and not want to pull your hair out!
I'm not going to sugar coat this, flying with a tiny human is NOT easy but it is totally manageable and nothing to be scared about. I should also say that this "how to" guide will be how to fly ALONE with an infant. I have flown four times with Emma Claire, each time it was just she and I. We flew twice when she was three months old and twice when she was seven months old. Both times went very well. I hope that by sharing some of my tips and tricks I can help someone have a pleasant travel experience! There are plenty of things I would have liked to know ahead of time.
I think we all agree that the goal of air travel with a child of any age is to keep them like this...
And do everything in your power to keep THIS from happening!
However, life is not perfect and you most likely will have some sort of meltdown once in the air. Thankfully most children can be easily distracted.
First stop, the airport.
I think that, like most parents, I was most concerned with the actual flight the first time Emma Claire and I flew together. I somehow forgot the part about the airport that involves checking bags, security, dealing with gate agents, waiting for a flight or even a delayed flight, and keeping cool when you're the only parent. I do have to say that most people will opt to have their spouse or another adult get a gate pass so they can assist through security and wait for the plane with you. Due to the hubs work schedule this has never been an option for us so he has always unloaded our bags, carried them inside, gotten them checked with us and then said goodbye.
Okay, now for the good stuff. Things I have learned! I'm going to bullet point my tips/tricks.
*If you check in online make sure you've added your child to your ticket. I did not do this last time and got all the way through the line and had to leave and go to the ticket counter and get a new boarding pass printed. Talk about annoying. I don't even know if you can add a child online. I've only printed my boarding pass ahead of time once, and it didn't go well! ha!
* The Moby wrap is your friend. Use it. EC loved facing out and looking at all of the people. If you don't Moby then find some sort of contraption to strap that baby to you. The last thing you want is to deal with holding your infant and dealing with TSA agents, trust me.
My Moby is not on correctly here. I put it on in a hurry and it was all twisted. It ended up giving me some intense shoulder pain. The next go-around I made sure to take the time to put it on right and it was SO much better!
* If you are traveling with your travel system (stroller, car seat duo) then make sure you have your little one out of the car seat and into a holder before security. The car seat has to go through the x-ray machine.
*Yes, you have to put the car seat AND stroller into the x-ray machine. Yes, they do fit. It's amazing.
* When going through security take off your shoes early on. That way you aren't scrambling at the last minute to do that.
* I always have everything broken down before it's my turn so I can shove everything in the x-ray machine as fast as possible.
*If you are carrying your infant they will check your hands for gun powder residue. I'm pretty sure this is because they don't turn on the electromagnetic body scanner when you walk through with a baby. Correct me if I am wrong. I'm just guessing!
* While I like to think that everyone in the world would be kind to mother's traveling alone, I have come across several rude TSA agents who didn't help me at all with the stroller/car seat. So I now know how to do it all with EC strapped to me.
*Side story: Leaving DC a few weeks ago I had an older couple approach me as I was leaving the security area and the woman complimented me on how well I handled EC and all of our "gear". She couldn't believe I was flying alone and was just so impressed with how I handled it all. So it can be done my friends!
The Gate: Waiting for the Plane
*This is usually one of our more stressful times and when I wish I had someone else with me. By this point EC has been strapped to me for a while and is usually hot. So I get her out of the carrier and will normally find a place to nurse her. Flying alone with EC completely cured my fear of nursing in public. You have to do what you have to do.
* The first thing I usually do is approach the gate agent and get tags for the car seat and stroller. That also lets them know I'm flying with an infant and they usually look for me when boarding begins.
* Pay attention to boarding. I always try to be right up front so that when they start I will get called with priority boarding.
Showtime: The Plane Ride
*This is the point in your trip when people will either gush over the baby or look at you with fear in their eyes. I know they're thinking, "oh great...a BABY. This is going to be the longest flight ever."
Hopefully your baby is like mine and makes friend easily. I took this when Emma Claire was sticking her tongue out at the people filing in on the plane. Everyone was cracking up.
*I know everyone likes to sit in different spots on the plane but for us I always sit as close to first class as possible. This means that at the end of the flight when we are at the end of our treats/tricks/and good mood we can just scoot right off the plane.
*Distract, distract, distract. This is pretty much what I feel like I do the entire flight now.
This Kleenex package entertained her for close to 30 minutes. I kid you not.
We read Brown Bear about 50 times. She loves this book.
*Nurse/feed during takeoff/landing. (to help their little ears adjust to the change in pressure) I had a bottle all ready for our first flight and she wanted none of it. Which isn't surprising, she hates bottles. So to my surprise I nursed her. In public. In front of a TON of other people. Like I said, you've gotta do what you gotta do. Invest in a GOOD nursing cover.
*When they ask if you want a beverage say YES. Then quickly drink your water so the little one can play with the ice.
This was the highlight of the flight for her.
Now on to what everyone is wondering about....
aka the tiniest space you will ever change a diaper in
Lay child down on changing table.
(preferably with a pad provided by you underneath)
I NEVER let my diaper bag touch the floor. I smoosh it between myself and the sink so that I can easily have access to it and it doesn't touch the yucky floor.
I put my diaper/wipes behind Emma Claire's head so I can easily get to them. Side note: I usually don't let the diaper touch any surfaces other than her tush BUT I was trying to do pictures/watch her/and change a diaper, so my bad!
Once done SANITIZE you little one's hands ASAP. Most likely they will have put their grubby little paws all over that tiny space. And if your child is like mine their fingers then go straight to their mouth. Not okay. I always clean Emma Claire's hands after I've changed her.
Other bathroom tips:
* I usually have to sing to Emma Claire when we are inside because she HATES it. I mean I don't blame her. Its a tiny space, she's on her back, it's moving around, there is horrid florescent lighting, and it usually doesn't smell like roses.
*On our flight to Texas this past trip we had turbulence the entire flight. Read: the seat belt sign was on for about 95% of the flight. So guess where I had to change diapers? Yep, In my lap. Now, had they been newborn diapers this wouldn't have been possible. Thankfully they've hardened up a tad and are easier to clean. I'm sure if you're not a parent the thought of someone openly changing a diaper on a plane is disgusting. However, a screaming child for three hours is unbearable in my mind. I have never had anyone next to me when doing this and I always completely wrap the diaper once finished and store it in a pouch inside my diaper bag that I will clean later. I also have to say that since EC is breastfed her little diapers don't have a terrible odor so I can get away with this. If your little gal/guy has foul smelling diapers this is probably not the way to go ;-)
And here is my biggest tip...
just go with the flow!
Flying with a baby is always an adventure and the only thing you can do is prepare for all situations.
If you have any questions about flying with an infant then don't hesitate to ask! Also, if you have some helpful tips to share I would LOVE to hear them!