Traveling with a Baby
Which is worse: flying next to a screaming baby or flying with a screaming baby? If you’re a parent the answer is easy: flying with your own baby. Trying to keep your child calm, entertained, fed, and rested within the confines of a small airline seat is enough to drive anyone to drink.
Picking an airline seat is not like buying a car where you get to opt for a spacious rear seat that fits a car seat, numerous toys, diapers, snacks, and other tools of the trade. Instead you’re jammed into a tiny restricted space with little room for you, your child, and much needed supplies.
Over the holidays, my wife and I had to take a trip. We had a new addition to our home who wouldn’t otherwise get to meet half of our family from the Midwest. Before we left, we were well aware of what we were getting ourselves into and did everything possible to prepare ourselves.
How to Fly with a Baby:
We asked our neighbors and friends for tips on how to make it a smooth trip. And we got some great travel advice! Had we not taken the following precautions, the trip would have been much, much worse.
- Plan your flight around sleep schedules. If your child is happier in the morning, then travel in the morning. If you know they nap around 11, try to pick a flight that departs at 10:45.
- Pack well in advance and use a checklist.
- Get one of those little plastic formula containers that has 3 sections so you can pre-measure enough formula for 3 bottles. Get bottled water AFTER you go through security. You won’t be able to take liquids through the check point so it’s not an option to fill up bottles before you leave.
- Bring a variety of baby snacks: Puffs, yogurt melts, purees, cheerios, etc.
- Feed your baby a bottle during take-off and landing to help their ears pop and avoid pressure from changes in altitude.
- Consider bringing ear plugs on the plane to pass out to passengers sitting nearby. People may not want them, but they’ll appreciate the gesture and tolerate you a little more if things get out of control.
- Consider drugs (under a doctor’s supervision). We’ve heard that some people use Benadryl to help their baby sleep on a flight. We didn’t try this as we were a little afraid it might have the opposite effect (and we’re not fans of medicating babies if not absolutely necessary).
- Bring a couple of your child’s favorite (quiet) toys and a few brand new (quiet) toys to keep them entertained.
- Bring 2 changes of clothes in your carry-on in case of blowouts or pukes and little plastic bags for the aftermath.
- Double-check your list after you get in the car. Between the baby, the car seat, luggage and carry-ons, it’s easy to leave something in the house. We didn’t take this step and ended up having to drive back to pick-up our carry-ons. The loss of time added a lot of stress and did not start us out on the right foot.
- Leave for the airport early, but not too early. You’ll want to leave plenty of time to check-in and get through security. That being said, you don’t want to make your trip any longer than it has to be by sitting at the gate for hours.
- Don’t think twice about taking a stroller. You’ll need it! Airlines don’t consider this a checked bag or carry-on so it won’t cost extra or prevent you from taking key items on the plane. In fact, you can put your carry-ons in the shelf beneath the stroller to make your trek through the terminal easier. When you’re boarding the plane, they’ll take the stroller from you on the jet way and give it back when you get off.
- If you’re travelling alone, ask for help at security. If you’re travelling as a couple, still ask for help. It’s next to impossible to put carry-ons, a stroller, and a cell phone in separate bins while removing your belt, shoes, jacket, etc…and still hold a baby!
- Pre-board the plane. Don’t feel bad for cutting in line, they let parents board early for a reason. Take the time to get situated.
- Use easy to maneuver carry-ons. Instead of a diaper bag and purse try a back-pack. Make sure your main luggage has wheels.
- If possible, have a car seat waiting at your destination. Otherwise, you’ll have to carry one along with your stroller and luggage. This can also be checked at the gate with your stroller.
If you’re thinking about travelling with a baby for any reason other than necessity, consider waiting a few years. Even if your child is an angel for most of the trip, it’ll still be one of the most stressful days of your life. But if you have to make a trip, I hope this helps…and take a deep breath before you leave.
This wonderful guest post is by the Car Negotiation Coach who took a break from talking about how to buy a car to share some advice on how to travel with a baby.
Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann