My daughter just turned one and can already claim the title of frequent flyer! She has already been on four trips (14 planes) and has another trip coming up in a couple of weeks. We have flown with her at nine weeks (SLC), five months (AZ), six months (SC), and twelve months (IL). Each time we’ve flown has brought different challenges and I wanted to share with you today what I’ve learned so far!
By far, the easiest time to fly with a baby (in my experience) is when they’re tiny and immobile. I was scared out of my mind to take my nine-week old on a plane trip to Utah by myself. I stressed about packing perfectly and wondered how breastfeeding, changing diapers, etc. would work on the plane. Another stressor for me was that my daughter would randomly and excessively throw up when she was really young. I was on edge and didn’t want that to happen on the plane. Thankfully it didn’t!
The greatest surprise to me about flying with a little one is how helpful everyone is! I had offers to carry things, fold up and open up my stroller, lift carry ons into the overhead bins, etc. People were great and that went a long way in helpful alleviate the stress. Before I flew with my baby for the first time, someone suggested that I always ask the desk if the flight is full before boarding. She said that the attendants might allow me to take my infant seat on board for free if there was extra room. Sure enough, on two out of three flights on our first trip this happened! It allowed me to have very peaceful and hands-free flights.
I have found that breastfeeding on a plane is really quite easy and people are very understanding of the commotion it sometimes causes to get baby comfortable for a feeding. I personally feel most comfortable using a cover. I got a free one from Udder Covers but haven’t been too pleased with it. It only covers the front from arm to arm. So while baby is flailing and kicking, you’re most likely being exposed. A few months after having Kya, I came across several brands that sell poncho-style covers. They cover completely and are multi-functional! I am definitely ordering one of those next time around (available at Milk Snob, Cover Me Ponchos, or Covered Goods). Or maybe I’ll make my own! It would be perfect for flying (and for all the time).
I definitely recommended flying with what you need, but not more than you need. The addition of a child to the flying experience definitely requires more stuff. A lot more stuff. You’re dealing with extra luggage, a stroller, a car seat, a diaper bag, and possibly a breast pump and baby carrier. After three trips, I learned that I needed to buy a backpack diaper bag. In retrospect, I would have registered for one that works as a shoulder bag and a backpack. Hindsight is 20/20. I ordered this backpack from Amazon and LOVED it on this last trip. It has a million pockets and is stylish enough to be used as a diaper bag or simply a backpack.
Diaper bags, strollers, car seats, and breast pumps fly free. Check with your airline about other baby items. We needed to take with our travel bed on this last trip so I called the airline to see if it would fly free. The lady I spoke with told me it would. When we flew from Portland to Chicago everything was fine and we checked it for free. On the way back, the lady at the ticketing desk in Chicago was adament that it could not fly free. Even though I did my due diligence and called ahead of time, I learned that you never know what leaway individual employees will give, so be prepared. Thankfully, we hadn’t exceeded our carry on limit, so the travel bed went on the plane with us.
I needed to travel with my breast pump on our first three trips. Because I didn’t need to actually pump on the plane, I packed my bottles and pump parts in my suitcase and filled the pump bag with toys and books for Kya. Breast pumps are considered a medical device and fly free, so I figured I’d make the most of it!
When Kya was still using her infant seat, we checked it at the gate along with the stroller. But on our most recent trip, we took her large convertible car seat and checked it through at the ticketing desk. I bought this cover for it to protect the fabric from getting torn or marked up. The cover came back quite marked up but the car seat was unscathed!
As Kya got older and more mobile, flying became more challenging, but not horrible (at least not yet). This past trip was the most challenging so far because Kya is walking and very energetic, so asking her to sit still for hours on end was hard. But being prepared and organized went a long way in helping us survive the day! I packed all of our belongings (mine and Kya’s) in my backpack diaper bag. That way I could wear Kya in the Ergo, put my bag on my back, and push the stroller, and carry/push whatever other luggage I needed to. I kept my belongings in one area of the bag and Kya’s in another. Here’s what we packed:
for mama – snacks, water bottle, ear buds, i-pad, phone, wallet, hand sanitizer, chapstick, tissues, gum, and mints.
for baby – puffs, baby crackers, yogurt melts, sippy cup (with water), hand sanitizer, small (quiet) toys, small books, diapers, wipes, two extra sets of clothes (you never know), Wet Ones antibacterial wipes, teething tablets, Tylenol, pacis, and diaper disposal bags.
Traveling with children was one the main reasons we bought an i-pad. She uses it at home some but while flying she used it much more than normal (survival mode)! We didn’t want to purchase in-air wifi for streaming video, so we stuck to the Bible App for Kids on the plane. It’s interactive and Kya really enjoys it. I could not figure out a way to download Baby Einstein episodes onto the i-pad for use without wifi. If anyone knows how, please share! I would also love to hear about any baby-friendly apps that don’t require wifi!
In a couple of weeks, we’ll be doing a cross-country trip again (even further) and without daddy! I know we’ll survive, but I hope the day is actually enjoyable for us both. I try to go into travel days with a positive attitude and look at it as an adventure rather than a nuisance. It’s a day to spend extra time together! That outlook has helped me immensely. When I dread something, the dreading makes it that much worse. If I can look at it positively, it goes much better! Mindset is everything. I hope these tips can help some of you other mamas out there.
Any additional travel tips from more seasoned mamas?! Would love to hear them!