Ok, take a moment to stop gagging on the awful pun that is this post title…. Better now?
Four-ish months ago, our family of four packed up all our worldly goods and moved 1300 miles up the country. This means that by 8 months old, our boys have been on FIVE plane trips. We’ve learned a lot through all that travel, and while we were on the plane for Flight #5, I wrote up a list of Things I’ve Learned About Flying With Babies in the hope that it might be helpful to others. So, read on, brave baby- (or babies-)toting travelers, and please add your own tips in the comments!
Things I’ve Learned About Flying With Babies
1. Do your homework.
Airline rules differ, and things can get confusing. It helped immensely to look up our airline’s policies for flying with infants, checking bags/ baby items, and gate-checking. I also called the airline and talked with a representative; that way I had a real person’s name as well as confirmation (or clarification) of their policies. BE SURE if you are bringing any sort of car seat that it is allowed on board, FAA-approved (there should be a sticker on the seat), and you know how to install it on the plane. Some airlines will let you check baby things, like strollers or car seats, for free; others won’t. Our favorite airline gate-checks car seats and strollers for free, and will give you heavy-duty plastic gate-check bags at the check-in counter if you ask. Which leads me to point #2:
2. Ask and ye (might) receive.
It never hurts to ask! Ask for gate check bags (because do you really want your precious Little sitting in a car seat that’s been rolling around in plane-belly muck?). Ask if the flight it full, or if there are any extra open seats to give your family a little breathing space, or allow everyone to sit together, or put unticketed lap children in their own seats***. Ask for HELP if you need it: boarding, wrestling suitcases overhead, carrying things. Ask flight attendants, fellow passengers, anyone. (I have also found holding a baby and looking totally overwhelmed to be effective.)
Along these same lines- sort of #2.5- is mind your manners. I know, you are exhausted and frazzled and IN A GIANT HURRY, but nothing smoothes your way like a little patience and a smile. Smile at the check-in counter people and say thank you. Smile at the TSA agents at the security line and say thank you. (See a trend here?) They get enough grouchiness and attitude without you adding to it, and it will almost definitely leave you in a better mood too. (Bonus: you’re being a good example. Give yourself a gold star!)
***If there is any way you can, keep your Littles, even Really Little Littles, in their own seats and in an FAA-approved car seat. It is safer for them, and we’ve found it keeps everyone saner and happier.
3. Dress appropriately.
We have plane attire down to a science. For ourselves, we wear clothes with minimal pieces that have to come off when we go through security: no watches, jewelry, hats. A lightweight scarf is not only cute and stylish, but can double as a nursing cover.
For the boys, we have found long-sleeved bodysuits, socks that don’t fall off, and baby leggings to be by far the best. Long-sleeved onesies aren’t too warm or too chilly for most travel, since airports and airplanes are usually fairly cool. Socks are easier than shoes for non-walkers; otherwise, soled slippers or slip-on shoes are good. Baby leggings, though, are my favorite thing for travel by far; they keep little legs warm, can come off without unbuckling a car seat, and can stay on for in-route diaper changes. Our boys always wear them on the plane and on outings, and it has made our lives so much easier.
Pack a change of top, bottoms, and socks for each kid. Then, pack one extra EXTRA top for them (just one- so three total extra for my two kids) and one for Mama. Trust me, you don’t want to be in the air covered in barf/ pee/ etc. for hours. Don’t bother with anything fancy or too precious.
4. Think like a Boy Scout.
Always be prepared! Give yourself plenty of time for everything. Double-check your diaper bag. Set multiple alarms so you don’t oversleep. Be at the airport painfully early. Pack snacks and an empty water bottle (to fill after going through security) for yourself. Don’t try any new foods with baby right before the flight, and bring immunization records with you just in case.
It may sound dorky, but I have a list of what goes in the diaper bag for everyday, and another for plane trips. I print it off, check things off as I pack them, then bring it with me so I can be sure we’ve got everything for the way back, too. that way I don’t forget anything like pacifier clips or baby wipes or gasp DIAPERS.
Plastic grocery bags rolled up in your diaper bag can hold trash, dirty clothes, or toys that fell on the floor and now need to be burned. A couple Clorox wipes in a Baggie lessen the horror when your baby gets the airplane seatbelt buckle in his mouth. Hand sanitizer is self explanatory. And you can never have enough baby wipes.
And finally, 5. Remember, no matter how horribly things go, you’ll probably never see any of the people on your flight again. (See? Don’t you feel better now?)