Tips for traveling on your own with a baby and lots of luggage or (wind) surf gear
Since 2008 I have been to Jericoacoara EVERY year, and all those 12 years I always stayed for a few months. It feels like home to me.
It is one of my favourite places in the world. It’s stalways windy, unlike any other place in the world I don’t even have to check the forecast. It’s simply every day windy and you can windsurf in bikini (or board short) ever day. There are only sandy streets, happy people, nice waves, good food and an incredible lifestyle.
So now with winter knocking on the door in Europe I like to go back to Jeri.
However, things will be a bit different this time. I became a mom end of 2020 and this time I will not just travel with my board bags but also with a little baby and things that come along with a baby. Since I am not together anymore with her father I am raising her on my own, so this time I will need to not just carry windsurf bags but also a baby – and everything the baby needs…
For those who ever traveled with board bags, did you ever feel slightly nervous about traveling on your own with your windsurf gear? Even when your board bags are not overweight there is still that feeling of relieve when you are checked in and it all went good. Then there is still the worry wether the board bags will arrive on your destination the same day as you, if they will be in one piece and if it would all go smooth with the stopover or the transfer and taxi afterwards.
The first time I flew with gear I remember like the day of yesterday. I never paid as much as that time ever after! After traveling for so many years with so much gear and so many bags it became like a routine. There is still a lot of luck involved whether they will be difficult with the overweight but there is also skills involved how to avoid problems.
Over the years I started traveling with more and more gear every year. The first two years I came to Brazil I rented gear and from then on I had my own gear which I wanted to bring. At first that was just one board, two sails, one boom a mast.
But that became more and more. Spare boom and masts are useful if you stay such a long time. Besides a freestyle board and freestyle sails I also started to take my wave board and waves sails. And a SUP for the days with waves.
I started doing a lot of competitions and I traveled all around the world with my gear. So after traveling for over ten years with lots of board bags I am used to quite a bit of luggage hassle. Traveling with multiple freestyle and wave gear, a SUP board, fins, spare booms and masts; it was often between 100 and 200 kilos I was dragging around at airports.
I’ve had it all. Companies that wanted to charge me 1500 euro for overweight luggage. Bags that got refused on board, bags that got lost. Or I simply had to many bags to carry on my own but they refused to help me because of safety reasons.
I think I could call myself an experienced overweight sport luggage traveler on my CV.
But traveling with windsurf gear and a little baby is a new challenge. I had to pack different and think about it all.
Let’s start with the travel. It’s a bit of a journey to get there, which never bothered me at all but with a little baby I know it might be a very long and tiring journey. I try to find the best flight with just one (not too long) stopover.
My flight is at 7AM, which means we have to get up at 3AM to get to the airport. My parents offer to bring me which makes all the difference, so at least we don’t have to spend a night in a hotel the day before the flight. The check in goes smooth. I have Aya in a carrier bag on my belly and she is smiling to the lady at the counter. Because I am on my own they let me check in my board bag without having to put it on the scale to weigh the bag. That’s lucky for me because its at least ten kilos overweight.
I am mentally prepared to have a disastrous 10 hours during the long-haul flight, as being prepared for the worst it can only be better in real life, right? However Aya is being absolutely incredible. She laughs at everyone, plays and during the entire flight she doesn’t cry once. I start to think traveling with a baby is easy!
The second part of the trip goes less smooth unfortunately. First of all our luggage does not arrive. Well my board bag full of windsurf gear arrives, but not our two normal bags with everything else. Luckily I was prepared for this, I packed very well and just in case I put all the necessaries for the first days in my hand-luggage. Bad thing of that is that besides carrying a baby I was also carrying a lot of hand luggage with a trolley and two bags but it now turns out it was worth the hassle.
There is also still a 5 hour drive from the airport to Jericoacoara but I didn’t expect this to be a problem. She normally sleeps very well in the car and by the time we start driving it is midnight in Europe.
However, she cries 5 hours non stop until arrival. No expectations is the key!
We wake up at 5AM when the sun rises here in Brazil. Not a bad hour to wake up for her on our first day. I am pleased about that good start and after putting on some suncream on both of us I take Aya for a little walk at the beach. I feel the sun getting stronger quickly. It feels so good having sunshine on my face again after being in cold Europe for the past months. I am staying in Pousada Windjeri, a nice hotel close to the beach.
Other years I would be on the water as soon as the wind kicks in on my first day. Thats different this time, with a baby it takes some time to settle and arrange things. Also, I have my board bag but my harness, extensions and fins are all in other bags so instead of rushing to the water I am enjoying a swim with Aya, drink a coconut, eat some acai and watch the windsurfers fly over the water.
