Traveling on a plane is always a lot of work between packing the right size bag, getting through security in time to make the flight, and finding the right gate. Once you get on the plane it doesn’t get easier. We’ve all been stuck next to someone who is either nervous, drunk, or just way too talkative. Traveling with a baby on an airplane adds a whole new level of complexity to traveling.
Picture this, you manage to make it to the plane on time and miraculously you get your baby to sleep, but then it hits you: YOU HAVE TO PEE! Yep you heard me. We all know those airplane bathrooms are the absolute worst, so just imagine trying to use one while you wear a sleeping baby.
My husband and I recently took our 5 month old on his first plane ride and, even though it went as well as we could have hoped, there were a lot of challenges along the way.
Let’s start at the beginning: packing. Depending on the airline you fly with, the number of bags you’re allowed to bring may be pretty limited. The good news is that you are pretty much always allowed to bring a personal item for free and a diaper bag counts.
I packed all of my son’s clothes in a couple Ziploc bags and put them in the diaper bag. This made it easy to move them out of the way to get the stuff we needed throughout the day and we didn’t have to take up space in our other luggage.
You may also want to consider packing only the necessities. We decided to take a fully stocked diaper bag for the plane ride but bought things like diapers, formula, and wipes once we got to San Diego.
Going Through Security
Going through security at the airport can be daunting anyway, but adding a baby adds a whole new level of complexity. My best advice is to pack with security in mind. Try to keep things that will need to be taken out of bags like computers and tablets easily accessible so you can handle them with one hand if you need to.
I also recommend wearing shoes that can slip off and on easily. I made the mistake of wearing sneakers on the way back home and my son fell asleep by the time we got to the front of the line. I had to have my husband help me with my shoes and I have to admit, I felt like I was 9 months pregnant again.
Getting to the Plane
Not only will you have your baby with you, but you will most likely have a few extra items also. Strollers and car seats can be checked for free with most airlines so feel free to bring them along.
If you have a heavy car seat that it isn’t easy to carry your baby in, you will probably want to check it curbside. If you are planning on carrying your baby in their car seat all the way to the plane or if you have a stroller with you, you can check them at the gate.
A stroller can be an awesome tool to help you get all of your stuff to the plane. We didn’t take one on this trip but I saw a few parents with their strollers loaded down with their baby as well as all of their luggage. Just keep in mind that you will need to empty it out and fold it up to get through security.
The Plane Ride
Once you get on the plane there are a few things you’ll want to consider:
- Get Comfortable – I know planes aren’t the most comfortable place, but do what you can to get yourself and your baby settled in for the ride. Since I was wearing my son, being able to lean my seat back was a lifesaver. It was also nice to have a window seat because I was able to close the window when I needed to help him sleep.
- Prepare for Take-off – Your baby will get the same type of pressure in their ears that you do, so have a plan for helping them out. For my son, feeding him at take off and then giving him his pacifier worked great. If your baby is breastfed, that can also help. I also recommend trying to get them to nap if possible.
- Have a Way to Calm Your Baby – At some point or another your baby may get fussy. Make sure you have options for calming them down. Have one of their favorite toys to help keep them distracted, or if you use technology with your baby keep a couple of their favorite videos downloaded on your phone or tablet. My husband was smart enough to download Boss Baby before we left and it saved us a couple times during the flight.
- Don’t Stress – If people stare, just try to ignore it. If any of them are parents, they’ve likely been in your shoes at one point or another, so don’t let it get to you. Relax and focus on your family.
If you are traveling somewhere in a different time zone, remember that it’ll be more difficult for your baby to adjust than it is for you. When we went to San Diego, there was a two hour time difference so my son woke up at 5am instead of his normal 7am every day. It also took him a few days to adjust back to his normal bedtime once we got home. Be patient.
Enjoy Your Trip
The most important thing in all of this is to enjoy it. Enjoy your vacation. Enjoy your family. Don’t focus on the small mishaps (trust me you’ll have some), instead focus on having fun. Enjoy this new experience with your baby and anyone else who is joining you.
Comment below with your favorite vacation story or your biggest vacation mishap with your baby. You can also comment below if you have any questions. Read on for more parenting tips.