Anna is 21 weeks old (!!!!!) today! In her brief jaunt on planet earth Anna has travelled a lot. I mean really, really, a lot. All three of us are totally exhausted. We have been to:
- Belfast (on a train - we did first class on the way up, standard on the way back)
- New York (Aer Lingus - business class on the way over, economy on the way back)
- Sweden (Norwegian - budget airline)
- Newcastle/Durham (Anna and I travelled alone sans Leo, it was fine - Aer Lingus/Stobart Air over, Ryanair back)
- Cork ( train down, car back)
Here's some stuff I learned on our travels:
PLAN EVERYTHING REALLY WELL
Sure, the first time we went away I had a slight freak-out the night before, but after that it was fine. Plus, Anna was really young then and we were pretty much still in the 'I need to be strapped to you 24/7 phase' which made getting the headspace to plan packing hard. When we went to America we had access to a washing machine so we definitely packed way too much. By the time we were on our way to Sweden I had it down. Planning everything and giving yourself way too much time is essential with a baby because they will poop/sick/you will lose something at the last minute, and it's good to have a buffer. Always have a buffer.
Where you will sleep is very important
If it is too hot/bright or if the mattress you will sleep on with your baby is too soft, you will not sleep well. It is hard to function if you haven't slept well. Obviously. Try to take care of yourself first and foremost. You can't take care of anyone else if you aren't your best self.
My baby still hates the car
Anna doesn't enjoy being strapped in in the car. This means we just avoided cars as much as possible. Public transport was our friend, and when we needed it, taxis (and a few times, the car). Enduring the screams has probably aged me +5 years. We drove home from Cork and she cried a lot. I found it really hard. At 4.5 months, she still really resents being strapped down (don't we all, love). I hope she gets used to it.
Easier said than done when you've an intensely pukey baby that requires multiple costume changes a day. But honestly, just having hand luggage (it is possible!!) saves time and hassle. Everyone packs too much anyway, you know it's true. I've pretty much accepted I may not be able to read a physical book for another few months, but with a pair of headphones I listen to podcasts every day. Plus, headphones take up basically no room.
It's easy to be happy when you're rich
You know those middle-class English families you see on trains with well-behaved children and a smiling, relaxed demeanour? They're happy because they're calm, their lives are ordered and they've got money. Paying more for extra space on a plane or train, being able to go by car (I guess, if your baby doesn't hate the car) and having people be nicer to you because you're going business makes a huge difference to your mood. We were really lucky to get Business Class (first time, probably the last time), and actually First Class on the train was totally affordable. Having that extra space, but also the extra attentiveness of staff was amazing. It was, of course, angering too because everyone should be very kind always, and this kindness is especially lacking when you find yourself back in economy.
How people behave towards you makes a huge difference
On my flight over to Newcastle I was sitting beside a man who was expecting his first baby. He was quite emotional to be beside such a little and excited baby. He was chatty and kind. On the way home I was sat next to a man who refused to even acknowledge us, even though Anna kept smiling at him. I found, every time someone made eye contact with Anna, wished us well, or offered to carry something, it elevated my mood. If we were ignored, pushed in front of, or spoken to rudely, it made my mood sink a little. Having people be kind to you makes such a difference when you're out there in the world with your baby, especially without a partner. You're quite vulnerable at times and do need an extra pair of hands and a smile from a stranger.
It's your (and your baby's) right to travel. Don't feel embarrassed
I had a few people (I guess ones who don't have children) make snarky comments about us travelling with a baby. But at the end of the day, Anna is a human being, and has the right to use public transport just as much as anyone else. As well as that, to assume that babies shouldn't be in public places is to render their mothers (generally) invisible too. Babies are wonderful. Sometimes they cry, or coo, or scream, or laugh. But, hey, so do adults. Babies should be seen and heard, it's normal and good, and exposing them to new things from a young age is great for them. We were all babies once. Look at Donald Trump, he still is one.
It's such a huge privilege to not only have the means to travel, but to have a passport that means we can take Anna anywhere we can afford to go. When she's older, I will have to explain that a lot of children in the world can't do that. We're very lucky, and we shouldn't forget it for a second.