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  • Sandy Green

AN INTENSIVE LABOR OF LOVE (aka: How I survived traveling abroad with a 1-year-old)

I’ve been a little behind on the blogging the past two weeks, but with good reason. Jared and I thought it would be a great idea to take Avi to Israel for a family vacation! My cousin Gabby (who I talk about here) had her Bat Mitzvah on Masada (a historic site in the southern desert of Israel) and we just had to be there. Having lived in Israel for 3 years and having made the 12-hour flight over 20 times, Israel has a special place in my heart. I wanted to be there to share this moment with Gabby. And I was adamant that Avi be there with us.

Before the trip, I asked for a lot of advice on traveling abroad with a 1-year old. I got a wide range of responses - including drug him up with benadryl and buy him his own seat on the plane (kids under 2 can fly free but have to sit on your lap). Some parents thought hotels were best while others suggested AirBnb. Bring your car seat or rent one there. And of course some people suggested we just leave Avi home with my in-laws.

The two flights went fairly. While I was against it at first, after speaking to a few pediatricians, we decided to give Avi a dose of benadryl on both flights. Our outgoing flight was at 11pm, so he actually fell asleep in his stroller at the airport. When he woke up during the transfer from stroller to plane, we gave him the recommended dose and he fell right back to sleep for about 7 hours or so. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to sleep with Avi lying on me, but I did have a chance to watch a lot of television. As always, Jared was great partner and held Avi for a little while and I think I slept for about 30 minutes, which was better than nothing. When Avi woke up, my parents took him for a little while and entertained him for the rest of the flight. The flight back was in a morning and a little tougher. Avi did fall asleep on his own for a nap, but he woke up in a terrible mood about an hour later. We decided it would be best to give him a small dose of benadryl and he slept well for the rest of the flight. He spent most of it lying across Jared and me, so this time, neither of us could move! (He also peed through his diaper and clothes. We changed him, but didn’t have clothes for ourselves, so Jared and I us sat covered in pee the entire flight. The joys the parenthood!) ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

MY ADVICE FOR INTERNATIONAL FLYING WITH A 1-YEAR-OLD:
- Try to book a night flight. Your babe will have an easier time sleeping.
- We didn't get Avi his own seat because of the expense, but I highly recommend it, if you can swing it.
- Bring a lot of snacks and empty bottles/sippy cups. On a long flight, there should be milk on the plane. The flight attendants were great about filling our bottle when Avi needed it.
- Bring extra clothes and diapers. More than you think you'll need. Avi somehow peed through 3 outfits on the flight home (on that note, you might want to bring some extra clothes for yourself, too!
- Fly with your parents :-)

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We ended up staying in three different locations - an AirBnb in Tel Aviv, a hotel by the Dead Sea, and an AirBnb in Jerusalem. There were definitely pros and cons to each option (hotel and AirBnb), but I think that if we did this again, we would rent an apartment. It was so nice to have our own kitchen and comfortable common areas. We shared the apartments with my parents, my brother, and his wife, which had its stresses, but was overall fun. Everyone got to really bond with each other (and with Avi) but we still had our own space.

With the itinerary, the name of the game was flexibility. There were days when Avi was a total champ and napped in his stoller, allowing us to do whatever we wanted. And there were days when that just didn’t happen and we’d have to change our schedule to fit his needs. There were days when the weather was just too darn hot for a baby (high temps of 105 in the desert!) and we needed to change our entire plans. And there were meals at restaurants where Avi just couldn’t deal and we all had to take turns holding him, feeding him, and walking him around outside. We ended up taking him to the Jerusalem Zoo on the last day of the trip because we could tell that he had had enough and we wanted to do something that would be fun for him. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

MY ADVICE FOR PLANNING YOUR LODGING AND ITINERARY WITH A 1-YEAR-OLD:
- Rent an apartment. Having a kitchen was a game changer. It meant that we could go to the grocery store and stock up on everything that Avi needed with way less stress. It also meant that we could prepare our own meals at home. Eating out at restaurants while on vacation can be a ton of fun, but every single meal out with a toddler...way less fun. Just make sure the apartment comes with a high chair and crib and you'll be all set.
- Create an itinerary and be ok when it doesn't go as planned. You'll have to come to the terms that vacations will look a lot different with a baby or toddler. Remember - he doesn't know you're on vacation.
- Do little things that allow you to still feel like you're on vacation. Because of the time change, Avi stayed up late and slept in. We took advantage of that and stayed up late ourselves! One of the nights, my parents were kind enough to stay home with Avi so that Jared and I could have a date night.
- Know your baby and be honest about his needs. some kids just need a lot more sleep. Some will wake up early no matter what time you put them to bed. Keep your expectations reasonable.
- Travel with your parents :-)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- At the end of the day, I’m so incredibly happy that Jared and I took on the challenge of bringing Avi with us. It was the most exhausting vacation I’ve ever been on. I didn’t get to do all of the things I wanted, and it wasn’t exactly relaxing. But man, was it fun. Swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, touching the Western Wall, and climbing Masada - these are things I’ve DREAMED of sharing with my child. Experiencing them through his eyes, surrounded by my family was everything to me. He won’t remember the trip, but I will and we’ll have the pictures and memories forever.