Last week we came back from our first home leave flight to Germany. It’s been an adventure since the moment we started to pack our stuff until we got back to our apartment to spend the first night in our 4 own walls. We started to pack the weekend before we left and I really narrowed it down to the most essentials (At least I thought so at that time!). For clothing: Raphael and I shared one half of a big suitcase. The other half was packed with the breast pump, bottles, tons of creams (since Raphael has eczema), oatmeal cereals, toiletteries and so on and so forth. We left a little bit of space because we knew that Raphael will probably get some presents from friends and family in Germany – which we definitely needed at the end of the trip.
Our final number of bags:
Checking in: 2 bags (1 normal bag for Mark, 1 big bag for Raphael and myself) + travel crib bag
Carry-on bags: 2 (1 per person) + stroller bag where stroller and toddler seat fit in + car seat + diaper bag
So we were pretty packed!!
DRIVE & FLIGHT:
Before we left to the airport I had Raphael awake for 2.5 h so that he would sleep during the drive – and he was asleep until we checked in our bags – so that was perfect timing! At the airport he was super interested and super aware of his surrounding – there was so much going on and everything was new and exciting to him. Unfortunately our flight got delayed for almost 2 hours and he struggled a little bit to fall asleep. At least he slept for about half an hour before boarding started, which was good because the time between boarding and departure felt like FOREVER!! For the departure he was sitting on my lap, he was sucking on his bee pacifier and holding his favorite duck ❤️ He was a little bit fussy since he did not have a long nap. During the 7 hours over night flight he slept most of the time in the bassinet (and a short period of time in my arms).
Since we had a lot of carry on stuff with us the people around were giving us pitiful smiles. However, we impressed quite a bit when we collapsed the stroller, transferred Raphael into the car seat and packet the toddler seat together with the stroller into the travel bag, while changing his diapers on the floor simultaneously. Surprisingly everything went super super smooth and easy and it felt like we have never done anything else but traveling with a young baby – haha. We landed, got our stuff and Mark’s dad picked us up. Raphael was asleep the entire drive home.
The first 2 days he was super fussy and cried more than ever before. Most of the time he just wanted to be held by me and no one else. Also his sleep routine was totally off schedule. The first 2-3 nights he wouldn’t want to sleep at all from 9 PM to 2 AM. It was so hard to get him to sleep and to keep him actually asleep – maybe this was due to his travel crib and the fact that he was sleeping right next to our bed. During our whole stay in Germany he didn’t sleep so well. He woke up every 2 hours which was not typical for him. At home he goes 6-7 hours or even 11 hours without interruption. Of course I do know that you cannot rely on babies sleep but we could definitely feel he was confused and overwhelmed by his new surrounding and seeing a bunch of new faces every day. He did pretty good after all, it was just so hard for him to process all that at the end of one day. And of course he struggled with the 6 hours time difference between Germany and the East Coast. ALSO we don’t have an A/C in Germany and it was super super hot (over 30 degrees C).
Flying back was a little more exhausting because our flight was in the morning, so he was awake most of the time. During the flight he definitely needed my complete attention – except for when he was sleeping. But as soon as I held him (when he was crying), he was fine! I’m really glad that it rather smoothly.
After we got back home he needed about 2-3 days to readjust his sleeping routine. Now we’re back at 8 PM putting Raphael to sleep and nursing around 1-2 times during the night. Babies definitely need a routine and so does mommy. Even though it was a fun and beautiful time in Germany I was glad being back at our own house and our daily routine. It was quite exhausting for me since I was a sleep deprived mom during those 3 weeks.
Here are my top 10 tips for flying with a young baby:
1. You can get a bassinet depending on which airlines you are traveling with. Make sure to make a reservation in advance if they offer them.
2. Try to plan around their sleeping schedule and definitely calculate with more time.
4. Be prepared for the “worst case scenario” (enough clothing, diapers, bottle of pumped breastmilk or formula) and make sure all that stuff is in your carry-on bag.
5. Pack as little as possible, but as much as necessary!!
6. Pack some snacks for the drive and your stay at the airport.
7. Choose a good travel stroller system
8. Use a pacifier (or breastfeed) during departure and arrival for the pressure equalization.
9. Bring a baby carrier with you on the plane. If your baby gets fussy it is where he wants to be – close to you.
10. Change your baby in warmer clothing before getting on the plane. And pack a blanket with you. It’s always freezing on the plane.