We took our first road trip with our son when he was just ten days old, but when it came to preparing for baby’s first flight, I was a bit nervous, especially since it was across the globe to Thailand!
Here are seven of the best tips I’ve learned for surviving baby's first flight (or any flight with baby) from trial, error, and thirteen years’ experience traveling with kids.
7 Tips for Surviving Baby's First Flight
Ditch the stroller for the flight and wear the baby
I know this may go against your mommy instincts and everything you’ve heard, read or seen. But trust me, baby-wearing for the first couple of flights made our life so much easier. I’ve used both cloth slings and the Ergo Baby, depending on baby’s size. You’ll have to leave the stroller at the gate anyway and fold it down yourself while trying to hold baby. Either check it in or have one waiting for you at your destination. You’ll save yourself the hassle in between flights and the rush that comes with all the gear you must unload and reload in the baby stroller with each plane change.
If you have a sling or front carrier with a pocket, that’s a bonus. It can hold your phone, ID, boarding passes, and small zipper pouch as a wallet and you’ll avoid having to hunt in a bag for any of these. A sling can also double as a nursing cover. Traveling without your stroller does come with a caveat, which leads me to number two.
Pack only the MUSTS in your carry-on
Pack exceptionally light. The airlines will check your baby stroller and/or car seat at no charge at the curb or with the ticket agent. Take advantage of this! I always packed our big Britax car seat in a case where I could add my extra diapers and a few other items as extra luggage space. Leave all the things you “think” you might need with you on the plane and opt for just essentials in a lightweight backpack or messenger type stored under the seat in front of you diaper bag with your baby’s necessities: formula and bottles if you’re using it, diapers, pacifiers, change of clothes, rattling toy and/or sensory ball.
What exactly are essentials? My travel blogging friend Jodi puts it this way, “A great place to begin your planning is to look at what you take with you on daily outings. What do you need for a day trip to grandma’s house or an afternoon with friends? This is a good indicator of what you will need on a flight.”
Carry-on more diapers than you think you’ll need
There’s nothing worse than running out of diapers because it’s a short flight and you end up getting delayed and/or rerouted, needing more supplies than you have. Double up, and you’ll be safe for any challenges that come your way. Travel with enough diapers and formula if you’re using it for 1-2 days.
Bring a change of clothes for mom and dad as well as baby
This piece of advice will carry you through when the baby’s diaper leaks at the most inopportune time, spit up got you in the wrong place, or your holiday flight was cancelled. You and your flying neighbors will thank me.
Plan to nurse or bottle-feed baby for take off and landing
Baby’s ears are super sensitive, and even as adults we feel the pressure changes when a plane takes off and lands. The suckling action from a nursing baby will sooth your infant and help alleviate some of the ear pain. If your baby is into solids already, make sure to have lots of snacks.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Before, during, and after your flight. Call the airlines if you have questions. Some planes even offer a baby bassinet in the bulkhead seats. Check on the airlines’ lap child policy, which is usually until baby is 24 months before you need to purchase a ticket. Ask for a golf cart ride in the terminal if you’re tired.
Onboard, flight attendants are there for you; ring that button and ask for a hand when you need to use the restroom. Find another traveling family and make some friends along the way. Run out of wipes? Ask another traveling mom. See another mom struggling? Remember to treat others the way you’d want to be treated, and offer to lend a hand or a word of encouragement to her as well.
Leave plenty of travel time
Your first flight with baby will be filled with excitement, but don’t let being late due to long lines at security or traffic delays cause anxiety. Plan to give yourself plenty of extra time at the airport to make your first flight a joyfully memorable one!
Bon voyage! Do you have any other tips to add to this list? Join in the conversation on our Facebook page.