Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Travelling to New York with an infant - lessons learned

This past weekend, Noah and I went to NY to visit hubby who is there for eleven days for work.  We left on Friday and came home on Monday.  I did a lot of research leading up to this trip to make it go as smoothly as possible.  I thought I'd put all my learnings in one place, so hopefully other parents travelling with infants can benefit!

Follow-up note:  this trip was FAR from easy.  The travel days alone were long and exhausting.  I had no time to myself, and spent most of those days trying to keep the baby quiet and happy so he would drive me and the other passengers crazy.  He was great in NY, but got very fed up of shopping and being in the stroller, so we had to take him out and feed him frequently to keep him happy.  None of us had great sleeps because he woke several times, plus he's just a noisy sleeper in general, and he was at the foot of the bed.  That said, we had a lot of fun and wouldn't trade it for anything.  But be warned....travelling with an infant isn't for the faint of heart!

Lesson 1: plan flights around naptime

Hubby thought I was a bit nuts, but I was insistent on booking our flights to ensure Noah could nap beforehand.  He doesn't do well when he's tired, and I didn't want to expose the other passengers to an extremely crabby baby.  On Friday we left at 12:30, which meant we left the house at 10am to be at the airport two hours beforehand.  It was perfect because he went down to nap at 8:40 and slept till 10, so he had a solid nap.  On Monday we left at 8am.  A few weeks ago we yanked him out of bed super early to go to Buffalo and discovered he did really well in the morning.  So on Friday I got up at 4:30am, got myself ready and finished packing, and woke Noah at 5 for a 5:15am pickup.  He was a bit cranky initially but then was all smiles as we headed to the airport.  In both instances, I fed him a bottle after we got through security, and he fell asleep before takeoff.  Score!

Lesson 2: pack LIGHT

Since we now have to pay for every checked bag, I decided we would share a suitcase.  This meant mommy only brought 2 pairs of jeans (one pair I wore), a pair of yoga pants, and several long sleeved t-shirts and a warm wool cardigan.  I also brought a couple pairs of shoes.  It's nice to wear different shoes at night when you've been walking in one pair for 6 hours during the day.  For Noah I packed an outfit for each day and jammies for each night, plus a few extras - just in case.  I also packed a few extra toys, some empty bottles, linens for the playpen the hotel provided and a can of powdered formula.  I had a very small purse that I could wear across my body, which provided easy access to my wallet, passports, blackberry and camera.  Everything else was in the diaper bag.  Plus we had the stroller.  Maneuvering an airport with an infant is tricky, especially when you're alone.  You need as few bags as possible because at some point you'll be carrying them PLUS baby.  Here's some good info from Air Canada for travelling with an infant:  http://www.aircanada.com/en/travelinfo/before/youngtravellers/infant-child.html

Lesson 3: anticipate security obstacles

As Noah had to eat before and during the flight, I put his pre-measured formula, a small container of cereal and several jars of baby food in a ziplock bag at the top of the diaper bag.  I had all my electronics (flip camera, blackberry, digital camera, ipod) in my purse so they were easily accessed.  When we hit security in Toronto, we were told we were chosen for a random search.  Awesome!  I went through the usual steps and took off everything (coat, shoes, purse) and put it all into bins.  I had to take Noah out of the stroller and show the security guy how to collapse it so it could be scanned.  Of course when I took him out, I discovered he had pooped and was very stinky!  When we came out the other side the guard patted me down and began swabbing and searching everything in the diaper bag, and made me turn on all my electronics.  It took about 15 minutes and by the end, Noah was VERY cranky.  I was too, especially when the guard started asking me random questions like "are you wearing makeup? are you wearing any lotions?".  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Lesson 4:  make sure you have enough baby food

I pre-measured enough formula for two bottles.  One for before we boarded the plane, and one for landing.  I also brought several jars of baby food so I could feed him before/during/after as needed.  I bought a bottle of water once I passed security, I just asked for unchilled water so it was the right temperature.  Both times he drank his bottle before the flight, and then when he woke up and during the landing.  It worked perfectly.  It was also good to have jars handy.  Our departing flight was delayed so he was starving, so I fed him before we boarded.  Since we were delayed, we got stuck in rush hour traffic in NY so it took almost three hours to get to the hotel.  That jar of sweet potato really calmed him down when he had a meltdown in the last 45 mins!  Make sure you only pack what seems reasonable for the baby to consume during the flight, it's all they'll allow.  We brought a can of formula (a friend tried her brand in the US and her kids refused, so recipes MAY be different) as I didn't want to take a chance.  Once we got to the hotel, we went to a store and got a jug of water and several containers of baby food.  Easy peasy!

