Last week we took our first big trip as a family. The flight to Seattle began at CC’s usual bedtime so we were hoping that he would sleep through most of the ride. We figured the plane would be dark and quiet with plenty of white noise from the engines. We hadn’t considered the fact that our plane would be heading toward the sun – keeping the entire journey locked in a late afternoon glow. Our neighbors weren’t particularly cooperative either. It was one of the chattiest flights I’ve ever been on, in fact.
Needless to say, CC didn’t sleep a wink. Every second that wasn’t spent nursing CC attempted to escape our two-seat prison by climbing the walls and performing baby acrobatics. By the end of the flight my arms and my nipples felt like they might fall off – but it could have been worse. He didn’t scream. He didn’t cry. He didn’t pull anyone’s hair (that last one wasn’t for lack of trying.) All in all, I’d call it a win.
While traveling with a little one isn’t exactly easy, it was so much better than I expected. This trip involved more work than it would have before CC came along, but then everything in my whole life everyday involves more work than before CC came along. Going on a trip with him ended up being a great reminder that my life has, in fact, continued on since his birth. We can still go on trips, still see the world and explore new places, only now we have to choose our paths during those trips with a bit more care. I can live with that.
Having a Plan
Gone are the days when I would just hop on a plane and arrive without a plan or without a dime. CC needs things – like safe transportation, naps, and soft food. Before we even left Austin I had spent hours coordinating and planning our trip. We only had one and a half days to check out a whole new city. Between nap times and bed time that really only gave us three four-hour windows for fun. If I didn’t plan our days ahead we wouldn’t be able to accomplish much.
I’m not really one for plans in general, especially when it comes to exploring, but I have to say that in this case I’m glad to have made the effort. I may never have made it through my culinary wish list or seen the handful of landmarks I wanted to visit if I had arrived in Seattle in my usual style of unpreparedness. The best part about our plan was that we never felt hurried or frantic. We were careful to schedule our days very conservatively. It’s a good thing because everything seems to take longer with a baby in tow.
Finding Out What He’s Capable Of
There should be a special word for the feeling of terror and panic that creeps up the back of your spine when you realize your kid is going to miss their nap. Whether the day has gotten away from you or your child just decides not to go to sleep for some unknown reason that sinking feeling is no fun. Will he be cranky for the rest of the day? Will he sleep poorly tonight? Will this be the kickoff to a month-long binge of insomnia? Please God, NO!!
Deciding to take your kid on a trip is like handing this kind of trouble a foil-lined invitation. He is almost guaranteed to become overstimulated and overtired. On top of sleep issues there are public meltdowns, time zone differences, and a four hour plane ride to deal with. What if his ears hurt? What if the engines scare him? What if he flips out?
These were my fears for CC. I was worried he would have a miserable time – that the disruption would be too much for him or that the whole ordeal would blow his little mind. Imagine my surprise when he giggled and danced during landing or spent the entire morning at Pike’s Place waving at strangers. He didn’t just “get through” our trip – he actually enjoyed it! Even the time change didn’t seem to phase him.
Thanks to this trip I have no fear of taking him wherever life may lead us. Until now I don’t think I acknowledged just how trapped by that fear I was. It’s really good to know that the world is our oyster once again.
Finding Out What We’re Capable Of
Our long and exhausting flight was just the first of many experiences that proved what we already knew would be true: traveling with a baby is hard. Dealing with things like naps, time zones, and taxi cabs really had me nervous, but even as I frantically packed the day of our trip I knew deep down it would be OK. It’s all about priorities, after all. As long as he was safe and we were all together, how bad could it be?
Overall, I think stepping away from our normal life for a few days helped to reaffirm our confidence as parents. We left the comfort of our baby-proofed home and the eleventy-billion pieces of baby gear therein and guess what? We survived. We had fun even.
Watching Him Explore
Waking up to his little face every day is a joyful thing. Watching that same face light up when he experiences something for the first time is even better. During our trip CC went to his first Children’s Museum, spotted his first harbor seal, ate his first peroshky, rode in a taxi cab, and flew in a plane. He ran around our hotel room in the buff – unrolling toilet paper, dancing in front of the mirror, and climbing the furniture. When we went out into the city he saw cars, dogs, and people – and waved to them all cheerfully as we passed by.
He noticed things that I notice – like the world of clouds outside the airplane window or the way that sunlight changes the color of the leaves as it shines through. He is the kind of kid that wants to explore every last detail of the world around him, and it was so much fun doing that with him.
Before our trip I was feeling rather stingy about nap time. Having to give up a three hour chunk of our day (and right in the middle of it!) felt like being robbed. I was so annoyed by the whole thing that I was even toying with the idea of skipping his nap on our long day out. He’d skipped naps before so I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal to just stay out and have fun and deal with the crank later. But then we got to our hotel to drop off our bags and they told us our room was ready early. We went up to get settled in and he started to rub his eyes. Then he got extra-stumbley and started to sing the low little moaning wail that we call his “sleepy song”. I knew my plan was toast. He was sleepy, so we let him sleep.
And sleep he did! He slept for THREE HOURS. Three solid hours! At first I was dying. I wanted to be out there having fun on our little vacation – not locked in a dark hotel room with a sleeping baby. I secretly hoped he would wake up early, that this would be one of his 40 or 60 minute naps – the kind that I dread when we’re at home. But he just kept on sleeping so eventually I settled in to try and accept being stuck there. When I did, I actually found it to be very relaxing.
I laid on the big soft bed and did nothing for a while. It’s been so long since I had time to do nothing that that I forget to try it when I am finally given the chance. It turns out that a three hour stint in a dark and silent hotel room is the perfect place to practice. The next day I actually looked forward to nap time.
What is your favorite thing about traveling with a little one? Have a story to share about going on the road with baby in tow? Let’s hear! Share it with us in the comments below!