This is part 2 of a 3 part series (unfortunately stretched over a long period of time!) If you want part one, click here for the Roadtripping with an Infant post.
Because my husband was halfway across the country for several months this last year, I had the
misfortune opportunity to fly with an infant multiple times by myself. Before she turned 8 months old, Taylor had logged 11 flights. Her very first flight was when she was just over 3 months old and they spanned the next 5 months, so I feel like I got some good experience/knowledge about what to do to make it as easy as possible to travel with an infant by yourself on a plane. Here is what I learned.
Booking your ticket:
What seat do you pick? I stressed a little bit about which seat… do you sit on the aisle so you can go change her diaper easily… or maybe the window so that you have some arm support and containment for toys being thrown/dropped? Or the middle seat for… wait, never mind… everyone hates sitting in the middle seat. Over those 11 flights I ended up sitting in each of them at least once, and it was sort of a toss up between the aisle or the window. I liked sitting in the window seat the best, but of course one of the times when she had a super stinky diaper, the guy sitting on the aisle had fallen asleep and I had to try to wait until he woke up to go change her diaper. Whoops! If you were doing a long flight, I’d recommend aisle, shorter flight, definitely window.
Adding the infant to the reservation: If you haven’t booked the infant their own seat (and let’s be honest… who has that kind of money!?), you will have to add the infant to your own reservation in order to go through security. On American, that requires calling the reservation desk in advance to add the kiddo’s name and birthdate to your reservation. And double check when you print your boarding pass that it says: ‘With Infant’ on there.
Pick a good flight time: I found it best to try to find a flight during her naptime and most of the time she slept the majority of the flight. Only one flight was delayed and she slept the whole time in the airport, but was awake the whole flight. But you win some, you lose some!
Going through security:
I always found it easiest to check the carseat unless I knew there was a seat next to me in advance. I bought this car seat cover to check the carseat without any damage to it. But checking it meant one less thing to carry around the airport with me. I also elected to check my own bag so that I was just carrying Taylor and her diaper bag.
I carried Taylor in her Baby Bjorn through security and that left my hands mostly free to deal with my boarding pass/diaperbag/etc. Plus they send you through a regular metal detector instead of the full body scanner, and then wipe your hands with a cotton swab like thing and run it through a scanner and having her in a carrier leaves your hands free for that test.
Her bottles didn’t have to be under 3 ounces, but if they were larger than 3 ounces they ran it through a separate test and in a busy airport (like Washington Reagan) that takes a little more time than usual, so leave a little extra time.
On the Flight:
People are WAY more patient than you expect. I had read horror stories about people who In all those flights I never had anyone make comments, roll their eyes or give us the stink eye. In fact more often than not, people offered to help with my bag, pick up dropped items, or try to entertain Taylor. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ACCEPT HELP. That? Not one of my strong suits. I’m an “I can do it myself” kind of girl, so letting others help isn’t easy for me to do, but I wouldn’t have survived otherwise! But even when she was fussy/crying/inconsolable I discovered that as long as I was trying to appease her, and make her not as fussy, people didn’t seem to mind and they were, more often than not, sympathetic.
Speaking of being inconsolable… here are a few things that I found helpful when she got fussy on the flights:
- Have food ready (and more than you think is necessary!)–if you read this post, you know I have been breastfeeding Taylor, but I was a little weary about how exactly that would work on a plane, so for the first few flights I packed a couple of smaller bottles to feed her on the plane when she got hungry. That worked well, but I also got over that fear after the few flights and managed to breastfeed her on the flight (with a cover) and found that it was easier than expected… especially if you are sitting in window seat and can use the side of the plane to block view. But once the baby can have real food, bring plenty of crackers, puffs or anything your kiddo loves. And if you can, pack a few pouches of food (I put mine in my plastic baggie in place of toiletries).
- PLENTY of toys. I packed several toys that were sure fire favorites and with minimal sound. When she got tired of one, I’d shove it back into her bag and bring another one out.
- Pacifiers, pacifiers, and more pacifiers. I had one that I clipped to her shirt (which was awesome) so that she couldn’t spit it out and onto the ground. But it was always nice to have a few backups.
As far as changing her diaper on the plane, all but the smallest planes we took had a fold down changing table above the toilet that was surprisingly easy to use. I did take a few disposable changing pads to keep her just a little more sanitary during the process.
Overall, patience and a knowledge that things are not going to be perfectly will help you more than anything on a flying day, but trust that other people are TYPICALLY helpful.
Anyone else have tips for flying with a baby?