Last Tuesday, Baby Guy and I completed our first plane journey away from home and back.
We had an awesome time with family, and my boy (finally) has a third state under his belt, but let me tell you; plane travel with an infant is not necessarily a walk in the park.
I like to be a light packer. I do not believe in checking bags under most circumstances, and therefore usually cram everything I need for a trip into a backpack and another carryon bag and wear my bulkiest clothes on the plane (winter coat=plane pillow…it’s genius!). This is not what you would call a “baby-friendly” strategy. I have found that packing to bring Baby Guy anywhere, for any length of time, basically means putting the entire contents of his room (and a good portion of the rest of the house) into your luggage. Oh, and you’ll also need your own stuff (times two because he’ll probably spit up all over half of it).
After doing a fairly good job of packing (I forgot my church clothes and Emmett’s nose-sucker thing…) we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare, and checking in would’ve been completely painless except for the fact that I only had my expired license with me (my new one was supposed to have come, but I didn’t have it yet) (and yes, this has happened to me before…). Apparently getting on the plane is no problem with an expired ID, but checking a bag is not allowed. Well, my husband told the ticket agent that there was, quite frankly, no way I could survive with my son for a week without our checked bag. I must’ve looked desperate and/or incompetent, because the agent went and got permission to let me check the bag and offered an (unsolicited) pass for my husband to go through security with me to the gate. Yay!
Eventually, my guy had to get back to work, so the boy and I were left to our own devices, and we didn’t do too badly. We were allowed to preboard, and the gate agent moved the lady who was supposed to sit next to us across the aisle so we had a row to ourselves. This was especially helpful when excessive spitting up required a mid-flight outfit change.
The boy fell asleep as we landed, and I tucked him into my Boba wrap (I love my Boba wrap). He stayed asleep for quite awhile as we deplaned and I headed out into the airport looking for dinner.
Of course, my non-dairy-no-soy diet made it pretty tricky to eat airport food, so I spent a fair amount of time wandering around different terminals just looking for something to eat before coming to terms with the fact that a smoothie and (peanut oil) french fries were my only choices. The line for fries was too long, so other than the peanuts I had scored on the plane, the smoothie was it for my dinner.
I found a quiet place to feed Baby Guy in the international terminal, and then it was time to board. This time we didn’t have our own row, but the lady next to us was nice. My boy got fussy for awhile, but the pacifier and a few toys kept him (mostly) happy. He fell asleep for a little while, too. By the time we landed he was pretty hungry, but doing well.
Our experiences on the way back were very similar, and, overall, flying with an almost 6 month old was not too bad. When we got to our home airport on Tuesday his diaper was dirty and he was overtired and very hungry (he’d refused to nurse on the last plane), but we had made it. My husband greeted me sweetly with flowers, and it was nice to be home.
Here are some tips for traveling with a baby by yourself:
- Bring a stroller (this is obvious, but I needed help to think of it). Also, be sure you know how to (quickly) fold and unfold it. It’s nerve wracking to do this when there are tons of people waiting for you to get out of their way, so being able to do it efficiently (or able to quickly tell kind people how to do it) is definitely a positive.
- A little strap to attach pacifiers and toys to you, your bag, your stroller, and/or your baby is priceless. I usually don’t like those pacifier clips, but to keep teething rings and pacifiers from
fallingbeing thrown all over the plane collecting deadly microbes or disappearing forever, I’d recommend traveling with one or two of them.
- Find out ahead of time where to nurse in the airport/s. I didn’t do this until I arrived, and I was lucky that I had time to travel all the way to a far terminal and back to get to the only family restrooms that had nursing benches. On the return trip (in the same airport) I ran into some Mamava pods, which are exclusively for nursing/pumping moms. I didn’t try them, because I’d already fed the baby, but they seemed like a good, quiet, private option. I wish I’d known about them so I could write down which gates they were at before I’d left home, because it would’ve saved me a lot of travel to and from other terminals.
- If you have dietary restrictions, find out ahead of time what places sell food you can eat, and where they are. I’d say bring your own food, but you may not have room for that. I know I didn’t.
- Ask flight attendants for things. I asked for a place to change Baby Guy’s diaper. I didn’t get it, but because she felt so bad about it, the flight attendant offered me a blanket, extra peanuts, another drink (of ice water), and little wings for my son.
- Bring a baby carrier of some sort that will leave you hands-free. I would’ve had a very difficult time without my Boba wrap for boarding, deplaning, and in-flight naps. Even though I had my stroller, I needed somewhere to put my baby when I was retrieving it and leaving it at gate check, and I was also carrying the diaper bag, etc. If your baby sleeps in the carrier (as mine often does), it will also leave your hands free during nap time on the plane, which gives you the opportunity to read the in-flight magazine, crush candy, eat peanuts, or do a crossword puzzle.
Ideally, my husband will be with us the next time we take to the skies, but if not, what I learned from this trip will help me survive the next one. If you’re hesitating to travel alone with your little bundle, I’d say do it anyway. You’ll get through it and feel like a hero (even if you do forget your church clothes).