Spring Break season is officially upon us! You've got your hotel booked, your itinerary planned, and all that's standing between you and your vacation is....
A flight with your baby.
Surviving a flight with a baby is one of the most common fears shared by parents. Air travel can be stressful enough, now you've got the added wrinkle(s) of juggling feedings, and nap times, and fussiness, and stuff. So. Much. Stuff.
We're here to help you plan for as smooth a travel day as possible.
Wear your baby. Having your baby close and your hands free to juggle all the other stuff can be really helpful. You may even be able to sneak in some naps in the carrier easier than you may in a stroller or in your arms. You should be able to pass through security with your baby in the carrier. A soft-structured carrier like Tula, Ergo, or Lillebaby is great for travel because it's comfortable for the wearer and baby and super easy to get on and off.
Bring a stroller and gate check it for free. Even if you don't have plans to use the stroller much once you reach your destination, your stroller can double as a luggage cart for all the bags you're carrying with you. And if your baby is old enough to sit for meals, you can use it as an infant seat for a quick meal or snack in the terminal if there aren't restaurants nearby.
Keep baby's food, milk, and/or formula together in an easy to find bag to declare at security. Baby food, milk, and formula does not have to follow the same liquid restrictions, but you'll save some time by keeping it together and putting it in it's own bin at security. You may be asked to open liquid containers to test for explosives. You may bring freezer packs to keep milk cold, and there's no limit on the amount of milk you carry (even if you happen to be traveling without your baby but with expressed breast milk.)
Organize the diaper bag into sections (or take two bags) - one for diapering and baby care needs and one for entertainment. If you have an older infant, having a few new toys or books to surprise them with can help. (adding a few gallon size ziplock bags or a dry bag can help if you need to carry around anything messy until you can find a garbage can or are able to do some laundry.)
Try to get one last diaper change in before you board the plane. If it's not too long a flight, you may be able to avoid changing your baby's diaper during the flight.
If traveling with a partner, send your partner to board ahead of you while you stay back with baby. This will allow them time to get your bags tucked away, the car seat installed, and your area set up. I usually try to be one of the last people to board, you'll end up saving yourself up to a half hour of plane entertainment time. If you're traveling alone with baby, accept any help offered and don't be shy about asking the flight attendants for assistance with your bags if needed!
While in-flight, your baby is safest in her car seat. Try to do as much entertaining as you can from there. My rule for managing a flight with my kids is to do whatever works, for as long as it's working. I'm always thinking ahead to what activity will come next, but NEVER switch to the next new thing if he's still interested in the last one! At some point, you will run out ;)
Food is entertainment! If your baby is eating solids, even just picking up a fruit cup from the airport cafeteria can provide a good deal of entertainment. If you need to make a bottle of formula, ask the flight attendants for assistance. (And never use the airplane tap water for anything but washing hands.) If you are breastfeeding, your right to breastfeed your baby is protected by law (covered or not, it's your choice.)
If you are choosing to fly with your infant in arms, you'll need to check with your airline when you obtain your boarding pass, many require your pass to say "infant in arms". Most airlines will allow you to have your baby in a baby carrier on you during flight, but you'll be asked to take baby out of the carrier and have him sit on your lap with his back against your belly for takeoff and landing.
Pack a change of clothes - and not just for baby! Accidents are bound to happen and in such a tight space, you may take a hit too.
Above all, remember it won't last forever.
Even if everything is disastrous, your fight WILL end. You're doing the best you can and your focus is on caring for your baby. Try not to stress about disturbing passengers around you. Chances are they have kids of their own and understand what you are going through. We're all just doing the best we can, right?!