Flying with Baby
I’m laughing to myself as I write this post, because I can’t believe the
ridiculous travels we’ve done with baby. Back in the summer when I
had her, I was telling a friend how I wasn’t planning any trips before the
end of the year, and had no desire to travel just to travel for a while.
After our crazy year abroad and all the many travels the past years,
we were loving just being in one place and soaking up our new phase
of life cozy at home with baby, and no plans for a trip except for
our Washington DC trip in October to visit family & friends.
My cousin threw me a baby shower when I was pregnant
and themed it around travel, and had everyone give tips on
traveling with baby. Even then I was laughing saying I wouldn’t
need these tips because we were giving it a rest for a while!!
Well…slowly but surely, trips started to add here and there.
Chase had to go to Chicago last minute for work, and my bestie
Brynn had JUST moved there the week before. We obviously
couldn’t resist the cheap flight to be able to tag along with Chase
and see friends! Then we did our Virginia and DC trip which was
so meaningful to be with my brother and his family and also see
some favorite friends + have them meet baby. After that Chase
had another business trip to NYC at the perfect time of year with
the fall leaves, and I had another bestie + my cousin with a baby
the exact same age who hadn’t met…all of these personal connections
made us decide to do these trips! We had been to these cities many
times, but wanted to see favorite friends and it’s hard to resist when
Chase has a hotel for work and has to go anyway…so we joined!
Anyway in the middle of packing all of that in,
we also made a HUGE booking for the craziest trip ever.
Chase’s MBA graduation in Spain was coming up December, and
we were back and forth about whether I would come with the baby.
It was right before going home for Christmas, and he was super
busy with work and finals leading up to it…so we couldn’t really
plan a Europe trip around it because he couldn’t before and it was
Christmas right after. My mom kept telling me I should come back
to South Africa with the baby which I laughed at and said NEVER!!!
The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to be at Chase’s
graduation and support him there. It’s a big deal! We were talking
one night and floated the idea of me going down to South Africa
for a few weeks before the graduation, then flying back through
Madrid to meet Chase for graduation for a few days. We thought
that as long as we were going to throw off her timing by going to
Europe, maybe it was worth it to just take her to South Africa to
meet my dad and be able to spend more time with my parents.
I called my mom and said I was considering coming back, but
ONLY if we could surprise my dad. He’s spent his whole life
surprising us and making life magical, and he is the sweetest
dad and grandpa in the world. He facetimes daily and the only
reason he hadn’t met Reagan was because he is serving as a mission
president for our church and can’t leave it. As I thought about this
insane trip, I realized that though it would be crazy to fly this far
alone with a baby, it would be worth it. My first baby girl would only
be 4 months old once, and she’ll change so much in her first year by
the time she would have next seen my parents. I knew it was crazy,
but worth it!
So — we booked and I went alone from SF to Zurich, stopped and saw
friends there for a night, then down to Johannesburg for 2 weeks
and back through Madrid in time for the graduation. After that it
was back through Toronto and home to San Francisco for 2 days
before hopping back on a plane to get home to SLC for the holidays.
I explain all of this only to say that I did not plan on all of this travel,
nor would I ever do it just to do it. It has all been to meaningful places
focused on the people in them, and she has been a pretty good age to
travel before she is crawling/walking all over. Now I definitely want to
take some time and get into routine, and don’t have anything planned
until this summer when my parents come home. I hope to do lots more
nearby us in the Bay and give baby girl some routine now! Even so, I
feel like I have gained some experience — especially being alone on
60+ hours of traveling — that I can share. Every baby, parent, flight,
and experience is different…but I thought I would share a few tips
we have found helpful. Reagan is a good baby but I won’t lie, some
of these flights have been absolute hell ;) so I’ve learned some things
the hard way! Here are a few tips, I’d love to hear any others!
Before you fly
- Make sure you call the airline and double check everything baby-related before you fly:
- Add your infant’s information to your ticket beforehand (or else you’ll get held up at the airport)
- Ask about equipment they allow, what they will gate check for free, etc. Most airlines allow a free checked baby bag as well as stroller/carseat checking, but ask about this. You also want to make sure your stroller is efficient for a plane. If not, Strollerbuzz.com reviewed the best travel system strollers here for you to decide on an appropriate one.
- Get good seats either with empty seats around it, or the bulkhead bassinet seats for long flights. My best flights have been when there is an empty seat next to me and they let me bring the carseat on. Game changer.
- Bring something to cover your carseat if you’re gate checking it, and some plastic bags to put binkies/blankets/toys in while going through security. Otherwise you’ll have to put them on the belt through security.
- Bring a wrap or carrier,especially if traveling alone. You’ll need both hands to go through security and get situated on the plane, so a wrap helps.
- Pack a really simple and accessible bag with JUST diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, an extra outfit, some snacks and maybe toys. You will need all of these things and they should be separate from your other items so that you’re not digging around for things when you need them quickly!
