Babies change everything. Especially travel.
I had never put so much though into the process of going through the security line at the airport. I planned out every move, every necessary action in the security dance, aware that every forgotten detail would become infinitely more difficult with a potentially fussy baby in arms and other passengers staring impatiently at us as we fumble, not enough arms to accomplish it all.
I carefully made sure that my pockets were empty of cell phone and wallet, because I was keenly aware that getting at my pockets would become harder while holding our little guy. Not only would I have to manage the normal security requirements, but also would need to pull out bottles of breast milk along with our normal bottles of liquids and computer.
Preparations complete, we approached the front of the line. After we showed our boarding passes, I completed the last necessary task of removing my shoes and getting them up off of the floor and into my hands to put on the belt (in the past, I would have just bent down to pick them up, but with the baby in my arms, this maneuver had become more difficult, as well.)
With some additional planning and thought, we got through security as smoothly as is possible with an infant (and without unnecessarily irritating any other passengers) but our experience quickly opened my naive eyes to how our travel habits were about to change. Traveling with a baby takes much more careful thought and planning than without.
Lesson #1: Plan a short trip to start out. Our flight from Minneapolis to Chicago was the prefect length to fine tune our strategies before taking a longer flight. I also wanted to see how our guy adapted to flying (lucky us, he loved it!) before risking finding out that he hated the airplane on a longer flight with no escape in sight.
Lesson # 2: Plan rest breaks. By the time that we got to the hotel, our little guy had been through the airport, on his first plane ride, on the subway for 30 minutes and then as a grand finale, carried for half a mile in cold, drizzling rain.
It was just too much go and not enough stop, and by the time we got to the hotel, he was in the midst of a full blown nuclear meltdown (it worked to our advantage in a way, as the hotel rushed us right to the front of the long check in line so that his meltdown would not disturb the peace of other customers.)
Babies love to see new things, but they also need equal measures of down time to stretch and decompress in a quiet, comforting environment.
Lesson #3: During our short little jaunt, we learned why a stroller is a necessary piece of baby equipment.
We take the minimalist approach when it comes to baby gear. We had a big, clunky stroller at home that rarely got used. The less stuff to carry with, the better (I often see parents trudging through the airport with so much baby stuff that it looks like it is making their travel lives more difficult instead of easier).
I had planned on carrying our guy in the chest carrier. This worked well most of the time, but after a while, he would get squirmy in the tight confines of the carrier (and I can imagine that in the summer time, we will both be sweaty pressed up against each other.)
A stroller would have been great to sit him in while we were eating a a restaurant, and it would have been nice to give my back a break (and him more space) some of the time.
We have since dumped our clunky stroller and opted for a Bumbleride Flite, a sturdy yet collapsible umbrella type stroller that is super light, reclines for an infant and will fit him up until he is 50 pounds! The next trip is going to be SO much easier!
Lesson #4: We might be splurging on more shuttles and taxis in the near future and taking less public transportation. While I still think it is an important long term goal for out little guy to learn how to use public transit (and also important for our budget) I recognize now that there are just times when taking an easier, more expedient form of transportation might be called for while traveling with a baby.
A taxi or airport shuttle right to the hotel would have alleviated a lot of unnecessary stress and made the beginning of our trip much more enjoyable.
Lesson #5: Take advantage of nap time. I carried our little man in a front pack for most of the time that we were sight seeing. Often, the rocking motion of my body combined with feeling cozy and close to me would be enough to lull him to sleep. We used those times when he was sleeping to see the things that were really important for US to see (in case he had a melt down upon walking and we had to leave.)