Disclaimer: By request, this is an informational post of some of the details involved in traveling internationally with a newborn. If this doesn’t apply to you, please check out one of my other posts for a humorous read.
When I was about 4 months preggerz I was at the peak of my
bitchiness nausea and hormonal rage. I was starting to get depressed from being sick for so long and was trying my hardest to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. An airfare deal popped up in my news feed from a Facebook group I’m in. Qantas Airlines was selling $220 round-trip tickets to New Zealand out of Los Angeles. New Zealand had been on my bucket-list for almost a decade and I’d never seen a ticket there for less than $800. After crying to Dakota saying “I don’t want to feel like my life is over because I’m having a baby,” I ignored the naysayers, and bravely booked two direct tickets for a month and a half after Autumn’s due date. I knew it would be a huge undertaking to travel internationally with a newborn but my own Momma had instilled an adventurous spirit in me and always told me you can achieve anything you want to if you want it badly enough.
We welcomed Chunkz into the world a week before her due date. I was happy to have her on the outside and grateful I had an extra week to get her paperwork in order for her first big trip. I had done some research prior to her birth and discovered I could ask for an expedited birth certificate at the hospital. It came with an additional $40 cost but we could pick it up in less than a week from the Los Angeles County Registrar Office. At nine days old I took Autumn to get her passport photo taken, and it may just be my favorite photo of her for the rest of my life. It truly captured her “what the eff is going on around me” essence.
At two weeks old, Dakota and I loaded our precious babe into the car to apply for her passport. (Both parents need to be present unless you have a notary sign a letter granting permission for a parent to apply solo.) We still had about six weeks before our trip but I didn’t want to take any chances of it not arriving in time, so we also chose to pay the fee to receive an expedited passport. It arrived within the two weeks.
When we bought our plane tickets I called the airline to see what fees would be necessary to bring Autumn as a “lap baby.” I’m not sure if it’s true for all airlines, but for an international flight on Qantas we were required to pay 10% of the current ticket price. Unfortunately we couldn’t buy her ticket at the same time we bought ours because we didn’t know her birthday yet! By the time she was born, 10% of the ticket price was $186. While that was much steeper than it could’ve been, it still blows my mind the three of us flew roundtrip on a direct flight to New Zealand for only $626! We can’t even visit my family on the east coast for that cheap.
When I googled “flying with an infant” I discovered most airlines have available “bassinets,” in bulkhead seating, so the baby can lay down during the flight. I found varying information on how to acquire one, but after calling Qantas, and American Airlines (the operating carrier), they informed me that to guarantee the bassinet seating area we’d have to pay the fee to upgrade to the specific bulkhead seats, but if we waited until the day of departure we could request it at check-in and if no one else had purchased the space we could have it for free. We decided to test our luck because for us both to upgrade to the bulkhead it would’ve cost over $800, which was more than our tickets cost. Being the optimist I am, I’m pretty sure I manifested the free upgrade because as luck would have it, we were seated at the bulkhead without even asking! We didn’t get the upgrade on the way back, but the airline was kind enough to seat us in a row with an empty seat so we had extra space.
One of the bonuses to traveling with a babe is their clothes don’t take up much space. I decided to be over-prepared even though New Zealand is a totes legit country. It didn’t really require extra energy and I didn’t want to have to spend valuable vacay time doing laundry.
I brought one suitcase that Autumn and I shared. We were going for 10 days so I packed Autumn 20 outfits, 3 pajamas, 120 diapers, her nail clippers, a thermometer, 2 packs of wipes, a foldable travel bed and enough socks for the duration. I know this seems excessive to some but I had plenty of space in my suitcase and when I LEFT for the trip I was much more of a nervous new mom than I am now.
Besides Autumn, her diaper bag was my only carry-on for the 13.5hr long flight. I stopped breastfeeding for a few reasons (which I’ll eventually share) so I needed to pack formula. We use the ready-made liquid formula because the powder kind had been clogging Chunkz up. I brought enough for 48 hours because you never know what can happen when traveling and the last thing I wanted was to starve my biggest daughter. I have TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry so security was mostly a breeze. They did have to test each individual bottle of formula so you want to allow extra time if you are planning on bringing liquids for babe. I also packed three outfit changes, diaper cream, twenty diapers, two binkies and warm and light blankets. I brought my temperpedic pillow on the trip because I figured it would be helpful to feed Autumn on the plane. Which was a brilliant idea because we ended up using it to lay her on as well when flying home and we didn’t have the bassinet.
Before getting the tickets to New Zealand I only knew of the green landscapes and that Lord of the Rings was filmed there. After consulting google I discovered they drove on the opposite side of the road! Dakota experienced driving this way when he lived in Thailand so we rented a car to explore more of the country. We brought Autumn’s carseat, sans the base, and also her jogging stroller. Ticket attendants at LAX told us strollers can’t weigh more than 20lbs to be allowed through to the gate. Apparently it would be too big to go through the x-ray machine. Her jogging stroller weighed 30 something pounds so we had to check it with our luggage at LAX. When we left New Zealand they didn’t have any restrictions and they let us straight through the gate. This obvi varies by airport so just be sure to check before you go. I’m really glad we brought the jogging stroller. It has quality tires and allowed us to experience a few things more comfortably than we would’ve had we brought her smaller stroller. We also brought her baby carrier which was great to have for places a stroller couldn’t quite make it. It’s also worth mentioning that New Zealand is very baby friendly with a changing station in almost every bathroom, including some men’s restrooms.
Autumn is the world’s greatest baby and, at only seven weeks old, actually started sleeping through the night the first evening of our trip. The first four nights we stayed at a different place each night. For less than the equivalent of about $150USD we were able to stay in mid-range accomodations. We slept in two motels, a farm stay, a city hotel and a fancy state park hotel from the 1920’s that I was totes obsessed with. Surprisingly each space had it’s own mini-kitchen, which made it so much more convenient for bottle washing. We spent the last few nights of our trip in Auckland. It was nice to stay in one place for a bit. The only complaint about hopping around so much came from Dakota. He was in charge of unloading the luggage. Chunkz was usually sound asleep in her stroller or carseat, just happy to be along for the ride. Each hotel had an extra bed we laid Chunks’ travel bed on. Some even offered the use of a pack n’ play. We used the available pack n’ play at two different places but still placed her on her travel bed inside of it.
At almost 8 weeks postpartum when the trip began, almost all of my pregnancy symptoms had disappeared. Autumn and I both got the ok from our doctors to make the trip. Autumn didn’t have any of her shots yet, but there was no reason to be concerned. I understand some women have symptoms longer than the average 6 weeks, or just physically take longer to heal than others. If this is you, please don’t beat yourself up for not feeling up to any adventures. Everyone is different. I was more than ready to back out of the trip if it wouldn’t have been healthy for my family. So ready, in fact, that I had purchased travel insurance for the first time in my life. But alas, everyone was happy and healthy and it was an amazing experience.
All of the locals and tourists that noticed our tiny babe in tow were super impressed and kept telling us how “brave” we were. I didn’t see it at the time, but looking back, it is quite brave. Especially as a new mom. I had a lot more fears as a mother before the trip, but when you are in a situation where your only option is to rinse a bottle vs sterilize it, or you have to change a diaper in a car seat, you quickly release a lot of typical new mom worries and get comfortable quickly with your new addition. Having a baby isn’t the end of my traveling days. She is just the beginning.