Nervous about flying with your infant for the first time? Not to worry; here are some tips from a mom who has been there. Traveling with a child is a skill you can learn, and with some insider tips and an extra dose of flexibility, anyone can do it.
The trick is to be prepared for just about anything, but that doesn’t mean you have to pack a huge carry-on with your child’s entire toy collection. You just have to pack strategically.
First, if you’ve booked a seat for your infant, you can bring the infant carrier and base with you, which is ideal because your baby can sleep in it. If you haven’t booked a seat for the baby, I’d still recommend not checking the carseat. You might find an open seat on the plane at the last minute (I always ask when I get to the gate), but if not, they’ll let you check it at the gate before entering the plane. The same goes with strollers. They’re invaluable in the airport, so hold onto it until you get on the plane. It’s a bit of a nuisance taking strollers and carseats through security because you have to take the baby out, fold everything up and put it through the scanner, but it’s worth it. And most airlines allow travelers with young children to board first, which is nice because it gives you time to get the carseat and baby settled without climbing over other people.
So the big question is, “What to pack?” Answer: a change of clothes, a few more diapers than you think you’ll need, Tylenol or Benadryl, a bottle or sippy cup with extra juice/water/milk, plenty of snacks (variety is key), a thin blanket, and small toys. If you’re feeling optimistic that baby will sleep, bring a magazine for yourself, but I don’t think I’ve read anything on a plane since my kids were born.
Toys: I recommend bringing a few favorite small toys or new ones that will entertain for a while, things like very small dolls or stuffed animals, finger puppets, light books, coloring books and crayons for older babies, stickers. I have a set of flash cards I’ve punched holes in and put on a ring so they won’t scatter all over the floor. And don’t forget the in-flight entertainment: the passengers sitting behind you (if they don’t mind endless games of peekaboo), the credit-card phones in the seat in front of you with fun buttons to push, and of course, the beverage service. We discovered that our daughters love eating little chips of ice out of our drinks, and this activity can use up a lot of time!
Changing diapers is difficult on the plane, but it can be done. Newer planes have fold-down changing tables in the bathroom. And in the older ones…well, let me just say that once we had a diaper to change that was a two-person job, and my husband and I both squeezed into the bathroom, and I held baby on my lap while we changed her. Not fun, but possible.
Keep extra drinks on hand in case your baby has ear pain, because the sucking and swallowing will help. But one caution: stick with water or milk and don’t give your baby too much fruit juice. We learned the hard way with our first and had to use that extra change of clothes a few times.
Finally, never underestimate the kindness of strangers. I’ve found other passengers to be so very helpful, especially when I’m traveling alone with kids. One dear woman, God bless her wherever she is, actually made sock puppets with my daughter’s socks and entertained her that way for much of the flight. She also held her when I needed to use the bathroom, which was much appreciated, because the only thing harder than changing a diaper in those little bathrooms is trying to use the toilet while holding a baby!
So with a little forethought and some strategic packing, you should be all set to get baby safely from Point A to Point B. I can’t promise an incident-free flight, because there just aren’t any guarantees when it comes to traveling with kids, but if baby gets upset for any reason, you’ll be calm, cool, and collected because you’ll have everything you need. Bon voyage!
By Rochelle Buchwald