Arusha Tanzania 2006 Day 24 - Travelling with an Infant
It's Christmas Eve, in the evening, and we're getting ready to travel back home. We leave on Wednesday, late, flying to Dar es Salaam, then Amsterdam, then Minneapolis, then Portland. Z turns 13 months old on Friday.
Traveling with an infant, especially internationally, proves to be non-trivial. Here's what we've done to stay sane.
- You can either buy the child a seat of their own, booked as a discrete individual, or you can take them as a lap child. It's good to know if your child likes being a lap child or not. Good to figure that out before you go. We'd taken Z around the states already on planes when he was <6 months old, and we'd just gotten back from Spain and he doesn't mind sitting on one of our laps.
- Check in early and get on the plane early. The best thing about traveling with a baby is that you can board the plane first. DO take advantage of this. Also, make sure that you check in as early as possible and in person for the flight, because you can get the baby bulkhead row. That's the row that has an optional baby crib that snaps into the wall in front of you. There are usually at least 2 of these are planes like A330s. Check seatguru.com for details on how your plane is configured. The weight limit is 20lbs, but you can often make a "deal" with the flight attendants for larger babies, and have them put the tiny crib on the floor at your feet. The only caveat is that the crib can only be there while the fasten seat belts sign is off.
- Note that there are no can openers on planes, so if you need to open a can of formula, you're screwed. Take the kind with the pop-top.
- How strongly do you feel about car seats? Think about this because car seats are not ubiquitous in the developing world. We brought Z's car set along with us to Tanzania and installed it in my Sister-in-law's car. Traveling with a car seat can be a hassle, but they make car seat "totes" that completely encompass the car seat and include a handle so it can be checked like luggage. They are very much worth the money. Alternatively, you can lug it around and "gate-check" the seat, but they are explicitly not-warranted by the airlines, and if you've got dangly cords and bits, they will likely not make the trip.
- Do you bring your own food? Z is not a picky eater at all, in fact, he'll eat just about anything, including your shoelaces. However, we like to be conservative and "augment" his eating if we feel he didn't get a full meal, so we bought some small pallets of baby food. Rather than bringing separate baby jars, ask the stockboy at the grocery store if you can get some baby food before they separate it into jars. You want the original packed boxes. This makes them easier to bring along. We also brought formula as a supplement in one-liter cans that don't need to be refrigerated until they are opened.
- Weigh, then weigh again. We are allowed two checked bags each, weighing 50lbs each. We spent more time weighing than anything else during the packing process. While I personally never check a bag when traveling for business, even internationally, when you're with a baby and give that weight allocation, why not use it? We figured a +/-2lb margin of error and got all 4 bags to 48lbs on my scale. They weighed 51lbs at the airport and they let us in without paying extra. Since we were bringing gifts along with diapers, formula and food, it was worth the effort. We're now 24 days into the trip and we've got exactly as much food and diapers as we needed.
- Diapers. Depending on where you are going, check ahead of time if diapers (whatever kind you use) are readily available. They are available in TZ, but they are wicked-expensive, and not easy to find in large quantities. We didn't want the hassle of cloth diapers on this trip, but if we were in a hotel we might have brought cloth and cleaned them in the sink.
- Be prepared for blowouts. We had a "baby-blowout" in the Amsterdam airport and had to run through the airport holding an overflowing baby. However, we not only had all the equipment we needed, but we had access to the family bathroom that let us rinse everything that we needed.
- Bring a change of clothes for yourself in case the blowout happens on the plane, on you.
- Bring a pram or stroller. Seems obvious, but an umbrella stroller should be brought, over a big elaborate one, especially if you're in a developing country. We've mostly carried Z, but now that he's pushing 23lbs, when he doesn't want to walk, it's nice to have the umbrella stroller. I consider them largely disposable items and use them until they disintegrate.
All in all, the trip here, baby-wise, went well, and we expect as much on the way back home later this week.