I still consider myself a new mom even though Boo-Boo is 16 months old. So I usually don’t think of myself “expert” enough to give advice about parenting. But flying with a baby is something I’ve had a lot of practice with so at the start of summer, I’d like to share 10 things I’ve learned so far.
Boo-Boo has made 6 round-trip flights so far. None of them were direct flights. That works out to 24 flights that I’ve boarded with a baby in my lap. Most of them– 16 to be exact– I was traveling by myself. I’m not going to lie; it’s difficult flying alone with a baby. But it is doable.
Here are my top ten survival tips:
1. Take a direct flight, if possible. The risk of delays is pretty high. (I’ve been stuck in day-long travel odysseys twice now.) And it’s not really the time in the layover airport that’s so bad, it’s the boarding of the second plane when you are already exhausted and your babe is wired.
If you must have a connection, make sure to allow for plenty of time between flights to compensate for any delay in your originating city. You’ll want to have time to change diapers, eat and play. Scope out the layover airport to see if they have a children’s play area and family bathrooms. Chicago’s O’Hare has a Kids of the Fly play area sponsored by the Children’s Museum. Another option for diversion is riding around on a terminal linking train system. Most of the larger airports I’ve been to have them.
4. If you check your car seat (or stroller) bring a bag. Some airlines sometimes have courtesy bags at the ticket counter, but it’s a safer bet to wrap it yourself. The largest leaf trash bags should work for most seats. Just experiment before you get up there.
Some people prefer to check their stroller at the gate. Make sure that it’s small enough to be allowed to gate check it, though. Different airlines have different weight limits. A lot of people like to check the stroller through (or leave it at home) and use a baby carrier like the Ergo. If you are traveling alone with a baby, make sure you can open and close the stroller with one hand. If you skip the stroller, make sure you can carry your carry-on and baby at the same time. There’s not really a one-size-fits-all way to do things; it depends on your situation.
5. Bring medication. No I’m not advocating for dosing up your child so they sleep through the flight! But bring any pain relievers that you might possibly need. Boo-Boo has been teething on several flights and it’s the worst. Maybe the change in pressure makes it worse? I usually give him the homeopathic stuff at the first sign of discomfort and have the ibuprofen on hand if that doesn’t work.
7. When it comes to toys and books: think small and light. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be tricky. We always bring an assortment of small animals, pint-sized board books, photos of family (and cats!) we are going to see, hand mirrors and small rattles/teethers. The animals can be transferred into and out of your snack bowls and matched with books. A bag of small cloths is fun to empty and those cloths can come in handy for spills or runny noses. You might want to pack a variety of items in several medium-sized bags and let your baby pull everything out.
8. Electronic devices will eventually need to be turned off. iPhones and iPads are great fun and can totally save you in a pinch, but remember that you can’t use them the entire flight. If you do allow your baby to use apps, make sure the internet isn’t required for use. Boo-Boo likes to use the camera on my iPad like a mirror. I usually save it as a last resort and am ready with something thrilling for when it has to be stowed.
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