Recently travelled abroad for a professional development seminar and took my 6-month old with me. The trip was overseas (Miami to Spain with a layover in Lisbon on the way there and back. The layover on the way back involved an overnight stay in Lisbon). I want to share some advice and things to consider when engaging in this type of travel adventures. I know there are many academic mommas that have to travel to conference and other engagements. Hope these bits of information and advice help make your travel journey a bit less stressful. One more thing, this advice relates to all mommas traveling with an infant (academic or not).
- Call the airline in advance. Let them know you are traveling with an infant. They can arrange a decent seat for you and your child, perhaps with close access to a bathroom (in case you need to change your child). I called the airline three weeks in advance my travel dates and they arranged to seat us in the first row of economy class. We were fairly close to the bathroom with the changing table and had a bit of extra room in front of us because we were in the first row. Also, the airline that we used (TPA Portugal) provided us with a small, detachable bassinet so that baby could sleep in it during the flight.
- Let the hotel know that you are traveling with a baby. If you let them know in advance, they can arrange to give you a quiet room or put a crib in your room. Most hotels will do this for free. I have not come across a hotel that charges for a crib.
- Make sure you carry enough diapers and wipes with you in your diaper bag. I did not see any stores selling diapers in the airport. I initially thought I had packed enough diapers for the entire trip and was in a bit of panic mode when I realized I could run out of diapers.
- When you are in the airport, check for queue lines that are assigned for parents with children. In particular for security, passport control, or other lines. It will save you time and energy. I did not see queue lines for “parents with children” in the U.S. airport (Miami) but I did see and used them in Europe (Spain and Portugal).
- Strongly recommend traveling with another adult to help you with the process. This person can be your spouse, parents, or a friend. It is doable for you to travel on your own with your infant but it will be a bit stressful. Having someone else to share the responsibility will ease the stress of dealing with paperwork, timelines, luggage, changing diapers, feeding, and everything else that comes with traveling with an infant.
- Do not leave packing until the last minute. If you can find someone to watch baby while you pack, it will be very helpful. I recommend making a list of the things you must take with you (clothes, toys, food) and the things that you could buy at your destination.
- Take time to think about traveling with your baby and proceed as desired. For some reason other people will feel the need to tell you their opinion on whether you should or should not travel with your infant. The reality is that you know yourself and your infant better than anyone else. If you feel that you and your infant are ready, do it.
- Make sure you have a pacifier or bottle with food ready during the changes in altitude. During a flight, give you infant the pacifier or bottle as the plane takes off or lands to avoid pain in his/her ears: http://www.entnet.org/content/ears-and-altitude
So far, this is the initial list I have. I know I will remember other suggestions and advice in the future. I will just update this post as I remember them.