Thursday, September 18, 2008


In less than three weeks le Petit will set foot in the United States for the first time. As much as I'm looking forward to introducing him to his motherland, I'm dreading the trip over. Eleven hours in a plane, nine hours of jetlag, a fourteen month old baby. . . I'm expecting the worst. But it is a direct flight, mercifully, so when we arrive we'll have nothing more complicated to do than take le Petit and his two passports through immigration, claim our bags, and collapse into my mother's station wagon.

I can't wait to show le Petit my other home, to see him run up to a douglas fir tree and explore the crevassed bark with his fingers. I'll let him run along the beach on Puget Sound and pick up pebbles. We'll lift up barnacle-covered rocks together and watch the little crabs scuttle for cover. I'll take him to the parks I remember from when I was small. He'll stay in the last house I grew up in, and he'll crawl up the same carpeted stairs I ran down so often as a teenager. He'll play in the dirt in the garden where once, a very long time ago, I planted rose bushes.

He's too little for it to mean much to him, I know. But I still imagine that it will trace in some lines on his internal map of the world. This is where Mommy grew up: curious forests of tall evergreen trees, colored houses made entirely of wood, giant cars and buildings, beaches littered with twisted tree trunks, and rivers where salmon still find their way back from the sea.

But right now I'm fearing I'll relate a little too well to those poor salmon fighting their way upstream for the sake of their offspring when I arrive at Sea-tac International Airport.

Does anyone have any advice about traveling with small children, or getting them adjusted to jet lag? Yes, we were too cheap -- ur, frugal -- to buy him his own seat on the plane, we won't be traveling with our own car seat, and we weren't about to splurge for business class. So, given those parameters, what can we do to make the trip bearable and avoid any major diplomatic incidents? And what should we under no circumstances forget to pack in our carry-on luggage?


Goddess Babe said...

1. More snacks than you could possibly imagine he'll eat.

2. Enough diapers for getting through a really nasty delay (a day's worth)

3a. some new toys he's never seen
3b. some old favorite toys you've ferreted away for a few weeks beforhand that he'll be delighted to see.

that's all I remember from traveling shorter distance with Miss G, and she was in her carseat in her own seat, so...

4. pray for an empty seat that you can commandeer.

Oh yeah. A change of clothes for YOU. Wear separates, pack separates. That way, when Petit flings mushy carrots onto your pants 30 minutes into the flight, you have a choice about whether to sit there in slimed clothes or not.

collected said...

I sympathize. We traveled from San Francisco to France when our daughter was 15 months old last summer and again this year at 2+.

I second the change of clothes for you. We tend to bring a lot of books to read, also stickers (or even post-it notes). When I commuted with my daughter on the train, one day a woman handed me a pack of those little post it/page marker things. My daughter loved them, stuck them all over herself, so now we bring those.

Honestly though, I keep my expectations low. This last trip I was cursing the woman in front of me who reclined into my lap, but at the end of the flight that same woman complimented me on the way I talked to my daughter. Nice to hear because my girl had gone completely insane, crying and screaming like I'd never heard.

The jet lag is rough--I've read that bodies adjust naturally at the rate of an hour/day. Not nice to hear when your trip isn't too long, but it seems true for my daughter, about one week to adjust from US Pacific time to France (a little faster heading west). Sometimes it's worked to our benefit with her able to stay up late for dinners out, or sleep in even. The up for the day at 3 am, that I could skip.

Good luck and enjoy.

Isabelle said...

To avoid hear ache, make sure that Le Petit is drinking from a bottle during take-off and landing. It can be a small bottle of juice or a big bottle of formula, the thing is that he needs to be swallowing something at that time.

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

Thanks everyone for your advice! I'll be checking in from Seattle and I'll be sure to post just how it went.

I'm realizing now that I'm going to have to get some new luggage, since the ratty old backpack my husband has been dragging around since the mid-eighties isn't going to help me organize diapers, toys, post-it notes (brilliant!), and a change of clothes for everyone in the family. Any ideas on what kind of bag works best?

Isabelle said...

I'm sure that since you are expecting the worst to happen during the flight, everything will go smoothly!
As for the carry-on bag, I've always taken the baby's bag I had, but it's true that we never took a change of clothes with us...

I think that I've already told you about my French cousin (Benjamin) married to an American girl (Page) and their baby girl (Emma). This is an excerpt of Page's blog on their trip from London to Atlanta in April (Emma was 5 months old):

"A big surprise at security, however, was that they now have a rule where you have to taste any milk you have for your baby. The security guy generously only asked me to taste one of the formula cartons we had packed (which I then promptly had to throw away, since it only lasts for 2 hours once opened), and I silently thanked God that I was still breastfeeding and would therefore have enough food for Emma for the plane."

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

Yet another useful feature of breastfeeding!

I'm beginning to wonder if sleepless nights and screaming aside, five months might have been an easier time to travel than 14 months. I could have just put le Petit in the baby carrier for the entire trip and he would have been happy as a clam. There'd have been no need to pack any food for him, either. Now I've got to bring baby food and water, and I have no idea how I'm going to keep le Petit still and sitting on my lap for even the take off and landing, never mind the rest of the flight.

Does anyone know if 14 months is too early to try camping him in front of the individual movie screen with a cartoon on? We pretty much never have the TV on at home when he's awake, so I'm hoping the novelty may keep him engaged for a while. As a general rule, I avoid exposing le Petit to TV, but in the name of surviving the flight I'm willing to make an exception.

Mom in France said...

Hi PmP: When you do research on the internet and read the posts here you have the basics covered. The big shocker for me was not the plane itself because there are so many suggestions of what to bring, etc. For me it was preparing myself. Prepare yourself for the flight no longer being the zone-out experience. Think of what you and your husband may need in terms of rest, etc. One suggestion I've read but never tried is getting two seats far away from one another so one person can rest and have break while the other babysits. I think I'll try it next time. It's not good having two completely fried parents.

Be super-flexible. This goes for the whole trip. Don't worry too much about Le Petit's current schedule but really look for his hungry/tired clues and respond like he was when he was a newborn. Don't worry about what he's eating or not and just go with the flow. You can get back on track when you return.

I don't remember how long you'll be there, but for the first week try not to do too much and stop whenever you need to and rest.

Oh--enjoy yourself! I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time stateside.

Goddess Babe said...

I'm completely biased. Since we'll be in Seattle on your first week, please, do too much! :)

Miss G will only have a 3 hour lag to deal with. I'm contemplating bringing the Benadryl and doing the oh-so-not-PC dosing for sleep. Failing that, we'll just eat really early meals and turn in early for bed.

Oh yeah, TSA revised its rules about breastmilk/formula bottles. No more tasting ->

caramama said...

I hope the trip goes smoothly! Only tip I can think of is to not overpack if you will be hauling your baggages around much. Don't forget that you can buy a lot of stuff here in the US, so only pack enough baby food and diapers to get through the flight and the first morning, then go to a store and just buy the food and diapers and wipes and whatever else you need. Much easier than dragging a week's worth of stuff with you!