We decided it would be a good idea to show our little apple cheeks the world. And why not start now?
Well, i can think of a few reasons to not start at 11 months:
- the five pieces of luggage we had dedicated simply to her which the United representative said was going to cost us an extra 180 Euros to leave Spain upon our return
- the large quantities of formula, food, medicine, and other provisions, like diapers that we had to amass and take through security multiple times
- the massive Bob Ironman stroller we took through metal detectors, x-ray machines, and which had to be hand-screened for explosives or other such matters, delaying our rushed movement toward the boarding gate by a good twenty-five minutes
- and standing in numerous lines for tickets, boarding, luggage, immigration with a squirming 11 month old who did anything in her power to climb out of our arms and onto the stranger next to us or better yet, roll around on the dirty floor below
So, for what it's worth, here are a few of my recommendations based on our successful trip:
1. Pack EVERYTHING she owns and take it with you. You will need it. We had a bag of toys. A bag of diapers and creams and wipes. A bag of clothes. A stroller. A pack and play. A bag of books. A bag of formula and bottles and organic food. And, a (smaller) bag with her medicines and vitamins.
2. Buy the Ear Band-It Earplug Retaining Headband. What's that you ask? If you have a child with chronic ear infections, like Emma, you'll want to get it. And, even though Emma recently had ear tubes placed in both of her ears, we were still concerned about water getting in them should we decide to take her swimming. We never did because the water was too chilly, but we did use the Ear Band-It for another great purpose: in flight. We flew on an overnight flight to Madrid. Before we boarded the plane, we put the earplugs in Emma's ears and then covered them with the Ear Band-It. Since we were flying around Emma's bedtime, we didn't want her to be over-stimulated by the noise of the announcements, other passengers, and ultimately the plane itself. The Ear Band-It quieted the entire journey for her to a doable decible level, and she ended up sleeping almost the entire flight.
3. When flying, REQUEST THE BULKHEAD SEATS. Why? With an 11 month old flying at her bedtime, you want the option of using the airline-provided bassinett. You may already know about this, but I had no clue before the wonderful Iberia Airline flight attendants told us about it. They asked some other passengers to swap seats with us, and before you knew it, we were in the bulkhead seats, with a bassinett attached to the airplane wall, in which Emma was suspended, happily, and adorably to sleep throughout the flight. They gave us a blanket and a cute little in-flight pack of wipes, diapers, and an Iberia bib. Great memorabilia when she's older.
4. Request a carseat ahead of time from the rental company. Avis had a great one which Emma fit in nicely.
5. Bring a Bob Ironman stroller. First, they are collapsable. Second, they are feather light. Third, they are easily loaded up with your purses, diaper bags, and purchases for the day. And, baby still enjoys a lovely ride, with shade from the sun. It also fits nicely in the back of an overloaded rental car since the wheels come on and off easily.
6. Bring a decent sized blanket you can plop down on an airport floor or a hotel floor and she can crawl around and play without concern about germs. You can always have the blanket laundered at a hotel or you can even wash it out in the hotel sink and dry it overnight as needed.
7. Keep her on U.S. time. Emma usually goes to sleep at 7:00 each evening and typically wakes up nearly 12 hours later, at 7:00 in the morning, give or take 30 minutes or so. While in Spain, we kept her on the same schedule, so the transition back would be as seamless as possible. It worked. She went to bed at midnight, after we enjoyed our family outing for tapas (which she loved, but more on that later) and woke usually around 11:00 AM, give or take 30 minutes or so. So, she was usually well-rested and able to join us for all the meals without being over-tired or off her food, sleep cycle. When we returned stateside, Emma transitioned back into her 7 to 7 routine automatically.
8. Make her a part of the food enjoying experience. Spain's culinary scene is fun, filling, and delicious. Emma loved it as much as we did. She was able to slurp up gazpacho when we did and partake of the fresh fish (in moderation) and fresh fruit and veggies. She ate at the table with us and was even occassionally given a highchair. She loved it. And, we loved sharing the experience with her.
9. Bring Grandmommy. I can't stress this one enough! Emma's grandmother joined us on the trip, providing an additional set of hands to carry our many baby bags, hold Emma, and provide care when my husband and I wanted a little down time.
10. Above all else, don't be fearful that because she is young, or because she has special needs, that the trip is not doable. Emma has heart issues, so we were cleared by her cardiologist and pediatrician before traveling. She also has ear issues, and we were cleared by her ENT specialist within weeks of her ear tube procedure. She was on antibiotics for an infection, but she would have been stateside, too. And, everywhere we went, Spaniards embraced her and us, constantly doting on her with affection and kindness.
The trip was so easy it was surprising and opened us back up to the possibilities that lie ahead with Emma.
Not the limitations.