Flying with Baby

FlyingFox_A

FlyingFox_C

FlyingFox_B

FlyingFox_E

FlyingFox_D

We booked our first family vacation (more on that later) with Fox when he was still going through a fierce phase of witching hour meltdowns. So the idea of boarding a plane with a seemingly emotionally unstable newborn made me more than anxious. I began scouring the internet for articles with numbered lists with pro tips on how to travel with a baby. Aside from breastfeeding during takeoff I couldn’t find much help. It turns out there isn’t much in the way of tips and tricks when it comes to flying with an infant – because really there’s not much you can do beyond just doing your best. So in order to prepare myself for Fox’s first flight I imagined the worst – inconsolable tears, irritated businessmen, and blowouts of epic proportion.

Everyone says to expect the unexpected – I had been so busy preparing for the worst that I didn’t expect to have a chill baby who is a total champ at traveling. Fox loved being carried through the airport in his Sakura Bloom sling. He smiled at strangers. He managed to time his poops perfectly for just after landing. The passengers on our planes couldn’t help but comment on what a sweet, cute baby we have.

I also didn’t expect to have to spend the night at the airport due to inclement weather followed by an available crew unwilling to work a little bit of overtime to get a full plane of passengers from Dallas to Oklahoma City (a 29 minute long flight). Fox and I slept face-to-face together on a cot under a thin fleece blanket. And by sleep I mean closed eyes while trying to ignore the bright lights, bustling cleaning crew, and freezing AC.

But more than anything… I didn’t expect to be so grateful to be traveling with a baby. My baby. I was grateful that I had something a bit more meaningful to focus on than my own self-absorbed and trite travel frustrations. I was grateful that if I had to spend the night in the airport I got to do it with my little family – I was so glad we were all together. I was grateful that my baby seemed to delight the other distressed passengers – he brought a little light, levity, and big toothless grins to an otherwise miserable situation. I was grateful that while it wasn’t the best time ever that we now have a memorable story – that ended with us all home safe – to tell about Fox’s first flight.

But if you’re stumbling upon this page looking for some more than an anecdote here are some tips for traveling with an infant:
• Feed your baby during take off, descent, and as much as possible in between. For as much work as breastfeeding can be it was super convenient for traveling. I wore a scarf which has become a wardrobe staple for a bit of discretion when it comes to feeding Fox in public.
• Wear your baby. I love carrying Fox kangaroo style (facing out with his legs tucked in) in the Sakura Bloom through the airport. You can even wear your baby through security – but I recommend using an Ergo or another carrier without any metal.
• Pack light. At one point I considered packing Fox’s little play gym and maybe a portable high chair. I also thought it might be a good idea to pack my breast pump, just in case. But all the stuff is just not necessary. All he needed, really, were a few diapers, a change of clothes, his swaddle blankets, a pacifier, and us. I did load a few baby apps on the iPad just in case but he’s still a little young to care much about that.

If you have more tips for traveling with babies (by plane, train, or car) please leave them in the comments. 

P.S. All photos taken with an iPhone 5S and edited with the VSCO app. (Another way to travel light is to leave the DSLR at home).

  1. Tonia

    Hey K, J and F! What a wonderful perspective you gained! Delayed/cancelled flights and sleeping in an airport has to be VERY high up on the universal list of Most Hated Situations. Bravo on making it through that!

    My husband and I recently went to Sayulita (your blog post about Sayulita Sailing was very helpful- we found Darrin and had a blast with him on his boat…thank you!) with another couple and their 14 month old baby boy. My husband and I, being non-baby-havers (someday, though. Maybe.) were a little wary about traveling with and being around and having to interact with a baby for TWO WEEKS. This is outside our comfort zone, even though we happen to really adore this particular baby boy and his parents. We were also wary about being partially responsible for said baby in a place none of us had ever been (although everything we read said Sayulita is very family friendly, which turned out to be accurate in our experience). BUT, it could not have gone better. We had a fantastic time together.