I have been a professional windsurfer for many years but raising a child on your own basically feels like being atlete again, both physically and mentally. I love being a mom and I am so grateful to have her, and to be able to be in Brazil together. But being alone with a little baby does mean things will be quite different this time.
On the third day my other bags have arrived and I have found a really good nanny for Aya who will take care of her when I am on the water.
I feel happy as a little kid to go windsurfing! I rig my sail and walk to the water. The first session always feels so good. It’s windy and like every year I am using my 4.0 and 85 liter freestyle board.
It’s a lot quieter at the water now with the pandemic. We are often just with a handful of windsurfers on the water, and it’s great to have the spot for ourselves. Jeri is also perfect for winging and on the lighter days I practise on the water with the wing. I say less wind but I am still always using a 3.5 or 4.2 wing.
During my sessions I notice I am being more careful on the water now I am a mom. It’s not a conscious choice to be more careful and nothing major but thinking back how I used to throw myself of a steep ramp just to try a new move I realise that now learning a new move or learning to wing I am more gentle and secure. I also used to get pretty upset when I would have a very bad session or when I would struggle, but I now I am less tough on myself and simply enjoying every moment on the water.
I have only been out of the water for a little while during and after pregnancy (I kept windsurfing till I was 6 months pregnant and started again when Aya was three months old) and luckily it feels like I have never been off the water. The only thing which not the same yet are my stomach muscles and because of that I have quite some catapults on the water!
I am not the only one who loves being in the water. Every morning I walk to the beach with Aya and as soon as she sees the ocean she starts to run towards the water with her tiny legs. She laughs every time a wave comes rolling in and she pushes my hands away when I try to hold her. Walking in the water with the current and waves is pretty difficult and a perfect training; with the weeks passing I see her walking better and faster.
After all those years being here I now discover that Jericoacoara is not only a paradise for windsurfers and for people who like good food and parties but that it’s also a perfect place for families and little children. They can play all day long at the beach, wear nothing but diapers and a hat against the sun. Everything is with walking distance here, you don’t need a car. I have a buggy from Thule that can manoeuvre in the sand so even in the sand I can go everywhere with Aya. In the evenings I bring her with me to the restaurant. She loves all the local and healthy food; rice, beans, fish, tapioca, pao de queso, papaya, coconuts and acai.
Holland goes back in to a lockdown end of December, the day before we fly back. I quickly decide to stay a few weeks longer in that case. We spend Christmas and New Year in Brazil with my local friends. The wind slowly dies, tropical rain showers appear some days but we still enjoy the waves and sunshine every day before it’s time to take the journey back home. I am ready for the travel and tell myself again; no expectations!
However, there are also advantages of traveling on your own with a baby. They LOVE babies at the check in counter. I always have my daughter in a carrier with me on my belly like a little koala and so far it always worked in my favour having her with me. When she cries they feel rushed and help me out quickly with the gear, often without weighing it. When she is happy and smiley they are friendly and helpful. You don’t have to queue, people are helpful and somehow I always end up having new friends after a long haul flight.
Some good travel tips with a baby:
- Take all your essentials for your baby in your hand luggage,
- Bring some spare clothes for your baby and a spare shirt for yourself in your hand luggage
- Bring your baby with you in a carrier so you have your hands free and check the pram in
- Give them often something small to eat so they don’t get hungry during the travel, forget about their normal rhythm.
- Give them something to drink with take off and landing so their ears don’t hurt
- Wrap the pram in a plastic cover so it’s protected a
- You can put some clothes / towels on the bottom of the pram so you can take some extra kilos.
- Although you can go in the plane earlier with a baby I prefer to go in last, so you spend less time in the plane and you can see if there are some rows with free seats left.
- Don’t have expectations for the travel and first days
- Protect the nose of your board with a bag of diapers
- Don’t be shy to ask people for help, people like to help but don’t offer themselves
- Keep smiling, what ever happens. Sometimes they will cry for hours. You do your best.. and thats all you can do. Becoming frustrated doesn’t help and in my experience people are most friendly when I show I do what I can and stay calm myself.
- Because of all the impressions it might be hard to fall asleep for the baby. The carrier can help as they don’t see anything, they just smell their parent and hear your heartbeat.
- If you go for a long period you might consider bringing your own baby chair for the car. In some countries the quality is very bad and they are not safe. It’s EVEN more stuff to bring, but you can check it in and it’s often free of charge.
The travel can be hard, it can be super smooth. But even with a tough journey I always thought it was worth it – after I passed the few hard days without sleep. If you try to adapt to the moment, your baby will probably do the same.