Oh the irony. Me, the woman who was once the lightest traveling, uber efficient, designer-jacket-wearing, miles to burn, upgrade loving, business only traveler, is now a mom who is traveling with a child. To be clear, I used to run from parents traveling with children. God waited 38 years for this joke – the neurotic thinking that ensued as the trip got closer made it worth the while I’m sure.I worried about so much it was almost as if I thought my 1st flight with baby would be as bad as the crash scene from the movie Flight. It was not – not at all. Don’t be me. Worry less.Here are my tips for parents traveling with baby for the first time based on my own, way to neurotic experience.
Plan around baby: 2 weeks before this trip to Florida, I woke up and realized that I had planned this trip completely wrong. I planned this trip around the parents and not the baby. This was risky for a first trip but indeed, picking a flight that took off smack in the middle of nap time and landed just after bed time, was not exactly ideal. I panicked. I worried about everything but, guess what? We, and all the other passengers on the very full flight, survived. Plan, don’t panic.
- Ideally book a flight around nap time. My flight back aligned with the morning nap and since we had to wake small man up early for the flight and we was very stimulated by all the sights in the airport, he boarded sleepy, ate for take off and slept for 2 of the 3 hour flight home. #dreamy. Book flights around nap time!
- Select your seats carefully. Try for bulk head, splurge on extra leg room if possible and most of all, plan on being calm. Once your child can wiggle – they will. So the extra
leg room is for “jumps”, etc. I also prefer the window rather than aisle as, if there is a 3rd person, they have an easier escape room to the bathroom etc. Also, always select the aisle and window if traveling with a partner – especially if you have to pay for the extra room seats. Folks are a lot less likely to fork out extra cash for a middle seat which will give you an extra seat between you and your flying companion which turns into storage/ baby play area.If you do get a third person in the row, smile, offer them the aisle and be polite. Baby may pull their hair, clothes, drop toys on them if in a tantrum (this was not my experience) but a lot of politeness goes a really long way.
- Pack extra bottles and plan for an extra poop. No one want stop be caught at 30,000 feet with one less pamper than you needed. I packed 4 and I cut it closer than I needed to. A delay may have resulted in a poo bomb diaper having to stay on which would have made the journey really memorable for others. I’ve met moms that had to overnight due to delays in strange cities/ countries and had to go diaper shopping. Avoid that. Pack a complete extra change of clothes for baby and many more diapers than you may need worst case. The carry on is for baby, not you. If you can get a change of underwear to fit after you pack their stuff – #yawin.
- Travel with a partner if you can: As a child of a single mom, I know it is possible to do a whole lot on you own as one parent. BUT IF YOU DON’T HAVE TO – DON’T! If a friend/ parent/ spouse can travel with you – accept the help. If not, pay attention to all the points with specific emphasis on the next one….
- Plan to pee: Off all kicks…if you are travelling alone with baby, you will need to use the bathroom at some point during your travel. How ya peeing? Ask that before hand and make a plan. The plan cannot include asking a flight attendant to hold your child. It likely is not going to happen and really, do you want someone that has worked a double shift on a plane to hold your infant? My advice? Ergo baby carrier, strapped to you, baby facing you and pee pee time. Practice this before you leave. Yes…I practiced…#neurotic especially since my husband was traveling with me….See my comments on dressing comfy – this is another reason to skip jeans! But, if you are flying to/ from the Caribbean, your chances of knowing someone on the plane are way higher than you may think. If you see someone you know – make sure you talk to them pre-flight. You may need to call in a favour…
Forget you. Pack for Baby: Plan out your diaper bag, plan out and pack ONLY the basics for you and plenty of options for baby. You will need a changing mat ( I love the Bula Baby Changing mat pouch as it was so easy to take to the bathroom with baby), wipes, Clorox Wipes, diapers, Vaseline etc – don’t skimp on anything. That carry-on is for baby! My other tip? If you are flying an airline that provides
snacks – research the snacks before hand so you know what, if anything, those cool boxes (a la Jet Blue) may have that you can feed your baby. The Organic Apple Sauce was a complete score for baby. Oh and always bring an extra spoon (or two) as you’d be amazed how quickly stuff falls onto the gross ground on flights.
