Booking Your Flight
Try to schedule your flight for a good time of day for you and your baby. I have found that it’s best to assume the baby will not nap on the plane, so plan accordingly (nap time + no nap = fussy baby, so try to avoid in-flight nap times). Try to schedule your flight for the morning so you can arrive in your destination before baby’s usual nap time. Or, if you still get 2 solid naps out of your little one, you can try the evening after nap #2, but still try to arrive before baby’s usual bed time. Obviously if you have a really long flight this logic won’t work, so just try to travel at the time of day when your baby is usually happiest (for us, that’s the morning).
If you can choose your seats ahead of time and will be traveling with a “helper”, choose two seats together (the best scenario is to find a row with only 2 seats so you don’t have to split the row with a helpless stranger). I like to sit on the aisle so I can get out easily to tend to baby’s needs, but some people prefer the window seat so they can entertain baby with the view. Also, the back of the plane is usually more kid-friendly–fewer passengers choose the back of the plane so there are usually more empty seats and you’re closer to the bathroom (for diaper changes) and the galley (if you need to stand up and bounce baby around for awhile).
If you will be having a layover, always opt for the longer time over the shorter time (i.e. take the 90 minute layover instead of the 60 minute). It takes longer to get from point A to point B when you’re carting along a stroller, car seat, diaper bag, carry-on, and an infant. Plus, you’ll want some extra time to do diaper changes, use the bathroom, get snacks, and get some wiggles out before the next leg of your journey. Short layovers always induce panic, so just don’t do it.
If you are traveling with a baby under age 2, It’s also a good idea to call your airline the week before you travel to confirm that you will be traveling with a lap infant. That way they can ensure there will be an extra oxygen mask at your seat and that you are seated in an appropriate spot (babies aren’t allowed in exit rows).
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare–you travel to some far-flung destination with your child, everyone arrives safe and sound, and then you realize that you forgot IT. You know, that one thing that your child NEEDS to survive, that thing that you NEED for your sanity, that very important thing that unless we find it NOW our entire trip will be RUINED!!!! So packing is very important. There are a lot of little things to bring with you when you’re traveling with young ones, and if you don’t pack them, nobody else will.
I have learned that I need to organize my packing well in advance of our travel. Otherwise, that shirt that I needed will be in the dirty laundry hamper or that baby food I needed will already have been eaten. I usually start packing bags about 3 days before we leave. This allows me to have everything I need in one spot, clean and organized. It also allows me a day or two to remember that thing that I forgot.
I keep a packing list stored as a document on my computer, then I print it off before I pack for a trip. Our list is broken down into what each member of our family (including the dog) needs for travel–whether we’re going for an over-nighter or a week-long vacation, we still need to bring most of the same things. If there is something on my list that I don’t need for this particular trip, I just cross it off my list before I start packing. If there is something additional I’ll need for this trip that is not on my usual list, I add it to the list before I start packing. As I’m packing, if I think of something else I might need, I also add it to the list. Then, after each item has been packed, I cross it off the list. Since I pack a few days ahead of time, there are usually a few items that have to be packed last minute (like our toothbrushes and my son’s “lovey” Mimi). I highlight those last minute items on my list and keep it with the bags. Then, at “the last minute”, I grab all of the highlighted items and toss them in the bags as we’re loading up the car. Yes, I realize that I sound really anal about all of this. But it works and I’ve never forgotten Mimi or my underwear.
And now, dear reader, you will get a glimpse into my wonderful world of packing. I don’t include our everyday clothes on this list because I pretty much know that we’ll all need pants and shirts while we’re traveling. Here is my essential packing list, well-refined from years of implementation:
|Mom and Dad:
- Meds and vitamins
- Cell phone and charger
- Laptop and charger
- iPod and charger
- Running gear: shoes, pants, shirt, socks, bra
- Swimsuit and flip flops
- Nursing pads
- Breastpump and bottles
- Hair straightener and makeup
- Entertainment: books, load apps and music
- Food bowls
- Dog bed
- Diapers and wipes
- Mimi and Gigi
- Swaddling blanket
- Extra baby blanket
- Spit up rags
- Baby monitor
- Pac ‘N Play
- Toys and books
- Booster seat
- Baby food and spoon
- Sippy cups
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste
- Snot Sucker
- Diaper bag
- Coats and hats
- Copies of birth certificates
Before we leave:
- Take out garbage
- Empty diaper pails
- Turn off heat
- Check mail
- Run dishwasher
- Lights off
- Doors locked
- Garage closed
Prepping For Travel Day
Time is of the essence when you’re traveling with young children. You get about 1 minute per year of their age before some earth-shattering disaster erupts in their world. I try to make our time in the airport go as quickly–and as smoothly–as I possibly can.This means calling the airline a few days ahead of time to notify them that I’ll be traveling with a lap infant (and making photo copies of his birth certificate in case anybody actually questions that my 6-month old is actually older than 2).
This means checking into my flight and printing our boarding passes at home before we leave for the airport. This means practicing how I will carry all of our stuff through the airport (yes, I’ve actually been known to do a trial run in our house with the luggage before the big travel day). This means loading our car as much as possible the night before we leave and keeping good notes on what still needs to be packed so we don’t have any last-minute forgettings of vitally important equipment (like the time I had to wake two sleeping babies at 5 AM to rush a laptop to the airport). Anything you can do ahead of time to minimize time and stress on your travel day is time well spent!
Think ahead to what will *potentially* entertain your baby or toddler on the plane, and make sure you’ve packed it. Snacks are usually the best bet–especially if it’s a special treat that they don’t get to enjoy very often. Also pack a few novel toys that he’s not already bored with. And, if you have a 2-year old boy, maybe even stash some earplugs for you and your fellow passengers. Just sayin’.
What you wear on the plane will make a big difference in your comfort on travel day. Here is, in my opinion, the perfect outfit for flying with a baby:
- A long-sleeved v-neck that is easy to pull down for nursing. Sleeves can be rolled up if it gets hot or pulled down if I’m feeling cold (temperature regulation on planes is always pretty wonky, so I like to dress in layers)
- A nursing tank (underneath the t-shirt)
- An extra-large scarf: it can keep me warm, I can pull it off and use it as a lap blanket if my legs get cold, it works as an on-the-go nursing cover, and it makes for a quick game of peek-a-boo if baby gets fussy. And it’s kinda cute.
- Stretchy leggings that I can pull down easily to pee if I need to carry the baby in the Ergo with me into the cramped little airplane bathroom. Plus they’re oh-so-comfy.
- Shoes that I can easily slip on with one hand during the security check. No laces, buttons, snaps, etc.
- I’d probably also bring a light jacket with me in case things get really chilly.
For baby: Dress him in something comfy that is easy to take on and off (if you need to do an in-flight diaper change you’ll be glad you choose a no-fuss outfit). Think: elastic waistbands or zippered pajamas–leave the cute outfit with a thousand buttons in your suitcase.*Note* Not all airplanes have changing tables, so you may be doing mid-flight changes on your lap!
Now that you have your bags packed and your clothes laid out, you’re ready for travel! Check back tomorrow for my tips on getting through the airport with little ones.