We've all been there, wedged uncomfortably in between two people on a flight, cramped legroom, anxious to reach our destination and that adorably squishy baby you waved to earlier has now turned into a shrieking creature like something out of Mothra vs. Godzilla.
If I could go back in time to those flights where I let those little angels get to me, I’d tell myself "Get over it! That kid’s parents have it way worse. At least you aren’t also dodging spit up, avoiding blowback poop or inventing new ways of changing diapers in the world’s tiniest bathroom."
Ahhh... when the joys of parenting meet the wonders of travel.
No parent wants to be those people with the bawling baby, and now that I'm on the other side with my own sweet cherub, I try to make a concerted effort to avoid those cringe-worthy moments.
As I'm preparing to embark on an 8-hour flight to Denmark with my 8-month-old in tow (mind you, a bouncing, babbling, friend-making, hearty-laughing babe who would rather walk than crawl), I've compiled a list of seven tips that have helped ease our traveling woes in the past. Hopefully, they'll help make your baby's first flight first class.
1. Try to book flight times around your baby's schedule. I've found that these tiny humans that eat, play, cry, laugh and poop make the best travel companions when they are asleep. So book flights during nap times and bedtimes if you can. My husband and I also apply this logic to long-distance driving trips.
2. Know your seating options and pick the seat that suits your needs best. Some would argue that bulkhead seats are like the Holy Grail of coach seating: located behind the cabin wall, sometimes nearby to a bathroom, they offer extra legroom and a place for bassinets. The down side: lack of under seat storage. Window seats offer a window for entertainment (however long that may be) and a discrete area to nurse your baby. On the other hand, aisle seats offer easy access to bathrooms. God forbid you should have to deal with poop on a plane.
3. Do your research. Find out your airline's baby policy. Ask questions: Can I check my stroller at the gate? Can I check my car seat, too? What's the breastfeeding policy? Am I allowed an extra carry-on bag in addition to my diaper bag? Do they offer bassinets? How much milk can I get through airport security? No question is too small if it saves you a headache.
4. Don't leave home without the essentials: diapers, wipes, antibacterial wipes, toys (but not super annoying ones), attachment items (teddy bear, pacifier, blanket), baby carrier, extra outfit for the baby, nursing pillow and/or nursing cover and baby food (bottle, food pouches, finger foods).
5. Always pack an extra shirt for yourself in case you’re the target of a major spit-up episode. If you're like me, you have a baby who spits up and then channels their inner Van Gogh and recreates "Starry Night" in curdled milk.
6. This one is obvious, but to equalize the air pressure in your baby's ears during takeoff and landing, nurse, bottle feed, or offer a pacifier. The sucking motion helps relieve the pressure. This would be my No. 1 for the sole reason my daughter usually falls asleep for at least an hour or two soon after takeoff. The hum of the plane, a sleeping baby, me enjoying some tasty treats from the snack cart, win-win-win.
7. You can never have too many earplugs on hand, so says my husband, who always brings enough to share just in case our plan heads south.
Good luck and safe travels.
Traveling mamas and papas, got any good tips for traveling with a baby or babies? Share them with us and we'll compile the best.
Stokely Baksh is a freelance writer based in Baltimore. She recently traded in her daily newspaper job at The Baltimore Sun to take a stay-at-home position. She spends her days fulfilling the needs of the most demanding boss she's ever had: a baby. When she's not sneaking away to write, she's creating sheet forts, making 5-star gourmet baby food and perfecting the craft of peek-a-boo. You can find her on Twitter at @StokelyBaksh.