October 20, 2012

Ready for Takeoff

It’s wedding season in the Holaday household. For some reason, there are four weddings in September and October that we are invited to. Three down and one still to go. (Thank goodness that H and I only attended two. Too much flying!) Seeing that we’ve spent a fair amount of time in airports recently, it occurred to me that one of the new mom questions I hear over and over is, “How do you fly with an infant?”

The first thing to realize is that babies don’t take up much room, but their stuff sure does. If you’re going somewhere for four days, you probably pack five, maybe six shirts for yourself, a couple of pairs of pants, and one pair of PJs. Not so for baby. You’ll probably end up with something like six to eight complete outfits in case of blowouts/spills, at least three pairs of PJs, plus burp cloths and baby’s favorite blanket. This doesn’t even include the monitor, noise machine, toiletries, toys, etc. Now you have one pile for yourself and an even bigger pile for baby!

You can ease some of the strain depending on who you’re visiting. We have two sets of out of town grandparents and the fact that they each have a sleeping space complete with linens and lots of bath supplies stocked at their houses helps a lot. If this isn’t the case for you, consider whether you’ll be able to wash while you’re there. That can vastly reduce the amount of stuff you have to bring.

Getting to the Gate:
Most airlines let you check strollers and car seats for free. This also means they don’t count as part of your quota for checked bags. Remember also that if you choose to purchase a seat for baby, then you get two extra checked bags and another carry on! (Not really worth the price of an extra ticket, but if you’re buying it anyway, take advantage.)

Again, some of the logistics depend on where you’re going. You can get a pretty decent grandparent, budget friendly car seat for under $75. We have one in Texas for when we go out to visit. This means we don’t have to tote our giant Britax into the terminal, giving us extra hands for the real luggage. Likewise, there’s an umbrella stroller in Texas. You might also be able to borrow these items from other family or friends with kids.

If you’re bound for someplace without such conveniences, remember that you can either check your baby stuff at baggage check or at the gate. This allows you to take the stroller all the way through the airport, which is a nice bonus if you have a connection.

When I traveled alone with a little one, I preferred to use a baby carrier and ditch the stroller as well. With a baby on my front and diaper stuff in a backpack on my back, I had my arms free. Not having a stroller also means that you can take escalators and stairs and not have to worry about hunting for hidden elevators or waiting for the handicap stall in the ladies room.

On the Plane:
Now that you are presumably safely seated, make sure that you’re diaper bag is fully stocked. I recommend packing at least the following:

  • Twice as many diapers as you think you’ll need
  • Lots of wipes
  • At least one complete outfit change for baby
  • An extra shirt for Mom and/or Dad (in case of projectile spit up)
  • Smell proof bags to store the dirty clothes
  • Lots of burp cloths
  • Several toys/books
  • A small blanket (because planes are always freezing cold!)
  • Squeezie pack foods for older babies (Like Ella’s or Plum Organic. They’re within the FAA size restriction for liquids, are re-sealable and don’t require spoons that can be thrown or lost. This is another case where you should pack twice as much as you think you need in case of delays.)

Keep in mind when you’re packing that delays do happen. Just this May it ended up taking us over 14 hours to get from Baltimore to San Antonio because of weather. While I’ve recently seen airport signs advertising baby products, those shops all close earlier than one might think convenient. It’s also still very hard to find baby food in airports, so make sure to bring your own.

I often hear new parents wondering if they should buy a seat for babies under two.  If it’s a domestic flight, I wouldn’t bother. Chances are the baby will want to be in your arms anyway. International travel is a whole different matter because of the shear length of the flight. While I hate to be the bearer of bad news, should a crash occur, it won’t matter if the baby is in your arms or in a car seat.

Staying Sane:
Traveling with a baby can be a daunting task, but it’s very doable if you plan ahead! When possible try to book flights that will take off near nap time. This might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s your best chance to get a nap in. Little babies sleep just about anywhere and the vibrations from the plane can be very soothing. Also, make sure to nurse or give a bottle or pacifier during the descent. This is when your ears need to pop and won’t do it on their own. Swallowing will help pop the baby’s ears. If you can’t do any of those things, my brother-in-law, who knows a thing or two about flying, recommends rubbing little circles right in front of the ears.

Most important, try to take it all with a grain of salt. Don’t worry about the people around you getting upset because your baby cries. Most of them have been there, and most of them will be kind to you. I’ve actually been very pleasantly surprised, especially when I’ve traveled alone, at how kind fellow travelers can be. If someone is so ill mannered as to give you a hard time, remember that you’ll never ever see that person again in your life (more than likely), so don’t take it to heart.

Happy travels!

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