Family Travel Planning: Flying Solo with a Baby

E KLM Bassinet 2 by morethanexpat
E KLM Bassinet by morethanexpat

Image Caption: E sticking her tongue out at us as she enjoys her bassinet on the flight home to Amsterdam.

I’m back…

I took a blogging hiatus during my three-week vacation to the U.S. to visit family and friends. We had a great time and it has given me SO much to write about. For starters…flying solo with baby E.

I flew from Amsterdam to Atlanta with E, met up with my mom at the airport, and then we all flew together to Myrtle Beach to stay with my cousin and see my grandmother. It was an 18 hour journey. It was the first time my daughter met her great-grandmother, her namesake, in person. It was worth it.

I scoured the internet for advice on flying with a baby. I found some great advice, but none that specifically addressed my situation – traveling from the EU to the US on a long haul flight & an intercontinental flight with an eight month old that no longer nurses and eats solids. So I thought I would write my own travel advice for anyone out there unlucky enough to need it.

Resources:

Tips That I Tried:

  • Put Baby to bed in their travel clothes. I have one caveat to add – BUT have a back up outfit set out too. I did this on our first flight to the US with E in December and, as luck would have it, she had the biggest poo blow-out to date and required a full outfit change.
  • Five minutes before you have to leave, lift baby/toddler/kid out of bed, into their coat and into the car.
  • Travel in layers. More specifically, I dressed E in a corduroy sleeveless dress with a long-sleeved onesie and tights. It saved me keeping track of her socks, made diaper changes faster and allowed for quick adjustments as we acclimated ourselves to the hot summer temperatures (i.e. Ditched the tights and swapped out a short-sleeved onesie).
  • New Toy. I bought E an expensive (i.e. full priced…I am normally too cheap for that) new Lamaze toy for our journey as a kind of new surprise/reward. She was far more interested in my travel size tissues and the pack of almonds the flight attendant served with my drink. What I should have invested in was a pacifier cord or keeper. I forced myself to stop counting the number of times I chased down a pacifier for E…or the number of germs it accumulated.
  • Pack baby food and meds in resealable plastic bags – really handy in-flight & when going through security
  • Pack outfits in resealable plastic bags – great for fast, easy access & can use for storing dirty clothes
  • Plastic, cushioned changing pad – mine also has a zippered pouch that fits wipes…very handy
  • Feed Baby a bottle during take off and food in-flight – having a bottle during take off and landing helps equalize the pressure in the ears & food in-flight is a great distraction for both baby and parent if nothing else
  • My Carry-on:
  1. Diapers & wipes – One for each hour of travel; there isn’t much information online about the stores available at Atlanta airport and only one in the entire airport that looked like it might sell diapers. They have four shoe shine stands, but no family pharmacy – REALLY?! Who shines their shoes anymore anyway?
  2. Camera & case
  3. Ergo Baby Carrier
  4. Pureed baby food in 100 gram/ml serving sizes
  5. Individually wrapped cookies for Baby
  6. Disposable bibs
  7. Plastic baby spoons
  8. Four bottles
  9. Two ready to drink cartons of formula
  10. Six servings of powdered formula
  11. Pacifiers & toys
  12. Changing pad
  13. Two changes of clothes for Baby
  14. One change of shirt for myself
  15. Ipad & charger
  16. Mobile phone & charger
  17. Contact lens case & eye glasses
  18. Passport wallet: included my passport and Baby’s, id, cash, debit card, credit card, frequent flyer card, boarding passes, baggage claim stickers
  19. U.S. Wallet: has all U.S. bank cards, credit cards, gift cards, check book, currency
  20. Travel Consent Letter & Birth Certificate: According to Dutch regulations, my husband completed a consent form stating that he is aware of and agrees with my traveling abroad with our daughter without him. We are still very much married, but ugly custody battles have made this a necessity for all parents travelling alone with their children. Dutch immigration did ask me for this documentation, but it was never mentioned in the U.S.

What I Did Differently

  • My main problem – I only had only one set of hands. This puts everything from going to the bathroom to packing my carry on into a new perspective.
  • Took a taxi to the airport. It is cheaper to go by train, but it is also exhausting. We had a long day ahead of us. I saved my energy instead of my money…and will do this again.
  • Used a backpack as my carry-on.
  • Gate checked my car seat and (Bugaboo) stroller base at the door of the plane – this and my backpack allowed me some much-needed free hands while in the airport.
  • HBWT suggests buying bottle water after the airport security check point, but for flights to the US, the security screening is at the gate and there weren’t any vending machines in the waiting area. Instead, I brought ready-to-drink formula.
  • Left all full-sized toiletries at home except for my make up and Baby’s sunscreen.
  • Baby’s sunscreen did double duty as my moisturizer.
  • Baby wipes did double duty as my face cleanser.
  • Brought along enough baby formula for the entire trip (friend’s advice). I did not want to spend my vacation trying out new formula on Baby. Besides, I felt it was an important constant E should have during so much upheaval to her daily routine.
  • Brought a travel high chair.
  • Borrowed a travel crib (i.e. pack n’ play) at each destination, but brought along E’s Swaddle Me blanket.

What I Will Do Differently in the Future

  • Forget the baby cookies/crackers – they ended up a crumbly mess that I threw away
  • Bring a pacifier keeper/cord.
  • Bring far fewer clothes for Baby & I. For once, I will have a great excuse to shop.
  • Bring a full change of clothes for myself. I used the Delta Lounge during our lay over and took advantage of their full service showers. It would have been nice not to put back on the jeans I spilled formula all over 30 minutes into our flight.
  • Bring my Ipod. In-flight, I did not want to turn on my reading light to read a book for fear of waking E. She would also only sleep in my arms so using my Ipad was impossible. And, finally, her bassinette hung from the wall just low enough to keep me from seeing the screen of my personal video system.
  • Bring 2 bottles on-board & pack 2 bottles
  • Fly KLM if possible and try to avoid Delta. They are technically the same airline, but they still have very different attitudes towards children. KLM was far more family friendly. (We flew with Delta to Atlanta and with KLM back to Amsterdam.)

Surprising Take Away #1: Fly smaller airports. I had my most enjoyable airport staff experience at Myrtle Beach. Everyone was friendly and very helpful.

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