The other day, my husband came home exhausted from a business trip sharing with me a horror story: the baby behind him screamed for the entire flight. “Our boys never had a hard time flying,” he exclaimed proudly. I know the thought of a screaming baby on a flight is enough to keep moms from traveling out of fear.
Flying With Your Baby
Fear not, brave mama!
Flying with your baby can be smooth sailing if you are well prepared. After fifteen years’ experience traveling with kids, I’ll share my best tricks for flying with baby, and help you avoid the in-flight ordeal of a screaming newborn.
Plan to nurse or bottle-feed baby for take-off and landing. Even as adults we feel in cabin air pressure changes when a plane takes off and lands. Baby’s ears are super sensitive, and the suckling action is different from that of a pacifier. Whether from bottle or breastfeeding, allowing baby to drink will not only comfort your infant in strange surroundings, it will truly help alleviate some of baby’s ear discomfort.
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Baby: Your Most Important Carry-On
Nothing makes flying with a baby easier than traveling through the airports with your bundle of joy bundled at your chest. Speaking from much experience, baby wearing made our life so much easier.
This concept may go against everything you’ve been told about needing a stroller. But, trust me, you’ll save yourself the stressful rush between flights with all the gear you must unload and reload into baby’s stroller with each change of plane. It’s even more of a challenge if you’re flying alone.
By carrying baby, you’ll be able to hop on the escalators instead of searching for elevators, and then often even waiting for one to arrive.
I have a couple favorite kinds of carriers, ring slings and the Ergo, depending on baby’s size and your comfort level. Make sure you’ve been practicing with the carrier around your house, neighborhood and grocery store before you head for the airport, though. Either check it in or have one waiting for you at your destination.
Baby carriers often have a huge bonus: the front pocket. Stash your phone, ID, boarding passes, and small wallet or just your plastic, and you’ll avoid digging in your bottomless pit, also known as the diaper bag. My pocket was even big enough for a diaper and mini-wipes pack. Another bonus: a sling also doubles as a nursing cover.
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Pack Exceptionally Light
Our rule of thumb for luggage: one small rolling bag and one easily manageable carry-on each. With baby, this is even more important because you’ll also be traveling with extra gear. With most airlines charging for every piece of luggage on flights these days, it’s a blessing and privilege that most airlines will check your baby stroller and/or car seat for no extra charge at the curb or inside with the ticket agent.
If I was traveling with our big Britax car seat in a travel case, I could even add a few things considered “baby items.” Stuff some extra diapers, maybe a blanket and a few other necessary necessities in your car seat carrier bag and check it into the airlines’ cargo. Packing that car seat bag with all the things you “might” need with you on the plane will free up your own luggage for your gear.
Opt for just essentials in your actual carry-on: a new attention-grabbing toy, formula and bottles as needed, diapers, diapers, and more diapers, wipes, a couple pacifiers, change of clothes baby and for mom & dad as well in case of that unfortunate spit-up or diaper accident. There’s nothing worse than running out of diapers because it’s a short flight and you end up getting delayed and/or rerouted, needing more supplies than you have. Double up on diapers and formula, and you’ll be safe.
My friend Jodi from Ireland Family Vacations puts it this way, “A great place to begin your planning for baby’s gear is to look at what you take with you on daily outings. What do you need for a day trip to grandma’s house or an afternoon with friends? This is a good indicator of what you will need on a flight.”
Use a super lightweight backpack or messenger type diaper carry-on bag which works well with your baby carrier and can be stored for easy reach under the seat in front of you. Moms personally don’t need any carry-on gear beyond a phone with something to read, maybe a sudoku or word game that works without internet connection, your personal items, and a battery backup. You’ll be focused on caring for baby, not reading the latest novel, so leave the weight of the books and other gear at home or in your rolling suitcase.
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Enjoy the Ride
Remember to leave plenty of travel time. Undoubtedly, traveling with baby will be filled with excitement, but also unexpected variables. Plan for plenty of extra time at the airport, especially dealing with long lines at security, to make your traveling memories with baby happy ones!
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