Today we are getting on our 10th flight with our 10 month old… and I can hardly believe we’ve worked up the courage to fly that many times with our baby girl! As I was packing up our luggage at 11:00pm last night, I realized, I had hardly any anxiety over the upcoming trip. In fact, I was so relaxed that I spent the majority of the night leisurely painting and Perry was like… “What are you doing?! We leave tomorrow!” This is a big deal, because preparing for Ella’s first couple of trips, it was a completely different story. I was usually stressed out of my mind!
Over that last couple of months, I’ve learned a handful of tips and tricks to help make flying with a newborn relatively manageable (knock on wood). But the truth is, sometimes no matter how much you prepare, sometimes traveling with a baby can be flat out difficult! We have had our fair share of embarrassing airplane meltdowns that have made me want to crawl into a hole. In those moments it’s important to remember, if you’re trying your best, thats all you can do! I’m hoping that by sharing a few of our experiences, I can save you some major headaches and help you actually enjoy the vacation you worked so hard to prepare for. So... let’s jump right into it!
If you are traveling with your partner, I would recommend booking a window seat alongside a middle seat. This way you can create your own little nook by the window and maintain a level of comfortability when you are breastfeeding or changing baby. Bonus points if you have an extra seat in your row! This has happened to us on two or three of our flights with Ella and the extra space feels like a luxury!
I used to spend hours sifting through piles of baby clothes, running all over my house looking for loose items, feeling panicked, wondering if I was missing something important for Ella. Ugh… this is the worst! What used to take me about three hours of preparation now takes me under an hour thanks to the packing list I have developed over the last couple of months. Now I can have peace-of-mind knowing that we are fully prepared for not only the flight but the x amount of days we will be gone. If you would like access to the packing list I have made, enter your email below for a free download! It also includes a few more tips regarding my method of packing. Hopefully this will be a huge resource for you!
3. Arriving at the Airport
To minimize any additional stressors, I’d recommend checking into your flight 24 hours prior to take-off from your phone. This way, you will also have your boarding passes available in your airline's app and won’t have to worry about keeping track of your printed tickets.
The decision of which bags to check and which bags to carry-on varies depending on where we are going, how long we will be gone, and what airline we are flying. We typically will check Perry and I’s luggage, Ella’s bassinet (we use a Guava), but carry-on Ella’s suitcase so there is no risk of her essentials getting lost. Once we drop off our luggage, this is what each of us will carry on the way to our Delta gate:
-Ella’s Rolling Suitcase (counted as dad’s overhead carry-on).
-Perry’s Laptop Backpack (counted as dad’s “personal item”, stowed under the seat).
Ella’s Diaper Bag Backpack (counted as mom’s overhead carry-on)
Ella’s Snack / Toy Bag (counted as mom’s “personal item”, stowed under the seat)
Gate Check Items:
Ella’s stroller (in a protective case)
Ella’s car seat / car seat base (in a protective case)
Once you arrive at the security checkpoint, TSA will ask you to carry your baby through the detectors while they pull the stroller aside and check it by hand. Once I get through the screening, I know that Ella’s diaper bag is going to get flagged by the agents because of the liquids inside. I am typically the one that goes up to security to claim the bag with Ella, and this is actually an intentional trick we have learned. One time, I took Ella out of security with me as soon as we got through, and left Perry to claim the diaper bag by himself. The TSA agents did not appreciate this. They made Perry point out where his wife and baby were to prove it was his bag… but I wasn’t in sight! It was an unnecessary headache to say the least. Save yourself a few minutes and claim your diaper bag with your baby present. LOL!
4. Getting Settled On The Plane
Once you get to your gate, you can relax for a second. Most airlines allow parents with small children to board the aircraft first in order to get settled in. This is seriously so helpful! Just make sure you get to your gate at least 20 minutes before the typical boarding time. Once we arrive at the gate, Perry will go up to the counter to get official “Gate Check” tags for the stroller & carseat while I entertain Ella and watch our bags. You can bring your Gate Checked items right up to the airplane entrance and leave them in the designated area. After that you can take your time finding your seat and stowing your bags. We used to act so panicked during this time, thinking a rush of people would quickly be following us, but thankfully this isn’t the case! You should have more than enough time to get situated before the general zone’s start boarding.
