After about a month of agonizing and overanalyzing, we finally pulled the trigger and bought plane tickets to San Diego. Neil was going for work, I had never been to SoCal, and so we made our first family plane trip. It was a blast and I learned a lot at the same time.
The lessons started as we tried to decide whether to go. I wanted to go but Simon wasn’t sleeping well so I couldn’t bring myself to buy a ticket. Then he started doing better but Neil and I were acting like we had to figure out every day of traveling with a baby before we could make a decision. We had a lengthy, heated discussion about whether to bring the car seat, and vacillated over a number of other details which really had no bearing on whether we should go. The whole process confirmed how uptight and controlling we are.
All my friends said just go. We did feel like we were setting a precedent: would we travel with Simon (until it gets too expensive) or not? I kept wondering if it would be worth it and finally concluded that even if it didn’t go well, I would regret not going more. Also, people fly with their kids all the time and it’s no big deal. I was acting like we were going to climb Mt. Everest with him in tow.
Once we bought tickets, I started worrying about the time change, whether Simon would sleep on the plane, or in a different crib (which he does often anyway), our layover, and on and on. More car seat debates ensued. I talked to a few people who had travelled with their babies (and Diana asked her friend for me). Neil sent me what is probably the longest single blog post in the history of blogging about flying with children. It literally took me a month to read, probably because I didn’t feel like devoting too much to it. I felt like I was doing a research project.
Weeks in advance I started having bad dreams about flying, getting through security, and etc. I started packing a week before the trip, reviewing my checklists over and over. At this point I switched from research paper mode to feeling like I was studying for a test. What would I forget? Hopefully nothing I couldn’t buy or do without. Whenever we’re going somewhere for a few hours I pack whatever I think we’ll need, but I always think, at least I’ve got the boy and the boobs. That’s all you really need.
So did we pass the test? We missed a few points by forgetting to declare the breastmilk at security and forgetting to put a seal inside the bottle (doh!) but Simon made up for it in extra credit by not spitting up the whole way to California! So how many outfits does it take to get to California? Apparently only one. And we got an free (extra) seat for him on every flight! After all, no one wants to sit by a crying baby. Except he barely cried at all!
So our plane trip was smooth and we headed to La Jolla as soon as we could after arriving at the hotel. Simon didn’t sleep well the first night, probably because he was overtired. However, I learned another valuable lesson. I’ve tried to avoid nursing to sleep and Simon never sleeps with us, but I broke the rules that night so Neil, other hotel guests and I could get some sleep. He slept about half the night in the hotel crib in the bathroom and the rest in the giant king bed, which was kind of cute since he’s so small. The next night he slept through the night in the bathroom and I learned that it’s okay to break the rules sometimes. One night of extra feeds and bed sharing didn’t undo the last five months of “training.”
We also usually stick to a pretty regular routine of eat-wake-sleep cycles, which had to be thrown aside in order for us to do any sightseeing (or eating for that matter). I established this routine when he wasn’t sleeping well and it has helped a ton, but I learned that he is more flexible than I realized, and this gives me the freedom to be flexible too. We were able to go to the USS Midway Museum, a retired naval aircraft carrier; we walked the beach and town at Coronado and saw the sunset; had dinner with Neil’s cousin who was in town; I took a walking tour of the historic Gaslamp Quarter; and ate some good Mexican food, In ‘N’ Out Burger, and the worst Thai known to man.
The flights back also went well, though he did have a rough first night home. The first day back he didn’t slip right back into his routine but day two he pretty much got back on track. In case you’re wondering, it took four outfits to get back.