Early this year, we took a family trip to Arizona. Our daughter, Lake, was nine and a half months old, and in addition to it being her first major trip, it was her first time flying on an airplane.
Before the trip, I read up on flying with a baby and gathered the following: the younger the baby, the higher the likelihood of things going smoothly because they’re less mobile and (usually) more sleepy. The older the baby, the trickier it can be because they’re more mobile and can become more restless. (And when you fly with a toddler, they typically do pretty well as long as they have a tablet and snacks. <– Same, haha! ) So, between around nine months to 2 years is kind of the gray area, meaning it could go either way.
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We experienced both the great and not so great. Lake did great on the flight from Des Moines to Phoenix. She played, napped and did really well. But on the flight home she was fidgety and fussy and it was clear she wasn’t going to nap despite our best attempts. T and I kept passing her back and forth on our laps and finding ways to keep her entertained. She never did “full-out cry” but there were quite a few times where she was really close. Then when we were 10 to 15 minutes from landing, she was smiling and giggling so hard, at least three nearby passengers were looking at us and laughing due to her infectious laughter. Of course we were happy she ended up being in a great mood at the end of the flight but T and I would both be lying if we said that flight home wasn’t stressful!
Below are some tips if you’re planning on flying with a baby. I am by no means an expert (this is just based off of one trip after all), but hopefully you can find these tips useful!
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BEFORE THE TRIP
- This tip is a bit of a toss-up, as it worked for us on the flight to Arizona but then it didn’t work on the flight home: Try scheduling the flight during nap time, bedtime, or keeping them awake so they’re tired and will (hopefully) sleep during the flight. Lake slept on the flight to Arizona but then on the flight home, she didn’t go to sleep, so she ended up being fussy and likely overtired for pretty much the entire flight.
- Try to book seats towards the front of the plane. It’s nice to be able to exit earlier.
- This tip didn’t work for us but I know it works for many others so I’m including it. If your baby is entertained by TV shows or movies, download episodes to your phone or tablet *prior to* your trip for them to watch if they start to get fussy. (I don’t suggest waiting until you’re at the airport to do this because Wi-Fi and cellular data can be incredibly slow with programs that have a long download time). Lake had never watched any shows before, but I downloaded some children’s TV shows on our iPad that we could use as a go-to if she started to get really restless. Well, when we turned on the show for her, she only wanted to play with the iPad, itself, as opposed to watch the show playing on it. So while TV shows and movies on a phone or tablet might work for some babies, it didn’t work for Lake at her age/stage.
- Be sure to double check that you have everything you need in your diaper bag or carry-on bag. Try not to overpack, though, because it can make getting things out in already tight quarters more difficult.
- In some instances, like for a longer trip or to save packing space, it might work better to buy some items once you reach your destination. – A large pack of diapers, food, etc.
- If you travel a lot, I highly recommend Doona. It’s a stroller and car seat in one. It’s pricey but if you travel a lot, it’s worth it. We used it throughout the airport, got a tag for it at our departure gate and then checked it right before we stepped foot into the plane. Then it was waiting for us right when we got off the plane.
- Buy and bring new toys or books. Bring them out if they get fussy.
- Make sure you bring tried and true snacks that you know they like. I wouldn’t recommend trying anything new on the plane that could possibly upset their stomach.
- Before your trip, check to see if your airline requires you to bring the baby’s birth certificate and/or immunization record.
- Learn from my mistakes: Bring a small blanket and a boppy or a small pillow for feeding. I forgot both of these items and ended up using my winter coat…which did do the trick, though, haha!
AT THE AIRPORT
- Arrive early to the airport even if it’s not during a busy travel time. You never know if security will take an inordinate amount of time examining your formula or pumped breast milk or if you’ll need extra time to deal with an unexpected blowout.
- At Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix, security instructed us to get into the special needs line. This probably saved us 15 to 20 minutes of waiting in line. So just know that this might be an option if you’re using a stroller.
- If you need to make a bottle (or bottles), do so before you board the plane.
- Change baby’s diaper as close as possible to when you board the plane.
- Board the plane last. You may have to go back a little further for overhead compartment space (if needed), but the less time spent on the plane, the better.
DURING THE FLIGHT
- Bring disinfectant spray or wipes and wipe down the tray table, window and any other surfaces, as well as any toys that fall on the ground.
- Feed baby a bottle or breastfeed during take-off. It can help prevent their ears from hurting.
- If you get really desperate because baby is getting really fussy or crying and you’ve already tried the new toys, books and tablet, break out random (but safe) objects like your wallet, headphones, sunglasses, etc. Basically, something they’ve never seen before.
- If baby starts to get really fussy or cry, walk the aisle. (We didn’t do this but it apparently works pretty well).
- Do a quick check of your seat(s) and the floor to ensure nothing got dropped/gets left behind before you exit the plane.
I hope you found these tips helpful! Leave a comment below if you have any tips for flying with a baby!