Just before we left for Vee’s first plane ride and our first family vacation in Cabo, there was a flurry of activity on Twitter. A very perceptive polemic was posted by Corinne McDermott of the fantastic Have Baby Will Travel, and it chilled me to the bone. She had managed to channel my deepest fears about the flight before it even happened. In a raw eloquence she perfectly summarized the discrimination that families face when traveling on flights with young children. It resonated with me. I had never taken Vee on a plane before, but I already lived in fear of scathing looks and eye-rolls and muttered prayers for a quiet trip, because it’s not just on planes that the strange anti-baby vibe is felt. I shouldn’t call it anti-baby. Instead I think I’ll address it as a mob mentality. And if the mob had a name, it would be the BAPs, or Baby Appropriateness Police. Moms know that this is the silent movement that judges the appropriateness of you having brought your child into an environment thought more suitable for adults. Like an office. Or even a doctor’s office. Or a restaurant. You’d be surprised how often moms get shot that attitude. Even celebrity moms get hassled. Just yesterday I saw Tori Spelling tweet “thr’s a super famous Boxer in the restaurant we R at sitting nxt 2 us. He looked SO pissed when we brought R kids in 4 dinner. So rude! #FB”
Knowing that I wasn’t alone in my fears of being judged, snubbed, or even grounded because of my potentially cranky toddler armed me with a kind of flinty calm. Once we got to Terminal 3, I simply resigned myself to whatever may come, and vowed to breathe deeply and often. Here are some things that definitely helped me stay Zen.
Have Baby Will Travel
I’m a researcher. Very simply, if I don’t ‘know’ then I can’t relax. www.havebabywilltravel.com is an incredible resource for moms like me, who exhibit a charming touch of OCD when planning. I love this site. I printed off their ‘Mother of all Packing Lists’, took a ton of advice relevant to my trip, scoured the trip reviews.. you name it. Little gems of info like ‘take 2 changes of clothes per day for your baby’ totally helped me edit my child’s suitcase down, and I’m pretty sure saved my husband’s back. I also love the risk management advice for travel, like when you are packing your suitcases, to make sure that baby’s things are distributed throughout all the luggage. This will prevent you from hyperventilating if one of your suitcases doesn’t show up on the conveyer belt. So smart!
The night before our trip I checked us all in and printed our confirmation. Done. No scurrying to the airport and battling line-ups before the cut-off time. We simply checked our baggage, got our gate-check tag for our stroller, and our boarding passes. On the way back, we scored priority service and I learned something very important: if you are traveling with a baby, or children, just ASK. I was surprised at how accommodating everyone was.
Park’N Fly Valet
A lot of people use Park’N Fly. Hubs and I have, but this time we spent the extra $30 on their Valet service and I have to say we were not disappointed. The Valet part meant we were able to wait inside, comfy and cozy while the shuttle came to pick us up and transport us to our Terminal. Later, when we got home, we learned that the Valet shuttle comes more frequently than the regular Park N Fly shuttle.. very handy when it’s -10°C outside and about 30 sunburned cranky people have been waiting 20 minutes in the off-hours for their ride back to the parking lot. We only waited for about 5 minutes before boarding the Valet Shuttle, and our truck was ready for us, toasty warm, engine running, and cleared of snow and ice. Awesome.
Take What You Need
A few days before we left I faced the dilemma common to all traveling moms. Gearitis. Ack. Really? Really, I have to take the car seat, the carriers, the play yard, the stroller.. I started feeling very panicky about the sheer bulk of everything and imagined exorbitant ‘extra baggage’ fees. I thought of ways to cut back but still take everything that we needed.
We decided not to take our car seat in the end. A bit of research revealed that if we decided we wanted to do a daytrip and leave the resort, taxis could be ordered with both rear and front-facing baby seats. Relief. Our car seat stayed safe in our vehicle, in the Valet parking lot. We also left our play yard at home, and the hotel provided us with one as their crib. It was perfect, and best of all, I didn’t have to heft it.
I did bring both carriers. I know that Hubs was comfortable with the Baby Bjorn, as was I, and I had ordered a new toy from Babysteals.com that was delivered just in time.. the Kemby Sidekick Bliss. The Sidekick Bliss completely eclipsed the Bjorn, which we actually did not use once. This is possibly the coolest piece of gear I have ever used. It’s a diaper bag and carrier in one. That’s right people. I felt less like a pack-mule than I had in months! It was very liberating. This was the key piece of gear for us at the resort. It went into the restaurants with us. It went to the beach. It carried Vee’s snacks and bottles, and even the little girl herself at the end of the day. I will say that the Bjorn is much more comfortable for long treks, but for 15 to 20 minute bursts of carrying the Sidekick is amazing.
