About a week ago my husband told me that he was being sent to Japan for a week for work. He was to leave Saturday morning, before his mother made her journey home to South Carolina after spending her first few weeks with a broken hip in Omaha. It took me five minutes to process that I would suddenly be alone with Walden for the first time in weeks, and that I wasn’t ready for it so soon after having company all day. So I decided it was time to go home to my family.
I booked the trip using part of a courtesy flight from AirTran, which I received after they cancelled my flight home the last time I visited. Then I panicked about traveling with an infant for the first time, alone. For good, though wrong, reasons, it turns out. After the jump are some of the useful things I learned on our latest adventure, which routed us overnight through Milwaukee and Orlando to get to Indianapolis.
- AirTran sells OMA to IND as a thru flight. One would assume that a thru flight occurs when the airplane with which you depart one destination is the airplane you use to get to the final destination. But not really. Our flight from Omaha was delayed an hour and a half, and we missed our connection. Don’t underestimate the potential for your 3 hour trip to turn into a 24 hour adventure.
- It never occurred to me that we might end up in a hotel in Milwaukee, and so I had never given thought to the possibility of spending the night in a hotel alone with my 4-month-old baby. I had no idea that hotels offer cribs. Walden slept well in his, especially because I had packed his favorite swaddle blanket and the iPod with his Good Night playlist. What I hadn’t packed: enough diapers and formula. I had them shipped ahead, thinking it was a smart move to not have to haul them myself. The next lesson is to not hesitate to ask for help from the hotel staff. They are generally sympathetic to the plight of the stranded mother and can shuttle you to a pharmacy for your needs, should you not have learned a lesson from this post and packed them.
- Airlines will check car seats and strollers for free. You can also take your car seat and Snap & Go stroller to the gate. As smart as the Baby Bjorn seemed early Saturday, the stroller/car seat combo was clearly the way to go for our journey from Milwaukee to FLORIDA to Indiana. Such a combination is likely smart for your next solo flight with your infant.
- Airlines do want your money. Which means you can count on overbooked flights in peak seasons such as spring break. Which means if you’re traveling at those times, you can count on long lines at the check-in counter and security. Give yourself plenty of time, especially if you have a cute baby that old ladies are particularly fond of ogling.
- This should really be 4a. If you think there’s a chance your suitcase might be close to overweight (50 pounds +) due to the number of toys and amount of memory-capturing equipment you’ve packed, consider having handy a spare shopping bag to hold the items you remove from your checked bag to save $50. That, or have a really big diaper bag. Or be made of money.
- Hot coffee plus baby toting don’t mix. Don’t count on enjoying a cup of joe at the airport if you don’t get there super early. And don’t even begin to think you’ll get to take it on the plane if it’s just you and the little one. Iced coffee is the way to go.
- Air travel is a lot harder on the parent than on the baby. Pack bottles for takeoff/landing – put them in the seat back pocket when you board! – and a pacifier on a clip and pray that you’ll be able to bounce in the aisle when it’s time to take a nap. It seems that trying to play Angry Birds while the baby naps is not advisable, unless you want to go do squats in the aisle and sing Ants Go Marching in front of strangers… again.
- Family bathrooms are the greatest thing ever invented. Use them. I want to buy a drink for the architect who suggested them.
- Do NOT forget your cell phone and charger. You may have to make and receive some very sad phone calls, eg. Dear Grandparents, you’re losing a day with your grandchild. Or, Dear family, daddy’s deploying tomorrow. Or, Dear passenger, we swear, the only way to get you to Indiana from Wisconsin is via Florida. During spring break.
- It’s all about perspective. It could have been the worst 24 hours ever, but I chose to think of it as a wonderful story about our first time flying together. If everything had gone smoothly, there would be nothing to tell! Plus, now I know that I can handle traveling with my baby like a responsible adult. Er… well… I sure can next time.