Welcome to The Mummylogues. A series dedicated to candid conversations, relatable tips and resources for navigating pregnancy and parenting.
In this edition – film-maker, accidental holistic cook and mother-of-one, Shaana Levy-Bahl reveals her learnings from a recent flight she took with a 10 month old baby. The experience was stressful to say the least, but by sharing it here she hopes you don’t have it as tough as she did. From essentials to pack to the mindset to adopt, gathered here is a treasure trove of tips for travelling with kids in the time of Corona. Over to Shaana.
As I sat down to write about travelling with my 10 month baby during covid, my husband walked into the room I asked, “What were your biggest learnings about our trip from India to Switzerland that I could share with families?” He stared at me for a minute, his shoulders tensing and rising higher towards his ears. “Don’t do it unless you have to!” He shuddered with the thought and promptly left me with the memories of our traumatic repatriation flight with a baby who over the last five months hadn’t left the four walls of our apartment and had only been in contact with four adults, two of whom were his parents.
Yes our experience was definitely tainted thanks to this strange Covid reality we find ourselves faced it; however, gathered from it are a number of useful tips and learnings, should you consider planning a trip with your little ones too!
Prepare your child for the journey
As we had been stuck at home during quarantine, our son had never had the opportunity to get used to his pram or car seat. We added a stroller ride around our apartment into his daily routine, hoping he would get comfortable and used to this new mode of transportation.
The car was harder because we technically couldn’t leave our house, so we attached the car seat to his pram and alternated between the two kinds of seats. If we could have gotten him used to more people and crowds, we would have as well, because being at the airport and on the plane terrified him. We also started wearing our masks and vizor’s in front of him so he got used to seeing us partially covered and wasn’t scared.
Read books about airplanes and adventures to your babies. Talk about the journey you are about to embark on and all the things they will hear, see and possibly feel. It doesn’t matter how old they are, paint a picture of what to expect for them in an entertaining, fun and engaging way so they are excited rather than shocked by all the changes they are about to experience.
I love lists and I highly recommend writing a list of everything that is essential for your trip a good two weeks before travelling. Keep revisiting the list asking yourself, “What is not essential?” Keep editing. A week before, start packing so you can leave hand luggage to the day before as this is crucial. You need to be clever about where things go in your hand luggage and remember where you put them! It is all well and good having a huge bag which you filled with useful things, but when push comes to shove you can’t find anything during your trip and it just adds stress and weight to your journey! Less is more!
Pack snacks for the journey
During covid I didn’t feel safe eating airplane food or exchanging hands with anyone to buy something, so I bought a cool bag and filled it with meals and milk for my son and healthy snacks for us. Thankfully they let me carry it on board because our son was only 10 months old and still having breastmilk. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to wash or sterilize bottles or cutlery, I also brought enough to last us the journey.
Remember you only have TWO hands!
We travelled with everything and the kitchen sink! By the end of the journey we felt we had run a marathon while carrying weights and juggling! Also, many airports no longer have trolleys due to covid, so if you cannot manage your hand luggage and child with your two hands – leave it at home! Bags with compartments are great and even though it was not chic, I bought myself a handsfree backpack for the absolute essentials like babies’ milk, snack, favourite toy, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, diaper, change of clothing and disposable changing mat…
Create a safe bubble
We flew during the height of Covid on a repatriation flight so we were extremely nervous about safety and hygiene. We wore cargo pants with zip pockets so our 80% alcohol hand sanitizer and wipes were always handy. We packed many disinfectant wipes for surfaces and hands, a clean sheet to put over the airplane seat, our vizors, extra N95 masks, disposable gloves and a fresh t-shirt or sweater.
We were paranoid – that’s for certain – but were keen on creating a little safe bubble for us and our son on the plane! We would wipe down the entire surface between and in front of our seats before getting comfortable and place a sheet over the seat as our son was at the age that everything went into his mouth.
The perfectly curated play bag
Pack a play bag with a variety of your child’s absolute favourite books, activities and toys! Anything tried and tested that they love and have played with or read before. This is not the time to experiment. Make sure to download some engaging content on your iPads even if you don’t allow screen time because this can prove to be a lifesaver for long journeys. Make sure your kids understand that this is a special occasion
Put your oxygen mask on first!
This was perhaps my biggest learning! I was absolutely useless to my son after travelling with no sleep, hydration or nourishment because he was fully traumatized in his new environment and kept howling. What I needed to do was also take care of myself, grab a snack, drink water, take shifts with my husband, stop and take a few deep breaths to calm my nervous system and heightened emotions.
Now I realise you shouldn’t be a martyr, as your child will pick up on your frazzled, exhausted and anxious energy. At Amsterdam airport while transiting, my husband saw I needed a coffee so while he went to find me one, I decided to carry my wailing son to the gate along with my backpack, my handbag, two wheel-on’s, a duffle bag and push the babyzen yoyo pram …. Sweat dripped from unimaginable places (this aluminium-free natural deo is not advisable on long stressful journey’s) and I was certain my arms were about to fall off.
So I did the only covid friendly thing I could think of – pop a squat in the middle of Amsterdam airport, on the floor, and cry with my son until a complete stranger said he would help me get all my hand luggage to my gate. I stupidly refused, as I was paranoid about covid and worried his hands weren’t washed and sterilized.
I paint this visual so you never have to become this pathetic creature on the floor of the airport. Pack light and smart, keep nutritious snacks handy along with your 80% alcohol sanitizer and wipes, don’t be afraid of the iPad and pretend not to be stressed and worried about covid – even if it is just for your child’s sake!
About Shaana Levy-Bahl
Mother-of-one, Shaana Levy-Bahl believes in the power of story-telling through her two passions: food and film. As a film-maker, she shares inspirational stories of women who have overcome incredible odds, with her most recent work ‘Ladies First’, a Netflix Original Documentary Short about the Indian archer Deepika Kumari.
Having battled ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease, Shaana is also an accidental holistic cook tapping into the healing power of food through a self-taught approach towards creating delicious Paleo meals and desserts. She has taken to sharing her knowledge to support those who suffer like she has, or anyone who would simply like to creatively support their personal gut health without sacrificing taste! Find her recipes on her Instagram @shaanadiya