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.

2. Sit in the window seat. Not only does the window seat give you a teensy bit more space, it also gives you more privacy and less of a view of the open floor space. Once your babe is crawling, that open aisle looks like the most super-fun adventure. The one time I was forced to sit in the aisle I struggled to keep Boo-Boo in my lap for two hours! You can also take off their shoes, which might be sending mixed messages. And try not to get up because once they see that you can, they’ll want to keep doing it.
3. Choose your airline wisely. If you have options, make sure to check up on how each airline accommodates children under 2. Generally, they all allow babies under two to ride on your lap for free on domestic flights. International flights usually require a 10% fee, however there are differences among airlines for flights to Canada and Puerto Rico. They also differ on how young a baby can be to fly and their rates if you do choose to purchase a seat. Some have a 10% surcharge for babies flying in First Class. There are also differences in what baby items you can check for free.
Since their rules are constantly changing, I figured it was futile for me to try to post a detailed comparison. If you go to the airline’s website, you should be able to find the most current rules.
If you can fly Southwest, I’ve had really good experiences with them. Because you can choose your own seat, people usually won’t sit on a row with a baby unless the plane is full. They allow you to check both a stroller and car seat and offer discounted rates for infants and kids who sit in their own seat. (You have to call for special rates.) Be aware that they absolutely do require a birth certificate or passport to verify the child’s age.

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.

6. Be ready to nurse/pacify/snack. Of course you know when the plane takes off and lands the change in pressure can cause baby’s ears to pop. Nursing or sucking on a pacifier can help. If you nurse, be ready with your easy-access shirt and/or nursing cover. If your baby will use a pacifier, make sure to bring several so you don’t have to try to clean it off when it falls on the floor (it will no matter what you do!). Be aware that most domestic planes cannot warm up a bottle so make appropriate arrangements if your baby needs warm milk.
If your babe is eating solids, make sure to bring their favorite non-messy treats. Raisins and other dried fruits, sliced veggies, crackers and cheese are all good ideas. You might also want to bring a special snack in case of desperation. For Boo-Boo it’s the fruit leathers. He will do anything for them. Several companies make stick-on bowls that can minimize spillage.

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.

9. Sticky notes are the best! I learned this trick from a great teacher I used to work with, thanks P!! They follow the rule of being lightweight and small. They might be handy if you actually need to write something down, but for babies they are amazing. You can make an instant DIY lift-the-flap book. Stick them all over the walls and pull them off. Rip them up. I think Boo-Boo has eaten one or two. The sky’s the limit with these. (Punny I know.)
10. Don’t count on using the tray. I’ve had several flights in which I didn’t have space to bring down the tray because the person in front of me had their seat reclined. It happened when Boo-Boo was a little over a year so he wasn’t super tiny, but I’m pretty slender. So just be prepared if you are larger or pregnant and flying with a baby, you might be really, really short on space. You might want to think about upgrading to First Class (there may be an additional fee for the baby) or just getting your baby a seat. Depending on the length of your flight and activity level of your child, it might be worth it to you.

 What are your travel survival tips?Here are some other great pieces of advice from:
Carrots are OrangeInspiration Laboratories


A Cup of Jo

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