family come meet our daughter. But we quickly learned that although traveling with a baby is possible, it’s drastically different. Read on for lessons learned.
Not All Babies Are Soothed By The Car
One of the first things I learned is that the image often seen on tv of parents driving around town at night just to get their baby to sleep is definitely not true for all babies. My daughter HATES the car seat. In fact, she made it from Singapore to Tokyo and from Tokyo to LAX without so much as a cry. But she lost it completely on the 101 freeway in Los Angeles. I figured at the time she had just had enough of traveling. Not so. She was miserable pretty much every time we got in the car. Hopefully this gets better as she gets older, but the lesson learned here, since car rides are unavoidable, bring lots of toys for the distraction. It was also tremendously helpful to be able to ride in the back seat with her at all times but of course that’s not always possible. The baby back seat mirror helped her to have something to look at when it wasn’t possible for me to be back there with her and it helped me to be less anxious since I could see her.
Pick Your Airline Wisely
We decided to fly with Singapore Airlines to the United States because they are always very professional and accommodating. We selected Delta for our second leg because it was the only non-stop from Los Angeles to Costa Rica which meant less travel time and we figured it would be nicer than the budget airlines. Both airlines promised us a bassinet. And since we were traveling for two months we had to bring a lot of stuff for the baby. I’m talking stroller, car seat, travel bassinet, vibrating chair for her, clothes, toys, bottles, etc. Singapore Airlines is always fairly generous with the baggage allowance, but I was surprised by how much Delta let us carry on for free. They pretty much didn’t charge us for any baby accessories. But that’s where the pleasant surprises with Delta ended. They lost the legs to our travel bassinet making it utterly useless, and the plane didn’t even have a bassinet on that particular plane. We had to hold our daughter the entire flight all while being wedged next to someone who, no shade, probably should have had to buy two seats. Delta was a hot mess. We were upgraded on the way back due to the awful experience we had, but if I had to do it over again I wouldn’t fly Delta at all or I would at least have paid extra for more room.
I’m not a big believer in Murphy’s law. The whole “If it can go wrong it will” is so pessimistic. But with AirBnb outside of the US, if it can go wrong, be prepared because it might. We planned to stay in ONE house the entire time. Instead we stayed in seven-yes, seven-with an infant and a ton of family. We experienced everything from having no water for 6 days straight to water pipes bursting in the middle of the night and flooding the whole first floor. Plus rolling blackouts, terrible WiFi, and bugs that made it impossible to sleep at night. We even woke up one morning to find a scorpion near the crib. Some of this was due to the tropical surroundings that I love so much, but some of it was just straight up b.s. That being said we also stayed in some spectacular places with stunning views. The moral of the story; don’t get attached to your plan. Things change and when you have to keep a baby’s best interest at heart that means places and activities that looked good on paper may not really be suitable. See things first if possible before booking or have some flexibility to cancel if you need to.
Babies Are Resilient, But They Also Need Structure
We definitely had the most frustrating vacation perhaps ever. But we also created beautiful memories with our family. So even though it can sometimes be a headache or a handful to travel with an infant, it is possible. But the one question I find myself asking after this experience is “Was it worth it?” I think my daughter would have been just as content if not more if we had stayed at home. And quite honestly we could have taken the small fortune we spent due to all of the mishaps and instead put it in her 529 college savings plan or flown a handful of family members to Singapore to visit us instead. So in the near future we will probably travel mostly within Asia or do house sits to have family friendly accommodations that don’t cost us anything.
Our next scheduled trip is to Perth and it cost us little to nothing. We used our miles to book the flight and we are doing a house sit that comes complete with a stroller, crib, high chair, etc. So here’s to future travel that is more cost effective and less disruptive for our daughter. Cheers!