The scari­est carry-on: A baby

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - BY AMY ORNDORFF amy.orndorff@wash­

Ire­as­sured my­self as I walked to the check-in counter at Wash­ing­ton Dulles In­ter­na­tional Air­port by run­ning through my to do list. Pass­port? Check. Tick­ets? Check. Three hours al­lot­ted to make it to the gate? Check.

I am not usu­ally an anx­ious flyer. I’ve made sev­eral in­ter­na­tional trips and an­nu­ally trek to my hus­band’s na­tive Trinidad to visit my in-laws. But this time we were headed south with an ex­tra carry on — our 5-month-old son, Si­mon.

Se­cured in the car­rier against my chest, Si­mon wig­gled and whim­pered to be free as I bounced on my toes and prac­ticed my best apolo­getic face. I silently promised ev­ery­one I made eye con­tact with that I would drive to the Caribbean just as soon as a bridge was built. Next time, we’ll strap float­ies to Si­mon’s arms and swim. Prom­ise.

To com­pen­sate for my un­pre­dictable trav­el­ing part­ner, I had thrown my­self into con­trol­ling ev­ery other de­tail of our trip.

Since there is no direct flight from the Wash­ing­ton area to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, we had to choose a lay­over. While we usu­ally go through Miami, for this trip we chose Or­lando. It of­fered a perk — Walt Dis­ney World. Surely a plane full of fam­i­lies headed to the most mag­i­cal place on Earth would be for­giv­ing. I wished upon a star and kept plan­ning. While my hus­band dealt with pur­chas­ing the tick­ets and fill­ing out the pa­per­work for Si­mon’s pass­port, I con­sulted with other moms about how to make our first flight as a fam­ily as smooth as pos­si­ble. First les­son: Leave the big­ger, bulkier stroller at home. Sure it had plenty of pock­ets, cup hold­ers and wheels that made for a smooth ride, but the sim­ple Snap-N-Go would be eas­ier to col­lapse and pass through se­cu­rity. Plus, the de­tach­able car seat could be taken on the plane if we were for­tu­nate enough to have an empty seat next to us.

But I knew the real test would come in the air. Si­mon couldn’t wipe his own nose, so how would he han­dle his ears pop­ping? Les­son two: Nurse him or give him a paci­fier — any­thing to get his lit­tle jaw mov­ing. I packed enough paci­fiers to quiet a small day-care cen­ter.

Af­ter scan­ning Pin­ter­est, I con­sid­ered cre­at­ing lit­tle bags of treats for our fel­low fliers in hopes of fos­ter­ing good­will. In­stead of wast­ing my lim­ited time en­gag­ing in pre­emp­tive de­fen­sive­ness, I de­cided to in­dulge in the small lux­u­ries of new par­ent­hood — such as show­er­ing.

When the day of the trip fi­nally came, I was ready. As we checked our lug­gage I took a men­tal in­ven­tory of Si­mon’s es­sen­tials. A friend had ad­vised me to “bring one di­a­per for each hour of travel,” plus ex­tras in case of de­lay, so I packed about a dozen for the first leg of the trip — a 21/2-hour jaunt.

The bot­tles were in a clear plas­tic bag with the other liq­uids ready for the se­cu­rity in­spec­tion. I packed enough toys to keep him en­ter­tained through pu­berty. There was even a chew toy in case his first tooth de­cided to make an ap­pear­ance some­where over South Carolina.

Si­mon squirmed as I slipped off my shoes and walked through se­cu­rity. Hav­ing him in a car­rier, not only did I had two free hands to heave the over­loaded di­a­per bag onto the con­veyor belt, I didn’t have to strug­gle to get him out of the stroller in or­der to fold it up and send it through the x-ray ma­chine.

A well-trav­eled mom friend ad­vised me to place the col­lapsed stroller on the con­veyor belt wheels-up to pre­vent it from spin­ning in place. It truly takes a vil­lage. Once I had my shoes back on, I used my free hands to pat my­self on the back.

As we boarded, the flight at­ten­dants cooed over Si­mon and praised him for be­ing adorable and well-be­haved. (Read: quiet.) Un­for­tu­nately, there wasn’t a free seat next to us. Si­mon would be a lap baby.

I tucked his di­a­per bag un­der the seat in front of me (eas­ier to reach there than in the over­head com­part­ment) and cud­dled him. He re­sisted my ef­forts at con­fine­ment by squirm­ing, stretch­ing and whin­ing loudly. I made a men­tal note to board at the last pos­si­ble minute in the fu­ture. If any­one gave me dirty looks, I didn’t no­tice as I al­ter­nately fo­cused on shush­ing Si­mon and re­sist­ing the urge to or­der a stiff drink.

Then the best-case sce­nario un­folded — as the plane took off, Si­mon closed his big brown eyes and fell asleep. He briefly winced and rubbed his ears as we as­cended, but oth­er­wise he was lulled into a peace­ful sleep by the en­gine’s vi­bra­tions. The flight was beautiful and mer­ci­fully short.

It might have also made me a bit over­con­fi­dent. For our next fam­ily trip, we are con­sid­er­ing Europe.

It’s a small world, af­ter all.

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