    What you said about the baby bringing levity and a smile to any tense, uncomfortable or unpleasent situation (which happens when you travel anywhere, even to paradisaical places) is SO true. He gave us something to focus on other than our discomfort. He made us laugh COUNTLESS times, and we enjoyed seeing Sayulita through his eyes, which were wide open and fascinated the whole time.

    Every morning we woke up to him mowing down on bananas and he would clap and smile when he saw us get out of bed. Every day at exactly 2:30 we would all stop whatever we were doing and convene around a big bowl of guacamole and chips, and within seconds that little guy’s face was completely GREEN with delicious guac. Every night we would all kiss him goodnight and wait for him to fall asleep and then we’d play blackjack and drink margaritas.

    After getting home my husband and I desperately missed our daily rituals that centered around the little dude, and we missed HIM.

    Not sure what my point is with telling this story, but when I read this post I immediately thought of that trip and how spending two weeks with that kiddo was the complete opposite of what I thought it would be Rather than annoying, limiting, and tiring he was a complete joy to be with. Even when there were tears and meltdowns, it was because we were pushing him a little past his limits and he was just telling us “Ok big people! I need a rest!” We felt lucky to share that time with him and his great parents.

    • Aw, I love this! Thank you for sharing. Though… I’m not sure I’d let my baby on a boat with Darrin at this point. ;)

      Fox got to hang out with his godparents who don’t yet have children while on this vacation. They were super patient and sweet to out little guy. It was fun to bring Fox into the fold – it added a whole new layer to our friendships even.

      And I love how you noted that his meltdowns were simply needs. This vacation made me see Fox in a whole new light as his own person with his own preferences and needs to be met.

      XOXO

  2. Becca

    I travel quite a bit for my job and have been lucky enough to bring my daughter and husband with me – she’s flown 4 times in her first year! We always bring her stroller and car seat – you can check them for free. That way we know she will be comfy when we’re walking around and safe if we need to be in a car. Keep bedtime routines as similar as possible to the ones at home, try and pack as light as possible, and make peace with the fact that naps will derail your usual “wander around all day” plans. I’ve found it best to have a rough outline of how we’d like the day to go (where to go, when to eat, if any naps will be taken on the go) and then be flexible if/when things change. For us it helps to have the schedule, even if we don’t stick to it, because otherwise it’s a lot of “how do we/what do we/why didn’t we.” And our favorite yet slightly indulgent tip – if you are staying at a hotel and if you can swing it, get a suite! You’re sort of stuck in your room once the baby goes down but if you have a suite with a bedroom you can get some awesome local take-in, a bottle (or two) of wine and sit on your balcony and chat or even just watch a movie. The alternative is, of course, to put the baby to bed in the bathroom. Which we have totally done :-)

  3. It’s true – there are only so many travel tips out there because really, you just kind of have to wing it. It sounds like Fox will be a great traveling companion! I think small babies are actually the easiest to travel with – it’s when they’re mobile that you have to find more things to keep them busy. ;) The first time we traveled we brought way too much stuff with us, so now even with two kids, we’ll probably bring less stuff then we did that first time. Ha ha. I agree with the PP, though… a suite sounds like a great idea if you can’t stay with family/friends. We have a wedding to go to soon and we couldn’t find a suite available, so that means we’ll all be in the same room and bedtime could be tricky for a 6 month old and a loud toddler.

    • I was definitely thinking that as he gets more mobile and needy for entertainment it will be more difficult. But hopefully we’ll set good precedents by traveling with him often while he’s still an infant.

  4. Kristen

    Another vote here for a suite when traveling to hotels with infants. Another thing we’ve totally done is put the babies to bed in our hotel room and gone downstairs to the hotel bar with the monitor :)

    I think the key is to get kids traveling early and often – even if it’s just overnights to family or friends’ houses. The more exposed they are to different situations and sleeping arrangements, the more flexible they become. At some point in their infancy they become totally routinized and you are kind of hostage to their napping needs, so the more you can get them out and about and used to their routine in different places, the better in my opinion!

    Congrats on a great first family trip! Fox just gets more and more adorable (but I bet you knew that already).

