If we're connected on social media, you probably saw that our little family just got back from a vacation all the way across the country in Massachusetts. While we've flown with Hannah before, this felt like a whole new ballgame going from a 1 hour flight to CA to a 5 hour flight across the country. To say we were nervous for that first flight would be an understatement. Just ask my mom, who I called minutes before boarding saying I wanted to cancel the whole thing and go home (ha!).
The beginning of our trip proved to be the most challenging, and it ended up being smooth sailing from there. We made so many memories in the last week; as we were recapping them this evening over a takeout dinner back home, it was hard to pick our favorites. This vacation taught me a thing or two about traveling with a baby, and I thought I'd take the time to document and share them. If for no other reason, so I can look back on this post the next time I'm tempted to cancel a trip due to traveling anxiety, ha!
One: Traveling can be stressful for everyone; don't forget that applies to your baby, too.
Our flight back to Arizona was drastically different than our flight to Massachusetts. There were likely multiple factors that affected this, but I think one of them came down to being in tune with my baby's stress level, not just my own. Hannah is an incredibly happy baby. She was in a great mood when we first arrived at the airport for our flight to MA, so I didn't really think to pay attention to the fact that she may be anxious just like I was. After all, this was all new for her too, right? Even though she had been on a flight before, that doesn't make it any less overwhelming on her tiny mind and body. And it's true what they say that babies pick up on your stress, which we most definitely were feeling.
In hindsight, I can see that there were a few things I did that contributed to Hannah's pre-flight meltdown. I'm not saying it was my fault, there are lots of factors that lead to a baby melting down (like being overtired and hungry, that's enough to make anyone melt down!). But I am saying that I know my baby, and I know there are a few things she does not like. She doesn't like seeing me walk away, and she doesn't like being passed off to strangers. I walked away to go get food, and as we were boarding the plane, I accepted help from a totally well-intentioned flight attendant who offered to carry Hannah on the plane for us. In the midst of an already overwhelming situation, these were not what Hannah wanted to happen. I learned from our first flight that while I can't prevent all meltdowns, I can be in tune with my baby and try to avoid adding stress to a situation that is likely already stressing her out.
Two: If possible, keep to your regular schedule even with a time difference.
Now before I even dive into this one, I'll admit that this isn't always possible. But if it is, I 100% think it's worth paying attention to. I say this because with a 3 hour time difference, we were able to make it so our first night at home our daughter is asleep in her crib at the same time as usual, and therefore shouldn't be waking up at 3AM instead of 6AM. Win!
We kept Hannah on her same sleep schedule, just 3 hours ahead. She normally sleeps from 7PM - 6AM every night, so in Massachusetts we had her sleeping from 10PM - 9AM. This worked out great because we didn't go to bed much after her, so that means we got an extra 3 hours of sleep each night. (And all the new parents are raising praise hands alongside me because that's a BIG deal!) She normally naps at 9AM and 1:30PM each day, so we aimed to have her nap at 12PM and 4:30PM to keep everything as normal as possible. Some days, that just didn't work out because we were on the go, but on those days we kept her nighttime sleep schedule the same and called it a win. Overall, her sleep was just as consistent and predictable as it is at home, and that made traveling way more enjoyable for all of us and our transition back to our regular time zone a whole lot smoother!
Three: People are kind. And if some people aren't, focus on those who are.
I don't think I can count the moments on this trip that people were exceptionally kind to us. I know there's something about a baby that softens people, so I won't expect this treatment all the time, but still! I was blown away by how kind and helpful people can be. People carried luggage for us, gave up seats for us, held elevators or doors for us, allowed us to go before them in line, complimented our baby, just to name some examples! It's easy to worry about inconveniencing or annoying others when traveling with a baby, but this trip showed me that doing that can just stress you out. Especially when you're mid meltdown with easily a hundred strangers surrounding you. In those moments, focus on your baby. The people around you are likely a whole lot kinder and more compassionate than you'd expect, and if they're not, well chances are you'll never see them again.
Four: Don't work yourself up about something that hasn't happened yet.
Ya'll, even though my baby did amazingly well on our flight home, there's still something about being stuck in a really small space surrounded by a bunch of strangers in very close proximity with a very active baby on my lap for 5 hours that sounds, well, not appealing? Ha! Just being honest here. It's not exactly on the top of my list of ways I'd choose to spend my day.
But here's the thing, the way I imagine it when I'm stressing out is almost always worse than it really plays out to be. Even when Hannah did bring to fruition some of my worst fears by completely screaming in the airport terminal and during takeoff, it still was short lived. She did not cry the whole flight, and as a matter of fact, she was quite pleasant! She happily gave the biggest grins to anyone who made eye contact, and made me so proud at how she woke up during our descend, saw I was still right beside her, and then went back to sleep through the rest of landing. She did great!
When I'm stressing out, it's usually over an imagined worst case scenario. For our flight home, I tried really hard to consciously not worry about the unknown that lay ahead of me for the next 5 hours. And you know what, I'm glad I didn't worry because our flight ended up being enjoyable! Hannah didn't cry at all, and I even was able to pass her off to PJ a few times to get some moments to myself. (Moments to yourself are few and far between as a parent, am I right?) We tag-teamed, and it went great! So my lesson learned? Don't let something stress you out until it's actually happening.
Five: It's worth it. So, so worth it.
We definitely had a stressful traveling experience on the way to our vacation, and there was a point along the way that I legitimately wondered to myself "why do people travel with kids?" But it didn't take long for me to change my tune and see that no matter how much stress the traveling aspect brings, it's so, so worth it. Getting time away from work to just make memories with my little family? Priceless. Getting to spend time with family who I hadn't seen in 14 years? Priceless. Getting to experience things I remember as a kid with my baby? Priceless. No matter how expensive or stressful traveling can be, especially when you add the element of bringing a baby and a zillion baby related items along, it is so worth it.
We brought Hannah on her first roadtrip when she was just 8 weeks old, and we almost didn't go because of all the unknown that came with traveling with a baby. As I was debating back and forth, my mom advised me with just two simple words: "Be adventurous." She always reminds me, you can't stop living your life just because you had a baby. And it's true! The adventure is always worth any stress it brings, because the adventure is so much more rich and full now that we get to experience things through the eyes of our baby girl, too.