Let me preface this with the fact that Bayler and I have been on over 20 flights together (just the two of us) so I have learned a thing or two.
We took our first solo flight when she was 2 months old. From about 2 months to 6 months flights were pretty easy. I’d nurse during takeoff, she’d usually fall asleep, then we would nurse again, hope for another nap, then nurse when landing and hope for one last cat nap. Flying was fairly simple minus having to lug around all the extra gear. But then, things changed.
Once she started to become more aware of her surroundings and when she wanted more freedom to sit on her own, crawl, and finally walk, that’s when things got complicated.
(P.s. had Dan proofread this entire post and he said “this makes it seem like you are a single mom” lol. Nope, he just has a very busy work schedule that doesn’t allow him to travel with us as often as we would like!)
Tip #1 Check as many bags as you can
Yes, you have to pay for the additional bags, but it’ll save your sanity, which is truly priceless. If you don’t want to pay to check a lot of bags, then you can almost always check your bags for free once you get to your gate. The more free hands (and fingers) you have to devote to baby, the better.
Tip #2 Gate check your stroller
I am still completely obsessed with my Uppa Baby Vista Stroller. I’m convinced I couldn’t travel as often as I do without it. I shove all of Bayler’s stuff underneath in the storage compartment then Bay rides in her stroller as I (most of the time) sprint to our gate to catch connections. Yes, I’ve been that girl more than I’d like to admit in the last year.
Tip #3 Sign up for TSA pre-check
It’s around $80 but if you travel often, it’s worth every penny. You don’t have to take off your shoes, take your laptop out of your bag, wait in the long general security lines, etc. AND, as long as your kids (under 12) are on your itinerary, they get pre-check privileges as well. This saves so much time and stress going through security with a baby.
Tip #4 Forget about schedules
I am kinda crazy when it comes to Bay’s nap/sleep schedule. I know how important sleep is for babies and I know that she is her best self when she gets enough sleep. With that said, naps/sleep are almost always off schedule when traveling and being ok with that saves my sanity.
Tip #5 Don’t worry about anyone else on that flight
Do what you can to make baby happy and that’s your one and only focus. When you get stressed, remember that every single person on board was once a baby and the majority of people on board have babies. No one is going to die because your baby is crying.
Tip #6 Pack more diapers than you think
Pack an extra outfit or two, lotsss of diapers, and a changing mat. Some smaller planes now don’t have changing tables in the bathrooms (I personally think this should be illegal) so there have been plenty of times where I have to lay her on my seat or in the aisle to change a diaper. Yep, very glamorous, but some airplanes don’t leave you any other choice. Also, I don’t know what it is about airplanes and babies but they poop more than usual. They just do.
Tip #7 No screen time rules
I don’t care how many shows (in Bayler’s case it’s always videos of herself lol) she wants to watch while on the airplane. We bring her ipad in a durable case and offer these headphones (though I think she’s still too young to want to use them). I pre-download episodes of Baby Einstein on itunes and let them play over and over – each is about 20 minutes long so a few per trip usually does the trick! This way, I can let them play quietly on the speaker and it’s not super loud or disruptive to other passengers since they play classical music in the background.
Tip #8 Let strangers help
The first couple of times flying, strangers would offer to help carry bags onto the plane or fold up my stroller or put something in the overhead, etc and I’d always say “oh thanks, but I’ve got it”. Not sure what I was trying to prove. Now I accept any and all help from strangers on the plane. Which, if you’re reading this and you ever see a struggling mom at the airport, OFFER TO HELP!).
Tip #9 Dress in layers
Dress as if the plane is going to be 90 degrees (but bring a blanket for baby – I highly recommend Barefoot Dreams) because when you have a warm baby on your lap the whole time it feels like it is.
Tip #10 Pack as if they won’t offer you any water or snacks
Because these days, they won’t! Buy plenty of water and snacks for YOU and baby. A dehydrated mama will be no good for wrangling baby and snacks are a great distraction tactic for baby. I also love these packing cubes for keeping things organized.
Tip #11 You’re allowed to pack milk for baby
You are allowed to bring breast milk (frozen or not) and/or whole milk for baby. Just make sure you take it out of your bag at security and they will have to test it. I carry mine in a small hydroflask so it stays nice and cold. For frozen breastmilk, I keep it in a bag and stuff the bag in a hydroflask surrounded by ice.
Tip #12 Don’t forget the medicine
Pack any and all medicine you might need in your carryon. You don’t want to be stuck on a long flight only to find out baby has diaper rash and you have no cream. My favorite diaper cream is Boudreaux’s Butt Paste.
Tip #13 Flight attendants can help
Let’s talk about using the restroom. As if changing your baby in the crammed bathroom on the tiny changing table wasn’t stressful enough, you now have to figure out how to pee in that tiny bathroom while your baby is either in your lap or standing on the tiny floor space by your legs. Fun times. Don’t be afraid to ask the flight attendant to watch baby for 10 seconds while you use the restroom if it’s too crowded. Most of the time they are willing to help, even if they don’t seem super excited about it.
Tip #14 Purchase a carseat bag and a good suitcase.
And make sure it has straps! Here’s mine that was cheap and works great: Car Seat Carrier. This is a game changer. Without it there’s no way you can travel in and out of the airport solo. Plus, it protects your carseat from being damaged or getting dirty during travel. Another lesson I had to learn the hard way! 🙂 Also, my new Samsonite suitcase set up is incredible! The small carryon hooks onto the larger carryon so I can roll them both one handed! Game changer!
Tip #15 Try not to stress
This one is the most important tip of all! 9 times out of 10, traveling is not going to be seamless (in my experience) so try to go with the flow, roll with the punches, and make sure baby is happy. Don’t worry about the dirty looks, rude flight attendants, lack of water on board, etc.
Now that we got all that over with… Remember that you don’t have to purchase a seat for your baby until they are TWO so take advantage of the free flights and get out there and travel! You’ve got this!