Our most recent adventure included a little bit of Italy, a little bit of Germany, and a lot of the good old USA. We just returned from almost 3 weeks in the states enjoying some much needed family time and a lot of Maddie introductions. Growing up overseas, I know that one of the most painful aspects of living internationally is being far from family and friends. As a new mom, this fact is particularly difficult since I want Maddie to know and love those people that I know and love. In light of that, Marty and I are committed to at least Maddie and I getting back home a couple times a year during our stay in Italy. And so, a few months ago I found myself purchasing plane tickets to visit my mother-in-law in Virginia and my own family in Orlando. I'm a fairly self-assured traveler, but traveling with a baby is a whole new ball of wax (shout out to my parents who flew all over the world with FOUR children!). 6 flights, amazing family time, and way too much American food later, here are my top ten observations from my first solo travel with baby:
1. Babies experience the same bubble-guts as adults during airplane travel. This results in stinky explosions the likes of a sewer plant meltdown. Thank goodness for travel blogs that recommended bringing one diaper per hour and multiple changes of clothes. All were needed. On that note, changing an explosive diaper in an airplane bathroom requires the skills of a contortionist and the balance of a gymnast.
2. People are really nice to moms traveling alone with a baby. Which made me feel intense guilt for the many mean things I have thought during my many travels (please Lord don't let me be sitting by that mom with her baby! why can't those parents make their child stop crying? can't they make airplanes with no children allowed?). Lord forgive me. People were actually approaching me on the plane to tell me that they were sitting in row x seat x and if I needed any help just come get them!
3. I have an amazing baby. She was the only baby on our long haul (9 hours 40 minutes!) flight to the states and when we disembarked, people stopped me to say they hadn't even known there was a baby on the plane.
4. American food is good. I mean, really good. I'm not sure who gained more weight during our trip, Maddie or me. But we both definitely came back slightly pudgier than when we left.
5. I miss family. I love living overseas, but my time spent with my mother-in-law and my family was water for my soul. I loved watching them love on Maddie. I loved watching her get to know them. I loved conversations with people who KNOW me. I loved the fact that they encourage me as a new mom but also know that I am still the person I was before becoming a mom. Honestly, I miss my family.
6. If you have to do layovers with a baby, do them in Germany. I flew through Munich on the way, and Frankfurt on the way back. All is efficient. Airport and airline staff are helpful. Everything is clean. Most things are on time. Two thumbs up, Germany.
7. Italy is the exact opposite. Nothing is efficient. No one is helpful. Nothing is clean. Nothing is on time. I love living in Italy, but it doesn't get two thumbs up right now. After 24 hours traveling back, the baggage handlers decided not to unload the luggage onto the conveyor belt in Naples. They just didn't do it. Marty and I had decided that I would hand off Maddie to him outside security (I had to get special permission from the Italian head of security to do it) and I would go back inside and wait for the luggage. Well an hour later, Maddie was hollering at the top of her lungs for food and I was stuck inside under strict instructions from security that I couldn't leave or else they would send all my things back to Germany. I finally just decided to buck the rules in desperation and went out to my hungry baby. It took 2 more hours for the luggage to come out and for me to get permission to have my bags released to me. All this after 24 hours of travel and 3 flights. Two thumbs down, Italy.
8. Baby jet lag is real, folks. Maddie has been a champ, but her poor brain doesn't know night from day. And this tired mamma has decided that jet lag in mom and baby is a very unfortunate combination.
9. Baby bassinets on airplanes are awesome, except when your baby decides she doesn't like them and only wants to be held. For any of you who travel, Lufthansa and some other airlines offer bulkhead seats with an attached bassinet. The bulkhead seat is awesome regardless, as it affords some extra space. The bassinet is also awesome if you have a baby who is willing to sleep in it without hollering.
10. Travel with a baby is hard. Everything aches after many many hours of holding the baby and lugging way (way!) too much stuff through the airport. On a side note, the Frankfurt airport is way too big for transit with a baby. When the sign says 18 minutes walk from one gate to the other, it's just depressing. I also decided that I will never travel alone with that much carry-on stuff again. Next time I'm paying for an extra suitcase.
But guess what, even with the aches and pains and fatigue and stress, it's so worth it. And so on June 27th I'll do it all over again, heading to the states for some family time and a work conference. From what I hear, it's harder the older Maddie gets. But so worth it!