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We just came back from a month-long vacation in India and therefore the silence on these pages. We were down in Bombay attending my brother’s wedding and it was insanely busy. And that is an understatement. But it was nothing short of EPIC. That is an understatement as well. A true Big fat Indian Wedding in every sense. But more on the trip details and the wedding later. For now, I wanted to get down to documenting and sharing our experience of flying with Zoe. I have been getting so many questions from mamas about the flight experience, dealing with jetlag, feeding/pumping inflight, adjusting to the weather extremities ( Boston – Bombay ), so let me get right at it.
For reference, Zoe around 7 months old when we did the trip. Flight was from Boston to Bombay. We flew Emirates with a layover at Dubai Airport. Total flight duration ( including a 3hr layover ) : 18 hours. Add 6 hours for travel from home to airport/airport to home, getting to the airport early, etc.
At the time of booking, put in a request for a bassinet seat. Keep following up till they assign it to you. Some flights have an extra charge for the front row seat, it is worth the additional fee.
We had 5 pieces of checked-in luggage, 2 carry-on bags, 1 diaper bag and 1 additional handbag. We also carried a stroller which we could have done without, because we literally used it for 5 minutes at the airport and then checked it in at the gate. We carried Tula baby carrier and I cannot imagine having traveled without it. We really love our Tula carrier – it is comfortable for us as well as Zoe and also fits easily in a carry-on bag. Seriously, do not travel without a baby carrier. Having your hands free while changing terminals, checking in, removing passports, getting coffee, etc. is so helpful. Wear your baby while going through security.
Packing & What to pack in a carry-on and diaper bag
I always make a list before getting started. It helps streamline outfits and other stuff. I’ve shared this earlier as well – I love packing cubes ( transparent bags for smaller things and these cubes for clothes ) as they keep things sorted out and easy to pack/unpack. Especially, baby clothes are so small – keeping the burp cloths, socks, accessories, onesies, etc separately helps a lot.
For the carry-on, I usually pack an extra outfit for myself. For a baby, make that 3 extra pairs.. you know incase of a blowout. Also hygiene!
For Zoe – I had a separate carry-on ( love this one with the pockets and pull trolley ) and also a diaper bag.
In the diaper bag – diapers, wipes, rash cream, disposable changing pad, pacifier/toy cleaning wipes, sanitizer, one outfit change, socks, baby body lotion, burp clothes, some snacks, a few toys, books.
In the carry on luggage bag – extra diapers, wipes, blanket, baby carrier, additional outfits, feeding stuff ( bottles, bottle cleaning wipes, snacks ( packed fruit/vegetable puree, formula as backup, etc )
I was so apprehensive about the flight experience, I must have read a million forums for prepping. Amit and I had planned on buying drinks for everyone around incase there was a bawling incident that we couldn’t handle =))
But Zoe was such a good girl on the flight. Everyone says babies are easy to travel with – toddlers are where the fun is. Well, lets cross that bridge when we get there. haha!
Our pediatric doctor had recommended breast-feeding during take-off and landing which really helped. You can also use a pacifier. I generally don’t encourage the usage of a pacifier for more than 5-10 minuets and use it only for calming her down, but during the flight I resorted to using it a little more than I’d like to. If she got fussy, the pacifier helped in soothing. Take walks every few hours – babies love seeing people and exploring the new things on board. Zoe hated the bassinet that the flight provided so we had her sleeping stretched on both our laps. It wasn’t too bad actually, because we could even watch TV/eat with her sleeping in that position. While she was awake, toys kept her busy. Feeding often was something that helped both of us as well.
The thing that I hated the most was diaper changes in the flight. The restrooms are so small to begin with and the changing table inconveniently placed. I sprayed sanitizer on the changing table and the basin area, wiped it down clean before using. Don’t take the entire diaper bag with you to the restroom – just the things you need because – it gets really cramped in there.
Feeding / Pumping in Flight & Airports
One of the things I cannot recommend enough is using a lounge. With a baby, the extra space, privacy and (slight) luxury really helps in the otherwise overwhelming trip. As an alternative, most airports also have mama pods/nursery rooms that you can use for feeding and pumping.
As for feeding and pumping in the flight, use a nursing cover and wear a nursing top.
I am wary about the different voltages in different countries and did not want to rake a chance with any converters. Blowing up a curling iron is one thing, but if the pump stopped working – IMAGINE that! Haha – pumping mamas know what I mean =)) I used the Medela battery pack and these rechargeable batteries that come along with the charger. I was able to use this in the flight, at the layovers and in India without any problem. The batteries last for about 3-4 sessions, so for the flight you are good to go.
These cleaning wipes work well for cleaning pump accessories, bottles, pacifiers and toys.
Jetlag is a beast that I have not yet tamed inspite of so many years of traveling. There are recommendations of setting our body clock a few days in advance and also doing the same for the baby, but honestly before any trip, things are so busy that I have never been able to add that to the mix. So while as adults, we can force ourselves to stay awake and push the limits of sleep time – with babies there’s not much you can do. ( atleast from my experience ) Zoe had jetlag after reaching India ( 9.5 hours difference ) and for the first few days she slept a lot during the day and would wake up fresh and ready to play at 2 am.!!! But within a week, with the activity around, pushing an hour or two each day – they get on the new schedule. And ofcourse, by the time it is time to go back they are fully adjusted. And then…Restart! Ensure feeding at smaller intervals than usual to keep them hydrated and fed even if the sleep cycle is all over the place.
This was a rather long post, but I wanted to make sure I cover everything. Traveling with babies is definitely overwhelming and as first time parents, it was nerve racking. Patience is key. If your baby is crying or getting fussy – apologize to the fellow passenger who might or might not be getting bothered. And besides, most people are very understanding. When I felt bad about asking the lady next to us to get up so I could go out, she mentioned that no need to worry – she’s been there, done that! =))
Let me know if you have any questions and if you have any other tips and tricks. I’ll add them to the post as well. xo Neha