parenthood post: traveling with baby

guess what? steve, jude and i are going to DC for christmas! we're excited to get out of town, see family, and experience the east coast again! but a little nervous about a 4.5 hour flight with jude on our laps (because let's be real, there is no way he's going to sit on our laps for four hours). so, i want to ask all you parents if you have any tips for traveling with a little one.

we have flown with jude before, but it was a much shorter flight and he was only two months old. he just slept the whole time. and we've driven long distances with him (to kansas city and back), but we could always just pull over and feed him when he needed it, or get out and walk around if he needed a break from the car. that doesn't fly on an airplane (no pun intended).

i've got a few tips of my own, and i'd love to share. you can read them all after the jump! (click below)


1. pack a few diapers in you carry-on to get you through the flight, but order diapers from amazon.com, or diapers.com ahead of time, and have them shipped to your destination. you don't want to have to pack forty diapers in your luggage. if you don't want to pay for shipping, plan on buying diapers once you arrive.

2. kids under two are "lap children" meaning they fly for free, because they won't take up an extra seat. but when you make your reservation, be sure to tell the airline you'll be traveling with a baby. if the flight isn't oversold, sometimes they'll put you by an empty seat, to give you a little more space.

3. if possible, make arrangements to borrow a car seat and stroller from a friend at your destination. we've flown with a car seat and it is a pain in the neck to lug that thing around an airport. you can check it, but you've seen the way baggage handlers handle baggage, right? strollers can be a convenient way to cart your baby to the gate, but consider a sling or baby carrier instead. you'll be grateful when you see the other couple trying to hurriedly rip their sleeping baby from its cozy stroller, and frantically jam the stroller into a folding position, while the gate agent is irritably saying "last call for johnson, party of three!"

4.carry on only the essentials. these days you have to pay if you want to check a bag, but it's better than trying to juggle three overstuffed carry-ons and a baby (yes, i'm speaking from experience). consider packing one large suitcase for most of your things, and carrying on one medium bag for in-flight essentials (diapers, books, toys, wipes, snacks, wallet, phone). also, make sure you know how much the checked-bag fee is before you get to the airport. for some airlines it's $15, for some it's $50.

5. give yourself more time than you normally would. you want to get to the airport an hour before your departure time, no matter what. with a baby, try to get there an hour and a half ahead of time. you never know what could happen in that frantic hour before you board the plane, and even if everything does go smoothly, you'll have extra time to let him stretch his legs, feed, get in one last diaper change, or wear himself out before the flight. (p.s. if you're bringing pre-made formula or breast milk, security has to test it to make sure it's harmless. it only takes a few minutes, but consider that when you're thinking about time).


6. if your baby still nurses or bottle-feeds, do it during take-off and landing. babies can't pop their ears on their own, and feeding helps them adjust to the pressure change (it'll also keep him distracted, and calm).

7. if you're traveling with your partner or spouse, take turns. i've heard that sitting apart on the plane helps. that way you can switch off every hour, and you can get some time to read, nap, and relax baby-free. plus your baby will get excited to see mom after an hour of being with dad, and vice-versa. (steve and i are sitting together, so this won't work for us).

8. if it's a long flight, bust out the toys one at a time. if you give him all the tricks in your bag at once, he'll get bored and restless faster. when he starts getting antsy, read him one book, until he gets tired of it. then put it away, and bring out a toy. when he's tired of that, give him a snack. you get the idea. also, consider getting a new toy, or a new book for the plane. it won't keep him occupied forever, but it could buy you a decent chunk of time.

9. if you have a laptop or ipad, bring it. jude loves yo gabba gabba and a few animated movies (toy story, wall-e), and it would be great if he could watch them during the flight. unfortunately our laptop has a ten minute battery life, and we don't own an ipad.

that's all i got. and it all sounds good in theory, but will it go as smoothly in real life as in writing? probably not. so, i want -- no, NEED -- to know...have you traveled with your little one(s)? if so, was it better or worse than expected? was everyone annoyed with you for daring to bring a baby on board? and most importantly, any advice you can give a pair of nervous parents?

image above via lowfares.com


Ruth said...

I flew to CA and back with Lily in October, so she was 16-months. Overall the flights there and back were fine (both direct flights). The worst part was take-off and landing because you have to hold your baby in your lap the entire time and they have to sit, they can't stand on your lap. Lily did not like that. We tried looking out the window, but she wanted to stand and put her face right by it, so that wasn't very helpful.
At 16-months she didn't take a bottle anymore, but she likes to suck her thumb, so I would just tell her to suck her thumb and that helped keep her from having a problem with her ears.
I don't know if you will be flying during Jude's nap time, but that was something I worried about with Lily since I don't ever hold her when she sleeps, she's always alone in her crib. Luckily, I play the same CD (Primary songs) during her nap time. On the way home she was getting pretty tired and cranky so I just held her and started singing the first song from that CD. She was asleep before I finished the first verse and then she slept for almost two hours. My arm got really tired from holding her. I'm not sure what you're supposed to do about that.
I agree with you about having a carrier instead of a stroller. Being 5 months pregnant, and Lily weighing over 20 pounds, I didn't really want to be walking around the airport carrying her, so I had her stroller. But, it was kind of annoying to have to get her out of the stroller before boarding the plane, and then also stand around and wait for the stroller once we got off. And, trying to pull a suitcase and push a stroller at the same time is pretty awkward. If I did it again, and I wasn't pregnant, I would've just used our carrier.
Also, you mentioned being able to take milk/formula. You can also take water (or juice, or probably any drink really). I had a sippy cup for Lily and a water bottle for me and they let me take both on the plane because they were "for the baby." Security testing it took less than a minute.
Other than that, you can try walking up and down the aisle with Jude. Lily liked that because she does not like to sit still, but I also had a flight attendant tell me to sit down one time (probably because a lot of people were getting up and down at the time so we were getting in peoples' way), so maybe that's not the best idea ever.

prerna pickett said...

keep him awake as long as possible so he can sleep. I've heard of people giving their kids children's benadryl because it makes them tired, but I've never tried it. Does he like cartoons? When we drove 8 plus hours to LA our portable DVD players were a lifesaver.

Robyn said...

We had a whole day of flying in the fall (we're talking a 2.5 hour flight, 1 hour stopover, followed by a 3 hour flight, followed by a layover, followed by a 1.5 hour flight), and so we thought for sure Sam would be awful with that much time in a confined space. But to our amazement he did fine! Someone else must have been saying their prayers!

We found that the tray, window, and ice from our drinks were handy distractions for him. We also had a bunch of treats (dum dums & smarties) and new toys from the dollar store/garage sale that he was intrigued with since they were new.

The other thing that has saved us is to fly with Southwest! They let you check in two bags each for free, which is so nice with a baby + your car seat (however lugging all of that around is no party ;). They also don't have assigned seats, so if the flight isn't full you automatically end up with a whole row since no one wants to sit by you :)

Good luck! I'm sure Jude will be an angel and the stewardesses will fall in love with him!