  5. Julie

    One suggestion I’ve heard is shipping baby items (diapers, etc.) to your destination ahead of time or having them delivered through a service. I also know someone who ships all the clothes they want for their trip ahead of time so they only need a carry-on with their toiletries.

  6. Mara

    I think that flying with an infant is pretty much a crapshoot (sometimes literally – heh) which is why you didn’t find a lot of intel. I flew with both my children when they were very young and was fortunate that neither of them was fussy at all on the plane.

    One tip is that is a good idea to have a change of clothes (at least a shirt) for yourself not just the baby in case they poop or spit up on you – I know I always had extra clothes for the kids, but not always for me. Also, my children did better sleeping in carseats than they did in a sling or my arms – not sure why – so I tended to buy them a seat from a very young age. I’d nurse right before takeoff, then put them in their seat and they often slept. I never had to deal with that kind of flight delay though, even though I flew a lot with them. Flying has gotten so much worse over the past decade (my kids are 12 and 9) – I’ve seen it happen. We’ve had lots of challenges recently, but it is different with older kids.

    • Ah, for now we’re doing the thing where we carry the baby (for free) but I’m sure as he gets older and / or we go on longer flights we’ll be sure to buy him his own seat … in which case we might bring the car seat on the plane rather than checking it.

  7. Glad to hear everything went well…with Fox, anyway! He sounds ready for all the awesome adventures you’re ready to take him on! :-)

  8. Angela

    Awesome news that Fox did so well. I flew with our son to Germany when he was 6 months and Greece when he was 2 years old. It was easier when he was 6 months. At 2 he wanted to move the whole time. A new book, a favorite lovey, a pashmina, and favorite snacks (me and him) are always good travel companions. I also brought treats (chocolates, lip balm) for the flight attendants because I knew I would need their help or ask for extras (water, food, blankets), which helped too.

  9. Tonia

    How does everyone feel about letting baby/kid watch a show on your iPhone/tablet? I felt kind of high-and-mighty about my theory that kids should have very limited (or NO) exposure to electronics until a certain age, but I will tell you what! The Sesame Street podcast on the iPhone SAVED OUR LIVES a couple times while traveling with a 14 month old. When nothing else worked to distract him, Burt and Ernie came to the rescue.

    • Yeah, you do what you gotta do. We live in a world with iPads and TV. That’s not going away. Nor do I think they’re evil or bad. Moderation like all things but I think a plane is an appropriate place to bust out all the tricks.

  10. Deb Charlap

    Yay! I am so with you on the focus and clarity of the moments you get on vacation ~ and how precious they are to share with your family. (Planning a staycation sometime soon, just so we can keep that loving momentum going from a recent trip.) Glad you got home safe and happy.

  11. Aw…. Kathleen, it looks like you did great! Traveling with kids can be an *amazing* experience, and I’m so glad that you had one!

    One of my biz ventures is to blog about travel with little kids – my kids are 1 and 3 and have been all over the world. We just counted, and my son added his 22nd country a couple days before his third birthday!

    Anyway, check it out over at http://www.strollerpacking.com. Hopefully you (and my fellow K-fans) will find some awesome travel tips and moral support!

  12. Alissa

    So glad that your little man was a traveling hero.

    In my son’s first year he went on 21 flights. The first few were easy, he was super little (like Fox) and I was super chill. (Usually it was just me traveling with him, meeting my DH who travels for work for part of his trip.)

    Halfway through the year we had “one of those” flights… Emergency landing, rerouting for fuel, unexpected stranding because the plane landed right before the airport closed until the morning, everyone put in a hotel for 4-6 hours and then on random flights with different airlines to finally end up at our destination a day and a half later… All with a baby with bowels that decided to have diarrhea about 4 hours into the adventure home. Fun stuff.

