There's nothing worse than getting on a plane and finding that you've been seated next to a family with a small child. Unless you're the parent of the small child.
I know this first-hand because two days ago, I was that parent. And as I walked onto the plane with baby D, I caught the man seated next to us shoot me a look of resigned hatred; that 'your-mere-existence-has-already-ruined-my-day' kind of look combined with the 'just-my-luck-to-get-stuck-next-to-a-baby' eye roll. Which doesn't exactly inspire the feeling of calm one hopes for before a seven-and-a-half hour flight.
Considering most of my travel with Diana involves getting from the couch to the kitchen and back, and a London-centric, baby-friendly activity or two, deciding to hop on a plane to New York with a three-month-old was a rather ambitious endeavour.
But I figured that once you start getting into the mentality of thinking you'll never travel again because the hassle/stress/logistics of travelling with a child is too much, you start believing it and it becomes more and more difficult to actually take the plunge and ever pack up and set off.
So I started with a bang and took baby D to one of the best cities in the world: my hometown, New York.
While travelling with an infant may be a major source of stress for all involved, the one thing Diana didn't need to worry about were those pesky immigration queues, being both a British and American citizen. Yes, the babe has already achieved my dream in life: she's a dual-citizenship, dual-passport holder. So while one parent is forced to stand with the waiting hordes on either side of the Atlantic, baby D, in all her jet-setting glory, flies on by with the other.
Plane travel is anxiety-inducing for most people, regardless of whether or not they have a child. Between making it to the airport on time and packing efficiently, so much can go wrong. It's a situation that's made all the more strained when one member of the couple is particularly anxious (read: a total spazz) about arriving at the airport super-early and insists on hurrying when the flight is still hours away (you can probably deduce I'm not that person).
Having a baby just adds to the madness because in between panicking about whether or not you'll make the flight you're also panicking about how you're going to manage when your newborn proceeds to shriek for the next several hours. And trying not to forget to pack anything, so bringing the whole nursery on board with you just in case (you never know when she'll decide she wants to play with that stuffed warthog, after all).
Here's what I learned from my first flight with a baby. Organisation is key. So my partner's frantic timetable checking actually meant that we arrived at the airport with everything we needed: belongings, baby and time on our side. As for keeping the babe happy on the plane, the advice to have them in a sucking position attached to the nipple during take-off and landing (recommended to help them with altitude-induced ear popping) really did work.
In addition, the four changes of clothing I packed in my carry-on bag in a frenzy weren't the actions of a slightly psychotic mother (as I thought at the time), but a woman gifted with prescience: Diana pooed through her babygros three times on the flight, requiring four outfits total (she was practically nude by the time we got off the plane).
I also learned that being intimidated by the angry expressions of fellow travellers isn't always necessary. Just because you have a baby on board doesn't mean they're going to be screaming the whole time, just like being seated next to a celebrity heart throb doesn't guarantee a proposal.
Amazingly, Diana couldn't have been a better travelling companion: she spent her time contentedly suckling, sleeping and wooing the flight staff.
In fact, we grudgingly conceded that of the three of us, she was the best behaved throughout the whole journey.
More on Parentdish: Tips for travelling with your baby