Boarding a giant metal tube and traveling at high speeds through the air with hundreds of strangers is a bit frightening as it is. Doing so with your baby sometimes feels impossible. Let’s demystify this event, give you some practical tips, and get your expectations in line with what this adventure has in store for you.
One of the biggest changes (and challenges) I have noticed when traveling with a child is the seemingly never-ending piles of stuff that accumulate as you prepare for departure. To provide some order for this chaotic process, download your packing list HERE!
You’ll notice that I like to break my packing up into a few distinct categories, centered around a kid’s favorite pastimes, eating, sleeping and pooping.
Then, organize your bags. I usually pack everything for our whole family into four bags.
- Medium suitcase or duffle
- Large “oversized” bag for pack n play and stroller
- Car Seat bag
- Diaper Bag
Packing cubes and wet/ dry bags are my best friend. Use them liberally to help organize your nonsense, especially since you will be stuffing items for several people into one bag. Also, heaven forbid something happens to your bag in transit and it busts open (yes, this indeed happened to friends of ours) at least all of your panties won’t be strewn about the tarmac, but packed sweetly into tiny cubes.
I’m not going to tell you what to pack for yourself because, for God’s sake, you’re an adult. However, I will remind you to keep it simple. Most places in the world have washers and dryers, or even convenient laundry service available. There is nothing more delightful than stuffing your face into a fresh pile of laundry that you did not have to fold yourself. If you would actually like some practical advice on capsule wardrobes, check out this article from Ellie and Koko HERE.
When packing for the tiny one, start with the pooping and eating items, as those can usually be arranged a few days ahead of time. Just like clothing, there is typically no need to pack enough diapers for the entire trip, unless you are traveling to a very remote area. Buy some when you arrive or have Amazon bring ‘em to you! When packing clothing, I like to roll outfits together and secure with a rubber band and include socks and accessories in the bunch. On the morning of the flight, after my baby wakes up, I will pack all of the SLEEP STUFF items in a separate wet/dry bag. This allows for super easy set up of her sleeping environment once we arrive (which inevitably will always be right at her usual nap or bedtime).
Final tip around packing... don't forget your little ones birth certificate, copy of birth certificate or photo of birth certificate. Any of these variations will work in confirming that your tiny person is indeed under the age of 2 and will not require their own seat.
- Check Everything (but diaper bag and baby)
- Take stroller/ car seat (infants) or just stroller with you to check at the gate
Your choices when going through security will be based on personal preference, but due to the fact that I have a one year old who barely weighs 20 pounds and loves the baby carrier, I choose to check everything. Keep in mind that this is the exact opposite of the way I have always traveled. Very rarely do I check even a single bag when traveling alone, but when I already suck at keeping track of the big 3 (keys, phone, wallet), I don’t care to be responsible for more items than I have to.
Checking everything but your diaper bag and your child will make your life SO simple when going through the security line. You may or may not need to take off your shoes, but you can typically leave your baby in the carrier and simply walk through the metal detector instead of getting the full body scan (side not - the father of my child used to opt out of the body scanner and ask for the pat down just to be a Turd Ferguson).
After you get through security, the best advice I can give you is to let that baby roam. Let them crawl/ walk/ run all over the terminal. The germs on the airport floor will cause you far less stress than an ancey child who hasn’t had the opportunity to get their wiggles out.
On the Plane
First of all, check your ego at the jetway. Unless the dear God above grants you a miracle, your kid will likely cry, they will definitely poop their pants and you will sweat like a friggin maniac trying to lull them to sleep for a nap that will inevitably be cut short by someone else’s crying baby. And the cycle continues. Once you have adjusted your expectations, check out the tips below.
If you were a trip planning genius and happened to schedule your flight times around your kiddos nap, cheers. You are already ahead of the game. Again influenced by the fact that my little one is still relatively small and has always been comfortable in a baby carrier, I have her take naps on me in the carrier if at all possible. The only stipulation with baby carriers on the plane is that they cannot be buckled in on takeoff or landing, just FYI. If you happen to be lucky enough to have an open seat next to you, try to recreate your kiddos regular sleeping environment as much as possible. Sleep sacks, sound machines, loveys, etc. can all be cues to help your baby take at least a quick snooze on the plane. For more tips on baby sleep schedules, routines, products and MORE check out the baby sleep queen herself, Taking Cara Babies.
It’s possible the number one trick in attempting to keep the peace on a plane is SNACKS, SNACKS and more SNACKS. You think I am joking, but I am not. If their mouths are full, they can’t be screaming. One time we entertained our 8 month old for 82 solid minutes by feeding her Puffs one at a time. BTW, should the new slogan for Gerber Puffs be “Puffed Air.. so you’ll shut up and let me think for a minute”? Make sure that you have nursing friendly clothing/ bottles of formula/ cups for milk and lots of snack options to keep them occupied. I like to pack a rather extravagant lunch in a Bentgo box so there is some novelty involved and it keeps her attention. Then you can pack it with an ice pack (or not? ), put it in a cold bag and toss it in the diaper bag. Here are some examples of foods I pack.
- Turkey and Cheese Roll ups in a Tortilla
- Waffle/ Pancake pieces
- Dried Snap Peas
- Peanut Butter Puffs
- Thin Stackers (rice crackers)
- Any finger food recipes from MJ and Hungryman
In Flight Entertainment -
Don’t get me wrong, I am ALL FOR electronics, but so far, at 14 months old, my kiddo does not have much attention span for video watching. Instead she pokes at the screen so many times that I am locked out of my own phone. It’s not great. Instead, we play stupid games with stuffed animals, wave at the flight attendants, and read the safety procedures for exiting a 747 in a water landing over and over again. Honestly, at this age, there is not much you can do but roll up a piece of duct tape and let them be confused by it for 15 minutes at a time. I will update as my child evolves into a more sophisticated version of herself with an attention span more than 23 seconds. Fingers crossed.