(This post should have been up two months ago. I’ve been trying to make sure this draft sees the light of day and here we are, finally.)
“Madam, how are you going to manage?” Inquired the Indian lady at the preflight desk at Dubai International Airport.
I was standing before the desk holding my sleeping 2-month-old baby in a sling-carrier in my arms while attempting to push a small luggage cart piled high with my hand luggage. The said luggage consisted of 2 full backpacks, a baby-sized ‘sleeping bag’, my jacket and a baby blanket. I could feel the eyes of the other passengers on me, wondering the same thing. How was I going to navigate to my seat with all that luggage and a baby?
“And it’s so heavy,” she grumbled as she helped me move my luggage to the seating area behind the counter, the area just before boarding. “I’m helping you now but I don’t know how you will manage.”
The bag she was talking about was only 7Kg, the hand luggage limit. I wondered when Emirates staff had become so brusque. In fact, I noticed fallen standards at the Dubai Airport; staff were rude, and it wasn’t so clean. The terminal was crowded and noisy; they had probably moved all the transit flights into one area. I remember eventually having to tell off some Asian guy playing loud hip hop on his portable speaker to turn it down so my baby could catch some sleep. Why the hell do people do that? Nobody wants to listen to your noise. Use headphones.
Back to the Emirates staff, I chose to say nothing. In fact, there was nothing to say. In my defence, I had packed up an entire apartment into 2 medium-sized suitcases and the said hand luggage. My luggage literally couldn’t have been any less.
Well, I managed just fine, thanks to the help of a fellow passenger. When it was time to board the plane, I looked around for someone I could ask for help and settled on a tall man whom I guessed wouldn’t complain about the said 7Kg bag. The Senegalese man was kind enough to walk me all the way to my seat and where he handed my bags to the cabin attendant, who then stowed them away in the overhead cabins.
It was also thanks to the help of another tall man, a Russian at that time, that I was able to go through the security check upon landing at Dubai Airport for my transit flight to Nairobi. I hate that we have to go through security checks during transit. I remember a time when there weren’t such checks.
I could finally breathe a sigh of relief when we arrived at JKIA in Nairobi. I told the airport staff I had a baby and plenty of hand luggage, and they told me not to worry, they’d call someone to take care of me. Shortly after, one of the airport staff came and took all my hand luggage (without complaining) and led me through all the checks (covid, immigration, customs), cutting to the front of the queue each time. He even waited until all my checked-in baggage had come through the carousel, loaded it on a cart and wheeled it outside to where my brother was waiting to take me home. I left him a generous tip.
The flight itself wasn’t that bad. K wasn’t that fussy, but he never completely settled. He could only sleep in my arms and he’d scream whenever I put him down in the bassinet provided. So it was with aching arms that I arrived in Nairobi.
And that’s how I managed.
Survival Tips for Traveling With an Infant
- Carry minimal hand luggage, just the baby’s things really. One light backpack should do it. I didn’t do this and it was hectic.
- Exclusively breastfeed 🙂 This helped me as I didn’t have to worry about mixing formula and cleaning bottles. An option if you’re not breastfeeding is to carry premixed formula and then ask for hot water to warm the bottles.
- Lightweight baby carrier, such a sling, is very helpful. You need your hands free a lot of the time.
- I saw some people get on board with these really compact baby strollers that can be folded to fit in the overhead cabins. Might need that if the baby is a little older.
- Shortest flight is best, regardless of the cost. Qatar and Ethiopian Airways had cheaper but much longer flights. When traveling with a baby, the shortest flight is the best.
- The Emirates flight attendants were really kind. If you need to go to the bathroom, or to stretch your legs for just a second, feel free to ping the attendants to hold your baby for you.