    What I learned was this:

    If you only take one thing with you on a trip, take countless more disposable diapers (and a few zip lock bags) than you think you could possibly ever need. You can get most anything else, or create most anything, but diapers are challenging to get. Either by lack of supply, time to get them in between destinations and connections, or expense- hello 12 dollar diaper and measly 3 wipe pack from the news stand inside DFW…) We used cloth, gDiapers and disposables at home, but on trips I gave in and went disposable.

    Wear all the teething jewelry you can. Bracelets, necklaces, turn them into pretty hip belts. Makes you feel pretty in that moment you may need, light enough to forget about it, cheap enough no one looks to bother you for it, no metal means no removal for TSA, and it can be used for more than just teething as he gets older. (Think rattle when placed into a plastic cup and lid that you ask for at one of the kiosks in the airport, looped around a torn sheet from a magazine to make a flying toy, using a pile of bracelets for stacking, counting the colors when he gets even older, and so on…)

    Always take your car seat- you know that it is safe and clean. Pick up online a couple of red airline travel bags to toss over it (and the cheapest stroller you can get second hand because airline break strollers. Duck tape a small Ziploc bag onto the stroller containing small/medium zip-ties to make instant stroller repairs.) You can grab the handle of the bags and wear them one on each shoulder, with a backpack on your back and a baby in a carrier in the front. (Been there. Done that. Looked like a loaded down burro :) Super easy to identify with your “name” boldly written in sharpie down the side. (We have our own domain, so always label everything with lost@insertyourowndomainhere.us/com/net/org)

    And the last one-

    I thought I learned to travel light when I went down from a full suite of matching luggage to just one carry-on and large purse for valuables/ electronics/ toiletries/ medicine/ food/ identification/ book/ etc… But with a baby and being mostly a solo traveler, I paired down even more.

    All of our clothes and a ton of diapers, and most everything that would have gone into my travel purse, now goes into a large backpack that has several zippered compartments and a ton of smaller zip and Velcro pockets.

    Then in a small wheeling carry-on (The kind where the zipper goes all the way around the top and flaps open when unzipped) I fill the mesh side intended for dirty clothes or shoes with tons more diapers, wipes and medication (just in case we can only take on one bag, like in some of the smaller prop jets…) In the big open section when you would put clothes, I fill with Ziploc bags that contain food and drinks for my guy (You have to take out the bags for TSA, but they are easy to grab out, go through their inspection and stash back in. When questioned- he has severe allergies. (He does to peanuts, used to be soy and eggs too.) And when traveling alone I have just said dietary restrictions (Raw and paleo- totally counts :) as well as Ziplocs filled with travel toys.

    Whenever we are waiting around (or even on the floor of the plane when the seat belt sign is turned off…) I just unzip the suitcase and he can entertain himself/ be entertained. When he was little I sat him on the lid or directly inside depending on space and now he sits beside it… The best part is that I can grab a small or large activity filled Ziploc and stash it in my backpack when we are out and about at our destination. It makes for fast easy hotel clean up- just toss everything into the Ziplocs and toss those into the suitcase. If the bag gets searched or spills open, no tiny things to chase around. Totally easy to see what you need, grab it and go.

    There are lots of inspirational pictures and ideas if you search busy bags or activity bags on Pinterest and Google. Oh- and I tried the mesh bags for travel and even the drawstring re-usable bags for produce but sadly none have held up. Surprisingly, five years later and now more flights under his belt than I can count, those same Ziploc freezer bags are still being used.

    In the end- the best advice is to stay chill and roll with it. On a long trip home with many “delayed” announcements, my little guy who was just barely a toddler loudly stated “Oh Crap!” right next to an older gentleman who appeared to not be amused by either announcement. It put things into perspective. I kissed my boy on the cheek and softly whispered to him that I could agree more. They journey is as fun/ important/ memorable/ and so on as the destination. You will figure out what works for you from going girl-scout style to going commando because your son is wearing your underwear rolled up with paper towels stuffed inside and your socks tied around his middle to holding everything together (both your sanity and his makeshift diaper). You are Mama, therefore you rock even more than you ever did before.

  13. Kat

    Just wait until they start walking and running, then flying is a whole other ballgame.

Leave a Comment

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>