I used to be that girl. You know the one I’m talking about. You’ve seen her effortlessly floating through the airport, tightly packed carry-on in tow and necessary boarding documents already in hand. I love to travel and do it quite often. I had flying down to a science. I could be the last person at the airport and the first one off the plane. My, how the times have changed.
Now that I have started traveling with my daughter, my preparation and experience has changed. A LOT. I’ve had the pleasure of flying my daughter to New York twice in her three short months (once was planned, the other was unexpected). Since we’ve now been on and off eight different aircrafts (damn layovers) I think I’ve got a system down. I wanted to pass along the wisdom of my experience to fellow Moms who might find themselves getting ready to jet-set!
If you can, book the baby a seat. I know, I know, that’s crazy since your little pumpkin can fly for free until age two. That being said, it was SO MUCH EASIER having a seat for my daughter than trying to make it through the flight with her in my lap. Let’s face it, airline seats are tight enough without trying to fit an extra person in the row. Since I flew with my husband the first time and my Mother the second time, we had a whole row to ourselves. I was able to take her out of the carseat, rock her a bit and then put her in her own seat when she fell asleep. If you are unable to purchase a seat, when you get to the airport check to see if your flight is full. Most airlines (and definitely Southwest, oh how I love them!) will let you take the carseat on board at no charge as long as there is an open seat on the flight.
Make sure you have enough supplies. Though you will be able to find an endless barrage of t-shirts, notepads and snow globes, you will be hard-pressed to find baby essentials. I had never paid attention before, and I was surprised to note that the airport convenience stores did not carry baby supplies. Be sure to over-pack the diaper bag with all things baby-specific: diapers, wipes, diaper cream and formula if you need. Plan to be delayed, rerouted, etc. just to make sure!
Have a bottle/pacifier for take-off and landing. Just like us, the change in altitude can cause the baby’s ears to pop and hurt. Since your little pumpkin can’t chew gum or make themselves “fake yawn” have a bottle or pacifier they can suck on which will help their ears adjust. I noticed that my daughter had a lot more trouble on the way down than during take-off and the pacifier definitely helped (though some crying is inevitable!)
Bring the stroller with you through the airport. I like to “wear” my baby as much as the next person, but this was one instance where the stroller came in VERY handy. I don’t think I have to explain to any Mom just how much paraphernalia we have to keep on-hand. I had my purse, the diaper bag, the breast pump and a bag of breakable items on our first trip. It was so easy to just dump all that stuff in the stroller and push it through the airport rather than trying to carry it all, plus my daughter. It took a few minutes to get it all through security, but once that was done I was so glad I had a place to store all my crap. Most airlines allow you to check the stroller at the door of the plane “for free” (meaning it doesn’t count as one of your checked luggage items). In that case, why not?
Accept help. This was the hardest one for me. I spent the first trip muttering a lot of “I got it” and “I can do it.” That’s just how I am, and I’m sure I’m not alone! The second time I flew was unexpected, and I was already flustered before we left. I lost all sense of pride and allowed people (even strangers) to help me out. When you have a baby, the good in people tends to come out. I allowed strangers to let me go in front of them. I allowed the flight attendant to carry my bag to my seat for me. I allowed the stranger next to me to hold my bag while I got my daughter situated. I allowed the nice TSA lady to help me put the stroller and car seat on the security conveyer belt. Not only was it nice to see that most people are still fundamentally good, I really did appreciate the extra hand.
These tips (and a glass of wine!) helped me get through my first travel experiences as a new Mom. Anyone else have other suggestions? Share your travel tips with us!