Traveling with a baby is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it’s a cruel sport where the winner doesn’t receive accolades or acknowledgment. Your only reward is being alive when you reach your destination. Thankfully, we have been really lucky with Emma. She takes after her papa and enjoys lengthy naps on planes, in cars, and around people trying to make small talk about the weather. Prior to being a parent, my worst nightmare concerning air travel was being seated near a crying baby. This is coming from a guy who was once detained by Egyptian airport security in Cairo. Sitting in a flimsy plastic folding chair under a flickering fluorescent light in a windowless room while people discuss your fate in Arabic is somehow more comforting than hearing a baby wail while struggling to reach coasting altitude in a confined space. At least the Egyptian airlines gave me drink vouchers for the inconvenience. Screaming babies on planes just reward your suffering with more tears.
With that said, kudos to the brave men and women who take kids on long trips with or without a partner. Not all heroes wear capes. Some heroes wear drool, food, goldfish crumbs, and their least stained clothes. Fortunately, I have the MVP of parenting as a partner to help transport Emma around the world. To save yourself some tears and trips to the wine rack, you have to form a team to win at the travel game. Mo and I’s team is just the two of us. Everyone else- TSA, other travelers, our own sweet baby- is the enemy. Each team member has to play his or her position flawlessly. In this game, moms are Michael Jordan. They have all the skills, resources, and intuition needed to win. Dads are, at best, Scottie Pippen. I don’t say this to assign gender roles or to diminish the value of fathers or Scottie Pippen. Scottie Pippen is one of the greatest NBA players ever, but his primary role was to support Michael Jordan. When we hit the road, I consider myself helpful when I can just fill in where Mo needs help.
This strategy has gotten us through five different flights, countless metro rides, too many car trips, and one lazy river cruise. We are far from experts, but we haven’t had (fingers crossed) a bad trip yet. Here are two hacks we’ve used to avoid major disasters on flights. Mo has a million more that she’ll gladly share with anyone who wants them via email or PM, as well. Hopefully, we can help someone else raise a glass in celebration of a successful trip instead of pouring out breast milk for your fallen homies.
Make It Rain: We will literally pay any price for any resource that will make travel easier. To that end, having TSA pre-check, buying preferred seating/boarding on direct flights, and checking every bag we don’t need makes air travel a (relative) breeze. Having free hands means everything while you’re navigating crowded airports with a squirming human and direct flights reduce the amount of time you’re hurdling through the air inside a sardine tin with a tiny person. It also takes away any excuse dads have to wear cargo shorts during travel. You’re welcome, ladies.
Is That A Baby In Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy To See Us: For us, baby-wearing is the most efficient way to go through TSA. A wrap allows us to have four hands instead of two; it comforts Emma, and keeps our little one calm. Mo prefers the Solly wrap. Although the initial cost for the item is rather expensive, the breathability and ease of storing it is well worth the price. We don’t have a ring sling, but we are debating adding this to our baby-wearing repertoire. Emma doesn’t really like the bulkier carriers and we found our Ergobaby was difficult to stuff into our carry-on bags.
We have flown with Emma several times and each time has been a bit different. We have flown as a couple and as individuals. Each scenario has its own unique challenges. We’re not experts, but we’re still alive. If you have helpful tips, please share them with us. We’re still trying to figure out the best way to be Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.