For many years, traveling has been my favorite way to fill my days. Limin’ on some coastline with a rum in my hand, listening to a soundtrack of West Indian music while allowing the sun to dip into the sea. Or tramping through the bush, marveling at the sounds and displays of Caribbean birds while collecting ripe, fallen mangoes on my way to some exotic location. Or countless other adventures varying widely from safe to undeniably ill-advised. This was what I liked to do more than anything.
Then, along came this guy:
The prevailing wisdom said, my life would have to change… And it did. There are now several brightly colored “activity gyms” in my living room. I had to gut my home office converting it into a baby room—replacing my desk with a crib and assorted other baby-centric materials. My uninterrupted nights of sleep have become a fond, but distant memory and the woman with whom I spent so many nights out on the town has a new, demanding guy in her life.
But have you looked at that face above? How could you not want to shower that boy with love?
When it came to the all important subject of traveling, however, I took a slightly unconventional approach. Rather than giving it up, or at least reigning it in, I’m going to give something else a try:
My hope: If I venture out even more, with this new addition in tow, he’ll become more than just mildly comfortable with air, land and sea travel, but actually become a lover of international adventure as much as his “old man.”
As we began planning our three-month-old’s first Caribbean travel experience, there were five tips at the top of my list:
- Spend as little time in-transit as possible. This was also on my list of tips for a babymoon and it goes double for baby’s first trip. Not only are you doing it for your child, who will find everything new and potentially irritating, but for yourselves too. Try to minimize the stress of maneuvering a baby through airport security, long bouts trying to sit still on an airplane, etc.
- Go somewhere familiar. This is a funny tip coming from me, because normally I would advise the exact opposite for uncommon travelers. The world is so full of new things to explore, going back to a recently visited locale just doesn’t make much sense to me. But in this case, it’s the right thing to do. The last thing you want is to get lost with a fussy baby. And besides, just because you’re familiar with a place, doesn’t mean you can’t try to discover new things about it!
- Bring everything you think you may need and a little more. I like to travel very, very light. So much so that on short trips my bags are often half empty. Now with a baby, this translates into more room for the kid’s tiny needs—a couple more diapers, a couple more wipes, a few more outfits, baby sunscreen, any of your child’s medicinal needs, etc. But don’t go overboard and pack excessively. You can always buy diapers and more at your destination if necessary.
- Consider making the first trip a shorter one. We did this because we were worried our little boy might have some trouble with the trip, hotel, climate change, or other unimagined change to his surroundings. It turned out he didn’t, but I still feel it’s worth noting, because if he had, we would have all been miserable for an extended period.
- Ask, ask ask. When you’re checking into your flight, ask if it’s full. If it isn’t, ask to have an empty seat next to you for your baby. We also called ahead to the delightful L’Esplanade Hotel to ask about a crib. (We’re very thankful that our three month old likes to sleep in his crib and we weren’t about to give that up.) Additionally, you can call ahead to airlines and ask to secure other baby needs, but we didn’t do this.
So, to cover tips one and two, we chose St. Martin as our destination. Not only had we just been there six months ago for our babymoon, but it’s a simple, direct flight out of the excellent Terminal 5 at JFK aboard JetBlue. In terms of the actual flight, here are a few more tips:
- First impressions go a long way. Introduce your cute child to the whole plane by going for a little walk up and down the aisle while he’s happy and smiling. He’ll catch the eye of passengers who’ll form a positive opinion of your sweet baby. This way, should his demeanor hit a little turbulence, your fellow passengers will likely think “awww, poor adorable baby needs a little lovin'” as opposed to “damn, that obnoxious kid is loud.”
- Feed for takeoff and landing. Many articles online mention that one of the main discomforts infants face on a flight is the cabin pressure changes that occur during takeoff and landing. Feeding during those periods allows your child to adjust more peacefully. Plus, a positive side effect of the tight seating configuration in today’s planes means even the shyest nursing mothers can feed their children with some sense of privacy.
If you follow these tips, you should end up with a happy baby both here:
A new arrival doesn’t have to be the end of your life as an avid traveler. So far, with our three-month-old, it just took following a few simple tips to make the whole experience not just doable, but actually a lot of fun.