I recently had the privilege of traveling alone with my 4 month old baby on an airplane. Her little life has been rich with travel, taking her first trip to North Carolina when she was over 2 months… but I had some help (and extra seats) during those flights. During my recent trip to FL I was ALONE and I won’t even pretend that I was not incredibly nervous about the whole thing. But, as a military spouse, I am a master at tackling things by myself, so I pulled myself together, did some planning and headed to the airport with my 400 items, and the world’s cutest baby in tow. I’m allowed to be that bias about my own kid, right?
Here are a few things I learned, 10 things to be exact, and I hope that they will help you if you ever have the great privilege of traveling with your little bundle of joy solo.
Flying Solo With Baby… 10 Essentials to Surviving With Some Sanity, and a Clean Shirt
10) A Pacifier Clip.
If you have a paci-baby…this is a must. Ever try to search for the suckie that flung itself under the seat in front of you WHILE wrestling with a baby who is screaming like you just took away her birthday? Honest to goodness, I swear… those suckies are suicidal. Best $3.99 I ever spent.
9) A travel pillow.
Not one of those cool wrap around your head kind. No, when shopping for your pillow it needs to have only one feature. A removable cover that zips. First of all, that pillow is a lifesaver on your back and arms when you are feeding baby. But my favorite part of the travel pillow? All the things I can fit inside. I store my lip balm, hand lotion, a small snack, chewing gum, an individually wrapped wet wipe, and a small burp cloth. Then I tuck it behind my head or under my arm for take-off. No more trying to lay in my seat mates lap while trying to reach for my purse! Right before my last flight coming back, I lost the travel pillow which also happened to have my boarding pass in it as well. I was in a panic. Luckily, they printed me new passes, and after I got seated this lovely male flight attendant brought me my pillow that someone had turned in. He left before I could grab him and kiss him on the mouth.
8) A comfy, light-weight black sweater.
Instead of trying to haul a blanket around for baby, I found this item to be a huge help. First of all, in the airport I can tie it around my waist so it doesn’t add to the 362 things I’m trying to carry. Then, during the flight it is the perfect blanket for you AND baby, and provides much needed sun shade when the delightful 5 year old in front of you wants to see how many times he can open and close the window in front of you during one flight.
7) Something that attaches baby to your body.
There are many different products out there that serve this purpose. There are wraps, slings, and carriers. Use whatever works best for your baby. When my daughter was just over 2 months old, a wrap worked best because she slept nearly the entire time. During this last flight, a carrier worked best because she is more active, likes to be forward facing more often, and it was easier for me to handle on my own. During a 4 hour flight, having baby strapped to your body while they sleep is so much easier on your arms and back. I also hear the wraps and slings are great for breastfeeding mothers who desire a little more privacy. Plus, it leaves your hands free to browse Sky Mall, or type a witty little Top 10 list on your iPhone.
*note: when going through security, TSA will make you take the baby out of any sling, put it through the scanner, and you will have to walk baby through just holding him in your arms. Also… during one of my flights I was informed that I could not have her strapped to me during take-off and landing. No one could tell me a reason… just that it is “their policy”.
6) Plastic bags with zipper closures.
By far, this tip is the most useful piece of wisdom I have ever imparted on anyone, and it works for any and all travel with kids of any age. You can buy your favorite brand…but just make sure you buy ones that have multiple seals or zippers. It’s good to have gallon, quart, and snack size bags when you travel. To avoid the bulk of medicine bottles, I label snack bags and put any pills I need in those. Snack bags are also the perfect size for extra pacifiers, or a single serving of trail mix to stash in your travel pillow. But the quart and gallon sizes are the real life-savers. Let me just break down a few of their amazing uses:
-Motion sickness, or any other unfortunate illnesses that result in untimely *ahem* spewing. Oh yes, they have nice little paper bags in your seat pocket on the plane. Paper. That is just not going to do if someone gets really sick. Don’t you want to have a water-tight seal while you are waiting for the “fasten seat belt” sign to turn off so you can throw that bag away?
-Wet clothes. It is virtually impossible to travel with baby and not get someone (or everyone’s) clothing wet at some point.
-Leftover food. When your 3 year old didn’t finish their fries between flights, but you know they will want them later.
5) A$3 backpack.
