Flying with a Baby-Everything I Know
Many of us have had it with the snow and are wisely headed South for a little bit of sun before Spring is officially in Boston. While we're personally not going anywhere until April, we flew a bunch with Chewie last year. I'm certainly not a pro (I have a friend who took her 3 month old to Bali and Dubai from San Fran, so I'll never say I'm a professional traveler compared to her), but I did a lot of research for flying with infants that I wanted to pass along. I would also LOVE to get any suggestions and tips from each of you because our guy only gets more and more independent, so please post your best traveling-with-kids secrets in the comments below.
Ergo/Carrier: We're not one for strollers in the airport. It helps us to travel light, and we don't have to check anything at the gate. Also, when your babies are really tiny, you can wear them on the plane in your carrier and still have your hands free. Plus, you can move through security much faster without a stroller.
Car Seat: In terms of height, Chewie is a bit of a monster, so we quickly outgrew the "lap infant" option and have brought his car seat along on flights. We have found restraining him to be highly effective. However, if you don't need a car seat for your flight and are worried about needing one for your destination, you can always rent one through your car rental agency. Or, if you're visiting friends or family, consider having them buy a basic seat. This one is only 45 dollars, has passed all the crash safety tests. Plus, with the fees the rental agencies charge for seats, you'll probably spend the same amount and will at least be able to use it in the future.
Travel Boppy: When Chewie was a baby, he was still a BIG baby and so I could never hold him while he nursed or I would have broken my wrists. This travel boppy folded up small and had a sling, but then unzipped to full size so I could put him somewhere on the plane instead of holding him the entire time. Added bonus was I had a boppy pillow for our entire trip.
Other gear: You've typically got one of two options with the rest of your gear, you can either rent everything at your destination (most major cities have baby gear rental companies, check online or with your hotel) OR, with most airlines, you can gate check any baby-related items. This includes strollers, pack and plays, car seats and anything else (although you might press your luck if you brought a high chair, although I'd love to see someone try it).
Here are some of the best toys that have worked for us as distractions on the plane:
Stickers/Tape (bring a whole role of painters tape and stick it everywhere)
Water bottles with anything inside of it
Snacks, snacks, snacks (including snacks they don't normally get)
Anything from the $1 section at Target that's new and exciting
Anything that lights up
An ipad or video-player with apps, games and movies for older kids- just don't forget over the ear toddler headphones like these
Dum Dum suckers or candy canes. These are my secret weapon when all else fails
Iphone and Android Apps for Distractions:
Peek A Boo Barn
Anything by Fisher Price
White Noise App (we use this literally every night, but it's also great to encourage sleeping in public)
Petting Zoo (my personal favorite...I'm also mesmerized by it)
Travel Light: If you're doing carry on luggage only, pack a very small bag with all your emergency items including diapers, wipes, toys, and a change of clothes. That way you won't have to get up if you need any items during the flight.
Hand Sanitizer: Put this within easy reach because they will touch everything-- EVERYTHING-- at the airport. And then they'll put their hands in their mouth.
Drinks: If it's a liquid for a baby (breastmilk, formula, milk), it typically can go through security. I would suggest pre-loading your sippy cups or bottles to make them easier to use.
Make Your Life Easier:
Get on the plane last: Although it seems counter-intuitive, if you have someone you're traveling with, have one person board the plane first during the preboard and get your stuff situated. They can make sure your gear gets in the overhead compartments and you check any gear you need to at the gate. Then, have the other person stay with your kid and let them burn off all the energy they can while not trapped on the plane. We normally let Chewie run around the gate until it's the last possible moment to board. I always let the gate check agent know that we'll be boarding last so they don't leave without us, but this will cut down on plane time. Plus, your kid may still find being on a plane novel while you're taking off.
TSA Precheck: This is the best $75 dollars I've ever spent. Only one person in your party needs to be pre-checked for you to get to use the pre-check line. You don't have to take off your shoes, take out any liquids or laptops, and the line is always WAY shorter. If you're ever in Terminal A in Boston, you can walk right in and it takes 5 minutes to complete your registration. Otherwise, you have to make an appointment ahead of time. But I promise it's worth it. Because if your kid is going to have a temper tantrum, the only place worse than the plane to do so, is in the security line.
Nurse or give a bottle during take off and landing: This will help your child if their ears pop while the pressure is changing in the cabin. Because apparently giving your 13 month old gum is frowned upon.
Baby Benedryl: My very wise pediatrician gave us the go-ahead to drug Chewie on a 6 hour flight to Arizona. Her recommendation was to test it before to make sure he wasn't part of the population that had the opposite effect (aka bouncing off the walls) but otherwise she pointed out that it's very safe, and reminded us that it's for his comfort as well, because long flights are no fun for anyone!
Don't expect sleep: Even with the benedryl. Because if it doesn't happen, you'll be stressed out. But if it does, you'll treat it like a bonus. It's all about expectation setting. Specifically, yours.
So that's all the wisdom I have. And just remember, your co-passengers are going to be one of two types of people. They'll either be parents themselves and/or familiar with kids, and will totally get it, and give you lots of sympathy. Or they won't be parents and/or won't be familiar with kids, and will be jerks, and hey, you can't please those people anyway. So just enjoy your flight, and keep thinking of your destination. My mantra is always "the flight will eventually end. It will eventually end...."