We are back from our cross-country trek with LL. Much to our delight, everything went amazingly well.
On the day we left, LL intuited that we were going to be traveling, and woke up on his own, at his normal wake-up time, but for our destination time zone (ie, three hours shifted from usual). We think that he might be an unusually gifted baby. Or he was teething. Whatever. We followed his cue, and did everything all day according to his normal schedule, but in the new time zone. He was thus perfectly timed to have a bottle during take-off, followed by a delightful morning nap on Daddy's lap, much to the relief of our fellow passengers. After waking up, he spent the next several hours with a range of exciting eight-month-old activities: eating an entire jar of bananas without flinging any of it onto our neighbors; having his diaper changed in a bathroom the size of a phone booth; ignoring most of the toys that we brought with us but happily playing for hours with a plastic cup given to him by one of the flight attendants; flirting non-stop with said flight attendant; reading the most mesmerizing baby book ever produced; and being held by me or S in the back galley of the plane, where there was a constant stream of strangers waiting in line for the bathroom, all of whom took turns playing peek-a-boo with him while they waited.
Flying out, we had a 45-minute delay on the ground, and 6 hours in the air, and LL cried for a grand total of 90 seconds while on the plane. Our flight home on Sunday was in the evening, and LL slept (in batches) for more than 3 hours, and never cried once. After we landed and waited to de-plane, the passengers sitting around us gave LL a round of applause, and declared that "he gave a truly impressive performance." Total success!
There were a lot of things I was nervous about for this trip. A quick recap of how we managed with each of my original concerns:
Pressure Changes: During take-off and landing, LL was fine with a mix of bottle-drinking and pacifier-sucking, so the pressure changes didn't bother him. On our trip home, he briefly stopped drinking and then pulled at his ear and whined a little, but he quickly took the bottle back and the problem was solved. Also, since he was recently sick and still occasionally congested, our pediatrician told us the correct dosing information for Children's Benadryl, even though it is no longer technically approved for infants. Airplane pressure changes when you're already congested are really painful, so this helped a lot, and we're grateful that our pediatrician suggested this.
Airplane Entertainment: Entertaining LL on the plane was, indeed, trickier than when he was 2-3 months old, but walking around with him helped a lot. Also, on our flight home, the guy sitting behind us played peek-a-boo with LL between the seats for 45 minutes straight while LL belly-laughed non-stop. It was hilarious. Also, in a true show of how things don't always turn out how you expect, I bought this toy for the plane, because it has a suction cup at the bottom that's meant to attach it to high chair trays, but I thought that it would be perfect to attach to an airplane tray table, too. It did, indeed, keep LL occupied for a good deal of the flight, but only because he continuously chewed on the suction cup. On the flight home, we just gave him the suction cup and left the toy part in the bag. Fun stuff.
Car Seats: We continue to stuff LL into his infant carrier, so we didn't have to deal with a convertible car seat. We also avoided taxis the whole weekend, though we have it on good authority that all modern taxis do have LATCH attachments. My friend M took us to and from the airport in her car, and for everything else, we walked or took the bus, leaving the car seat at M's place. As an aside: holy cow, LL loved taking public transit. So many people to look at! So many people to smile at! Young people, elderly people, students, workers, all manner of people from all walks of life... LL charmed them all. Each new person who got on, LL would grin and wave until he got them to smile back. Awesome.
Stroller: Before this trip, we didn't have a true stroller. We just used a stroller frame to hold the infant car seat. For this trip, we finally bought a stroller so that LL would be more comfortable sitting in it all day. Our requirements: it had to be light, since we would need to lug it on and off buses; it had to be comfortable both for sitting (LL) and pushing (us), since LL would be in it for long stretches; it had to be sturdy, since it would be jostled a lot at the airport; it had to recline and have a decent canopy, since LL would need to nap in it; and it couldn't be too expensive, since it was likely to get beaten up a bit in the luggage compartment of the plane. A storage basket and quick-and-easy fold were additional nice-to-haves. The comfort, recline, and canopy requirements ruled out most cheap umbrella strollers, and the weight and price requirements ruled out most full-featured strollers. We finally went with this Combi stroller (on sale) and we were beyond thrilled with it. It was tossed around planes and buses; it went up and down subway stairs; it went off-road on grassy hills; it went over cobblestones; it was rained on. LL loved sitting in it, and took two long naps in it. It met all of our requirements and then some. Fantastic.
Bottles: We packed enough bottles to last for a full day of eating. Bulky to pack, but light. It worked. We also bought one of those divided formula containers, where each compartments holds formula powder for one bottle. Extremely useful.
Time Change: We transitioned LL to the new time zone all at once, thanks to when he woke up on the day that we left. It worked fairly well. He took his two naps each day right on time, and we had no problem putting him down for bed each night. He was up a lot late at night (in the 1:00-6:00am range), but he was like that for several days before we left, too, so it was probably inevitable. Also, after months of unproductive teething, LL finally cut his first top tooth while we were gone (excellent timing, kiddo) which didn't help in the sleep department. How he transitions back to our normal time zone remains to be seen....
Overall, we were thrilled with the whole trip. Each day, LL took his morning nap at M's house, we were out of the house by 11am, and we returned around 6pm to feed him dinner and get him ready for bed. He did great being out all day, took an afternoon nap in his stroller, and loved being wheeled all over our college campus. He met our college friends for the first time, saw the dorm where S and I lived, and even met my old undergrad advisor, who is now Dean of one of the biggest institutes on campus but still took almost an hour out of her busy week to chat with us and to carry LL around. Each night, M stayed with LL at home and put him to bed while S and I went out, and even though he was with a babysitter, in a strange crib, in a strange room, after a long and exhausting day of being out in the world, he still did great. I cannot express how proud I am of him.
It was a bit surreal pushing a baby stroller around the old college campus, but that is probably just part of my denial that it has been 10 years since we graduated.