Five years ago, as a twelve-month-old, my son logged his first flight when we left our West Coast home for our East Coast home. Since the move, we have been lucky enough to travel back to see family multiple times. A 3000 mile flight with small children takes extra planning and consideration, and by now I fancy myself somewhat of an expert. In fact, I have so much to say on the topic, I’ll be sharing my wisdom in a three part series.
Today, we discuss flying with babies, birth to twelve months.
Save a few bucks by traveling with a lap baby.
If you can afford it, buying a seat for your infant is great, but many young families are strapped for cash and the “travel fund” is now the “diaper fund.” Any child over two is required to have a purchased seat, and my kids were lap babies as long as possible (except once, when the seat was super cheap).If you are traveling with a lap baby, see if the gate attendant can put you next to an empty seat if the flight isn’t full. I’ve had quite a bit of success with this request.
If you do purchase a seat, bring the car seat.
Infant car seats can be useful at the airport and on the plane for a few reasons. First, the FAA recommends infants are placed in a rear-facing, airplane approved child restraint system. Second, babies usually like to sleep in their car seats, so they may nap better in a comfortable and familiar space, and they are more portable in their seat. This is obviously only an option if you sprung for a seat for your kid, or if the flight isn’t full and you are able to get your hands on an empty seat. If you end up not being able to use the car seat, it can be gate checked.
Wear your infant.
Since my boy was one when we first started flying with kids, my second-born was my only teeny tiny traveler. I always wore her in the Baby Bjorn, and her brother rode in the stroller. The Bjorn was great because she could sleep on my chest, and it felt like she was more secure on the plane. A carrier allows you to pee while holding your child, and if you are traveling alone with your baby, that will be pretty important. Some flight crews didn’t allow her to be in the carrier for takeoff and landing, but most did. Be prepared for either scenario. Sometimes she was asleep before we took off, and that, of course, was awesome. If she wasn’t asleep, she was nursing.
Bring the right stroller.
Strollers are a must. They can haul kids or luggage, and can be gate checked. You just roll it up to the plane, and it’s available to you for layovers. Make sure you bring a stroller that folds up easily. Also, if you do have a layover, make sure it’s long enough to wait for the baggage handlers to bring your stroller up after the flight and still make it to your next gate. I missed a connection once waiting on a stroller. Beware: Strollers can be damaged when gate checked. Strollers are treated like luggage, and we all know how those bags get thrown around. This is also something to think about if your car seat is gate checked (or checked as baggage).
Since you are traveling with shorties, you will be given the opportunity to pre-board. Take it. Getting your baby settled before takeoff can be great. If you are on a flight that doesn’t have assigned seats, even better. No one wants to sit next to a baby, so you should keep a nice bubble of empty seats around you.
Sit in the back.
Unless you have a tight connection, select a seat in the back of the plane. These seats are less popular, so you have a better chance of an empty seat next to yours, it’s close to the bathroom (and changing tables) and it’s loud. With babies, loud is good. The roar of the plane helps them sleep, and when they do make noise, it isn’t as noticeable to other passengers. Also, the flight crew spends quite a bit of time in the back of the plane, so they will be available to assist if necessary. Besides, everyone knows the cool kids sit in the back.
Make friends with your neighbors.
People may give you the stink-eye. Don’t return it. Your fellow passengers don’t know that your baby is the sweetest, most adorable baby in the world. They are afraid your baby is the one they read about on the news that had to be escorted off the plane for being an asshole. I liked to let people around us know that my baby promised to be good the whole flight. It broke the ice, and set people’s minds at ease. Everyone knows babies always keep their promises.
The same folks who look pissed when you board will look impressed when you deplane. Because your kid kicks ass, and now everyone knows it.
Don’t put your carry-on in the overhead compartment.
Put it under the seat, where you can reach it. I recommend a backpack instead of a diaper bag. If you are a diaper bag carrier, then you have already chosen style over function, but I would encourage you to embrace the backpack in this particular instance. With a backpack, you can jump up and down, bend over, spin around and never have to adjust your bag. You have both hands free, and if you are wearing your baby, the backpack balances the weight. No bag smacking your leg or sliding down your shoulder. I feel very strongly about this topic, but with the weight of the stylish diaper bag industry against me, I know I’m fighting a losing battle.
Pack the right stuff.
That carry-on (backpack!) should hold fewer toys than you think you’ll need, and more diapers, wipes, and spare clothes. Pacifiers, bottles or sippy cups, comfort items, and a book or two should be included, too. These toys and books are even more interesting to kiddos if they are new.
DO NOT forget extra clothes for yourself. Babies love to share, and this includes vomit, snot, and poop. I always bring Ziploc bags in several sizes to hold any items that may fall victim to vomit, snot, or poop.
Food, people. Food!
If your little one drinks formula, bring way more than you’ll need. You never know how long you’ll be stuck at the airport or on a plane because of delays.If you child is eating solids, pack tons of snacks. Nothing sticky or brightly colored. These snacks will get dropped, and you will somehow end up sitting on them. You do not want blue gummy snacks stuck to your ass, or in your kid’s hair.
Not that you would plan on hopping your baby up on sugar, but lay off sugary foods. This includes lollipops, which are often suggested for takeoff and landing.
Keep that baby eating or drinking during takeoff and landing to minimize ear pain.
Pack a first aid kit.
My travel kit includes: Band-Aids, antibacterial ointment, hand sanitizer, and pain reliever for baby (in case of ear pain or injury) and adults (in case of nipple pain – that baby might breastfeed the entire flight – or injury.)
Don’t be a hero.
People are generally very kind to parents traveling with babies, and you will probably have strangers offering assistance. Don’t be afraid to take it, particularly if you are the only adult in your party, as I often am.
Infants are usually fantastic travelers. They sleep, they are easily comforted, they are small and portable, and they are adorable without the grating behaviors of toddlers and preschoolers. Best of all, they fly free!
Tune in tomorrow, when I fill you in on the harsh realities of traveling with toddlers.
I would love to hear your tips for flying with babies. Share them in the comments!
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