Tips for Flying With a Baby
Would I rather fly for four hours, on two different planes to get to a semi-decent destination with a five-month-old or be kicked in the face? It’s hard to choose.
There are however, a few major things that would propel me into this situation. One of them was my grandma’s 90th birthday party. So, with cutie pie Marissa in tow, I set off for our long journey to the tippy toe of New Mexico.
What can I tell you of my reluctant adventure? Well, Marissa was not an angel baby as so many liars, I mean people, told me their babies were on flights (i.e. “oh, he just slept the whole way there”). Nor, was she a total drama queen. She fell somewhere in between, in part, because of a lot of planning on my end.
If you must travel by yourself with a baby, here are some of my survival tips:
1. Plan your traveling outfit carefully. I wore slip-off shoes (better for going through security), sweatpants, a nursing tank and a hoodie. You’ll definitely want something with an elastic waistband (so you can go the bathroom one handed), pocket space for the items you want to have easy access to (like binkies), and a nursing top if you’re breastfeeding. Word to the wise, don’t bring a coat with you on board. It’s bulky and is just one more thing to carry if you get too hot. Instead, pack it at the very top of your suitcase and you can quickly pull it out once you claim your baggage.
2. Pack for the worst. Plan for delays, missed flights, and mid-air poopsplosions by packing extra diapers (one diaper for every hour of travel), one extra baby outfit, and more food and drink than you think they would need. On the way, as the plane was descending, my sweet pea decided to let loose her bowels. I helplessly watched it ooze up her back as the plane made it’s way toward the Dallas landing strip. Of course this happened when we had a layover of only 40 minutes and had to get to another terminal ASAP. I wrapped an airline blanket around Marissa, dashed to the closest bathroom, threw away her soiled clothes and whipped her into an extra outfit. We were the last to board the next flight. But we made it. Extras do come in handy.
3. Pull a Linus – bring a blankie. It does take up a lot of space in your diaper bag, but bringing a blanket with you is a must. Rolled up, it can act as a soft prop for your tired arms as you hold a, hopefully, sleeping baby. If it’s chilly in the plane or where you land, it can keep your babe cozy or you can throw it on the floor while waiting for the next flight and let baby get in a good stretch.
4. Ditch the stroller. I wore my trusty Baby Bjorn front carrier rather than toting along a stroller so that I could have my hands free. In the airplane, I was able to reach up into the overhead bins and once we landed, could load myself up like sherpa.
5. Bring snacks and drinks for yourself. Refreshments will invariably come around when your baby is asleep in your arms and you don’t dare to even scratch an itch. Besides that, if you’re traveling with your little one on your lap and flying coach, it’s unlikely that there will even be enough room to comfortably put the tray table down. I packed granola bars to eat when the time was right and my grumbling tummy was ever so thankful.
6. Audio books are your friends. Although there wasn’t as much Marissa sleepy time as I would have liked, there was some. During that time, I was able to listen to a novel that I had been meaning to read for ages. I purchased the audio book through ITunes and put it on my IPod Shuffle. Then, before we took off and Marissa fell asleep, I plugged the headset into my ears so that with a press of a button the book would come on.
7. Bypass the lines. At some airports, there is a special entrance to bypass security lines that people traveling with children can take. I made the mistake of standing in the regular line with a fussy baby for 10 minutes when I could have gone right through.
Traveling with a baby is tiring, but with the right planning it doesn’t have to be awful. Most fellow travelers are much more sympathetic than you think – especially when they believe that babies are crying because their ears hurt. Not only are they sympathetic, but most everyone recognized that traveling alone with a baby is tough and went out of their way to help me reach something, or waited patiently while I got us together to exit, or picked up items we dropped along the way. And, it’s truly amazing how once quiet and content, babies make everyone smile.