It’s travel season again! Here’s a repost of The Scrivener’s travel tips for taking your baby on a plane. Tomorrow we’ll repost The Librarian’s tips for traveling with a toddler, so don’t forget to check in tomorrow!
Train Guy and I love to travel and we try to go out and see the world as much as possible. And we certainly weren’t going to let something like having a baby slow us down. Mouse is a great traveler and has been to many exciting destinations including all the way to Europe before his first birthday. In total, Mouse has been on six different (one-way) plane trips, and we’re going on another one in a couple of weeks. I was completely paranoid about traveling before we did it, but with a little bit of pre-planning, the planes turned out to be one of the easiest parts of our trips (jetlag was the worst). Here are a few travel tips for taking your baby on a plane:
- Get Baby his own seat. Infants under 2 can travel for free as a lap baby, but that’s not the safest way to go, and if your squirmy wormy won’t sit on a lap, the plane ride will be agonizing. We always buy Mouse his own seat and bring his car seat onboard for him to sit in it. That also gives us his luggage and carryon allowance, which is very handy. I’ve also heard of people buying the window and aisle seats in a row of 3 and hoping the middle stays empty. If it doesn’t, people are always happy to switch a middle for an aisle or window.
- Board first. Many airlines no longer allow pre-boarding. Be sure to ask at the gate (not at the ticket counter), even if you’ve already been told no. If they still say no, ask if you can board with the first boarding group, or the first coach boarding group, regardless of what your tickets say–especially if you have a car seat to install. If they still say no, then hang out at the front of the line and be prepared to hop into action. When your boarding group is called, stay very close to the stanchions and make sure you’re first in line.
- Check your stroller and car seat at the gate, not the luggage area. Yes, it’s a hassle to haul them through the airport, but checking at the gate is as close as you can get to a guarantee that you’re going to get it back later, and also lessens the opportunity for wear and tear (although they still get beat up). When you arrive at the gate, immediately get a gate check ticket for your stroller and your car seat if you’re not carrying it onboard. That way you won’t have to scramble at the plane door at the last minute. Just fold up the stroller and board. If you’re checking your car seat, you want to make sure it gets banged up as little as possible. Sometimes the regular luggage handling can equal the forces of an accident on the seat. Make sure to inspect the seat carefully before you use it. Our car seat is a Sunshine Kids Radian 80, which folds and has a shoulder strap for carrying (love it!) but you can also get wheels to attach to your seat in the airport.
- Wear the baby out before getting on the plane. A sleeping baby is a happy baby on a plane. Try to burn off as much baby energy as you can before getting onboard. We had a very difficult time with Mouse as a crawler because there isn’t room for a baby to crawl on a plane and he got so antsy. Crawl/walk them around like crazy before getting on the plane to maximize the chances of your little angel falling peacefully to sleep during the flight.
- Bring baby headphones if you think your child will keep them on. Baby/child headphones are volume controlled and are sized for small heads. This is handy if your child sleeps to music like ours, or if they want to watch a DVD or play an electronic game (for older kids).
- Pack 2-3 overnight diapers plus a small pack of wipes in a ziploc bag. This is your quick diaper change kit. Pack this at the top of your carryon, and when you get on the plane, immediately put this bag in the seat pocket in front of you. When you have to get up to change a diaper, just grab the ziploc bag and go. No need to get out the big diaper bag and try to rifle through it when you’re in the bathroom–make a mini diaper kit and be done with it. The extra absorbancy of overnight diapers give you that extra piece of security on a plane.
- Drinks for takeoff and landing. The best way to help baby’s ears pop is by drinking during cabin pressurization. By law, you can bring any amount of formula or expressed breast milk, or milk or juice for a baby onboard the plane (through security) as long as it’s declared and scanned. You can also bring jarred baby food and other baby items. Pack a big ziploc with whatever drink you want for takeoff and landing and place that on top of your carryon (next to your mini diaper kit). When you go through security, place that bag in a plastic bin to be examined. When you get on the plane, put that whole bag in the seat pocket in front of you right by the diapers. That way you won’t have to dig for anything when you need it.
Wait for liftoff with the drinks. The only time things have gone wrong for me with plane pressurization was when I jumped the gun on the bottle. Sometimes you sit on the runway for a loooooooooong time before taking off and if you gave the bottle too soon, you’re screwed. I keep the drink out of Mouse’s view (otherwise he flips if he sees it but can’t have it) and when we start to take off, I wait until I can feel the wheels leave the ground. Pressurization takes about 10-15 minutes so this guarantees that the drink won’t be gone before you need it.
- Pack plastic trash bags in your carryon. Wad up a few plastic grocery sacks to use as trash bags on the plane. As above, take out at least one as soon as you sit down and put it in the seat pocket in front of you (with your diaper change kit and drink kit). That way you won’t have to wait for the flight attendant to collect the trash if you want to put your table up or down or get rid of a cup or have any trash to throw away. This is so convenient I do it when I’m traveling by myself too!
- Pack plenty of snacks. You’re a mom–I don’t have to tell you that! Pack snacks that are not allowed at home, that are tried and true, or are new and exciting.
- Look for the symbol of a baby being changed on the bathroom door. Planes often have only one stall with a changing table so make sure that’s the one you’re in line for.
- Bring a lightweight, large blanket or sheet. You’ll see why in a second.
- Entertain the baby during the flight. If you’re lucky and have timed things correctly, your baby will sleep on the flight. If you’re me, that never happens. Instead, keep things interesting for the baby. Physical exercise is great if you can get him or her to walk up and down the aisles. Sometimes a change of scenery helps tremendously. Use that lightweight blanket on the floor to create a safe space at your feet for baby to sit and play if you have room (the bulkhead seats are perfect for this). Some people bring safety pins to make a tent with a blanket for sleeping (Mouse never went for this). Get new toys the baby has never seen before, such as Happy Meal toys or dollar store toys, just for this trip. Wrap toys in wrapping paper for that extra few minutes of excitement (plus you have your trash bag for pieces later). Attach toys to a binky leash or other string to keep from having to pick them up a gazillion times. Institute a “one toy at a time” rule–put something away before getting something else out. Take advantage of in-flight entertainment with your baby headphones or just the images for baby to watch if you have your own screen.
- Recommended toys: For the under 2 crowd, I recommend these toys. Play keys, always fun, nice to chew. Small board books for reading and for baby “browsing.” Play silk or other square of fabric, perfect for peek-a-boo, impromptu dressup, etc. Stacking cups are the ultimate travel toy. I keep mine in a small fabric pouch–they’re perfect for stacking, for taking in and out, for building like blocks, for banging together, for counting, etc. Seriously people, stacking cups are WHERE IT’S AT in the land of travel toys. Stickers, band-aids, or a roll of masking tape makes for fun sticking and unsticking on clothes, feet, fingers, etc. Finger puppets or small hand puppets are always fun. If you have a portable DVD player you can try that. Small cars or things on wheels to roll on the floor and up and down unsuspecting tummies. Anything new and exciting you think your baby might like. The idea is to keep things novel and exciting.
Planes really aren’t as intimidating as they seem. At the very least, whatever happens, it will be over soon. Don’t be intimidated–you can do it! Happy traveling!
Click here for tips on traveling with a toddler.