Ziplock Bag Organization: I cannot stress the importance of organizing your packing for a positive on board experience
enough. Every blog you read will tell you the importance of “new toys” to keep your child entertained when on board. My tips are to keep toys (old and new faves) in zip lock bags that are easy to reach and retrieve when on board. Be prepared for them to fall on the ground – so introduce them one at a time. Bring an extra zip lock bag labelled “dirty” for toys that have fallen and can’t be cleaned on board with toy wipes etc. Also be prepared for the toys to be less interesting than the plastic bag you packed them in…
Reconsider black & Be Comfy: The saying once you go black you don’t go back is not for mommy clothes. Black is a color that shows milk/ pumpkin/ cereal stains. If you must wear it, like I did for fear of looking chubby (#vain and silly), bring an extra layer for the plan that serves as warmth and a “catch all” for all the stuff that will inevitably spill on you. This goes for your travel partner too. My husband’s shirt got my make up and cereal on it.
On the being comfy bit – I believe that tights/ leggings were made for mommy travel. Comfy and easy should be the choice. I saw another mom in jeans and determined that her child did not kick or grope like my small man who can get fingers and tongue into almost every part of clothing. Whatever you wear, make sure it is comfortable. Delays happen. Jump kicks happen. Be prepared.
Hugs instead of seat belts: Keep in mind that many airlines have you just hug your baby for take off and landing. This was my JetBlue experience with my lap infant. Don’t watch the movie Flight before you travel. The crash scene is ridiculous.(why did you click that link?) You are going to be scared. Don’t be. Just hug your baby and play it off like you never saw that scene from flight with the bodies flying out the plane…
Sh@t Happens and it ain’t so bad: Upon boarding our 3.5 hour flight and finally taking
our seats, a sniff proved our worst fears….Mr. Man had pooed. Panic ensued. Daddy took this one for the team. With baby in hand, he fought from row two all the way to the back of the plane to hit the bathroom, to fold down the changing table (which was actually quite roomy) and to discover…no poo. If it did happen, we were ready but scared. Don’t be.
The biggest learning here was the size of the changing table. There was ample room for our son to squirm around while changing. The space on board to change baby was generous. A travel Clorox wipe got rid of the unseen germs (I hope) and maybe it was the hum of the plane but baby was certainly not the usual hyperactive wrestler when it was time to be changed. Remember, its all new for baby too!
Get up, stand up: About 2.5 hours into the flight out of T&T, small man was awake, active and curious. If you are flying with a 0-7 month old, this won’t be in your plans as your wee one will sit still.At 8 months, small man thinks he can walk and wants to try often. Thus for us, a walk was necessary. And by walk, I mean a toddle down the aisle for baby. Clad in my leggings and top long enough to support my bending over without showing my underwear, I ventured into the aisle, grasped baby’s hands, bent down and had him “walk the aisle”. This meant facing my flight movie ensued fear AND my “being the mom with the screaming baby” fear at one time – for the whole flight to see. SURPRISE – folks smiled at baby, baby boy giggled and laughed all the way up and down the aisle and flight attendant neither frowned nor ran us over with a cart. Score. Get up and walk your child – they need the exercise and stimulation and you need it to get over yourself. I sure did.
Gate Check Please: Once baby is under 1, I’m an advocate for the car seat and stroller through the terminal. Why? It keeps them in a safe, secure, clean, comfortable and familiar space through the terminal and keeps weight off your back. Gate check means early boarding, and, if you are lucky, your stroller/ car seat available to you before you hit immigration. Worried about dirt and grime on your car seat and stroller? Head to Amazon for these gate check backs. Mine are still in tact and made travel easier. They take just a couple extra minutes to get the stroller/ car seat in and out but made all the difference.
On Keeping Baby Quiet: Before my flight, I was nervous about all kinds of stuff. I was even worried that customs would give me a hard time about baby formula (did not happen).I did not sleep for a clear week before our first flight. Don’t be me. Before you fly, read this “got ya back” blog post from a US based mom. Of course I found it after our trip, but it is so true. Just stop. Relax. Babies make noise sometimes. People will understand and if they don’t its not like they or you can be put off the flight for a crying baby. Stop the shushing. We are all gonna be alright.
Last tip – breathe. It’s a blessing to be that parent on the plane with a child. Think about all the people in this world that would trade an ovary or two to be in your shoes. Say a prayer of thanks and relax.
Flights, just like the longest ropes my Trini mom loved to talk about, have an end.
What tips do you have for flight travel with baby? Share away!