Air travel with a baby does not have to be as stressful as it sounds. With a little preparation, you can get through – and even enjoy – the traveling part of trips and vacations. Check out this post for tips for flying with a baby.
I am not someone who enjoys air travel. Airports I love – watching the hellos and goodbyes, the joy-filled tearful reunions. The observer poet in me just eats that stuff up. The actual airplane part though? I could leave. Sometimes I want to leave when I am there. Some people love the adventure of hurtling through the air in a metal tube and good for them. For me I would prefer if we could teleport to our destination. On the opposite end of travel speed I love road trips – even long ones with our baby/now toddler.
When my daughter was born two years ago I had what felt like a herd of butterflies whenever I thought of flying with her, but I also had a deep resolve to visit my parents and sister regularly – and they are halfway across the country from us. I read about traveling with a baby and polled friends for tips who had already paved the way. This post is a mix of all that but even more it came about from mistakes we made on those first early flights with her.
Squish has been on twelve flights in less than a year and a half; our first flight with her was when she was five months old. I have also flown with her several times by myself without my husband. We have changed some things that we do or pack, and I’m sure this will change again as she is now a super active toddler. These are our best tips for air travel during the baby years.
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6 best tips for air travel with a baby
Tip #1: Aisle seat
Don’t think that you will be looking out the window at the lovely landscapes below. You will likely be pacing the aisle at some point and you want the easiest access to do so. If you are stuck in a window seat and your baby has decided to inconveniently poop on the plane (babies are known to be inconvenient) you will have to excuse yourself past your seatmate. They might be asleep or have food or their laptop on their tray. While most people are nice and accommodating it is much easier to plan ahead so you will have freedom of movement.
Tip #2: Dark colored clothing
Color choice is absolutely important when you are flying with a baby, for both the baby and you. Save those cream colored pants for your destination. Babies can and do poop and throw up on planes. Does it always happen? No of course not. But do you want to be wearing light colored clothing if it does? I’m pretty sure no.
An addition to this point is to pack in your carry on an extra outfit for baby and an extra top for you. But I caution from gross experience to not let those extra clothing items make you over-confident. Still wear the dark colored clothing on the plane. Your baby could have a poop explosion on the descent when all those little fasten your seatbelt lights are on and there is turbulence and under no conditions are you allowed to get up to the washroom for a change. When you land the bathroom at the front of the plane might be unexpectedly out of order. You would have to walk with your messy baby and your messy shirt down that long tunnel and through the airport to the nearest washroom.
Wouldn’t you rather that baby and that you be wearing dark clothing? In that moment which did happen to this mama right here, I resolved to never wear light clothing on airplanes ever again. Or at least until well well after potty training.
Tip #3: Wipes are not just for bums
Wipes are great for their hands, your hands, their faces. They’re also really useful to wipe down the vicinity around your seat. Your little one will touch everything around them and those screens and tray tables don’t always look the cleanest. I didn’t make a big production out of it but used a couple wipes when we sat down. I wondered briefly if I would be judged for it but the person sitting next to me said that looks like a good idea and asked for a wipe. 🙂
Tip #4: Boob/bottle/pacifier
It is very important for your baby to have something to suck on during take-off and landing. They can’t clear the pressure in their ears by chewing gum or intentionally yawning like adults and older kids can. After you board and before you’re buckled in your seat, make sure you have the bottle or pacifier out of your bag and ready to go before take-off.
Have multiple soothers! Can you trust your sweet baby to hold on tight to that soother for the duration of the flight? No you cannot! Those pacifier clips that attach to clothing are great with certain babies but they don’t work for others. They are not that hard for little grabby hands to detach and fling far from your seat. Have a few soothers so you can have a cleanish one ready when the current one inevitably gets dropped or in my case thrown. My daughter’s favorite was this lamb Wubbanub (but just because it was her favorite doesn’t mean it didn’t get thrown too).
Tip #5: A diaper backpack
A diaper bag is great for day-to-day but a diaper backpack is so incredibly useful for an airport. It stays securely and evenly on your back and it’s easier to babywear on the front than with a diaper bag that can slide off your shoulder. My sister bought me this diaper backpack and it has held up so well. It’s large but even crammed full like how I usually pack it, fits under the seat in front of you. This is key. It will make your life much easier on the plane if you don’t need to stuff anything in the overhead bins. Especially also carrying a baby when traveling without your partner.
There are so many intuitively placed pockets on the outside and inside. A couple of inner pockets are insulated so you can keep your bottles of formula or pumped milk right in the bag.
Because of all the compartments it’s easy to keep a separate section for diaper gear because who wants that to be mixed up with snacks? Ew? I have other pockets for books, toys, and even a separate area for multiple soothers.
Tip #6: Faith in humankind
It will be okay. Really it will. Most people are amazing. Flight attendants will offer to hold your baby while you use the restroom. You might luck out and sit next to a pediatrician on one flight and children’s entertainers on another. All those things happened when I was traveling alone with baby. While I know some of that was incredibly lucky (I mean children’s entertainers, come on!) I also know that there are lots of good people out there, and people who love babies. Yes, even on planes.
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- Long road trips with toddlers – your survival guide
Just try it
You will never know how your particular baby will do on a plane if you don’t try. And really, it could change from flight to flight. If there is somewhere you want to go and it involves air travel with a baby, book that flight and go. You never know, you might love traveling with your new little sidekick even more than you did before them. I found that to be the (surprising) case with me. You can do this!
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What have been your experiences with air travel with a baby? Tell the good and the bad!