I have a confession. A while back, I wrote a piece about road tripping with a baby and then shortly afterwards we drove down to Vancouver. And though I took my own advice (and some of it marginally helped), it was mostly a huge disaster. Tears the whole way down (and the baby cried too). My baby just doesn't like the car.
So, this time round, we decided to fly, and it was a game changer. Here are a few tidbits if you're planning a flight with your baby to make your travels go a little smoother.
Prep Your Carry On
It's going to take a little more prep than the usual "keep your liquids easily accessible for security." Take some time a couple days before you fly to consider everything you may possibly need between bag drop off and baggage claim on the other side. This might mean soothers, extra clothes, sleep sack, nursing pillow, snacks, bottles, breast pumps, infant Tylenol, favourite toys/books, phone chargers, etc. For any moms wondering, yes, you are allowed to bring pre-pumped breast milk through security. Also, I had no trouble bringing pureed baby food pouches through too. Just be aware they may pull you aside for a
little extra one on one time with the screening officer.
Know Your Baby Perks
There's not many perks to traveling with a baby, but baggage is one! If you're flying with a baby, you get to check two baby items (stroller, playard, or car seat) for free! You also get to board the plane first.
Also, if you call ahead, some airlines will complementarily book your seat close to the front of the plan so it’s easy to get on and off (the baby change table is usually in the bathroom at the front of the plane).
If You Can, Travel with a Buddy
We don't always have the luxury, but if you can, traveling with your partner makes a world of difference. An extra adult to take care of check in, baggage drop, and bag watch when you and baby go wandering is a big help.
Wear the Baby Carrier
Between dragging suitcases, scrambling through security, or handing off your ticket, airports are just easier with two hands. Strap that baby into the baby carrier.
Bring Wet Wipes
Airports (though drastically improved since pre-COVID) are not the cleanest place. It's always a good idea to bring some anti-bacterial wipes to give baby's hands a quick clean occasionally.
Use an Overnight Diaper
Especially if it's a longer flight, putting baby in an overnight diaper right before you board can save you an awkwardly tight change in the airplane bathroom later.
Time Naps During the Flight
Though sometimes this is easier said than done, try and time baby's naps so that they can sleep on the flight. This might mean getting them up a little earlier that morning. And pack the tools needed to mimic bedtime routine while you're in your seat. We brought along a bedtime book, the nursing pillow, a dark towel to drape over my shoulder and make it dark, and her coziest sleep sack. The good thing is, you'll have an abundance of white noise at your disposal and the turbulence from our little FSJ planes provides a nice rocking.
Tucker Them Out Before Boarding
To aid in the quest for sleep, make sure baby has lots of time before boarding to move around. Get to the gate a little early, set up camp, and let her crawl or wander around.
Nurse or Feed During Take Off and Landing
Eating or sucking can help relieve pressure in baby's ears during take-off and landing. Nursing or bottle feeding can help, but if that's not working, feeding them a snack or offering a soother will also help.
Have a Hail Mary Plan
We all hope our little angels remain so in the air, but the reality is some babies won't sleep, won't want to stay put in your lap, or just want to sing their songs for the whole plane to hear. Don't stress about the other passengers. Yes, some may grumble, but remember the situation you are in is only temporary and you are doing your best, Mama! I always have a Hail Mary plan tucked away in case all goes sideways. For me, it was having a couple Hey Bear Sensory YouTube videos and the Baby Shark video pre-downloaded onto my phone so that when we're in airplane mode (and baby is in meltdown mode) we still have a distraction.
Good Luck and Happy Travels, Mamas!
A.M. Cullen lives and writes in Fort St. John. Are you parenting in the Peace? Send in your questions, topics, or suggestions for #MomLife to cover at email@example.com.