Have infant. Will (try to) travel.

“Six Tips for a Successful Trip with Baby.” That email landed in my inbox about two weeks late. But it still didn’t cover what I missed when we took our five-month-old daughter on our first family vacation to Minnesota over the Fourth of July weekend this year.

I spent almost as many days prepping and packing for Anabel as we did on our actual trip.

Have infant. Will (try to) travel.

Our flight left on a Friday morning and I had started counting out the onesies, pajamas, swim diapers, and outfits (for hot and cold weather) the Saturday before our departure.

I even knew what she was wearing on the plane because I’d read that a footed pajama is good so you don’t have to worry about socks, and I was honestly hoping she would sleep most of the time.

Anabel had just started on cereal, so I portioned out what I knew we’d need for the duration of the trip. Of course that meant including the spoons and bowls. The bowls were little tupperware with lids, so if we couldn’t toss what she didn’t finish then at least it would be in an enclosed container.

Not to forget the bottles… We use the kind that have a few parts to them, and I meticulously counted out the bottles, nipples, and internal parts. As for what goes in them, we bought some individual-use formula packets so we wouldn’t have to worry about storage, opening a full container of formula, spillage, cleanup, and so forth.

I even packed a plastic bag to hold the dirty spoons, mixing caps, dirty bottle parts, and any other soiled objects we might happen upon.

Since I was still breastfeeding in the mornings and evenings, the cover and hand pump were included in the diaper bag too. Finally, some good friends loaned us their inflatable Go Crib, which we planned to carry on the plane.

Having set aside, recounted, and repacked enough items to invade a small country, we gave ourselves a bit of leeway on the remaining baby-related accouterments. We packed enough diapers to cover a “just in case” scenario (and then some), with a plan to buy some at our destination after picking up the rental car and car seat. Yes, rather than toting our beloved car seat through parking lots, two terminals, and across 1,200 miles, we elected to rent at our destination. Not ideal, but we were terrified of horror stories about pricey seats and strollers being demolished by baggage handlers.

Oh, and I read countless blogs and articles, consulted with friends, and checked and rechecked our bags leading up to the big day.

The “Big Day” finally arrived.

Check-in was easy, and the gate agent added “infant in arms” to my ticket, which had not been an option when we booked the tickets online. #SoFarSoGood

Security was a breeze. #Winning

The TSA agent actually helped us load everything onto the scanner belt. #IsThisRealLife?

We even had time to navigate the four-mile long line (approximate) at Starbucks and buy coffee for ourselves. #GameSetMatch

Once past security, plied with caffeine, and settled in, we bought water for making bottles and mixing with the cereal.

Arriving at our gate about 20 minutes before boarding began, Anabel started to get fussy, and since we had plenty of time, we figured we’d give her a bottle.

I pulled our food bag out of my husband’s backpack (we’ve got bags in bags, y’all). I repeated the process I’d gone through hundreds of times…

  1. Pour water into the bottle
  2. Pour formula into bottle
  3. Shake vigorously

Remove the myriad parts necessary to build the bottle to feed this increasingly restless baby who’s minutes away from taking her first flight.

Rummaging through our bottle bag, something was amiss. Nothing huge, mind you—I had dozens of bottle parts, backups for each part, and then backups of backups.

I did not, however, have a single one of these:

bottle collar

Yup. I forgot to pack even just one bottle collar. I had the formula. I had the bottle. I had the nipple. But I was lacking the one thing necessary to bring all of this together. #FAILFAILFAIL

After a thread of expletives left my mouth at a volume that was louder than my husband preferred, I calmed down. Surely there would be some type of bottle in the airport store that sells stuff to fulfill every other last minute need for traveling. I didn’t care what kind it was, and it wouldn’t be sterilized, but I rationalized at least my baby would have a nice, full tummy as we boarded for an almost three-hour flight.

While they had size four diapers, they did not carry a single bottle. Minor panic set in.

I looked around for other babies. Realistically thinking I’d be willing to pay someone $20 for any bottle they might have on hand. Fortunately, I was the one on that hunt because I later learned my husband was willing to pay upwards of $200.

I can only imagine how I looked, stalking around our gate area, wild-eyed looking for the parents of any other infants. My panic grew as, somehow, there were none to be found.

Anabel’s minor fussiness, meanwhile, was growing into a full roar.

My next thought was spoons. We had spoons. She’s eating cereal. Maybe we could act like this was formula gazpacho. We spooned a little bit of formula into her mouth.

No. Of course that didn’t work, and only seemed to upset her in the process. Ugh.

(A friend who asked how the flying bit went said this entire scenario sounded like nightmares she’s had, so she already knew in this instance she would’ve tried a straw too. Keep that idea in your back pocket if you ever find yourself in this position. I sincerely hope you never do.)

My husband said something along the lines of “I guess we need new fourth of July plans.”

I responded, “That’s not happening.”

And I sent positive vibes to my boobs in hopes they had a little something in them, since I was no longer pumping midday and they normally wouldn’t be used for a few more hours, but surely there would be something there to help satisfy my child.

We gave it a go, and it worked. Kind of. She’s used to getting a six- to seven-ounce bottle at that feeding, and she definitely didn’t get that much to eat at the time. So she was kind of fussy, but in a good enough mood to get on the plane, which was fortuitous since it was time to board.

We boarded early, settled in, and made her some cereal. We got lucky because she ate some, but because it wasn’t what she really wanted she didn’t eat a lot of it.

Fortunately, the plane was on the small side, so before we knew it, it was time to take off. I gave nursing another shot because:

A. Anabel was still hungry; and
B. Everyone says it’s the best way to get through a take off with an infant

Thankfully, she took to it and—bonus—fell asleep too! #Phew

We had some fussiness while in air, but it seemed like we were over the roughest part of it all. That turned out to be the truth.

Thanks to the first class perks, our bag was waiting for us when we landed. And after getting our rental car, installing the car seat, and finding our way out of the parking garage, we found our way to the store.

I don’t know that I’d ever been in and out of a store so quickly. I bought the diapers and a bottle so we could replace the missing part and in the car my daughter finally got a full meal.

It was fantastic to see family and introduce our newest addition, who was in a good mood most of the time since she was getting full meals. We had beautiful weather and a fun time.

The flight back was uneventful.

Of course there was a lesson learned from all of this: Never travel with an infant again. Of course I don’t mean that, she was a joy, and I honestly can’t wait to travel with her again. I just need to make sure I pack all the bottle parts next time.

Ariana grew up in San Antonio but left home to attend the University of Florida (Go Gators!), where she met and fell in love with her best friend and future husband. Justin’s professional pursuits brought them back to San Antonio, via grad school for them both at UT Austin. Happily calling the Alamo City home for more than a decade, the new parents welcomed a baby girl, Anabel, into their lives this past January and are excited to share the city they love with her. Ariana works as a communications and marketing director for a local nonprofit and is already counting down the days to next year’s Fiesta! She occasionally maintains her blog Corkscrew Curiosity.