We’ve gone on vacation with P before but we drove and it was super easy to control what all we needed during our time. Flying = COMPLETELY DIFFERENT STORY.
We were terrified. I couldn’t take everything but the kitchen sink like I had on our San Diego trip. I knew I could only take what would fit between a carry on item and 2 checked bags. One of my BFFs is a baby traveling pro. Her son has been on 20+ flights and he is only 2! I knew she would be the best person to ask about everything. After 50 or so questions, we felt super prepared and were on our way. Since we just got back, I thought this list would be super helpful for other people so, here you go:
It’s all about timing. When booking your flight, *if possible* try and coordinate it during nap times. We didn’t have any crazy specific time we needed to arrive so we based it around P’s typical napping schedule and it was perfect.
Get there early. Erin travels a lot and his key to traveling success is getting to the airport early. We knew we needed to check bags and wanted to have enough time for bathroom breaks, feeding times or whatever unexpected thing could occur with an 8-month-old. Arriving 2 – 2 1/2 hours before our flight was necessary.
Check your boarding pass. If you are traveling with your baby on your lap, your ticket needs to reflect that. We flew on Southwest so we needed to get her added on to my boarding pass. They’ll require that you bring the baby’s birth certificate to verify the age so make sure you have that handy!
Be careful with strollers & car seats. If you read my Colorado Vacation post, you know that my stroller was damaged at gate check and we were told after the fact that they will not cover the damage. A lot of flight attendants warn their family and friends about this and recommend that they take a crappy stroller or cheaper car seat that they wouldn’t be worried about getting damaged. I think you can find a less expensive model (usually around $20) but they probably don’t recline. A reclining seat is a must have for us because P will sleep while we are running all over town. I’ll probably purchase one of the models below before our next trip.
Frozen Milk is Best. When you get to the first security check point, let them know you have a separate item of milk/food for the baby. They will scan it separately if it’s frozen. If it’s liquid, they’ll scan it. Frozen milk is a breeze to take through security. They just wipe it down to make sure it’s good to go. Best part is that you can really take as much as you need. I think I took 3 packets. You can also take through frozen ice packs to keep it cool. Our hotel didn’t have a freezer so our ice packs were a little melty going through security on the way back and I was lectured a little.
Food = Happy Babies. I always prefer to make P’s food but when we are out and about, I rely on little food pouches. We love the GoGo Squeeze Applesauce packets from Costco. I used them in the morning and mixed them with rice cereal. Perfect for my little gummy mouthed baby. We also stocked up on Happy Baby Organics baby food pouches for the rest of our meals. We bought 3 different varieties to mix it up during the week we were gone. You are allowed to bring a “reasonable” amount through security. They (TSA) prefer the 3.2 oz size so the GoGo Squeeze size was perfect. The Happy Baby packets are a little larger but they still let us take them through. You’ll also need to declare this to the first security area.
Get the Back Row. This is one of the best pieces of advice I received! It’s embarrassing to be the parent with the crying baby. Even worse when you are trapped on a metal tube with no way out. The back row is key. People may look back, yes, but it’s not as bad as people staring at you from all directions. Erin always tells me, if you are a single person flying with no headphones and you are bothered by the crying of a little baby, it’s your problem. Realistically, you’re probably more sensitive to your baby’s cries than others. Even if Palmer makes a tiny peep, I get overly nervous and search around for all the judgy people thinking my child is out of control so I can mouth an apologetic “sorry”.
Pop Those Ears. Another amazing tip. My friend’s doctor told her that a big reason babies cry during flights is because they don’t know how to pop their ears. It’s uncomfortable for them and they can’t adjust to the difference in air pressure. To help them to equalize the pressure, have them drink from a bottle (or you, if the baby is EBF). The sucking motion helps them to adjust to the pressure, resulting in a much happier baby. We had a bottle on the first flight. We gave P half the bottle, then some Puffs to distract her. When we were about to start descending, we started giving her the rest of the bottle.
When in doubt, swaddle. I love swaddling. It’s the key to a happy baby – no matter the age. Well.. unless your baby hates to be swaddled and to that I say, I’m sorry. We mainly just focus on securing P’s arms so she feels cozy and leave the bottom loose. It’s pretty much just like she’s being tucked in with a blanket. A comfortable swaddle and a pacifier and our LO is at peace.
Hotel Tip: Request a PnP. When we were in San Diego, we brought our pack ‘n’ play. Most hotels will provide a crib or play crib at no charge. I strongly recommend packing a sheet though. Some hotels do not provide one and then your baby is just sleeping on the yucky mattress insert. Ew.
I’m sure I’m just hitting the tip of the iceberg but these were the most lifesaving tips for me during our first flight with a baby. Based on our first trip, I feel totally confident with longer flights and future family adventures.