Travelling with a baby brings out the best in airlines, Tori Foxcroft discovers.
When I was pregnant, I didn’t see my growing belly as a disability. For me, it was the best thing ever and the bigger I got, the better I felt.
So when it came to standing in long lines at the SAA check-in in Cape Town, I queued for two hours when really, I should have just pushed to the front. Even when no-one was prepared to give up their seats on those pesky buses that transport you from the boarding gates to your plane, I didn’t kick up a fuss. My baby was already doing that for me, so instead I just swayed around unsteadily, grasping at whatever laptop cable I could find, for some sort of support.
Only time I ever really felt like my baby was a burden was when the clock struck 19:00 and it was time for a foot massage. Or I felt like something now. Yup, then I was definitely pregnant, and definitely disabled.
Travelling with a baby is different, though. It is a disability. When you do it alone, you really only have one hand, even if your baby is in a sling or in the pram. Why? Chances of them hanging out happily in the sling or in the pram are very, very slim. So if you don’t get help, or ask for it, it won’t be pretty.
Fortunately, when I made the trip to Cape Town from OR Tambo on my own, 1time airline was exceptionally helpful and went out of their way for us. Needless to say, I was shocked. When does one ever get good customer service in this country? Plus, I wasn’t expecting any sort of preferential treatment.
The first time I tried to use my newborn to my advantage and skip a queue (I stupidly tried to cast my in the April general elections), I was refused. Why would this be any different?
But 1time were great, and thanks to them, and the other passengers on board, I realised that as moms and moms-to-be, throwing around our, erm, weight a bit is a good thing and we really don’t need to pretend to be Superwoman. Trust me, there’s no Noddy badge at the end of the road, so why bother? So when you are travelling with child (and especially if you are on your own):
- Ask someone to (please) carry your bags for you. And ask an air hostess to hold your baby for you when you go to the loo. What can be done at home can’t necessarily be done on a plane!
- Screw feminism, and let the men stand back for you and get your stuff out of the hold.
- Jump all queues, and demand to jump them. If you can’t get away with it now, when can you?
- Make people give up their seats for you. It’s standard practice in a First World travelling system and with 2010 just around the corner, it’s time they learn!
- Stick your Baby on Board sticker on your car as soon as you see that second blue line. Finally, you have an excuse to drive badly, so use it.
These rules, unfortunately, don’t apply to parking in a disabled zone or braving the Woolworths sale - if you decide to head down to that with a belly, pram, or any other form of handicap, you’re on your own, I’m afraid.
How do you find travelling with babies?