This weekend marks Regan’s eighth trip where we will be flying together. I’ve done it solo with her a few times, but she’s a lot more grown up this time around, so it’ll be interesting to see how we do as a team. Vacations with my family hold some of my fondest memories, so it’s important to me that Regan knows the beauty of travel. I hope it’s one of many things that helps grow her sense of independence and confidence. Some of my friends have asked what it’s like to travel with an infant/baby/toddler alone, so I thought it might be fun to share some insights I’ve learned over the past few trips.
- The most important thing to remember throughout your travels (specifically on your flight) is that you’ll likely never see these people again in your life. I always tell myself before I get on the flight that if poop hits the fan (maybe literally and figuratively), not to worry because these people are strangers to me and will stay that way once I’m off the flight. It can be easy to get caught up wondering what other people are thinking, but you have to remember WHO CARES. Let me tell you – there’s nothing more alienating than walking onto a flight with a baby in your arms. Not one person on that flight wants to be next to you, and it’s written on every single one of their faces. With that said, I’ve also never experienced more compassion than those who’ve helped me in my travels with Regan. I’ve had men, women and other children go out of their way to lend a helping hand and it touches my heart more than they know. I’m acutely aware of the fact that it can be scary to offer help, especially to a special needs mom, and each of those people have earned a star on their halos! On one of my first flights alone with Regan, I hadn’t quite worked out all the logistics and I wheeled her in the stroller all the way down the jetway, not realizing that her stroller would not fit in the aisles of the airplane. She couldn’t sit independently yet, so I had no way of holding her while collapsing the stroller with only two hands. I asked one of the flight crew members to hold Regan while I got my bags straight and she responded so enthusiastically, “I was hoping you would ask me!” It completely made my day. Never underestimate the value of kindness to strangers.
- Check everything possible. The more bags you check, the easier your day will go. Ideally, you’ll also have people helping you get into and out of the airports. If you do not have available help (I’ve been there, too), try to pack as few bags as possible since you obviously only have two hands. I always pack Regan’s bag in mine so it’s one less thing to carry, even if it’s just to the check-in line. I limit my carry-ons to Regan and one backpack. Remember the fewer things you’re carrying, the less likely you’ll be to lose something along the way.
- Remember that (more than likely), you can buy anything you need where you’re going. Unless you’re going on a mission trip or travelling to a third world country, you’ll likely be able to purchase anything you forget. Maybe not the ideal solution but eliminates the need to pack everything you think you might This is especially important to remember with a baby who “needs” everything under the sun.
- Splurge on items that will reduce stress. This is a little subjective, but there are certain items that are worth splurging if you feel it will make your travel easier. If you’re a frequent baby/toddler flier, I cannot recommend the Doona stroller/carseat enough. I found it after Regan was already more than a year old, and I wish I would’ve discovered it sooner. Click here to learn more, but in a nutshell it’s a carseat and stroller combo that requires no attachment/travel system that most carseats require. It collapses into itself for easy ONE-HAND function. Another splurge item for me is booking Regan her own seat when I am travelling alone and/or if the flight is inexpensive. Keep an eye on your flight to see if the price drops enough to make it “worth it” to buy an extra seat for your little one (this is another subjective one to determine if it’s worth it to you and your family). If your babe is under age 2, you’ll have to call the airline to book the flight. BONUS! Doona is an FAA-approved carseat.
- You can bring baby food/formula/breastmilk through security. TSA does not enforce the same liquid requirements for breastmilk / formula when you’re traveling with a baby, so no need to panic! I’ve gone through plenty of TSA lines with a cooler of milk and never had an issue. You’ll be stopped for them to run a test of the milk (don’t worry, they won’t open any sealed containers), so just plan for a little extra time for an agent to test the liquid.
- It’s only a limited number of hours in a space full of strangers, so just roll with it! Sometimes this is easier said than done. On one flight (I hadn’t bought a spare seat for Regan), and in a combined effort to hold Regan and make a formula bottle, I made a huge poof of formula that spilled all over the armrest and narrowly missed the poor man sitting next to me. I was a bit of a disaster and felt so bad for the man, but he was so gracious and did not complain (at least that I noticed). I profusely apologized and (spoiler alert!) I never saw him again.
All this to say, the travel is ALWAYS worth it! Despite the inevitable exhaustion, I’ve never regretted taking Regan on our trips. I’d be doing the world a disservice if I didn’t share her with it!
This weekend, we’re headed to Houston and then Dallas for the National Down Syndrome Congress. My mom and sister will be joining me as we continue our education on all things Down syndrome! It was one of my goals last year to make it to this conference, and I’m really looking forward to learning the latest and greatest about this extra chromosome! More next week on things I learned along the way – happy weekend!