These past eight months have been crazy! At least, they have been for me and my own; within these thirty-two weeks my daughter – who, keep in mind, is less than a year old currently – and I have flown five different times on thirteen different airplanes, and we have had layovers in at least half a dozen different states.
We’re world class air travelers, baby!
This most recent trip from Florida to our new home in California was not without its struggles, but for the most part Pepper Ann and I survived the airports.
But the trip before that was simply hell. That’s right, it was hell. Pepper Ann and I were flying from Alaska to Florida, alongside my pregnant mom, my six-year-old brother, and I believe at least three carry-on items, not including the diaper bag. To add the cherry on top, I thought it would be best for us to fly out at midnight (!!) because “the baby would be sleeping.”
Wrong. I was so wrong.
The baby never slept, and neither did I or my mother. The six-year-old, though? Oh, he slept rather comfortably, for being on a cramped airplane; his feet often ended up stretched out into my lap and hitting the baby’s head, while his head and shoulders rested against his mother’s baby belly. Needless to say, it was an uncomfortable night that never had a light at the end.
But it did, thank God. And that’s the good news! There is always a bright side to every story and every event, even a dreadful plane flight such as the one we endured. This particular life event, however, comes with more than one silver lining. I learned a very important lesson that day, one which I will share in tips and advice for future flying mamas.
My lesson learned: HELP! when flying with babies.
Tip #1: Timing is everything
Don’t fly overnight. Just do not, even if you are one hundred percent positive that your little one (or ones) will sleep right through the plane ride.
I have learned from personal experience (five flights in less than one year) that the airport and the act of traveling is simply too interesting for baby to ignore.
There are lights, people, new sounds, cramped seats, and those awesome safety pamphlets that are just too much to resist! Baby won’t sleep through any of that, and neither will you. Until the last thirty minutes of the flight. Then babe will conk out.
Try to arrive during daylight hours.
After tying it both ways, I found that landing at my destination, getting my bags from baggage claim, and finding my way back home is all much more easily done with the natural light of day. Plus, your child’s internal clock will kick in and realize that hey, it’s still daylight so I don’t need to sleep. This may seem backwards – you want baby to sleep . . . right? Not necessarily. You see, once that sun goes down you will be happy to see that all baby wants to do is go to bed early. And after a long day of traveling, who wouldn’t want an early bedtime? #MomScore!
Tip #2: Stop along the way
Layovers. It’s that awful thing that everyone tries to avoid at the airport, right? We as a people will willingly spend the extra couple hundred dollars to fly straight through, without any stops of any length at any place.
“Am I right, or am I right? Right. Right. Right!” (Name that movie quote in the comments!)
But when traveling by air with a baby, it always pays to choose flights with layovers, particularly ones that last between ninety minutes and three hours. It offers us moms a chance to break up the monotony, to sort of relax after the cramped airplane seat with the tiny aisles. Layovers give us an opportunity to slow down, find the next gate, change a diaper, grab yourself a bite to eat, feed the baby, and, best of all, burn some restless energy.
It may seem like an unnecessary waste of time, but you will soon realize that the wait is well worth it.
Tip #3: Sit near the bathroom
Gee, Maitlynn, it’s kinda smelly, dontcha’ think?
Well, I’ve got news for ya’ folks: it’s a small plane, so chances are you will smell the bathroom anywhere if it stinks that badly.
Take it from me, a mama with numerous four-plus-hour flights under her belt, choosing a seat near the bathrooms will be worth it. Oftentimes, on smaller planes and shorter flights, the entire back half of the airplane is completely empty, and nobody will care if you move around from seat to seat every now and then to change things up a bit. Plus, think about how tiny those airplane aisles are; when the snack and beverage carts come meandering through, there is positively, one hundred percent, no chance of you getting by. This means that when a diaper fiasco necessitating immediate attention occurs (has to me on more than one occasion) your poor child will be warming your poor lap with fresh poo.
Nobody wants to smell that. You certainly don’t want that stain on your pants the entire day. And I’m sure baby would appreciate a clean butt. Solution? Sit near the bathrooms. That way, nobody will bother you, you will bother nobody else, and the snack cart will never be in the way. #ThatsAFactJack
Tip 4: Priority boarding. Take advantage of it!
If you’re like me, you may be a tiny bit self-conscious when the boarding call goes out to
“military members, disabled, and those traveling with a child under the age of 2.”
I’ve been there.
The eyes! Every single passenger waiting to board, whether they have first class tickets or a seat way in the back, will be staring down – almost glaring! – at you and your baby. It’s an uncomfortable situation to be in, but the priority boarding is seriously a godsend; you have time to fold up your stroller, gather your belongings (don’t forget the baby!) and smoothly, easily, comfortably find your assigned seat. The walk down glare lane is worth it!
Who knows? Maybe you won’t mind skipping . . .
You are more than welcome, of course, to opt out of the priority boarding call, but try it at least once during your flight time with a baby. Who knows? Maybe you will actually get a kick out of skipping the lines! I mean, that’s something we always wanted to do when we were kids, right?!