- Figure out all visa/documentation requirements for babies if traveling abroad. (I learned this the hard way almost getting stopped in Zurich on the way to South Africa because SA requires a baby’s original birth certificate which I had, AND a signed affidavit from the other parent if traveling alone with baby. I had a last minute hail Mary in Zurich and Chase saved the day from afar, but otherwise I would have been turned around). So double and triple check!!
On the flight
- Board LAST. This is probably different depending on your baby’s age, but for us in the 3-6 month range, I couldn’t believe how hard it made things to add an extra 25 minutes on the plane before it even takes off! The airlines allow families with kids to board first, but I quickly learned not to use that and to board very last. Then you can just walk down, gate check your stroller/carseat if needed, and walk onto the plane closer to takeoff. The less time sitting and waiting with a restless baby, the better! This way you’re not trapped in your seat waiting while every person boards…and if there are delays, you won’t be sitting there for even longer.
- Wipe down everything in sight with a sanitizing wipe. I always bring a packet of these in my pocket and wipe the tray tables, arm rests, seatbelts, etc. to save us from germs! Baby hasn’t gotten sick from a flight yet, and she’s been on over 20.
- Try to follow as close your baby’s normal routine as possible. For us, that’s: feed ? wake/play time for about an hour and a half, ? nap. So depending where the flight falls in that timing, I’ve tried to help her stay close to it. It’s nice when it happens that she wakes right before the flight, nurses during takeoff, and is awake and happy for a bit before falling asleep.
- Speaking of sleep, I think the airplane natural white noise helps babies sleep on flights if they can get comfortable. If you have an empty seat by you and the carseat that’s been the best for us, but on crowded flights she would sleep on our laps early on. Once we brought a full size nice pillow from home and it was such a game-changer for a long 6-hour flight to the East Coast, but it only worked because we were renting a car and had plenty of space for the pillow on our trip. Other trips I would never want to have a random pillow along…so in the case you could try to 2 airplane pillows. The pillow made her so comfy sleeping on our lap, and saved our legs from falling asleep with her sleeping on us! Once she hit about 4-5 months it’s been harder for her to fall asleep right on our lap without being distracted, so the bassinet or carseat has saved us. Bring a swaddle and binkie/lovie, all the things they normally fall asleep with…sometimes we have also used her headphones to cancel out some noise, or held a blanket over her eyes while she falls asleep because there’s a lot to distract her!!
- Walk the aisles. The key for a restless baby is to walk the plane, letting them see all of the faces and things going on. On one of our first flights to Chicago, I should have turned my Strava app on…I bet I walked a few miles back and forth on the plane because she was in a mood where if we sat she would cry, but was happy as a clam walking :) If you’re flying with your husband or someone else, you can switch off!
- Relax and take a deep breath. Don’t be ashamed or worried that you have a baby on the flight. Be friendly and smile at people as you board, and most will be nice and understanding…and even helpful! When they aren’t, don’t worry about what people think. Of course it’s important to be mindful of others, but you need to do what’s best for your babe and people will understand. Try to relax and do what you’d do in a normal situation. Don’t let people get to you…98% of people have been so sweet to us on flights, and the other 2% are just having a bad day. Shake it off!
What to bring
- The first thing I learned is that taking too much can be as detrimental as not taking enough. It’s probably better to be over-prepared than under, but my first flight was ridiculous with the amount of things I packed. I had way too much and then couldn’t find what I actually needed! Basically be prepared for anything so that nothing can spoil your time away. That means you want to take:
- A pair or two of extra baby clothes on the plane just in case
- Extra diapers and wipes
- Some good toys that will entertain baby
- Snacks (for you and/or baby ;). If you’re nursing, it’s nice because you don’t have to worry about packing food. If you pump, some airlines will let you store milk in their fridges so ask!
- Binkie – don’t forget this, because it helps with their ears during takeoff and landing.
- Extra blanket. It gets so cold on some flights, so have a blanket, hat, mittens, etc. to keep baby snuggly.
Helping baby sleep
- Try your hardest to choose flights that coincide with your baby’s sleeping schedule and take them through whatever bedtime ritual you follow. I always dress Reagan in her pajamas for longer flights so she’s cozy and can feel as much like bedtime as possible. Also as I mentioned above, a bassinet also helps SO much on flights, so remember to request one in advance…or bring your carseat if there are extra seats! :)
I’d love any and all other tips on the subject, but hope these ones help!
Obviously it’s all a little different depending on the age of the baby!
See some items I pack for baby here!
Two lifesavers on a 15 hour flight = the bassinet, and
the mirror in the back galley. Lots of distraction there! ^^
^^ Her little hand holding the passport with me…I can’t!
It’s a whole different game flying with this sweet face! ^^
I try to pack as light as possible, and you can use a
best carry-on luggage review to pick the best for you!
Zen moment on a flight ;) ^^ And just remember…it’s always worth it once you arrive,
and get to show your little one a beautiful new place //
take them to be with loved ones! You can do it!
(At least that is what I kept telling myself ;)