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Family Travel Ink
Travelling with Baby
If you're a travel-loving parent with a new baby, lucky you! No missed school to worry about; free airfare for those under two (and sometimes older); great deals in the off season just when the mid-winter blahs are settling in permanently. On the other hand, what to do if, in a strange country, baby suddenly develops a case of the hives? And how can a couple kick up their heels if the youngest member of the party goes to bed at seven p.m.?
Travelling with the newest member of the family is never easy. When our firstborn Willie was only four months old, we set off on a five-week European jaunt. It sounded terrific-a family reunion at an Irish castle, a boat ride to France, a quick stop in Paris to climb the Eiffel Tower, and then a slow drive to the Riviera, wine tasting all the way. "Have baby, will travel," would be our new motto.
But the trip was a disaster. Willie went through his entire wardrobe before we even boarded the plane, there was no airplane baby bed available despite my advance telephone calls so he had to sleep on a window ledge (luckily we'd brought our travelling box), our luggage went missing, and when we arrived at the castle, the Irish ancestors staring down from the walls totally freaked our son. A dock strike cancelled our ferry. We landed in France just as baby's first four teeth were sprouting, an experience he didn't enjoy. Our holiday was thus reduced to endless drives along the twisted Corniche roads -all three tiers of them- in order to put him asleep. Not only that but I'd packed all the wrong things: not enough diapers and too many wipes, not enough toys and too many sleepers. We became so drained of holiday esprit that when a French hotelier suggested his time-honored remedy-numb the gums with excellent French brandy and follow with a sleeping tranquillizer-we briefly debated the cure, if not for the baby then for the two exhausted parents.
Since that very first trip, our motto has been the same as the Boy Scouts- "Be Prepared." For those parents about to embark on their very first family adventure, here's a few tips based on experience:
THE LAYERED LOOK: Forget what the fashion forecasters are saying. Dress in layers and bring lots of them for both of you in case of accidents. Instead of bulky terrycloth sleepers that feel like weights when they're wet, bring cotton two-piece pyjamas that could double as pants and shirts. Sweaters with hoods for warmth, lots of colored undershirts to use as T-shirts, and socks should get you from an air-conditioned plane to the beach. Don't forget a hat and long-sleeved shirts for sun protection.
THE WELL-PACKED DIAPER BAG: Squeeze as much as possible into kiddie-friendly luggage with lots of pockets and foil-lined pouches for soiled items. New airline regulations restrict the number and size of carry-on luggage so call to see if your particular bag and collapsable stroller will be allowed on board. Ask for the bulkhead seat and a skycot so you'll have more room for all this stuff. Indispensible items within: large zip-lock freezer bags to hold wet washcloths, soiled diapers, and medication; a waterproof bib; toys and books for airport waits and car trips; bottled water for baby in case of emergency; J-cloths to wipe up spills; a warm blanket and waterproof changing pad.
THE MOVEABLE FEAST: Even if you're nursing, pack a cup or bottle and some baby food. A food mill is good for mushing up bananas or cooked carrots right at a restaurant table. A bottle warmer can be plugged into a cigarette lighter in the car. Premeasured formula or rice cereal in baggies and a non-tip plastic dish and spoon has saved us when stuck on an airport runway, on a train without power during a blizzzard, and at a rental car office while they've hunted for the car and the car seat that was supposed to have arrived an hour earlier. It's great if you can also travel with a fold-up bed that's easy to set up under restaurant tables or in a corner of the hotel room. Call Graco (800-345-4109) to ask about their Pack N'Play crib.
THE HEALTH FACTOR: Babies get sick fast.We've encountered fevers, ear infections, and even chicken pox on holiday, all of which threatened scheduled flights home. I always travel with a copy of Dr. Spock, or the equivalent, and a medical dictionary. Carry baby's immunization record and if you're travelling to a foreign destination, lists of doctors who speak English from the International Association of Medical .
THE MEMORIES: Lastly, don't forget a camera and lots of film. Travelling with babies will lead you into all sorts of photo opportunities. We couldn't believe traditionally stone-faced Parisians making faces at our son with a high-pitched "Coocoo." And on the Air France flight home, the stewardess asked if she could borrow our baby for about half an hour. Apparently, the pilots in the cockpit were bored and needed a positive diversion.
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