If you’ve not been around babies full time, social media will have you believing that everything about being with them is cuteness, giggles and snapchat-filter-induced glowing. You may also be led to believe that travelling with a baby is a doddle; biggest mistake of your life. I too am guilty of the social media deceit; my recent Instagram pictures of my Cape Town holiday failed to omit the real reasons behind my wide grins; one of Zie’s nanny , (Mrs Oni, a wiry old, warm and wise woman, with tales from the war, and other generally alarming stories), whom Ziemife loves and frankly I cannot do without, traveled with us.
Admittedly I tried it once and I came back frazzled, haggard and in need of an actual holiday. It was to London, I took him to see my parents when he was 10 months, for 10 days and the ‘fun’ started almost immediately. On the plane, all Zie wanted to do was walk around, meeting ALL the passengers, or else he would fling his arms up, throw his head back and emit a wail so loud and decisive, you could hear it all the way from the moon. I had no choice but to walk with him and observe as he introduced himself to everyone. One nice air hostess saw my situation and kindly offered me several strong beverages; I promptly broke my rule of not drinking whilst in the air and I discovered that dry, dehydrated, ashy looking skin was a small price to pay for some semblance of sanity.
The trials continued, upon arriving in London, Zie refused to be carried by anyone but me; not my mum, my dad, no one. So, he became literally glued to my hips; and he started walking at 9 months, so I couldn’t leave him alone for even a minute. If I managed to take a shower by 2pm, it was a good day. My sister came to the rescue again by taking him overnight, “But Hafsa, he doesn’t go with anyone, not even mum” I bemoaned, “Forget that one, he will follow me by force” she retorted. And follow her he did, when he saw his cousins and their cute barking puppy, he stood enthralled, giggling wildly, without even a backwards glance back at me; I escaped and walked 40 minutes on the country lane, back home, joyously alone.
As I walked back I contemplated what I was finding so testing about being his only carer for 10 days and nights, and it was simply the fact that his schedule wholly dictated my own, coupled with the very shallow sleep I was now experiencing as he was back to sharing a bed with me, any slight turn or whimper would wake me up.
It wasn’t all drudgery though, I enjoyed being alone with him and gleaning more insights into his dynamic personality, and we made a good team; a few firm words from me held a lot of power which I didn’t fail to use; in turn he would reward me with sloppy kisses, giggle fits and that priceless look of adoration. I vowed to do a solo trip with him at least once a year.
My tips for travelling with a 10 month old or older baby
- Use a rucksack as a baby bag, and a slim cross body pouch for your passports and money. Forget about a handbag my sister; unnecessary extra weight.
- Similarly, you’ll find it almost impossible to use a carry on luggage, so forgo it or ask if it can be checked in for you, if you want to use your allocated weight allowance
- I’m usually a big advocate for staying hydrated, but I would say avoid drinking many fluids on the day you travel. Constant loo trips with baby are frustrating. Keep up your hydration levels, 2-3 days before your trip; that should suffice. But keep baby very hydrated; he’ll be far less irritable.
- Take an iPad with some baby entertainment
- This may seem impossible but don’t forget snacks for baby, and for you. All the brain work I was doing left me famished
- If your baby is energetic, inquisitive and strong, make sure you secure your wig very well.
- Request for assistance from the airline; you can’t push a baggage trolley and a pushchair at the same time. Technically, you can, but it’s not worth it. You deserve better mummy.
- Accept assistance from well meaning strangers.
- Reward yourself daily for making it through each day(cakes, glasses of wine, chocolates; you catch my drift), and indulge yourself in a countdown till you are back to your normal. Very dramatic but totally worth it for the sense of accomplishment it provides when you make it. And you will make it mummy!