I’ve never been afraid to fly. Sure, I’m always glad when the airplane touches down, and I’m not a huge fan of turbulence, but I’m not a nervous flier.
Add a 4-and-a-half-month-old baby to the mix? Oh, I was terrified.
My husband and I went to visit family for the holidays, which meant packing up our daughter and copious amounts of baby supplies for a 2.5-hour flight. Luckily for us, the trip went amazingly well, even when you account for a major East Coast blizzard that delayed our return home three entire days.
I’m sure I’m not the only Nervous Nelly who dreaded being trapped in a plane at 35,000 feet with a baby, cranky holiday travelers and no escape route, so I’ve compiled my list of travel survival tips for parents of infants!
9 Tips for Flying the Baby-Friendly Skies
1. Timing is everything. If possible, time flights so that they take place during your baby’s happiest times of day. My daughter is her crankiest starting around 5 p.m., so I was glad that we had early afternoon flights both times. I also avoided flights at the crack-of-dawn because it’s so hard to get out of the house with a baby, so I knew a noon flight would give us plenty of time without (my) early morning crankiness.
2. Buy that extra seat. Infants can fly free until they’re 2 years old, so we chose to hold Avery on our lap for the duration of the flight. It worked perfectly for a 4-month-old. But once she’s mobile and squirmy and a few pounds heavier? No thanks! Airplanes are tight on space as it is, so if you can swing it, buy that extra seat. The comfort will be worth it!
3. Check your luggage. My husband and I pride ourselves on being light packers. That was before an infant and Christmas presents doubled our usual luggage count. Prepare to check your bags and carry only absolute essentials with you through security and on the plane so that you have your hands free(r) to deal with strollers, car seats, and of course, the baby.
4. Plan on the other end. Send diapers ahead or have grandparents buy them so they’re waiting for you at your destination. A week’s worth of diapers and wipes is too much to pack, especially for a young baby.
5. Forget those portable electronic devices. Here comes that sacrifice parents are known for. You can forget about bringing along in-flight entertainment, especially if your child is on your lap. I didn’t even have room to put my drink tray down, let alone have space for a book or portable DVD player. Not that I had room to pack that anyways!
6. Security success. Fold up your stroller to get it through the X-ray machine, and flip your car seat upside down so it fits as well. Then hold your baby as you go through the metal detector—do not put him or her on the conveyor belt!—and hope no alarms go off.
7. Be prepared. Bring way more diapers on the plane than you think you’ll need. Add in an extra outfit or two. Accidents happen, and babies know when it is most inconvenient to have that outfit-destroying accident. My daughter was satisfied just looking at us and snoozing, but bring age-appropriate toys for older infants who may get bored.
8. Timing is everything, Part Two. I timed feeding so that Avery was eating on takeoff and landing. It seemed to help with her ears popping, and she had a full belly for the flight. Breastfeeding made this a breeze, but a bottle timed right would work, too!
9. If all else fails…and you have a cranky, crying baby? Do everything in your power to soothe him/her. No one wants a crying baby on a plane (least of all the parents!), but if you’re making an honest effort to soothe him, people will be pretty forgiving. The only thing worse than a crying baby is a parent who is oblivious to that baby!
Are you a jet-setter even with a tot in tow? Share your tried-and-true travel tips in the comments! —Erin