Monday, January 24, 2011

10 Tips for flying with a baby

If there's one thing I think I've mastered in motherhood, it's flying with an infant. Granted, it's different every time, especially since she's getting older and more active/nosey/hard to tame but I've still had nine flights with her in her six months of life, and yes, I finally set up a frequent flyer account (no, my daughter can't have one yet).

My first flight with my daughter was when she was about two and a half weeks old. I know some people say you shouldn't travel with babies that young but I was exclusively breastfeeding and kept her wrapped up around me, plus our pediatrician gave us the O-K so we went for it and flew to Utah. My mother in law flew with us and it helped a lot having an extra set of arms.
Our second flight was back home when she was about a month old, and my husband flew home with us, again making traveling relatively simple. Then a week later Lil' J and I flew to New York City for the Blogher conference. That was our first of seven flights alone together after the first two with help.

I've had several people write to me asking tips for traveling with a baby so I thought I'd write some of the things I've learned in a post, so someone else can hopefully find these things helpful.

1. Pack light. I know this is hard, and pretty impossible with a baby because you need so much. Diapers, blankets, burp cloths, PJs, clothes. But try your best to keep it to a minimum. On one of my trips, to my mom's house, we decided to pack a few diapers but buy more there. Along with baby soap, and small sizes of things I could use while I was visiting. If your family is anything like mine, you'll most likely be bringing more stuff home from your trip, so leave extra room in your suitcase if you can.

2. Only bring one carry-on. Yes, you're entitled to one carry on and one extra bag or purse but I was sure to make it easy on myself and only carry on her diaper bag. One time my check in bag was over 50 pounds so I took my camera out to carry it on with me and forgot it on the plane when we got off. Luckily I realized this once I got to baggage claim and was able to ask the Delta people to page up there and have someone bring it down to me. An extra bag with a baby can be a lot to remember.

3. Wear your baby. This would be ranked number one in my books of things that make traveling with a baby easier. On 9/9 flights with my daughter I wore her in a wrap through the entire boarding process and most of the flight. On our most recent flight we were waiting in the airport for hours, and she just hung out in our Moby Wrap. I thought having a stroller would be a necessity but I'd argue that would only make things more difficult.
In the first few months of my daughter's life she fell asleep moments after being snuggled in my wrap. She was out like a light while we walked through the airport, went through security and everything. These last couple of flights she wanted to face forward (like pictured above) and watch everything, and she was too excited to fall asleep, but it was still an easy way to have my hands free while going through the boarding process.

Will you need to take them out through security? Yes and no. I only was asked to take her out of my wrap once out of our nine flights, and they made me take my wrap off too, which was super annoying. It was our most recent flight though, and they had recently upped security measures. On our flight before that, to Salt Lake we were given the option to take her out of her wrap while we walked through the metal detector or have a pat down. At first I was like "give me a pat down" but then I realized it wasn't hard to pull her out for a second and put her back in. So total I took her out twice.

4. Look for signs that help you. In most of the airports we've been to there are separate lines for families through security checkout, so you can bypass the long wait. If you're flying with a child under two they not only get to fly for free, but you get to get on the plane first (or right after first class, depending on the carrier).

5. Don't put booties or shoes on your baby. At least not through security, unless you don't mind taking them off, but it's just an extra step they make you go through. Socks are ok, so I make sure she was wearing her Trumpettes on the rest of the flights after this happened.
6. Dress easy. Meaning don't wear a belt you'll have to take off at security, or shoes you'll have to untie and tie again, or a big coat that will get in the way... You get the idea. If you're flying alone with a baby these things that are normally simple to do are a HUGE PAIN!

7. Nurse, feed your baby or let him or her suck on something during takeoff and landing. But don't freak out about it if they're sleeping. You know how you yawn, chew gum, or swallow to pop your ears during the elevation changes? Same concept. Lil' J was asleep during our first six flights however, so I let her sleep, and she didn't seem to be affected. If she was awake, I nursed her, and she did ok with the pressure changes.

8. Do your best to get a window seat. We've been lucky enough to have one on all of our flights and it makes breastfeeding on the plane so much easier as I can just turn towards the window and no one knows the wiser.
Before our 9th flight back home
9. If you're nursing and/or pumping during your trip don't worry. You're allowed to bring the milk on the plane for your baby. Just tell security about the milk for the baby, and if necessary, they'll take it aside to screen it. They didn't even do that with me. On one of my trips I had about 70 ounces I was bringing back, so I bought a pound of dry ice to keep it frozen, and put it all in a cooler in my checked bag. On other flights with smaller amounts I kept it in my carry-on. Also, a breast pump is considered a "medical device" so you can bring it on the plane with your other two bags, or check it for free. *Car seats, strollers, pack n' plays and other baby stuff are also free to check*

10. Track your flight before you get to the airport. Lil' J and I missed a flight that was actually on time when we arrived just minutes after they cut off the check in time (45 minutes before your flight takes off). It SUCKED! But luckily we were able to catch the next one for a minimal fee. After that, I was sure to be prompt or very early to our flights. But it wasn't until after checking into our last flight (and having already returned my rental car) that I realized our flight was TWO HOURS delayed. I wasn't happy. And it's not fun sitting at an airport just waiting with a baby. Luckily I had my camera with me, and some toys for her, so we were able to keep entertained, but this could have been avoided had I checked the flight tracker beforehand.
So there are ten tips that will hopefully help you on a trip with your little one. Let me know if I left anything off or if there's something else you're wondering.

To help make your next trip with your baby much easier, everyone who comments on this post before February 1st will be entered to win an original Moby Wrap of their choice. You can get ONE extra entry by thanking Moby Wrap for this giveaway on facebook or twitter OR if you're a one of my "homies" (top right). Winner will be announced on my facebook page.