Traveling with an Infant: The Good, the Bad, and the Stinky!

Embracing the challenges of traveling with an infant…

Does Murphy’s Law applies to you as much as it applies to me? Then you know that whatever can go wrong usually will. What that means in terms of traveling with an infant or toddler is, in spite of your careful planning and preparation, you’ll probably be presented with a mess to clean up and/or a meltdown to cope with. If you’re lucky, these “presentations” will happen in front of the smallest audience possible.

What Can Go Wrong, Will

FACT: At 11-months-old, my daughter had never had a wet diaper leak until five minutes before boarding our very first flight with her.

FACT: My daughter had never thrown up from eating too much until she gorged herself on peas from the hotel buffet. In both cases, I was prepared for the cleanup. But in the case of the latter, I was absolutely stunned by the reaction of those around us. Stunned in a good way. I actually don’t know what our fellow diners thought of our baby’s Exorcist impersonation, as we were surrounded in seconds. While I cleaned up Megan, all evidence of the pea frenzy miraculously disappeared. 

In fact, it was the genuine concern and kindness shown by the wait staff at our resort in Cuba that was the clincher in making me fall in love with the culture and country. But that’s another story…

Flights from Hell

Dirty diapers, vomit, ear-splitting screams… This is the trifecta of unpleasantness that we parents must deal with from time to time. And usually (hopefully?) in the comfort of our own homes. But not for Michael B. of Nashville. His son Andrew unleashed all three on a flight from Hell to San Diego. 

Unfortunately, Michael and Andrew weren’t met with an army of cloths and soothing Spanish reassurances. They were subjected to eye rolls, loud sighs and, of course, the unsolicited (and possibly counter-productive) advice of drugging his kid with Benadryl.

Susie S. was headed home to Atlanta from Boston with her two boys. She couldn’t fit into the washroom to change her youngest son. According to Susie, the diaper was “legendary.” Having to change him out in the open created a reaction of nose-holding and gagging amongst her fellow passengers. She said they were all mad at her. They should have been mad at the aircraft manufacturer for designing such an inaccessible washroom on the plane.

Don’t read the comments!

You’ll see horrifically nasty comments online on breastfeeding in public or circumcision content, and also flying with an infant. Even the New York TimesFrugal Traveler Matt Gross’s column was bombarded with anti-breeder/entitled-parent rhetoric that tries to pass itself off as what the majority of the traveling public is thinking. He wrote about flying to Italy with his infant daughter Sasha. But I believe these grouches are the minority.  Some people are actually helpful – and friendly!

Nice Stories About Traveling with an Infant:

The day before Thanksgiving a few years back (notoriously the busiest travel day of the year) fellow passengers created a circle around Beth from Santa Monica’s toddler son Chris to prevent him from taking off at the gate. It had been a travel day from Hell that involved four layovers due to cancellations…

Flight attendants came to the rescue with blankets and wet paper towels to help Lisa C. tidy up after her 1-year-old daughter threw up everywhere en route home to Honolulu…

Flight attendants also placated Joan H.’s toddler with cookies and juice after a meltdown while boarding a flight. Joan was close to suffering a meltdown herself as she was 6-months pregnant flying with her 3-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. She was heading home to Colorado after her grandfather’s funeral…

You can’t always count on kindness when you’re traveling with an infant. However, I’m pleased that the tales of helpful people aren’t as few or far between as you might be led to believe.

My original intention for this bit was to be funny and light-hearted. A look at the embarrassing things that kids do and we clean up as parents, and how not to let that deter you from traveling with an infant. I’m kind of glad I just couldn’t get it out that way.

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4 Responses to Traveling with an Infant: The Good, the Bad, and the Stinky!

  1. Mara at #

    I definitely agree with you – I’ve never had anyone be anything but really nice to me when I fly with my kids (my oldest’s first flight was at six months). I do endorse buying a seat for your baby if you can afford it though. My kids have always slept on planes when they can be in their car seats (and I feel like they are safer too).

  2. Great post! I live in Cambodia and travel back to the US often…alone…with two children…under the age of three. All my friends and family think I’m crazy to do these 30+ hour flights alone and I don’t disagree, but what they don’t realize is the kindness of strangers. My kids have sat on many a lap other than mine on planes and someone always offers to help with hand holding, bag carrying or child minding if I need it. While I have had people give me dirty looks, most looks I get are a mix of sympathy and amazement…and then they ask if they can help:)On the lighter side, when we were having some separation anxiety issues, I have fit in the lavatory with a six-month-old and a two-year-old and managed to pee, when you gotta go, you gotta go!

  3. now that i’ve been travling with my son for over 5 years. whatever they normally don’t do, they will start doing in the most inconvenient moments. i have sooooo realized that. my son never ever vomits, we went to one store and he played like a little manaic and vomited everywhere like in 10 different places. it was crazy. he hasn’t vomited before or since that moment:)
    The Travel Expert(a) and an Expat with a Twist

  4. Corinne at #

    Mara & Andrea – I totally hear you. I head out prepared for the worst so am surprised and delighted when people are kind.

    Marina – I laughed out loud reading your comment – so true!

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