Flying Baby! — We got lucky. Flying was exciting for Annie, not because of the gorgeous view of Iceland or the free drinks, but because of all the people and attention. Eventually she fell asleep, exhausted from smiling at so many friendly faces. And about the ear thing: we had no problems. Annie nursed during take-off and landing on the way there and on take-off on the way back. During the final landing, she refused to nurse and sat quietly on my lap, occasionally yawning.
The most important things about flying with an infant are the two words “Bulkhead Seats,” those seats on the airplane with nothing in front of them. For international flights, contact your airline about the availability of bassinets, “sleeping bags” and bottled baby food. Your doctor may prescribe medication to help your baby sleep (we had it but didn’t use it).
Travel Tip #3: INSIST on Bulkhead Seats. Nothing else will do! Call early and often, arrive at the airport with time to spare, and, if necessary, throw a small tantrum yourself.
Travel Tip #4: During take-off and landing, nurse your baby or make sure he is sucking on a bottle or pacifier to keep his ears clear. Contrary to the horror stories you might hear, many pediatricians now believe that there is no relationship between flying and ear infections.
Trains vs. Autos — The next question we faced was: How to cross the continent? Trains and cars both have assets and liabilities. While trains provide more room and a chance to meet the locals (baby travels free), they also restrict your movements. We opted for a rental car because of the many kilometers we were traveling, and because we got a great deal through our airline. A car gives you the freedom to stop for a quiet nurse in a quaint village or an emergency diaper run at the local supermarch. Our greatest discoveries were made because we were able to get off the main roads and wander. For Annie, the car became a home away from home, although the two days we tried to cover long distances were VERY trying, despite songs, toys and endless kisses. It’s no fun to drive amidst traffic doing 160 kilometers an hour with a cranky, screaming baby.
Travel Tip #5: With a baby, places are further apart than they look on the map. Plan lots of time for rest stops. Most European highways have well-organized 24-hour rest areas where you can get (expensive) food and gas and let baby relax in the children’s play area with kids from many countries.
Travel Tip #6: Bring your own car seat. Rental companies charge extra. Most airlines allow you to take the seat on board, and if not, will let you check it through without interfering with your baggage allowance.
Lugging The Little Rug Rat Around — And in the cities, a stroller? A back pack? A sling? We opted for a lightweight Gerry pack. Annie was able to view the world from her perch and we took turns toting the well-balanced load. Our pack was looked at longingly by many Venetian mothers who spend their days pulling strollers up and down the four hundred bridges of Venice. What many people don’t know is that Venetian bridges are all steps.
Travel Tip #7: In the Rodin museum in Paris and in the Van Gogh in Amsterdam we were requested to check the back pack. Be prepared to argue your case (we won in Amsterdam) and be prepared to lose (we lost in Paris).