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I just recently had my first experience flying with an infant. My great aunt died, and my husband, Beckett, and I had to travel up to New Jersey for her funeral. At first, I was dead set on driving. We have a mini-van, which has totally become my security blanket (her name is Suzanne the Van, and I love her). I kept feeling like, as long as I had my van, I would be fine. I mean really, it’s pretty much a living room on wheels. There would always be a quiet place to feed and change Becks, and I wouldn’t have to worry about being that mom with the screaming baby on a plane. It was settled. We were driving.
Then I started realizing that my awesome plan (to drive the van) was not so awesome. Beckett had really been struggling with riding in the car (read – screaming bloody murder every time he got in the car seat). Suddenly an hour plane ride with a screaming baby seemed so much better than a 10 hour drive with a screaming baby…and then my mom called. She reminded me that flying is actually the safer way to travel, especially when you compare flying for one hour to driving for ten…again, with a screaming baby. So plans changed and we decided to fly.
Then the panic set in. How was I going to bring everything I needed? How would I get all of my stuff through security while carrying a baby? Should I bring a Pack ‘N Play? Car seat? Stroller? After a ton of Pinteresting (yep, it’s a verb now) this is what I did, and what worked and didn’t work for me.
10 Tips for Flying With an Infant
1. Rent a vehicle you will be comfortable in. Bonus if it is similar to the one you drive every day.
First (and most important), WE RENTED A VAN! And not just any van, but my EXACT van. You guys, I can’t tell you how happy I was that we got to fly AND have the comfort of Suzanne the Van. It was amazing. Of course I couldn’t bring anything and everything with me on the trip, like I would have been able to if we had driven, but at least I still had my living room on wheels with me once we got there.
2. If you plan not to check luggage, pack as light as possible.
Chris and I typically try not to check any bags, especially for such a short trip (2 nights). If our luggage got lost, we would probably be home before we got it back. Plus, then you don’t have any underwear while you’re gone. However, not checking bags is pretty limiting. It means you can only bring what you can carry through security. Yikes! We decided to pack one suitcase for all of Beckett’s stuff, one suitcase that we shared for all of our stuff, a diaper bag, Chris’ work bag (for his laptop), and the car seat and base (that we checked for free at the gate). Let me tell you, our bags were full!
3. Check to see if your hotel will provide a crib or Pack ‘N Play.
One thing we did not have to drag through security was the Pack ‘N Play. When we booked our hotel online, there was an option to “request a crib” for the room. The crib was actually a Pack ‘N Play, but it worked for us! If there isn’t an option online, you should definitely try to call the hotel and see if they can provide that for you.
4. Wear your baby through security, so that you have your hands free for carrying all your stuff.
I read (in one of the many Pinterest posts) that the best way to deal with security is to wear your baby. We have an Ergo carrier, so we brought that too. I wore Beckett, carried the diaper bag, and had one rolling suitcase; and Chris had one rolling suitcase, his workbag, and the car seat. The best part about wearing Beckett was that I never had to put him down, and I always had my hands free. He slept through security. On the way home, they did swab my hands for explosives (because a baby is a good way to hide explosives?), but other than that, no one seemed to even notice that I had him.
5. Remember your phone.
Once we made it through security (feeling like pack mules), we thought we were golden. That’s when I realized I left my phone sitting on the front seat of Suzanne. Oops! It was too late to go back, so we kept going.
6. Check big baby related items (car seat, stroller, etc.) at the gate. It’s free and is less likely to get lost.
We got to the gate, where we checked in for two reasons: (1) you can check car seats for free at the gate. (Along with strollers and other large baby items). When you arrive at your destination, you pick up your items at the gate, so you don’t have to go through baggage claim. And (2), passengers with young children board first. That’s just a nice perk.
Of course checking in made the airline people notice that our suitcases were packed so full that they were too big to be considered carry-ons, so they made us check them (insert bummed face here). In the end, it was fine. Our luggage made it there without getting lost. Still, next time I might go with one less pair of shoes…
7. Feed through take-off and landing to alleviate ear popping.
Another tip I read was to nurse your baby during take-off and landing. The swallowing helps to alleviate any ear popping. So as we got settled in our seats and started moving, I popped my boob out and Becks started eating. (I’m usually pretty shy about breastfeeding in public, but I was so worried about his ears popping and him screaming, I got over that pretty quickly). Then the pilot announced that our flight had been delayed and we would be waiting (on the tarmac) for 55 minutes.
8. There is a (very small) changing table above the toilet in the restroom. Also, bring extra clothes.
Beckett finished eating and about 5 minutes before take-off, he had a POOP-SPLOSION. No, he did not just poop. He exploded. Through the diaper and through his clothes. Thanks, kid. Real nice. So off to the tiny airplane bathroom we went. There was actually a changing table in the bathroom. It’s really small, but it worked. I changed his entire outfit as quickly as I could, and sat back down right before the plane took off.
Of course by the time the plane took off, Beckett was full, so he didn’t really eat much during take-off, but his ears didn’t really seem to bother him. In fact, the noise and vibration of flying sort of lulled him to sleep. He had maybe two minutes of fussing toward the end of the flight, but I just popped him back on the boob and he was fine. Shew. Huge relief.
9. Bring lots of toys. You never know which one will snap your kiddo out of a boredom induced wail.
Beckett is pretty young, so it was easy to keep him from getting bored; however, that was not the case for the toddler one row in front of us. He was having a very hard time being forced to sit still and not climb from Mom to Grandma to Grandpa and back again. I started getting really nervous when he fussed because Beckett was definitely aware of it. I could just imagine the looks we would get if both babies lost it at the same time. In a moment of panic, I grabbed my most interesting toy and shoved it between the seats in front of us. The Grandparents (who did not speak English) looked very grateful, and the kiddo immediately started playing with it and then eventually fell asleep. (Insert relieved Mama face here.)
10. Lastly, try to remain calm and remember that your babe senses your stress and anxiety. If you exude calmness and confidence, your baby will feel much more secure.
This is so much easier said than done, but it is important to remember. I repeated this in my head over and over throughout the entire experience, and it definitely helped.
Happy flying! Let me know if you have any other tips for flying with babes! Especially if you have flown with an older, mobile baby. Not sure what we would have done if he was just a few months older…