1. Make sure your flight leaves at 2:00am. That way you’ll have to wake up your baby to leave for the airport at 11:00pm, ensuring that her sleep is interrupted and she is off to an exhausted start.
  2. Don’t pack Benadryl, ZzzQuil or any other sleep inducing nectar of the gods for her. They are surely dangerous for so young a child, and you wouldn’t want to jeopardize her health …or give her anything that might possibly help her to fall asleep at all during your journey.
  3. Go by yourself. Make sure you leave at the height of allergy, flu, cold and airborne virus season.  Tell yourself that you are a strong independent travel warrior, that this will be an adventure and a challenge, and that you are looking forward to this opportunity to prove yourself. Who needs help? (You. You need help.)
  4. Attach the baby’s pacifier to her clothing using a metal clip. That way, you’ll have to go through the detectors multiple times before you realize why you are both beeping, even after you’ve removed every last scrap of excess clothing and jewelry possible without actually walking through naked.
  5. Don’t wear slip on shoes. Make sure you wear shoes that have a lot of laces and require a bit of elbow grease. While you struggle to tie and untie, the baby can crawl around on the germ-ridden airport floor, chew on the shoes of the security guard, and bring down the stack of gray plastic customs containers onto her head.
  6. Order special meals on your flight. Once your baby has finally fallen asleep, the flight attendant will find you and ask in a yelling tone if you’re the one who ordered the gluten free meal, thereby waking your baby who will not sleep again for the remaining 14 hours of your trip. Also, the gluten free meal is basically made up of small separated portions of flavorless cardboard that no amount of salt and pepper can salvage.  It’s fine; you won’t be able to eat it anyway because you will be busy holding down the baby while she tries to dump rice on her head and throw the food tray onto the lap of the person next to you.
  7. Let your phone fall out of your pocket as you exit your first plane and head into your layover airport. Exit the plane and realize that your stroller is missing. Lug your baby and your carry-ons across the entire airport, and wait till you arrive at your departure gate to realize that your phone is missing. Consider leaving the baby and the bags behind the help counter and running back to retrieve your phone. Reconsider, and give up hope after much useless begging, pleading, and bribing of the customer service personnel.
  8. Sit next to an Asian professor who has to grade economic term papers for the entire 8 hours of your second flight. The baby is a sucker for a good gnaw on a stack of papers, and she is not easily dissuaded when she is running on a sleep deficit.
  9. Bring the baby into the plane bathroom with you, and place her on the baby-changing tray while you use the toilet. The tray is located above the toilet, so it’ll be fun to try to reach up and hold her in place the whole time and make sure she doesn’t careen into the sink, grab the highly questionable waste from the trash, or fall into the toilet itself. Douse both yourself and the baby in hand sanitizer, which she will want to drink, and repeat the whole process every couple hours.
  10. Breastfeed the baby to calm her and help her with the pressure at takeoff and landing. She will be distracted by everything around her, and subsequently leave you exposed and subject to disapproving glances every five minutes.
  11. Walk up and down the aisles for the last four hours of the trip while she cries. That way, you’ll allow all the passengers aboard to partake in her unhappiness.
  12. Upon arrival to the United States, make sure you have a suspicious story to tell the border control officers. Your exhaustion will help you look particularly guilty and sweaty as you talk. Yes, you are traveling by yourself from Lebanon.  Yes, you and your baby have different last names but she is your baby. No, your husband is not with you because he is in Turkey. Yes you live in Lebanon but will be moving to Turkey soon. (This sounds mild as I write it now, but in the moment you can be sure that I dug myself into a dark pit the more I spoke as I tried to explain my circumstances while under intense interrogation, and without having slept for 30+ hours.)
  13. Do it all again on the way home. Practice makes perfect, and soon you’ll be electing to travel alone with your offspring all the time!

Update: I had told C that although we both miss him very much, we simply will not be able to return until Isla is five years old, but then my gracious baby girl offered to take a separate flight on the way back to ease my journey.  What a gem.