Essentials For Flying With A Baby
The first time I booked a flight with Jack (solo, no less!) I probably spent every single nap time leading it up for weeks perusing websites, hunting for tips, tricks, and ideas on how to get through that 2.5 hour flight with a baby.
Turned out, I didn't need to worry. He slept for half the time, was utterly fascinated by his surroundings, spent a good 30 minutes inspecting the safety card from the seat pocket and only started to fuss around the time we started to descend. He was 15 months though, and was still a few weeks shy of walking. Less mobile will often make for an easier travel experience. There were a few key things I was glad I had with me and would recommend to others flying with babies.
1. An amazing baby carrier. Keeps the baby close to you and calm while ensuring you have your hands free. The TSA will let you keep your baby in the carrier but expect them to do a pat down and swab the carrier. I found it to be extremely quick and didn't add any additional hassle to the usual security procedure. My personal favorite (and the carrier I couldn't live without for almost two years) is the Ergobaby360 which allows you to put the baby in one of four different positions.
2. A lightweight blanket. While I never used these Aden & Anais swaddle blankets for actually swaddling my son, they've served a multitude of uses in our household, including on plane flights. They add an extra layer when it's cold, block out sunshine and light for a nap, provide privacy for nursing, and can be used for an impromptu game of peekaboo. Best of all, they're so thin that they roll up extremely small in your luggage.
3. Multiple changes of clothes. I once read an interview with a woman who got on a five hour flight from New York to Paris with no extra clothing for her infant daughter. Babies have blowouts all the time and being at 35,000 feet doesn't change that. Pack more than you think you'll need. Better to have three changes of clothes rather than a naked baby. I love these basic Gerber onesies. They're super affordable so if they end up stained and destroyed, you can easily toss one rather than trying to carry soiled clothes with you and go with everything.
4. A solid stroller that's easy to steer and can accommodate your car seat. Odds are, you'll need a car seat at your destination so if you can snap the two together, it's going to be much easier to navigate through the airport. Strollers are easy to get gate-check, although I'd recommend investing in a stroller bag to protect yours from getting beat up by baggage handlers and in the cargo hold of a plane. Full disclaimer: I didn't actually travel with one when my son was an infant as our destination was to visit my parents and they had a stroller and car seat there for us. That said, I've heard excellent things from traveling friends about the Uppababy Vista and corresponding car seat and probably would have gone in that direction if we'd had a need to. Now that our son is older, we've opted for an Uppababy G-Luxe which is a great, basic umbrella stroller that collapses easily and has a reclining option on the seat. We also purchased this bag to keep it protected.
5. A fun, long necklace. A side benefit to this is you can take it off easily at security if necessary but throw it on to look polished. The real purpose, of course, is the hours of entertainment value is may provide to your little one. I love this one by Natalie Borton.
- If I were traveling with an infant still in the "nothing but milk" stage, I wouldn't bother with snack cups but if your little one is eating things like cheerios, I highly recommend these Oxo snack cups. While I hate to encourage mindless snacking as entertainment, one cup of cheerios was enough to entertain my son for 30 minutes of a flight and that in itself is priceless.
- Think about what your child really enjoys to do. Ours wouldn't touch an iPad the first time we flew with him, and had no interest in movies, but loves books so it made sense to find room for a few even though they take up a lot of room.
- Utilize things you wouldn't think of. My son loves to pull the paper off straws, like the kind you get in Starbucks. Studying the emergency card from the seat pocket kept him mesmerized for 20 minutes.
- Not something to bring but just a tip I learned. Originally our diaper pouch fit the best at the bottom of the backpack...which is a horrible place to have to dig it out from when you're child has a diaper that needs changing and you're two minutes from boarding. I ended up shoving some emergency diaper essentials in an outer pocket of my backpack which made them easy to reach for in a pinch.