5. Take Off
Once the plane makes its way down the runway and is ready for take-off, we’ll pop a big, warm bottle into Ella’s mouth. Not only does this help soothe her during the commotion, but swallowing help their ears adjust to the climbing altitude. You know how adults like to chew gum to help make their ears pop on a plane? This is the same kind of idea. The last thing you want to deal with is a screaming baby who can’t figure out how to release the pressure inside their ears. Thankfully this hasn’t happened to us yet. Once she finishes her bottle, I’ll stick a pacifier in her mouth to try to keep her sucking until we reach a cruising altitude.
6. In-Flight Activities
Ella isn’t at an age where she interested in watching TV yet, so we bring lots of toys to keep her occupied throughout the flight. Everything from rubber toys that she can chew on, animals that we can show her, books, squeaking objects, balls, even her spoons. We just keep pulling out a new toy every 5-10 minutes or so to keep her interested. If she gets squirmy from sitting in my lap, I’ll have Perry grab her and then she suddenly calms down again. This back and forth works really well for us!
7. Dealing With Fussiness
It’s bound to happen at some point… your baby starts getting fussy and your worried it’s about to turn into a full on scream. Don’t panic, there are so many things you can do to help calm them down! First, check for a dirty diaper. When they are small enough, it’s easy enough to change them in your lap. But on our recent trip to Hawaii, we had to start bringing her to the airplane bathroom for diaper changes. I didn’t even realize airplanes have changing tables, but according to my husband, you have to pull them down from the wall. I’d recommend bringing a changing pad that has pockets for diapers and wipes so you don’t have to carry each item on it’s own. I have yet to change Ella myself in one of these bathrooms because Perry typically has the middle seat and volunteers to take her. He’s the best!
Also, don’t be caught dead without enough diapers to make it through your journey. I remember when Ella was 6 weeks old, I ran out of diapers during our layover. I scoped out the terminal to find a mom who had a baby the same age and I was awkwardly going to ask her if she had one to spare. Ahhh! Thankfully Perry rushed in to save the day with a generic package of Pampers he had found at one of the kiosks. From that moment on I decided I would always grab an excess of diapers. Hahaha.
If baby still is fussy, there are a few more things I would try to help them calm down:
Give them a favorite snack
Offer a teething toy if baby is teething. Maybe even teething tablets to help soothe any sore gums.
Gas drops or Gripe Water for an upset tummy.
Create a space between you and your spouse by lifting up the armrest and laying down a blanket. Lay baby down on their back with their favorite toy. This almost always works for our independent baby!
8. Nap time
There’s a good chance your baby is going to be pretty tired after all the stimulation that’s gone on over the last few hours. We let Ella nap in our arms on the plane and put her to sleep with a warm blanket, pacifier, sound machine and bottle if needed. Once baby is asleep, you might actually get a chance to watch your own movie! :)
9. Dealing With Layovers
If you happen to have a layover on the way to your destination, count this as a blessing is disguise. I’ll use this opportunity to put a blanket on the ground at our next gate and let Ella sit, stretch and roll independently. Once she gets tired of that, I’ll pick her up and walk her around the terminal. She loves looking inside the stores and people watching, so this is another great way to wear her out before the next flight. Ideally you have packed all of your babies essentials in case there is any delay. During our last layover, we had a 10 hour delay and I was so grateful we had her luggage!
10. Preparing For Landing
Just like take off, we always give Ella a bottle during the descent! Once the air plane hits the ground, we start packing up bags and organizing our possessions. If I’m holding Ella, Perry will usually do this. Once the plane de-boarding, anything you checked at the Gate will be available to you right when you step off the plane. We immediately pull out Ella’s stroller, pop her in, and then we’re off!
I hope that some of these tips will be a resource for you as you plan any upcoming trips with an infant in arms. The biggest thing to remember, is that no matter what happens, the plane will eventually land and you’ll never see those passengers again… lol! If you have any further suggestions that have helped you and your family out while traveling with a baby, please feel free to add them in the comment section below.
You may also be interested in: Essential Baby Products for Colds & Fevers.