Lesson 5:  make sure you have the right travel documents

We got Noah's passport over a month before our trip.  It only took two weeks to arrive, which was surprising.  We also got a letter notarized from my husband giving me permission to travel with him alone.  I packed the long form of his birth certificate which states that we're his parents.  That form lists both my maiden and married names, which is helpful because my passport has my maiden name.  Not one person asked to see the notarized letter or birth certificate, but I would've been ready if they did.  Better safe than sorry.  You don't need any hassles when you're travelling with a baby.  Here's a link with info about travelling to the US with an infant:  https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/724/~/travel-documents-for-infants.

Lesson 6: take advantage of hotel services

We discussed buying a travel crib for this journey, and looked at the Phil & Teds Traveller, but it seemed like a big investment.  We called the hotel and were told they provided cribs.  Since hubby went before us, it gave us the opportunity to check out what they offered so we could make an informed decision.  The crib was actually a pack and play, which was perfect.  They provided two flat bedsheets, one we wrapped around the mattress and one we draped around the sides so Noah couldn't see us while he slept.  They worked like a charm!  We forgot to buy dish soap so the front desk provided some shower gel, which worked great to clean his bottles and spoons.  We probably could've stored the stroller, since the room was REALLY small, but it would've been a a huge pain to get it out every time we left.  I also found a company that rents baby gear, but I send them my order form and they never responded.  I could've called to follow-up, but I actually changed my mind about renting a bouncy chair and playmat as hubby said our room was tiny.  Here's the link to a directory of baby gear rental companies in the US that's useful:  http://www.travelswithbaby.com/planning/baby_gear_rentals.htm 

Lesson 7: do whatever it takes to keep baby happy

We fully expected that Noah would be out of sorts since his routine would be upside down, so we were prepared with food and toys to keep him happy when he fussed.  Since he's not a fan of his car seat for extended periods of time, I found a car service that would take us to and from the airport and they provided infant car seats!  This meant he could sit in his toddler seat for his stroller, which we knew would make him very happy.  We also have a flannel bag for the seat so we can easily zip him up and keep him cozy when he would fall asleep.  We tried to keep his feeds on track as much as possible, but we would make sure we fed him when he was hungry, regardless of the time.  When it came to naps, most of them were in the stroller.  Thankfully he can sleep in there.  We brought a light playmat with us and at some point each day we would find a place to put it on the ground and let him lie down and play.  When we got back to the room at the end of the day, we would let him stretch out and roll around on the bed with some toys.  He needs that time each day, otherwise he's super edgy!  His bedtimes were later than usual, but he handled it well.  He could easily sleep in the stroller when he wanted, which helped a lot.  Unfortunately the walls of our room were thin, so he was woken several times each night by street or hallway noise.  Thankfully he's sleeping through the night now, so we didn't have to worry about him freaking out every few hours.  When he woke, he'd settle himself fairly quickly.  I can't imagine travelling with him any earlier, I think it would've been a disaster.

Lesson 8: strollers ARE doable

Before our trip, everything I read said that taking a stroller to New York was a total hassle.  I will be the first to admit it was a total lifesaver!  At the airport, it gave me a place to store gear.  Sure it was a pain collapsing it with him in my arms, but I was able to get to the plane door with him inside, and then it was waiting for us when we got off.  Sure the sidewalks of New York are crowded, and not for the timid stroller driver.  You basically have to look for an opening (sometimes using your partner to clear the way) and then barrell through.  People WILL move if you charge through.  Putting an 18lb baby in a carrier isn't reasonable.  Your back would be destroyed after an hour (hubby could only handle 30 mins).  PLUS, you have a place to store all your gear and purchases while you're out and about.  I highly reco bringing your stroller, particularly if it has a large storage space and collapses easily.

Lesson 9:  relax, go with the flow, have fun and take pictures!

When you travel, inevitably there's going to be bumps along the way (like security searches, three hour cab rides, delayed flights, etc).  You had to expect these and just roll with it, otherwise you'll make yourself CRAZY!  We tried to balance our itinerary with things we liked, and things we knew Noah would enjoy.  We made sure to take pictures to remember this trip.  After all, it's about having fun, right?  Here's a few pics from our journey.

He loved to roll around on a blanket at the airport gate. 
Great way to kill time and make friends with the other passengers!

Content before his first flight!

Comfy in his toddler seat and Baby Ganoosh!

Proud papa.

A little windy!

Some downtime after a long day of shopping and sightseeing!

Enjoying a swing in Central Park!

3 comments:

  1. You make it sound so easy!!! But I'm still not doing it ;-)

    Glad to hear trip went well and pictures are so cute!

    @Charmedone17

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  2. Ha, it was anything BUT! I just posted a follow-up comment. I don't want to mislead parents into thinking this is a breeze! Thanks for reading/posting!

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  3. useful information cute little one :)
    nice to meet you

    ReplyDelete