Traveling with an infant can be scary with a capital "S"
Whether it's your first time or the fifth time, there always seems to be a mixture of excitement and fear in what lies ahead. It's quite the adrenaline rush for parenting 😭
What if my baby screams the entire flight? Or gets sick before we leave and they're uncomfortable? Or if we sit next to somebody who gives me the stink eye all flight because I'm holding a baby? Am I going to get any sleep? How will I whip up a bottle or breastfeed if I'm stuck in the middle seat?
Every situation becomes a big fear of the unknown and frankly, it's exhausting to think about! There is already so much to think about when traveling, but the plane ride seems to be the worst. Can't we just warp there? Jetsons anyone?
For years, I've had to haul my babies and toddlers back and forth across the Pacific. I'm from Chicago and my husband is from Hawaii. Although it sounds fabulous (okay it really is) to escape the winter and stay in sunny Hawaii, it's been a challenge commuting over the Pacific with little ones.
For the last 10 or so years, we've flown back and forth every year, our oldest is 11 and our youngest is 2. We've done the flight with babies and toddlers in tow many times.
No matter how many times you do it, it's always a little scary to think you'll be in a place you literally cannot escape if your little one is having a hard time. Just how early is TOO early to drink wine on the flight?
I will say this, each time we got off the airplane, it's generally been easier than I'd anticipated. Yes, sometimes the baby would cry for a bit or be uncomfortable, but that's life, and that's okay! Don't let others make you feel bad about your small child wailing for a bit. Chances are, the grown-ups around you cried when they were a baby also!
One amazing thing I've noticed aboard is there usually seems to be more compassion and support from other passengers. You really gear up thinking the worst situations, but really, people have been much more pleasant and helpful than I'd expected. I did say usually 🤷🏼♀️
We once had flight attendants stop by and offer to scoop up our baby or play with one of the toddlers so we could use the bathroom, stretch, or just take a little break. I know some moms would be like HOW DARE YOU EVEN ASK, YOU ARE A STRANGER! On the contrary, my husband and I are like, can you bring them back when we're done with our nap?!
Another time we had a mom walk over from across the airplane with a big ole smile and just say, "Hey, I've been there, you're doing great, happy to help if you need anything at all!" Just a little love and understanding went a long way! I always think about that when I see another mom struggling with kids on the plane and try to pay it forward.
Over the past few years, we've mustered up a list of must-haves for traveling with a baby. When you've got a limited amount of space (and hands!) it's important to focus on the necessities and not the whole 'what if' list. Here's what we found most helpful:
1. Get organized. This is the golden rule when taking your baby or toddlers on an airplane. Be organized. I am admittedly not the most organized person IRL. Maybe even the least organized? Hmm, don't ask my mom. I've learned over the past few years just how stressful it can be when the baby is crying because of a blowout, and those diapers and wipes are 'somewhere in the diaper bag'. #cringe
2. Grab an awesome diaper bag. This helps with rule #1 above, but grab a bag that is large, has tons of pockets, and keeps you effortlessly organized. This is the one I use and it takes the cake for being efficient. It's got 14 pockets and after a few times of using it, I know exactly where everything is. Now to train my husband...
3. Set up your feeding plan.
- If you're bottle feeding, have water in your bottles ready to go. Grab a formula dispenser and prepare the servings ahead of time. If you find a diaper bag with an insulated bottle holder like this one that we created, even better! You can make the bottles ahead of time! This takes away the stress of fumbling to make food and you'll never have to worry about flagging down a flight attendant for water.
- If you're breastfeeding, plan on sitting wedged in between two large men who give you stink eyes. Kidding! You magical mama, get to nourish your little mini anywhere. Grab your favorite breastfeeding cover and you're all set.
4. Car seat or no? You'll need to decide whether you want to pay for a seat for the baby or not. Children under 2 fly free, but you'll need to carry them. If you want them in a car seat during the flight beside you, you'll need to pay for the seat.
- No car seat - Use a Baby Carrier. If you're not paying for a seat for the child, you'll be holding him/her the whole flight. I suppose that's okay, it's your own child after all ;) I remember my first flight trying to hold our 7-month old for the eight-hour flight and my arms were literally about to fall off. The return flight I had my hubby hold him and thought to myself, we'll see how he does. I remember looking back after getting in the air and the trickster was sleeping! I never got a wink of sleep I seriously couldn't believe it. The difference was, he put the baby in our carrier and had him all snuggled up to him most of the flight. The baby slept great, my husband got quite the nap, and there was peace on the plane. You can click the image to see our all-time fave baby carrier.
- Car seat. Be sure to have blankets ready to keep them cozy during the flight, it can get cold up there! Will your child want a toy, stuffed animal or anything for entertainment?
This would be the ultimate travel splurge, but it's so incredibly convenient. We used a similar one traveling and loved it.
5. Grab a blanket. I don't know about you, but I get FREEZING on the plane. It seems like as soon the captain says 'We've hit cruising altitude' that actually means, we've entered the Arctic, hope you brought some socks! Grab one for you and for the baby. Even though it takes up extra space, I always love bringing a good fluffy blanket for the flight. Sometimes, airlines provide blankets, but not always. Being cold up there means no sleep for anyone!
6. Snack up. If your baby is too little for snacks, this is more for you mama! It can be a long flight and often times very little is served on airplanes. If you're picky or don't want to pay the high prices for airport food, you can make food at home and bring it through security. Note, TSA won't allow you to bring liquids through security over 3.4 oz. Check their FAQ sheet here if you have any questions.
Fun Fact: I recently saw Crissy Teigen's Instagram story about going through TSA. She was carrying 2 containers, one was mashed potatoes and one was gravy. TSA said the gravy couldn't go through unless it was on the mashed potatoes. Who knew?
7. Have your entertainment ready. If you're a reader, pack your favorite book and leave it in an accessible place. If you plan on watching a movie, be sure to get it set up ahead of time. Check with your airline to see if you need to download their entertainment app or come prepared with your own.
8. Bring your stroller. Did you know your stroller flies free and you can check it at the gate? We've found it to be super helpful to let the customer service reps know that we'd like to use it all the way to the plane. Getting through the airport is much easier that way and it gives you a bit more time to consolidate or get situated before boarding the plane. Upon arrival, they'll set it outside the airplane door for you to pop open and be on your way. High fives for easy! We reviewed travel strollers and found the best travel strollers, you can read it here.
Those are our 8 tips for flying with babies or small children. How amazing for you to be able to travel with your littles and make a ton of amazing memories along the way! Don't stress yourself out mama, everything is going to be great. Refer back to this list anytime you need a refresher. Breathe and enjoy the journey! Wishing you adventures and lifelong memories with your peeps.