Our little man has already been on six flights in his young four-month old life; now, I don’t say that to brag, but simply as the reality of desiring to visit family and friends outside of state. Last month Young Life (my work) had an all-day staff meeting down in LA; fresh from maternity leave, my mama bear instincts kicked into high gear, and I wondered if I’d be able to leave him for the day. But practically speaking, I wondered if I’d be able to go down and back from SFO to LAX in one day, with a 3 month old + car seat + car seat base + diaper bag + purse + … As it turned out, the hubs took the day off of work and ended up staying home with him, so problem solved (and it was then only a matter of finding creative ways and places to pump every three hours – airport family bathroom, anyone?). But in preparation, I sought out advice from the “been there, done that” traveling mamas that I knew – and here’s what they had to say:
1. When booking the flight, be sure to call the airline afterwards and let them know that you have an infant in arms. [What not to do: don’t forget to call and then show up at the airport 45 minutes before departure without “Infant in Arms” on your ticket. Maybe you’ll then get lucky with an extra nice TSA agent, but it doesn’t make the morning any less stressful.]
2. Bring a copy of the baby’s birth certificate. (Yes, a copy is just fine).
3. Give yourself plenty of time. I used to pride myself on my ability to quickly whip off my shoes and belt, take my laptop out of its case, fish out all the random lip gloss and mascara out of my purse and drink the remaining water before going through security in 24 seconds flat. Add a baby, the baby’s carseat, the Snap N Go stroller, a diaper bag and your purse to the deal, and I’m lucky to get through the line in 10 minutes.
4. Make light of the situation with those around you. While in line for TSA, tickle your baby’s feet so they flirt with the people in line behind you. Then inserting an “oh, hello new friend – he really seems to like you!” seems to work wonders. Butter ’em up, I say. After you get on the plane, pray like mad that the cutest little grandma in the world sits next to you. And if it’s a sour-faced businessman, this time pray like mad that Baby doesn’t decide today’s a good day for some projectile spit-up.
5. Make friends with the flight attendants. If you’re traveling alone, they may be your one chance at going to the bathroom successfully!
6. We opted for all the flights not to use the Ergo (and if Canon liked being in that while not moving, it’d be a great option), but instead to use the carseat and Snap N Go. You can check them for free at the gate, and just in case your flight ends up leaving six hours late, you’ll be able to get your exercise taking laps around the Portland airport!
7. Nurse or feed the baby a bottle during take off and landing – the sucking motion helps to relieve the pressure in their ears.
8. As the baby gets older, the following have been suggested: new toys and books, an ipad, and food/snacks. I also like what my friend Trish had to say about getting on the plane with her (older) baby:
“I also would have Nelson get on the plane and get our seats all set and [then I’d] be the last person on the plane. I let Liam run/crawl himself ragged chasing him around the airport before we get on any plane.”
9. On changing babies on planes: you’ve got your options. You can change the baby on your lap. You can change the baby on the floor of the plane in the airline attendants’ staging area. You can change the baby on the 8-inch space between the sink and the wall in the tiny cubicle of an airplane bathroom. You can change the baby if there’s a changing station right above the toilet on the airplane bathroom (although we only found that on two of the six planes). And of course, you can – and should – pray like mad that the little precious one doesn’t have one of his explosive blow-outs. We did all of the above, in case you’re wondering.
10. Here’s my last piece of advice: chill. Don’t worry about it too much. We’re paying for this ticket just as much as the next guy! (Of course, if you’re flying first-class, well, then I’d hope for an extra dose of grace and mercy!) But the majority of the plane has been there, done that – and even if they hope to avoid sitting by you, make light of the situation and enjoy the ride.
What would you add to the list?0