Traveling with a baby is easier than you might think (if you’ve never done it), especially if they’re still immobile! ha!! Seriously though, I remember Raef’s first plane ride. I was worried if we’d have enough food, would he cry, what about the recycled cabin air and close proximity to random strangers who carry germs!?! I did my online research, asked around…stressed about how to pack and what to pack, would I have enough of everything he’d need? His first flight was international from Miami to the Dominican Republic, when he hit the 2 month old mark (yes, he needed a passport), and it was roughly a 2 hour flight.
It was definitely a good thing for his first flight that Mommy and Daddy were both present, and it was probably even better for me to get a first-hand process overview, with an extra pair of hands available, for check-in, going through TSA Security and also getting the car seat and stroller to our destination in one piece! Planning and organization are key – I think that really applies to anything you do as a parent. Things you can do ahead of time include calculating how much formula/food you will need, think about bottles, containers and other baby aides that will make your trip easier. Call your hotel ahead of time, inquire about refrigerators, cribs, laundry facilities, etc… Another good thing to know is where are the grocery and drugstores in the area you’ll be staying in. For our trip to DR we’d be on a resort and I had to bring all the formula, diaper and wipes with me..the last thing I wanted to do was try and hunt these things down when I got there or pay crazy prices at the hotel gift shop, not even knowing if they’d carry what we’d need..so yeah, I brought all my own stuff!
On his first trip, everything went fine, he didn’t cry at all on landing and takeoff or through the entire flight! We did make sure we had a bottle ready to go to feed him, but if I remember correctly, he was sleeping both ways or had a pacifier, and he was fine, no air pressure issues at all. We did take our stroller to the gate and check it, but before doing so, we placed both the base and car seat in a huge stroller travel bag I purchased prior to the trip…I mean if you pay that much for it – we have the Orbit Baby Travel System, you want to keep it “nice” and make sure all parts are there upon arrival!
Now to the point of my story…air travel with a baby, by yourself, isn’t hard at all. On subsequent trips with Raef when it was just me, this is what I did:
- Give yourself plenty of time! I can’t stress this enough, get to the airport early…that way there’s no need to rush!
- Check in my bag and stroller. Keep your carry-on items to a minimum, bring only what you need. All that amounts to basically a diaper bag. Bring several diapers (minimum 6) and extra formula (whatever you think you’ll need plus 2 extra bottles worth, unless of course you breastfeed. TSA doesn’t open ready-to-feed formula or your bottles, but do keep them easily accessible since they do “test” them before letting you through, so you will have to take them outside of the bag..actually put them in a bin before you go through the scanner.
- Wear the baby. I ended up using the Baby Bjorn carrier to walk through security and get on the plane, my stroller (at the time) was 2 pieces, it was much easier to get it checked in at the counter, rather than struggle to somehow hold the baby, fold it up and get it in a bag at the gate.
- Check to see if you can be assigned a seat with an “open” seat next to it. Baby will have to stay in your lap for take off and landing, but it’s nice to have the extra room if you can get it. I think it’s made a world of difference for flights where we went coast to coast, giving the baby a place to lay/nap, stretch out and play. In all my experiences we’ve always had an understanding person in our row and I’ve never had any issues. I think we fear the horror stories and as a parent you are going to be way more embarrassed and sensitive to every noise and movement the baby makes, but really…people understand, after all, they were all babies at one time too! 😉
- Bring a few toys, maybe new ones or one that hasn’t been played with in a while. Also if baby has a security blanket make sure that is nearby!
- Make sure the baby is nursing or feeding at takeoff and landing…something to suck on like a pacifier also works!
- Order and ship formula, diapers, etc.. to your destination ahead of time if you can. That way you won’t have to spend time shopping for the items once you arrive.
- Consider using ready to feed formula and needing only nipples and collars to top each bottle (Evenflo brand fits perfect) or perhaps the Playtex drop-in liners.
Now, I’m not going to lie, there was a flight where I was “that Mom.” After our first flight to Dominican Republic, I flew solo with Raef on several cross-country flights, but then on our last flight when I was entering my 3rd trimester with Isaiah and Raef was now 9 months old…there was drama on the return to Florida from California. It was like as soon as we had gotten to San Francisco, he started teething on his outer teeth – we had no issues with his front top and bottom, but these were a different story. So actually the whole trip he wasn’t quite himself…he wouldn’t eat, take a pacifier and had vomited a few times, so I was VERY uneasy about the return..not to mention my belly was kinda on the big side by now! Needless to say, he cried, okay screamed and couldn’t sleep for most of the near 6 hour flight back to Florida. We had a open seat next to us, but he just wanted to be held. He was over tired and his gums hurt…pobrecito! In hindsight I don’t know why I didn’t think to get some Baby Tylenol, to give to him, I think I was in an anti-meds mode because my pediatrician had told me not to give him anything – but she was referring to Benedryl I had inquired about to make him drowsy for no specific reason other than we’d be flying. I did have some other teething remedies, like the teething tablets, but they weren’t working. Thankfully, we did make it home with no major incident, although I did have to endure a couple annoyed glares and unsolicited comments, but people just want to be “helpful.” I tried to explain that he was teething, that his behavior was only intensified by being stuck on a plane, but he was just as uncomfortable the day before while we were firmly on the ground. Ah yes, you will always inevitably run into strangers who want to tell you what is bothering your child, that the air pressure is making them act that way or that you should do this or that…just grin and look the other way! The moral of this part of my story, keep some ibuprofen handy (among other things), just in case.
Ultimately, you know your baby best and you need to do what will work for you. As they get older and more mobile it becomes more of a challenge because they’ll want to crawl or walk to explore and it’s much harder to get them to stay still. Another thing you can do is try to get them tired before boarding, maybe walk around or let them get some energy out…not sit stuck in the stroller at the gate..waiting…that won’t help when it comes time to sit before take off. Think about the times of day you’ve scheduled your flights, try to find what will work when baby is least fussy! I say focus on the great things about traveling with a lap infant is you get to cuddle with your cutie the entire flight and time goes by A LOT faster!