Subject: Re: Travelling with a baby

Your contributions have been missed. Working and raising children is a challenge--I know.

We still prefer our land vacations, but have found cruising to be a perfect family vacation when it's time to do little more than relax and have fun. There is something for everyone, young and young at heart, to enjoy on a cruise. I assume you will be cruising with Disney? They are the only mass market cruise line that truly caters to children as young as your 7-mo. old, and while we have never done a Disney cruise, I have heard rave reviews from parents who found lots to like from an adult perspective. A fabulous online resource on cruising is -- check out the discussion boards, search the archives, post a question, read reviews from other cruisers, etc.

The key to flying with infants is taking all possible steps to minimize ear pain associated with the rapid cabin air pressure changes on take off and landing. Talk with your pediatrician to see what he/she recommends. Do everything you can to keep your child from catching a cold or ear infection before the trip, as that will only make the situation worse. The best advice I received was to be ready to nurse or bottle-feed your child during take off and landing--the sucking and swallowing seems to help equalize the pressure between inner and outer ear. Other than that, just keep your baby on schedule as much as possible with feedings and sleeping, and make sure to push fluids to prevent dehydration. Note that some parents advocate infant cold medicine to put their child into a forced sleep during travel--I would discuss this with your pediatrician to see what he/she says about the practice. It's not a bad idea to come prepared with a basic stock of baby medications prescribed or recommended for your child for routine infant maladies (although the ship's clinic will be well- staffed with doctor and medications). Strongly consider booking an aisle seat so that you can get up and into the aisle more easily with your infant, especially if you need to walk & rock to soothe a crying spell. Some airlines offer basinettes--inquire when you book. Surely, you will be granted first boarding privileges, one of the many perks of traveling with children! And just as a quick dash to the grocery is no longer so quick when taking your infant along, allow more time for navigating the airport, taxis, hotel transfers, etc. while juggling your child and luggage.

To help your child adjust to the time change, you might consider wearing two watches, one set to your time, the other to the time zone where you will be cruising. Then, while keeping your child fairly close to regular schedule, you can start making gradual adjustments a a couple of days before you leave home and keep doing so as you travel so that the transition will be easier. Try to arrive in the US at least one day before the cruise so that both you and your child can further ease the adjustment during a quiet, no-activities stay in a hotel near the port. (Many near-port hotels will offer a shuttle service to transfer you and your luggage to the ship.) Of course, you will want to drag out that home watch and start re-adjusting the timing of feedings and sleeping the last day or two of the cruise.

Flying/cruising with your child is very do-able, and as long as you make the effort to keep your child from unreasonably disrupting other travelers' enjoyment, most fellow travelers will be incredibly gracious, offer to lend a hand, make a sweet fuss over you baby, etc. Keep your sense of humor about you when you encounter travelers who are less tolerant, and take a moment to smooth your hair, freshen your lipstick and do a couple of those deep cleansing breathe in/breathe outs when you are feeling overcome by it all--then, you can conquer anything! But realize that it will be a lot of work for you. Aboard ship, there will be times you can leave your child in the nursery and enjoy yourself. But there will be other times when you will need to be with your child, which will limit your enjoyment of some of the usual types of cruise activities that come to mind. For example, I do not think you will want to take your infant ashore, so you will either have to forego port visits or feel comfortable leaving your child in the nursery while you make a brief foray ashore. (Check with your pediatrician on the issue of preventative vaccinations for travel to the Caribbean, as well--you will need to know the countries you will visit, and if your pediatrician isn't up on travel medicine per country as it applies to infants, then find someone who is; while healthy adults aren't usually required to take any special vaccinations or meds before making port stopovers during Caribbean cruises unless they intend to explore a rural area where exposure rates to mosquitos carrying malaria, for example, may be an increased risk, many medical practitioners advise against taking infants ashore for fear that any exposure could be harmful. A great resource on the issue of healthy travel generally is the US Center for Disease Control website

Congratulations on your motherhood, Simona, and welcome to the world of travel with kids. Our children have traveled with us from infancy, and now, at 9 and 11, they are the best traveling companions we could hope to find. It is fun to see the world through another set of eyes, and I can't think of a better form of education than travel.

Diana Ball near Houston, TX