Our first vacation – boarding a plane with a baby

When the temperatures in the capital dropped to zero and the fog became a morning routine Darko and I unanimously decided that we need to chase the winter away with a vacation. The plan was to spend our winter vacation somewhere warm. We looked at some very different destinations, such as Thailand, Philippines, Dubai, Egypt, the Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Florida, etc. But my first condition was that we and the baby stay somewhere in Europe. Not that I would want to complicate things but I had second thoughts regarding the hygiene and health issues, or the potential complications related to it. So we were left with the Canaries … We went to one of the islands, Fuerteventura, last year (in the first half of April) for our ‘Babymoon’ and it was very windy back then. And because I wanted to avoid any potential inconvenience with the wind we finally decided for Gran Canaria, Meloneras – a little town on the south side of the island.

Great! Just like a child who counts his sleeps until Christmas we impatiently counted down the days until our vacation. However, despite all the excitement and joy, I had two theories about our first vacation together running through my mind:

  • Either we’re not going anywhere else until her 5th birthday or until she’s old and rational enough, as this will be such a nightmare, a true hell;
  • Or we’ll have the best time ever.

Finally the day/night of departure arrived. Our flight for the Canaries departed from Vienna, so we still had about a four-hour drive from Ljubljana to the airport ahead of us. The journey was quite tiring, especially for Darko, as it was snowing heavily all the way and the highway was completely white.

»This time, it’s for real« was echoing through my mind when the sliding door at the entrance to the airport opened in front of me. And I almost fell face-down as I tripped over the threshold. Good thing I was pushing a pram in front of me where Brina slept quietly as it was 5 in the morning. Darko was dragging the suitcases and commented wittily: “You’re my klutz!” I ADMIT, I was worried. Flying with a baby can be a very stressful situation, especially for new parents. I had a bunch of dilemmas …

– Luggage:

A couple of days before the departure I wrote a list of things to pack (for me and for Brina). Then I added or removed some stuff so the list was as rational as possible when I was packing the day before the vacation. Basically, the list was not that different from this one – Traveling Care-Free with a Baby, I just added the Freds Swim Academy swimtrainer (I’ll write more about it next time). I decided that in case we need some extra stuff, we’ll just buy it there (we already planned on buying the swimsuit, hat and swim nappies there) or if necessary I’ll wash it by hand.

Altogether, we packed 2 large suitcases (where we also folded the BabyBjörn bouncer), Brina’s nursery bag, a backpack where we put our ID documents, computer etc., and the pram.

According to the standard procedure we checked in our luggage (both suitcases). An employee of the airline we were flying with put the ‘luggage’ label on the pram but we were allowed to check it in just before boarding the plane.

As it turned out flying with a baby is awesome, just fantastic, I recommend it. As a parent with a small child you’re entitled to all sorts of privileges. At the check-in we asked for better seats and not just that, they also gave us an additional seat so Brina could play or rest when the seat belt sign was off. Also, you can use (at least in Vienna) a special X-ray checkup lane (reserved for prams and wheelchairs) so you don’t need to queue and stand in an extremely long line which seems never-ending. We could easily carry on liquids (beverages), which you usually have to throw away at the X-ray, since we stated that it was for the baby. We were also able to board the plane as priority passengers and again avoided waiting in line.

– Plane:

As I mentioned before we pushed Brina in the pram straight to the entrance of the plane where we gave it to the staff. After finding our seats a kind flight attendant brought me a pillow for Brina, pap and a special seat belt designed for children. Until two years of age the child has to sit in his parent’s lap (policy of the majority of airlines) and is fastened with an additional seat belt for children, which is fastened onto the parent’s seat belt.

When Darko and I planned the airplane vacation, I read quite some articles and forums about it on the internet. Among other things I also found out that it’s good to breastfeed the baby, especially during take-off and landing, or give him the bottle or the dummy, as this helps to even out the change in air pressure in the baby’s ears (they can’t do it themselves yet). That’s why babies usually cry in planes. I started breastfeeding Brina, but she fell asleep before we even took off. Luckily we did not have to experience the trouble.

Here are some of my suggestions which may come in handy. They definitely made my (our) flight to the Canaries easier:

  • If you’re flying with a partner, take turns in occupying yourself with the baby and let the other one rest.
  • Carry a nursing bag with you where you can keep ‘back-up’ clothes, nappies, etc. for the baby. You can also change the baby on the plane (in most planes) in a space reserved for that purpose.
  • Carry toys with you. Probably the largest problem in flying with a baby of six months is what to do on the plane or in a seat for 5 hours or whatever the duration of your flight. I suggest you take a new toy with you which the child does not know yet and will therefore find it more interesting.
  • One more thing that I found very important was sticking to Brina’s routine even on the plane. A 6-month old baby most probably already has a sleeping or a morning and afternoon resting routine. If Brina is too exhausted and tired, she will have trouble falling asleep. And before that she becomes very grumpy. So I decided to stick to her sleeping rhythm and did not wake her up unnecessarily. At most, I tried to lull her to sleep – after the X-ray and also on the plane.
  • Carry a blanket or a towel on board so you can spread it out on the floor or on the seat where your child can rest or play.

The flight was over quickly and most of all peacefully. At the Las Palmas airport, we were greeted by sun, the rent-a-car was already waiting for us with a child seat already installed as we requested. So we drove off ready for new adventures. It all went oh-so-smoothly we thought. But the vacation did not end without complications.

You can read more about it next week …

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