Tip 5: Do NOT carry-on!
It’s a frustrating, useless hassle. Don’t choose to carry-on your baggage, unless it is a diaper bag and stroller. Your bags or even purse is just one more thing to carry, and if you’re flying with multiple stops you will regret having that extra luggage to carry. Yes, even if it is a roller bag. Trust me on this one.
I would recommend using your baby’s larger diaper bag – maybe the one you used when s/he was a newborn, the one that’s been collecting dust in the closet – or perhaps an oversized purse; place your wallet, phone, and book (if you choose to bring one) in that one oversized bag, along with necessary baby items and maybe one or two toys. Don’t worry about the proper sizes and measurements for carry-on; no one is going to prevent you from taking your diaper bag purse.
Tip 6: Smaller stroller
I have a Bob jogging stroller. It is perfect for jogging, walking, playdates, rough terrain – you name it, Bob’s got it! Except for airports. It’s not great for that.
I know all of us moms love our big fancy jogging strollers. I mean, what’s not to love? They’re comfortable for the kids, large enough to run over potholes, smooth riding, and plenty of room to stow your belongings! But it is not a good airport stroller. I don’t know about your ‘baby car’, but mine has to be folded down using two hands, in the beginning stage at least. It’s nearly impossible to fold down the Bob while juggling a squirmy little eight-month-old. In fact, the three times I flew with my jogger, I had the fortunate blessing of other people’s kindness and goodwill to help me with the stroller. Otherwise, I woulda’ been left at the gate. Many times.
If you’re flying, the best, most stress-free, easiest way to carry your baby is with an umbrella stroller. Yes, those little things at Babies R Us and Walmart. I’m not judging if you have one – certainly not! In fact I have two . . . . for ONE kid! Seriously, for things like mall trips and airports, umbrella strollers are the best. Just kick that stroller into a folding position with one hand and a foot, and off you go! It’s that easy.
Remember: a smaller stroller = an easier trip = a happier mama.
Tip 7: Plan ahead & be organized
A few months ago I had the pleasure of flying, with my ten month old daughter, from Alaska to Florida. It was a long, miserable trip, but I learned a lot from it! One such lesson was that to be labeled as ‘Mrs. Efficiency’ was not necessarily a bad thing.
Efficiency & organization means an easier trip, less stress, and the utmost self-satisfaction
For this particular trip, we had airplane tickets with three layovers, car rental reservations, a hotel stay, and a car seat to borrow. Three different itineraries, three different companies, and three more things to add to my already frazzled brain. So, what did I do?
I became Mrs. Efficiency.
I printed all of the reservation information, placed them in page protectors, and filed them neatly inside my very large ‘Hoyle binder’ (basically an enormous binder with my family’s personal info, taxes, medical records, etcetera). For easy access this binder was then put into my carry-on suitcase (I know, I broke my own rule, but in my defense it was broken before the rules were made!).
I was on top of things, and it’s so easy for you to be, too! Just keep this acronym in mind: PiPi Fi
Print it. Protect it. File it.
Things to have handy are:
- the confirmation numbers for any hotel or car reservations
- the contact information for the services you will be using (taxi, hotel, car rental agency, etc.)
- the address of each stop
- destination information, in case you’re visiting the area and need quick access to local hot spots
Once those are printed, grab a cheap binder and file them neatly under tabs labeled ‘Hotel’, ‘Car Rental’, ‘Destination’, and ‘Plane Itinerary’.
Tip #8: Buy an extra seat
This may not fit your budget (it never does work with mine) but having two seats side by side available for your use only is heavenly.
I have had roughly three flights on which there was an available space beside me, and having that open seat made all the difference in the world.
Your arms will tire of holding your bundle, and honestly, your baby will get tired of you, too. Plus, if you’re a nursing mother, as I am, having that spare seat between you and the next flyer is vastly easier. It offers you SO MUCH room to nurse in, and for your baby to kick and squirm without harming others.
Tip 9: Budget for Murphy
Have you ever heard of ‘Murphy’s Law’?
If something bad will happen, it is going to happen.
For Murphy, we plan; we take into account vacation mishaps, car repairs, emergency funds, and yes, even air travel.
When traveling it is always, always, always wise to add an emergency buffer of at least one hundred dollars, more if you can afford it and think you might need it. Just think: what if you miss your flight and the next available one is $80 more than your original price? What if your checked baggage is more expensive than you originally planned? What if you’re starving and forgot to budget for airport food? Seriously, that’s happened to me before!
It is going to happen!
Over-budgeting, or adding a little extra cash for your travels, is simply a safety measure – a precaution for peace of mind and ease of travel.
Flying with a baby, especially under the age of three, is not easy. It’s not simple, stress-free, or a breeze. Some people might tell you that, but know that they are either lying to your face, have blocked out their own exhausting experience, or have never done it. Take it from me, an experienced baby-traveler, that flying is a challenge, but it’s totally possible!