I was that mom.
The one with the very overfull diaper bag, packed with everything I thought was essential for a 5 hour flight to Hawaii with a tiny person. A tiny person who couldn't even run away from me yet, much less crawl or sit up. (boy how things have changed!) I brought way too much baby food and diapers and 3 changes of clothes (we only used one!). I also brought with me a stressful struggle with a bulky diaper bag and the endless digging to find things inside it.
Hope for the best and prepare for the worst is probably my life motto.
In spite of my “expect the worst” mindset, Daniel did amazing on all of the flights. He only screamed one time while descending into Seattle, slept in the airport, and happily napped and flirted with our seat mates for the remainder of the flights. I know that many people cannot say that their children do well on flights, so I consider myself extremely blessed in that area. Hopefully my son grows up enjoying travel as much as his adventure-loving parents!
Here are a few of my lessons learned from this first long adventure:
Tip #1 - Get a backpack diaper bag.
Seriously, I don't know why I didn't think of this before. When we were actually walking around the Big Island I hardly used the diaper bag at all, we mostly used my husband’s old Swiss Army backpack. We needed free hands and that’s what a good backpack gives you. I'm definitely going to be investing in one that has the little clips for strapping onto the stroller though, because that is my favorite feature of the diaper bag we currently own.
Tip #2 - Don’t book your infant a seat.
When we called American Airlines to get the seating arrangements figured out, the lady we talked to reserved us an extra seat on each flight, free of charge, for the baby. Only if the flight was full would his seat be taken, which only happened on one flight! Daniel was able to sleep for 3 flights in his carseat, and the last short flight we had to check his carseat at the gate. He was awake and cheerful the entire time and really enjoyed getting to see all the people and play with our seat mates. It is definitely worth calling and asking for that extra free seat though!
Tip #3 - Check the stroller/carseat at the gate.
Another tip from the American Airlines lady: check everything at the gate. Your stroller and carseat will be the first thing to come off the plane and it prevents both from getting damaged by other people’s heavy luggage, since they get set on top of everything else. The only thing we forgot was to bring a plastic trash bag or stroller bag to prevent the stroller from getting wet while being unloaded in Seattle. Live and learn.
Tip #4 - Pack light.
And I mean light. The less stuff you have to haul around while holding a tiny squirmy person, the better. Pack purposefully, with items that can double for something else. My favorites are my Kindle because I love to read, and the black Bamboobies nursing cover - it doubles as a carseat cover/poncho/scarf/blanket. I know a lot of people swear by the MilkSnob covers too, and I might invest in one of those for the next big trip. *Update: I recently found a MilkSnob cover at the thrift store for $0.99, the same week I picked up a really nice off-brand one on Amazon, which I LOVE so much! I’m probably going to gift one of these to a pregnant friend, since I don’t need multiples.
Tip #5 - Use your baby carrier.
I opted for the Ergo for our first trip and it was so helpful! Easy to adjust so that either Trev or I could carry Daniel, and simple buckles for getting it on and off through security. Daniel has never been much for sleeping in a carrier, but he wants to be able to see what’s going on around him and loved having a great vantage point to watch all the people at the airport.
If I had to change this in the future, I would probably opt for the Ergo 360, since Daniel really liked being forward-facing when he was little.
Tip #6 - Plastic bags for EVERYTHING
Pack all your wet stuff in a clear quart size ziplock, and then do the same for any baby food/formula/breastmilk. Stow these on top of everything else in the diaper bag, it makes it easier to pull out and put away through security. Solid ice-packs are your friend. And if you don’t want the TSA opening your baby food to test it, bring the sealed squeeze pouches, like these, and not glass jars. I also packed my breast pump parts in a sealed ziplock to keep germs out.
Bonus Tip - Make friends with the TSA.
No seriously, cute babies are the perfect way to make your trip through security fast and friendly! Most of the staff that we’ve run across understands that juggling small people is hard, and are very willing to give you a hand with bags, shoes, and strollers. We always opt for pat-downs as well, because we want to keep our kids (and ourselves) away from excess radiation. We have found that with having a child, the TSA automatically assumes you are going to avoid the X-ray scanners, and they are usually very prompt in getting you through the line. Fingers-crossed that we keep having good airport security experiences!
What ways do you keep your sanity while flying with really little ones? I’d love to hear your advice!