A baby’s life is full of firsts, and my daughter’s first flight was one that I was both nervous and excited about. Tala and I joined Marlon on a five-day business trip to Berlin last week. I was thrilled to finally put that hard-won passport and return visa to good use. But you know what? Nobody even looked at her passport! That’s flying within the Schengen states for you.
Having flown once with an infant doesn’t make me an expert, but I learned a lot from this trip. Here are some of the things Marlon and I did that really, really worked for us.
1) Ease into it. Our travel history is full of crazy transfers and photo finishes, but you don’t want baby’s first trip to be The Amazing Race. Flying time to Berlin was just one hour, no transfers, making it an easy first flight. We also chose a 12 noon departure for ample time to do our morning routines (for three now!) without rushing.
2) Plan your mode of baby transport around your itinerary. I didn’t have the time to plot out a day-to-day itinerary as I used to, but I had a general idea of what I wanted to do in Berlin. I brought the stroller because I wanted to go shopping and be able to put Tala down somewhere while fitting clothes; a (borrowed) car seat instead of the bassinet because we planned a weekend drive out of town; and the Ergobaby carrier as backup for situations where I might not be able to use the stroller.
3) Factor in lots of time. We were at Schiphol a little over two hours in advance, and it helped us go through the airport at a relaxed pace. There will always be a need for feeding, changing and minor disasters.
4) Know that you can’t anticipate everything, so be ready to roll with the punches. Pre-baby, I would’ve put on my Google ninja suit and researched what to expect from the airline and airports. Now, I just don’t have the time. I only knew in advance that KLM allows strollers to be checked in free of charge. Beyond that, we had to improvise.
For example, we were allowed to take the stroller all the way through Schiphol and check it in right before boarding the plane. But at Berlin Tegel, we had to dismantle it, wrap both parts in huge plastic bags, and drop them off at a separate bulky baggage terminal prior to security. This is where factoring in lots of pre-departure time makes a huge difference.
5) Nurse at takeoff. The only hiccup was that on our flight home, we were made to take Tala out of her nice, secure baby carrier—where she was sleeping peacefully—and sit her on my lap, facing forward, with an infant extension belt around her waist.
Wow, that was awful. Not only did she wail miserably throughout takeoff and landing, but those flimsy belts don’t stay on (not even for a minute!), and are even banned in the US and Canada! Why the EU still enforces their use is truly beyond me.
It was definitely better on the flight out, when I had Tala on the boob. She had wriggled out of the belt, but at least she was quiet and calm. I’m definitely doing that again next time.
6) Document the flight! Doing all of the above should help make flying with a baby easier, but documenting the flight will make it special.
Marlon and I made sure to deplane last so that we could take Tala’s picture with the pilot, who was super nice and friendly. But that’s not all!
We documented Tala’s first trip with a fun and cool souvenir that I want to share. So here comes my very first blog giveaway!