By Tina Goldstein
About a year ago, my husband, who tours frequently with dance and theatre companies around the world with my daughter and me in tow, tallied up how many times our daughter has flown since she was 3 months old and realized it’s more than 17 times!
The idea of taking your first flight with your baby can feel very intimidating. The first thing to remember is, it will all be fine and perhaps easier than you imagined.
What NOT to bring
The first thing I would recommend is don’t bring the car seat if at all possible! If you can rent a car with a car seat wherever you are ending up (or perhaps Grandma can purchase one for her car) then you will have one less thing to lug around. Otherwise, you will check the car seat when you check in. (Purchase a car seat cover if you do check it so that it doesn’t come back to you covered in dirt or wet from rain.)
Security – fun, fun, fun!
You can bring any amount of formula, breast milk and even cow’s milk through security. They will open the containers in front of you (unless the milk is in an unopened Tetra pak container) and do a test that doesn’t touch the milk inside. Before you go through security declare what you have to a TSA person. Also, you don’t need ID for the baby when going through security if you are flying domestically, internationally she will need a passport so plan ahead.
Use a carrier to carry your baby in the airport so you are hands free especially while going through security. Your stroller can then be used for your carry-ons, etc. and you will gate check the stroller before heading onto the plane.
Avoiding ear pressure problems
As the plane is taking off and landing, be sure to feed with breast or a bottle so that your baby swallows and relieves pressure in the ear canal. On the other hand, don’t freak out if your baby is asleep during those times. There have been flights, in my experience, when my daughter was sleeping (hallelujah) and I didn’t want to wake her so I risked it and let her sleep and it never bothered her.
The best time to travel
The most important thing I have found is that if you can fly during a nap or at bedtime, life is so much easier. You can even put your baby in pajamas and do their bedtime routine. Hopefully the white noise on the plane will help them to sleep during the whole trip. Also, if you will be arriving around bedtime, change your baby or kid into pajamas before you get off the plane (if they are still in clothes) so that when they arrive at Grandma’s after falling asleep in the car seat they can go straight to bed.
Where will they sit?
If you are flying internationally (on a long haul) you can request a couchette, which is like a co-sleeper attached to the wall in front of you in the bulkhead row. The advantage to this of course is that you get to sit in the bulkhead and you have a place to put baby (if she tolerates it). (In my experience, she liked sitting in it and playing, but wasn’t having it to sleep in. It still was nice to have the alternative on a long flight.)
You can also purchase another seat and bring a car seat that is approved for flights. This is the safer way to travel rather than holding the baby on your lap. Keep in mind that you will start paying full fare for children age 2 or above (babies fly free under the age of two if they sit on your lap.)
What to bring for the flight
Remember to bring a change of clothes for you and your baby since you never know what messes may happen. Wipes, tissues, extra diapers, burp cloths are requirements! Bring plenty of snacks (if they are of that age) and toys and books to keep them occupied. Leave toys with small pieces at home or you may find yourself repeatedly under the seat in front of you trying to pick up that tiny plastic thing. The games on the in-flight “TV” may keep them occupied, but if you know the iPad will distract for a while, definitely bring it.
Allow extra time
The last thing you want is to be running to your gate, sweating and stressing after an extra long security line. Consider allowing an extra hour before your flight especially if you are traveling around the holidays. You never know if you may need that time to change the blowout that happened on the security line after you ran into traffic on the way to the airport.
Blowouts aside, try to change the diaper before you board the plane so there is one less to do in that itty-bitty airplane bathroom.
Finally, don’t worry, you will get through it and get there and will have earned a big pat on the back for yourselves! Happy Trails!