Our baby took her first flight when she was 2 months old, to Chicago, to visit her namesake. From a mom standpoint, the entire trip was miserable (besides the fact that I always have fun with my friend and I still think we had a good time doing what we do best, eating and impromptu working out). The baby was sick, my arms were killing me from carrying her everywhere, I was sure her formula had gone bad on the plane and they lost our car seat.
Since then, the baby has flown almost once a month and literally across the world. I’ve flown alone with her from coast to coast, we’ve done a family red eye, we’ve walked the 15 mile terminal at Heathrow and she’s been passed from flight attendants to every willing grandma on the plane and once a poor 15 year old kid who recognized us from an earlier flight and probably regretted sitting with us. Every time we travel we learn something new about what not to do, what definitely to bring, what we can’t change and what to just laugh off. Here are some tips that I wish someone had told ME for our first flights.
- Bring extra: Extra formula. Extra bibs. Extra toys. Extra diapers in the batroom. Extra clothes. Extra clothes for you for when there’s turbulence and you can’t change the babies diaper and she pees through it all over your pants.
- Have everything readily available: One of the best things I ever did was open a granola bar before a flight while the baby was sitting in her car seat. It was easier for me to grab and eat without worrying about dropping her while I was opening it. Pre-pouring water in bottles for formula is also smart, using a caribeaner to clip a toy to your bag to grab if they’re upset and having diapers and wipes tucked into your changing pad.
- Choose your seat wisely: Try to sit on an aisle seat. Quick escape if your baby needs a new diaper or throws up and they’re less likely to try to grab your seat mate if they can reach into the aisle. If you’re in an open seating plane and you’re on the later side of boarding, try to sit by someone who engages your baby as you walk down the aisle. It will make your flight much more enjoyable if the person next to you doesn’t hate children.
- Bring a neck rest or boppy pillow: It’s nice to have something to lean your tired arm against if the baby falls asleep.
- Bring your car seat: If the flight isn’t full, most airlines will let you bring the car seat on the flight. This is a game changer. You can put your baby down and go to the bathroom or make a bottle. If it is full, I usually put the baby in her Ergo carrier and put my diaper bag in the car seat to carry, then check it at the gate. That way I have a seat for her if I have a layover and time to eat.
- Pack light: It’s impossible with a child. But instead of bringing your stroller, search for rentals, like this one in San Diego or this one nationally. If you’re renting a car, you can also rent a car seat. I’ve drug a suitcase, diaper bag, car seat and baby through an airport by myself, and, while I can’t wait to do it again, I’ll probably try to save some arm strength for the rest of the trip.
- Bring an ID for baby: Shot records, birth certificates and passports all work. TSA is extremely inconsistent, but you have to have it if you’re asked.
- Bringing Milk: You can bring pre-made formula, powder and breast milk through security. Make sure it’s out of your bag and you let the TSA know what it is before they find it. They run tests on it, but it won’t harm the milk. Also, some airports like Portland and San Diego have filtered water available in fountains so you don’t have to buy water bottles. Have the baby drink milk on the way up, it will help pop their ears.
What to do if…
- You run out of formula or diapers: we learned this in the last leg of our trip to London. Airports usually have formula and diapers at their baggage claims. If you’re military, the USO’s have extra everything and also have microwaves, couches and places to change your baby.
- You’re on a Red Eye: If you’re flying international, ask to be seated with a bassinet. Many planes have two on board, so call the airline when you book your flight and try to reserve one.
There will be a time when your baby will be THAT baby and you will be THAT mom. On John’s first flight with the baby, the pilots had to turn up the announcements, our baby was screaming so loud. At that point she had actually never screamed that loud, ever, so I was in full panic. The more I panicked, the more she panicked, the more she screamed, the more people stared. It’s stressful and embarrassing, but the reality is, you’ll likely never see these people again and your baby will, naturally, stop crying the minute you land. So sit back, relax, and in case of an unexpected change in cabin pressure, attach your mask before assisting the baby.