I purchased several diaper bags totaling over $100 in preparation of baby’s arrival. In the first week of her life, I realized I hated every single one of them. What I finally ended up buying was a $3 backpack, and I love it. It is lightweight, has a mesh pocket on the side and a front pocket for smaller items in the front. When traveling through an airport it is so much easier to sling something on your back instead of balancing baby and flinging bags over your shoulder every two minutes. Now, anyone interested in buying a lovely diaper bag or two?
4) An extra EVERYTHING
I can’t stand hauling around the kitchen sink in an airport, but with a baby, it is just one of those things we have to do. TSA will tell you to only bring enough baby supplies to get through your flights. What they don’t tell you is that there is no place to purchase diapers, wipes, baby clothes, formula, etc. if you are stuck on the tarmac for an extra few hours because of weather. What they don’t tell you is how fun it is to finish your travel day wearing a shirt that was a casualty of a mile-high diaper explosion. And no one mentions that babies KNOW if you only pack one outfit… and they make it their mission to get it wet or soiled within minutes of buckling into the seat for take-off. Trust me on this one… pack extra clothes for you AND baby. Pack more diapers than you think you need. Pack extra bottles and food. Pack snacks and water for you. You can thank me later.
3) Plan ahead.
The day before, I literally went through every step of navigating the airport in my head and then made my husband listen to the entire thing. When I got to the airport, the baby would be in the car seat in her stroller, the base would be hooked with the D-ring, my briefcase would be under, the sweater around my waist, backpack on my back. When I got to security I would take seat out of stroller, load items onto conveyor belt, take baby out last, put car seat on belt. Go through security, retrieve stroller, put baby in it while I retrieved the other items… you get the idea. It may seem silly, but it made me stress out less knowing that I already had a plan in place. Packing my bags so that the stuff I needed most was on top, getting all my ducks in a row… made me feel more confident. I’m not saying that everything went according to plan… it most certainly did not, but some things DID…and that was a blessing.
2) Be patient with YOURSELF!
This is truly easier said than done. Traveling with a baby feels like one long, drawn out apology. You constantly feel like you are in the way, not moving fast enough, bothering other people, etc. But the reality is that if you just BREATHE and calm down, you will realize that you are probably moving at the same pace as everyone else, you are no more in the way than the person who brought their big fluffy pillow on the plane, and that most people are not that bothered by children. And if you remain calm, the likelihood that baby will be calm is higher. They KNOW when you are upset and stressed, and they react. If they cry for 2minutes while you clumsily making your way back to the bathroom to change a diaper, it is NOT THE END OF THE WORLD! And if anyone tries to make you feel like it is, remind yourself that even though they like to forget it, they were once babies too. Don’t let them make you think their diapers stunk less than anyone else’s, or that they never cried. A crying baby is far less annoying to me than the person who ate 3 cloves of garlic before boarding and falls asleep mouth-breathing in your direction for 4 hours. Or the college girls behind you that giggle incessantly during the entire flight as they recall events from rush week. And don’t get me started on the people who bring crunchy snacks on a plane and then don’t close their mouths when they eat. Even if your kids soils a diaper every 20 minutes, and screams the entire time… that will not cause the plane to crash to the ground, and no one will suffer any long-term psychological damage… except maybe for you.
1) Learn to laugh
Okay, so we may not be able to laugh about being puked on at 30,000 feet in the moment. And you may not find it very funny when turbulence hits and you spill 6 ounces of formula all over you and half of coach. But if you can learn to laugh (right after you clean up the mess, of course) instead of fretting and crying… you may have a chance at not needing a straight-jacket when you get off that plane. And other passengers will see that you can laugh at yourself, which puts them at ease. Let’s face it… the amount of pity you receive from other passengers when you board a plane with a baby would give those ASPCA commercials a run for their money. It’s because they have probably been there and they feel so sorry for you… they feel your pain. If, after the 3rd screaming fit, they see a calm Mommy who can then laugh when baby turns on the giggle switch… they will probably be less likely to be anxious too.
Traveling with baby doesn’t have to be a nightmare. With some planning, a sense of humor, a little patience, and some nifty tips and tricks… you too can navigate the friendly skies with your sanity and a clean shirt. I can not, however, make promises about your hair or shoes… but that is another story, for another day.
Those are my best tips, and I really do hope they will help you. I also know that so many of you have probably had to fly solo with your kids, and you probably have some pretty hilarious stories to share with us… we would love to hear them, please… comment below! We would love to post them on this article!