I traveled to Korea as a first time mom with my 6 month old baby to attend my brothers wedding this past April. Crazy? A little. Nerve wracking? Most definitely.
I booked the flights when I was 6 or 7 months pregnant and figured that a “mature” 6 month old baby (not Monopoly Man mature, but more in a baby sense, if you get my drift) would be fairly easy to travel with. Especially since my husband and extended family were travelling with us, too. Or so I thought…
After I gave birth and the reality of what having a baby is really like (pure, unadulterated, chaos), I started to get nervous. Then, on top of that chaos, my husband announced he wasn’t able to come since he couldn’t get the time off work. This is when my parents urged me to really think it through (I think the panic had set in for them as my travel companions before it hit me). Did I really want to travel with a 6 month old baby in a foreign land without the help of my husband? Could I handle 24 hours of travel/flights with out going insane and the other passengers wanting to strangle me and throw me out a window at 30,000 feet? Being the experienced and determined person I am (and crazy), I was certain I would be okay. And you know what? I was. but it doesn’t mean it was not challenging.
Being a first time mom, I’ve only been at this baby thing for 7 months now so I have no amazing “jump of the page” advice for you. I truly believe what works for some moms, or some babies, doesn’t work for everyone. Here’s what worked for me and some of my challenges.
Traveling with baby – how to pack
My first dilemma was how do I travel with ALL the stuff a baby needs, and all the stuff I need packed into one suitcase for almost 3 weeks. Yes, airlines do allow you to check extra baby items, including carry-ons, and extra gate checked items, but how does one lone mama carry it all while having a child stuck to you 24/7? I decided to take as little as humanely possible, with the exception for all the true baby “essentials.” I started obsessively weighing clothes like a little baby drug dealer, trying to pack light fleece clothes and only packing enough stuff for a weeks worth of activities. We were booked at AirBnB’s and hotels with access to free washing machines so I could wash clothes as often as needed. I also planned on picking up all the diapers and wipes we would need for the little monster when we arrived in Korea.
A few light baby travel items I loved
- These Insane light as air Kushies bibs
I like everything about this stroller except that you gotta use 2 hands to fold it, and the fact that it’s less comfortable to carry around town while collapsed.
You can’t fold it while baby wearing , and unless you’ve done it a bunch of times in practice, it can be a pain. Trying to show my parents how to do it while my kid was glued to me was like me trying to understand Korean. Unlikely. Plus it’s awkward to carry folded up while bussing it, or on the train, not to mention weird when you’re going up and down lots of stairs. Otherwise it’s comfy and light and you could take it on as a carry on piece of luggage on an airplane.
“I bet this is hard to fold” – Korean lady
To bring a travel crib or not?
Because we were taking so many internal Korean flights, we didn’t want too much luggage (despite what you might think from the pictures, I swear). My family and I are used to backpacking, but a fellow mommy friend cautioned me about the stress of not having a safe place for your baby to sleep. I read that in Korea they only co-sleep and they don’t have cribs a couple days before we left, and that freaked me out a bit. The same friend did me a solid and generously “forced” me to take her Baby Bjorn travel crib. I’m SO HAPPY she did. It’s pretty light at 15 lbs, it sets up incredibly fast, and my baby was very comfortable in it. It did alleviate a lot of stress I didn’t realize future Sam was about to face.
Surviving the flight with a baby
Book the bulkhead seat and Bassinet!
I happened to book the bulk head seats on my international flights so that I could request the baby bassinet. I also learned you actually get a refund on the price of the seat upgrade if you have a baby with you. Airlines can’t guarantee a bassinet, but will make an effort to provide you with one, fun fact. The flight attendant will ask if your baby can sit up on their own, if they can’t and they don’t look too big, they will bring you a bassinet. So make sure to make your kid look small, and give them that “stressed out mom” look to guarantee you get it on your next flight.
A little on the downside, I found the bassinet to be extremely small. There was barely any room for my perfectly averaged sized 6 month old. It’s also mandatory to close the mesh cover over the infant when they are in the bassinet, picnic basket style. Although I haven’t met that many, I don’t know many babies that are cool with being locked in a bassinet like that. I mostly used it to throw all his toys, and the baby carrier, blanket, etc, without having to pull them in and out of my carry-on’s. I still recommend booking the bassinet, though. It’s still handy, you get the cost refunded, and you have the extra baby floor room which can make a world of difference.
Order an infant meal
Call the airline ahead and order an infant meal. Air Canada will give you 2 huge baby food jars per trip. There was no way my son would eat it all, so we saved most of the jars for over the next week of meals. Being cheap pays off, friends.
Because your arms will be full for the majority of the flight, prepare yourself to be spoon fed (or chopstick fed, which is a first) by your travel partners, or use a baby carrier. We were successful in getting my son to sleep on multiple occasions in our baby carrier which was easier, and you have your arms free for some sweet plane noodles action.
How does your baby nap while travelling on the go?
This was my second biggest worry, how will I provide a comfortable place for my baby to sleep constantly on the go without distractions? Surprisingly, he did very well with a lot of rocking and covering his eyeballs from the excitement that was EVERYWHERE. I had done a lot of naps and walks in my baby carrier before the trip, so he was already comfortable sleeping in our Ergo Organic carrier, thank god. When it was nap time we put a hat over his eyes old farmer style, and put him in the carrier, he was able to sleep in the loudest of places. He also started sleeping in the stroller for the first time ever, as long as we were constantly moving and his eyes again were covered from all the fun times around him.
How do you feed your baby on the go and in public?
Is it acceptable to breastfeed in public?
I experienced a whole new world of nursing rooms in Korea.
Changing a baby, and other sticky situations
One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give you is to research the country you will be visiting, and figure out how baby and kid friendly it is. Does the country have baby change tables in most restaurants or public spaces? Luckily, Korea was extremely kid and baby friendly. I wrote a whole blog post about it which will be published soon!
But as always, you may have no option and you’ll have to feed or change baby in a less than pleasing location. In that case, send your mother off to do it.
When travelling (this was no vacation haha) you can’t follow your regular baby routine. This probably sounds really scary for some mom’s, but this trip really taught me that the baby routine doesn’t need to be so regimented. You will have many challenging and stressful situations, you will miss out on activities your other travel partners are doing, but that’s traveling mom life for ya! I was thankful I could experience such an amazing country with my baby by my side.