Gina Kaysen Fernandes: It's the trip I'd been dreading since the day my son was born, the epic voyage to my husband's homeland in India. We managed to hold off on the obligatory family visit until the baby turned one. By that age he'd had all his shots, ate solid foods and could walk. I had anxiety dreams for weeks. Don't get me wrong, I love to travel and India is an amazing country to visit. But having a lap baby on board is a total game changer. Here's how I survived the cross continental conundrum.
• My best advice is to bring the car seat onboard. Even though they're considered "lap babies" until two years old, you have a better chance of scoring a vacant middle seat if you lug the car seat. Unless you're traveling at peak holiday season there's usually one available spot and people are willing to swap seats to avoid sitting next to a crying baby. Once you have that extra space, you get your lap back at least while the baby is sleeping soundly. If the flight attendants can't find room they can always check the car seat in at the gate.
• If you're traveling with an infant, try to reserve your seat in the bulkhead row. All airlines provide bassinettes as long as you're sitting in this row. My son slept comfortably for several hours but he was a little big for the bassinette.
• Have snacks on hand for those cranky moments, such as waiting in line to board the plane. Bring plastic baggies of cut fruit, crackers or baby biscuits that in a pinch work miracles.
• Carry on a small bag of tiny toys and books. During the non-sleeping hours you'll want to have some entertainment options when the in-flight headphones and cutlery grow old. If your child is attached to a blanket or stuffed animal, don't forget to bring those too!
• Make friends onboard. You'd never know that grumpy guy two rows down is crazy about kids and will spend ten minutes playing peak-a-boo. Take walks up and down the isle, it's a great time killer and you get to stretch your legs. On international flights, the crew is much more lax about letting you hang out near the restrooms or emergency rows where there's a little extra standing space.
• Start feeding your baby during take off and landing. Either nurse or bottle-feed them to prevent the painful pressure in their ears. The flight attendants are more than willing to warm up bottles for you. The combination of the engine noise, flying vibrations and a warm meal is the quickest way to get your bundle of joy into a comatose slumber.
• Check your stroller at the gate before boarding the plane. That way you'll have it on hand inside the airport. If you check it in with your luggage you won't see it again until baggage claim. I bought an umbrella stroller for under $20, which worked great for travel. It's much lighter to carry and I didn't have to worry about damaging or losing the more expensive stroller we use at home.
• Keep your diapers/wipes and a change of clothes in an easily accessible spot to avoid a mad dash to the overhead bin in the event of a messy mishap.
• If you encounter extreme emotional turbulence with hours of traveling to go... you may need to turn to desperate measures. I recommend a dose of Baby Benedryl. I realize there are many parents who may oppose this method. My pediatrician said it was okay. The antihistamine kicks in after about 15 minutes and will help Jr. sleep for several hours. Make sure to test-drive this option of last resort before reaching 30-thousand feet because in some cases, the over the counter drug can cause hyperactivity in kids.
After 36 hours in transit, on four different flights crossing a dozen time zones, I'm relieved it's over. Our trip wasn't easy but it went amazingly well considering the circumstances. The whole experience is a little like labor... even if it doesn't go well, it will eventually be over and you probably won't remember the worst parts a few months later.