I hemmed and hawed about bringing my stroller. Do I really want to risk losing my favourite Bumbleride Indie? What if it gets damaged? Thinking I had found a solution, I went out and bought a $20 super-duper canopied umbrella stroller. I put it together, and strapped in my little girl. She seemed happy enough, but I was still undecided. After some careful weighing, I took my Indie and I’m so glad I did. The huge basket was perfect for our towels. The ample sunshade blew the umbrella stroller out of the water. The steering was perfect for tightly navigating the small 8 person elevators on site, not to mention the winding resort paths with their guest-populated, lawn-chair obstacle courses. The stroller was already a place Vee felt comfortable napping and lounging so I met with little resistance when I put her in it. It became her mobile home for the week. Don’t let fear or trepidation stop you from bringing your full-size stroller. It is very easy to gate-check, and the crew was very helpful when we were both getting on and getting off the plane.
Pack and Dress for Security
Even though I’d read about bringing milk and formula on board a million times, I started brewing a dark fantasy in my mind. It involved some faceless sadistic security guard ruthlessly pitching my baby’s food and drink and me crying piteously ‘Oh pleeeeeeeeease.. you don’t understaaaaaaand..’
I’m really not sure why I do this to myself. Security was really nice. I just did what they asked me to, and took my time. Rest assured, you are allowed to bring your baby food on the plane. Here’s a link to the CATSA page that lists all the allowances. I was a little excessive in my preparation. I had all the liquid baby stuff sorted for the trip. Diaper bag liquids (such as hand sanitizer, and a tube of Penaten) in one Ziploc. Baby med liquids in another (Tempra, Benadryl, Advil, Camilia). In 2 large freezer Ziplocs I kept baby bottles, and juice boxes. It didn’t seem to make a difference to Security that I was uber-organized, but it actually helped me stay on top of my inventory.
Remember that you’ll have to take your shoes or boots off, and deal with your own stuff on top of baby’s too. Have Baby Will Travel has an excellent article on going through security with baby, so that also prepared me a bit. There were a few times I felt caught up by the transferred impatience of the people waiting in line behind us, but I just slowed down and took my time. Don’t rush, and you will feel so much better.
Last but not least.. Dealing with BAPs
As I said in the beginning, a plane is not the only place you will find scrutiny over your decision to bring baby with you. It is however one of the most intense environments to experience the dreaded BAP. First, you’re in tight quarters for (in my case) 5 hours and you can’t leave. Second, whether you have a baby or not, it is always stressful to maneuver in a plane. I personally start giving my bladder a pep-talk before we even take off because I abhor the seat and aisle shuffle to the bathroom. Last, it’s my theory that absolutely no one is normal when they are travelling. No one. Not one person is in control, besides the crew. And this leads me to my BAP theory. If you encounter the looks, stares, sighs, and mutters of the Baby Appropriateness Police, try to realize that they are being big babies themselves. That helps. You’ll notice that BAPs are the same people who tax the crew and flight-attendants for extras (whether it’s a complaint about your child, or an extra blanket, or an obscure item from the Duty Free cart). If you listen carefully to the way flight attendants talk to BAPs, you will hear your own motherly tone right back at you. “Not right now Sir.” “Please sit down and fasten your seat belt, Sir.” “I’m going to have to ask you to turn that off, Sir.” Sound familiar?
I felt very lucky to be blessed with a baby who is fascinated by planes and travel. All Vee did was point out the window, or jump up and down on us, read her Ruby and Max book, or wrap the row behind us around her teeny fingers by blowing kisses at them. But don’t forget that the BAP comes in many forms.. I found it just as strange to hear “Oooh we were so lucky that your baby was so good.” A few times I had to stop myself from saying “We were so lucky that you were well-behaved too!”
In the end my sense of humour won me a relaxing journey. It’s out of my control if someone decides to become inflamed and cranky about the fact that there are babies on a plane, or anywhere else for that matter, but it is definitely in my control as to how I react. Laughter is always good medicine, no matter where you are on Earth.
There will be more posts on our incredible trip to the RIU Santa Fe, so stay tuned! A special big thank you to the very inspiring Corinne McDermott and Have Baby Will Travel, and the lovely and talented Tori Spelling, whose ‘swim-diaper-poop-fiasco’ gave me the strength to hold my head high, wipe the crap off my knee, and let my daughter stay naked by the pool. Thank you.