When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, everyone was quick to tell me that my traveling days were over. Determined to prove them wrong and continue to explore the world, I made the decision to take her with me.
Was it challenging? Ummm, yes. Imagine changing the diaper of a rambunctious toddler in a room barely big enough to squat. But it was totally worth it. So grab your wine and let me tell you how to survive your first flight with your baby.
What to Pack
Being a parent means the days of packing an hour before heading to the airport are over. Now, I have to carefully plan each day of my trip. So make some space and start laying out your clothes, and toys, and books…
- For every outfit you bring, take two for your kid
- Half an entire sleeve of diapers
- Every pair of socks your child owns plus two pairs of their shoes
- One light coat (no matter the season)
- The other half of the diaper sleeve
- An entire pack of wipes (you just never know)
- More Snacks
- Two soundless toys
- A large blanket
Parent Traveler Tip: Check the car seat with your luggage. If you take it onto the plane the flight attendants require you to buckle it in leaving no room if your baby wants to get out. And they will.
Parent Traveler Tip: Check the car seat with your luggage. If you take it onto the plane you are required to buckle it in leaving no room if your baby wants to get out.
The stroller is a lifesaver for airport navigation. But it’s important to keep in mind that pushing a stroller and pulling multiple suitcases is no easy feat. Do yourself a favor, bring some cash and rent a luggage cart.
How do you push a stroller and a cart, you ask?
Pushing down on the luggage cart makes it move with ease. Essentially, it’s like pushing two strollers. Even if you’re just going from the car to the check-in counter, it’s worth it.
Parent Traveler Tip: Breastfeeding? Most airports have private rooms for nursing mothers. If you’re lucky, your airport will have a Mamava Pod (aka a private breastfeeding room, easily accessible with a free smartphone app). It’s quiet, clean, and has magazines for added entertainment.
Security was/is the bane of my existence. Working my way through the zig-zag line with a giant stroller, my carry on, and a purse, all while keeping my daughter entertained so as not to bother the other 3,000 people waiting can be stressful, to say the least.
Once I finally made my way to the front, I was told that the entire stroller had to be taken apart and put through the scanner piece by piece. That is not a joke. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200 until you disassemble a stroller that easily took an hour to assemble in the first place.
Parent Traveler Tip: Approach security personnel before entering the line. Ask them what to expect and if there is a way to make the process go smoother. I was happily surprised to be escorted to a different, more private line, on the trip home. I didn’t have to disassemble anything and my kid didn’t lose her mind. WIN-WIN
Look at boarding the plane with a baby much like the security line. It’s much easier for you and other passengers that you and your baby get settled first. Let’s be honest, no one wants a sticky baby hand running through their hair as you try to carry everything between those tiny seats.
Rely on Flight Attendants
Flight attendants can be your best friend. Be kind to them. They can make things happen. For example:
- Ask the flight attendant if you can board early and check your stroller at the desk. The stroller will be placed at the exit of the plane when you land.
- Ask about seat assignments. Most of the time they will try to place you in a row with no other passengers, closer to the bathroom, or near the front.
Every flight I was on, the flight attendants let me board first, provided extra snacks, placed me in a row without anyone else (when possible), and overall, made the experience less stressful.
Parent Traveler Tip: For longer flights try to plan it during nap time or in the evening. Break out the blanket, get cozy and put them to sleep.
This is the part that all parents dread. The part where your kid is an angel baby or a demon child and there is no escape.
Please let her sleep. Please let her sleep.
Right before I boarded a woman in line looked back at me sympathetically as I struggled to re-pack the diaper bag my kid just emptied while balancing her on my hip and said, “If you get stressed out, remember, half the people on the flight will empathize because they’ve been there. The other half don’t matter.”
Our first flight to Germany was amazing and I attribute it to 5 important components:
- A calming aid – check with your pediatrician but a good homeopathic option is chamomilla (Hylands makes a good one).
- A separately purchased seat (details below)
- Mother Goose Clubhouse
Don’t want to be the parent that has to use a tablet? Now is not the time! Bring the tablet. Play their favorite shows. It’s a LONG, boring flight. Take the help.
Parent Traveler Tip: When purchasing a plane ticket for a child under the age of two you have two options; a lap seat ticket or a separate seat. A lap seat ticket is much cheaper as it assumes your baby will be on your lap. Don’t do it. Even if your baby ends up on your lap having the extra space is always welcomed.
Would I Do It Again?
When I start my next vacation, babyless, will I envy flustered parents boarding a flight with a little one in tow? No. But I don’t regret biting the bullet and taking my kid on her first flight. New experiences are scary for anyone, but it’s important that we embrace new, exciting challenges so that we raise well-rounded, culturally knowledgeable kids. I will, no doubt, one day relive the experience with my daughter, as we board another flight with an awaiting adventure.
I finally did it. This post contains my very first recommendation that includes a link for you to buy the product that saved our lives when the boys were babies. I use Amazon to buy most everything because as a working mom, I don’t have the time to go shopping outside my computer. So the Amazon link above will earn me a percentage of the sale if you buy the product because I was nice enough to be your guinea pig. Don’t know how much yet but I doubt I’ll be going to Vegas (with the boys:) to spend my wads of commission.