I want to start by saying I am not an expert when it comes to traveling with a baby.
Traveling with a little one was something I always looked forward to. I would see other young families or moms and be so impressed and also hopeful that one day that would be me. So messy and cozy and unpredictable, but an adventure nonetheless.
I have had the amazing opportunity of traveling with Leo on an airplane nine times in the last 6 months, six of those nine times I was flying solo with him. This little guy knows how to board and exit an airplane like a champ! He knows where all the nearest exits are, what to do in case of a water evacuation, and how to make dozens of people smile in the aisle. We have our first international trip coming up in a couple days, so I have been mentally, emotionally, and thoughtfully preparing for that plane ride for a while. In preparing, I thought it would be helpful to jot down what I’ve learned so far about airplane travel with an infant in case it might be helpful for you!
- First things first, your baby is not as loud as you think. It is a hard truth as a parent that you become extra sensitive to noise. It’s so easy to get flustered when you feel like your little one is being disruptive or super loud. This mindset can increase your stress which can then make your baby feel even more uncomfortable. The best advice I received from our pediatrician was to stay calm and know that my baby is not as loud to other people as I think he is being. Every time I’ve been on a plane, I’ve reminded myself of this nugget of wisdom. Eventually the crying stops and the babe settles in.
- The ambient noise on the plane is your friend. It acts as a muffled and calming sound for your baby and it also creates a sound buffer between your little one and other passengers. Magical.
- Ear protection at landing and take off is key for your little one. They aren’t able to pop their own ears (so cute to think about though), so they need to be sucking and swallowing in order to keep their ears popped. If you can nurse, do that! If not, bottle feeding works and so does a pacifier! I have used a pacifier for Leo just as many times as nursing and bottle feeding at take off and landing, and the pacifier works just as well. As soon as you feel your ears popping, your little one’s are popping too. Commence ear protection!
- Plan on snuggling your baby close, and nothing else. Forget about music, podcasts, movies, books, snacks, or beverages from the flight attendant. If you are rebellious, read on.
- If you do go for a beverage from the flight attendant, ask for NO ICE. No ice means you can drink your beverage quickly (a.k.a. chug) and then put the cup in the seat pocket in front of you so you have both hands free again. If you are picturing a competitive sport right now, you’re on the right track.
- Upon boarding the aircraft, ask the flight attendant which bathroom has a changing station. This is key. You don’t want to be mid-flight and realize you don’t know which bathroom has the changing table. If you have a dirty diaper situation, you want to know ahead of time if you need to go to the front or back of the plane. And yes, there is a changing table on airplanes. It’s a tight space and a little rocky, but it gets the job done.
- If you are traveling with a car seat, you can check it at the gate for free. Instead of buying a travel bag to protect your car seat, use a black garbage bag. Works well. Saves money. You can throw it away afterwards. Just make sure to pack enough for connecting or return flights.
- Also, if you are traveling with a car seat, ask the gate agent if the plane is full. If it isn’t full, most airlines will give you one of the open seats for your car seat and you can bring the car seat on! Dream come true.
- Some airlines require you to bring a birth certificate to check in to verify your baby is less than 2 years old. Southwest airlines for sure does, Delta and Sun Country don’t. I always have a picture of Leo’s birth certificate pulled up on my phone at check in just in case they need to see it. Either way, make sure to check in at the desk whether you have bags or not, because they’ll print off a boarding pass for your “lap child.”
- Bring a bottle of water with you on the airplane. It’s surprising how thirsty you can get while traveling with a little one! Or maybe not surprising at all? Like I said, think competitive sport.
For international travel:
- When you apply for your baby’s passport, print off the paperwork ahead of time so when you go in all you have to do is hand them paperwork and money.
- Speaking of money, bring blank checks with you when applying for your child’s passport, because that’s how you’ll need to pay. We learned this the hard way, but it all worked out.
- Let your pediatrician know where you are traveling ahead of time in case your little one needs extra shots. Leo needed to get a measles vaccine because there is a measles outbreak happening in parts of Europe right now. Good to know, right?!
- Some airplanes have bassinets in the bulkhead seating. If you want to have a bassinet, it is first come first served at the gate. Again, think competitive sport. Confused? See #5 or #10 above for other sports references.
On Friday, we leave for Dublin for five nights, and then we’ll be in Belgium for three nights. My brother is getting married!!!!! I will jump back on this blog when we get back with any other thoughts or take-aways from traveling over the ocean with a little one. At least this time, I’ll have 6 other people (my hubs, my mom and dad, my grandma, my brother and his girlfriend) ready to help at all times, so this will be a breeze! Are you a person who has traveled with a little one? Please leave a comment below with your experience or thoughts. I would love to hear from you!
For now, I need to call doggy day care and secure Lou’s spot for his 9-night stay. He’s about to be in puppy paradise, where there are always new butts to smell and new faces to lick.