Traveling with a tot
A baby step at a time
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Traversing Turkey by bus was a challenge. Then I discovered that the buses did not have restrooms. The vehicles stopped briefly at isolated stations during their 11-hour-plus treks, but if any schedules existed, they were indiscernible.
It was then that I noticed that the couple seated behind me, half a globe away from their home country, had an infant. Single at the time, I was simultaneously impressed and disconcerted, especially as the journey continued and the tot's odiferous diapers began to make their presence known.
Even without children, journeying through Turkey was an adventure. I tried to imagine the couple making their vacation plans: "Where shall we go with the baby, Disneyland or Central Asia?"
Now, with a newborn daughter of my own, I still muse, "Were they braver than most? Or simply lolo?"
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Parenthood puts brakes on worldwide adventures
With our infant 5 months old, my husband and I decide that the time for her frequent-flier initiation has arrived. The Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque will have to wait, though. The mainland is a more palatable start for her newbie parents.
When babies have to endure long flights (i.e., every flight from Hawaii to anywhere), fellow travelers end up enduring the baby. So when our plane touches down and nearby passengers, waiting to disembark, politely comment, "Cute baby," I realize that the smile on their faces is really from anticipating that they will soon be far, far away from the infant's ear-splitting wailing.
For parents, however, the journey is just beginning.
The first dilemma is to recover gate-checked items. Did the stroller arrive in one piece? Where is the car seat? Then there is the puzzle of (a) how to get the wriggling baby belted into the stroller while (b) propping up the car seat and (c) keeping tabs on our own carry-on luggage without (d) accidentally swinging the diaper bag into the mass of people streaming down the narrow jetway.
"Cute baby," they remark, without stopping.
By the time our gear is together, we are among the last to arrive at baggage claim, and scan for our wheeled uprights among a sea of look-alike luggage.
After struggling to hoist everything onto and off of the shuttle, the next mission is attaching the car seat to the rental vehicle. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, up to 82 percent of car seats are installed and utilized incorrectly. However, we feel confident. After my husband had attached the seats to our vehicles at home, his handiwork had even been approved by a certified child passenger safety technician.
So my heart stops when I open the rear door one afternoon during our touring to find the seat tipped over onto its side. Was our little one unharmed?
"Da da da da," she babbles calmly, thinking it perfectly normal to observe the world pass by at a 90-degree sideward angle. Perhaps when our daughter grows up she will be a roller coaster junkie.
UPON ARRIVING at the hotel, we realize that we have never before so appreciated the service of the hospitality industry. May we have a crib? Yes. Extra towels? Right away. More facial tissues? Not a problem.
Oh, if only we could reside here year-round, where most of our needs are met by merely pressing "0" on the phone.
Dining out proves more difficult, as it is nearly impossible for our bundle of perpetual motion to sit quietly throughout an entire meal. Tablecloths, dishes, silverware and glasses are all fair play for her inquisitive grasp. When perusing the menu, rather than choose based on the composition or price of the dishes, I now favor those that can be consumed with one hand so that the other is free to restrain the tot.
More than once we have asked the wait staff to kindly box our meal to go as we hastened out with a squawking baby in tow. No wonder young families frequent eating establishments such as food courts, where the cries of children can barely be heard above the din of clattering plastic trays. "The perfect ambience" takes on a whole new meaning with an infant.
Pre-baby, our travel itineraries were filled with activities. Even a three-hour layover in a new city meant we would leave the airport and traipse around the metropolis until departure time.
Such whirlwind scheduling is infeasible with a child because plenty of extra time must be allotted for feedings, naps and inevitable mishaps. Murphy's Law predicts that the diaper will definitely leak right before a tight connection.
Malleability, too, is going by the wayside. I used to be able to cajole my husband into putting off a meal, for example, if we were in the midst of touring a famous site. Waiting, however, is not part of an infant's vocabulary. Their concept of time is that the past, present and future are all melded into now, and now, unfortunately, does not mean after we have viewed the last exhibit, exited the tour bus or finished snapping photos. Now means now.
EVENING ENTERTAINMENT is nonexistent unless we are willing to hire a stranger to watch our precious bundle, and then forgo sleep because the little one is wired to rise with the sun.
This past New Year's Eve, we had it planned perfectly. Our flight home on New Year's Day required us to awaken at 5 a.m. We would stay in a hotel geared toward business travelers (and therefore, we posited, vacant over the holidays), retire around 9 p.m. and skip the festivities.
Then I spied it -- a flier in the lobby promoting the hotel's New Year's Eve Party, the "Night of a Thousand Singles." Sure enough, hundreds of smartly dressed gents and ladies swarmed the building that evening.
"Are you going to party all night?" an energetic young man asked my husband while I followed a bunch of Gen-Y partygoers to the ice machines. My cubes were for the baby's food, while their ice would be chilling libations for which our youngster was definitely underage.
Amazingly, we slept right through the revelry, perhaps exhausted from a fortnight of traveling with our munchkin.
Now that we have survived our first few trips with baby, maybe we can venture farther next time. Central Asia is not on the list, however. At least, not yet!
Monica Quock Chan is a Honolulu-based freelance writer and former marketing executive. She has lived in Europe and Asia, and traveled to 50 countries.