Somehow, after almost eight years as a parent, I have managed to never fly anywhere with children. Until now. I officially flew, by myself, with my baby girl, and I feel like I should receive an award!
In case there is any other rare moms out there who also have not flown with a baby before, I have a few tips that I learned from my experience.
#1) Pack light.
This may seem like a given, but when travelling with a baby, it’s surprisingly hard to do. Babies need so much stuff! Of course, depending on the length of your flight and your final destination, what you pack is going to vary. For me, I was doing a short two-hour flight to and from New Orleans where I was staying with family at a house. This helped cut down immensely on my packing. I stuck with checking just one suitcase and baby’s pack-n-play. We flew Southwest so with my ticket I had one free checked bag for myself, and one free checked item for my ‘lap baby’. In my carry-on I brought a few snacks for her, small board books with lift-the-flaps, and my phone. Between those three things and watching the passengers and the flight attendants walking back and forth, she was very entertained!
#2) Sit near the bathrooms.
Another parent had recommended this to me and I’m so glad she did. Having a baby who likes to watch people, sitting near the bathroom worked out great. There was almost always someone walking by for her to smile at! It also meant we were close to the stewardess area and got lots of attention and extra crackers for baby girl to nibble on.
#3) Bring a stroller to the gate.
I was nervous about not checking my stroller, as some parents had said their strollers got damaged on flights, but I’m so glad I opted to bring one and take it all the way to the gate with me. It was very helpful having baby girl in it throughout the airport. It took a few extra minutes at one airport’s security for them to inspect the stroller, but at another airport they just had me put it right onto the metal detector belt. Having the stroller also meant we got pulled to the front of the security line at one point, which worked out nicely. Then I used it right up until we were boarding the plane, when I just folded it up and left it by the door. When we got off the plane it was there waiting for us. Very helpful when I was on my own flying home from New Orleans!
#4) Pre-board if possible.
Since we flew Southwest, they don’t assign seats but instead give you a boarding ‘group’. This group is assigned to you when checking-in for your flight, which can’t be done until exactly twenty-four hours before your departure time. My sister, who flew with us to New Orleans, knew all about this and had checked us in online exactly when it was available, so we got in the first boarding ‘group A’. But in case that doesn’t happen for you, Southwest also allows Family Boarding immediately following the A-group and before the B-group boards. But to qualify you have to be two adults travelling with a child six years old or younger. Check your airline to see if they offer similar options!
#5) Bring or make a buddy.
I was lucky to have my sister flying with us when we went to New Orleans. Our flight wasn’t full, so when we found three empty seats in the back near the bathroom, we snagged them. My sister sat by the window and I sat by the aisle. So many people took one look at me holding the baby and the empty middle seat between us and opted for a different seat. So even though I hadn’t purchased a seat for the baby, we ended up getting an empty middle seat for her to play in! I wasn’t as lucky on my solo flight home, which was completely full. I had an aisle seat and a young woman had the window seat. The middle seat between us was literally the last empty seat on the plane which a businessman begrudgingly finally sat in. But even though my seat neighbors weren’t excited to be next to a baby, I made friends with another mom and her young daughter who were sitting across the aisle from us. Her daughter had a blast making silly faces at my baby girl who then had someone to ‘play’ with during the flight.
#6) Have baby eating or drinking during take-off and landing.
I was concerned about the change in air pressure affecting my baby girl’s ears during take-off and landing. I ended up letting her nurse during those times on my flight to New Orleans. She was happy as can be and didn’t seem to have any ear pain. On the flight home I was having trouble getting her to settle enough to nurse, so instead I just fed her snacks during take-off and landing so I knew she was chewing and swallowing a lot. Worked like a charm!
Now that I’ve conquered my fear of flying with a baby, I’m bravely looking forward to taking all three of my children on a plane one day. I will definitely need to bring a buddy, or two, for that flight.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, has two sons, and baby daughter. Click here to read more of her Mommy Daze blogs.