You did it! You’re here! YOU MADE IT…to the gate before they closed the door. Hey, you survived the car ride to the airport and got through security with your gallons of baby food in tact. That’s something worth celebrating. Now the real fun begins.
1. Turn Your Lap Infant Into a Seat Infant
If you’re traveling with a lap infant under 2, when you arrive at the gate you can ask the agent if it’s a full flight. And if it’s not, ask if you can bring your car seat on board instead of gate checking it so your baby can sit in it in an extra seat (for free). On Southwest in particular, this appears to be a more common practice and gate agents are familiar with the request. Just make sure your car seat is FAA-approved.
Also, I’ll add this obligatory note: the topic of purchasing a seat for babies under age 2 and using your car seat on board vs. taking them on for free as a lap infant is controversial. A lot of parents ask us what we do, but it really comes down to every parent’s own decision.
2. Seat 14F and 14Grosssssssss
Airplanes are a breeding ground for germs, so bring antibacterial wipes (not just diaper wipes) to sanitize windows, seats, tray tables, armrests, literally everything— because your baby is going to find the grossest part of the seat you didn’t wipe down and French kiss it, extra tongue. Also, not sure how accurate this is (our pediatrician suggested it and so does this article) but turning on the air vents above your seat may actually help reduce your contact with airborne viruses.
A note about measles: For parents concerned about traveling before your child gets the measles vaccine, your pediatrician can look up the zip code you are traveling to and may give the vaccine early if it’s a high-risk area (the CDC defines an outbreak as 3 or more reported cases).
3. Wrap It Up
If it’s comfortable, I’d suggest keeping your wrap or carrier on throughout the flight. It’s another reason I like the Baby Bjorn Mini – it’s minimal enough to keep on without being uncomfortable or weighing me down. While you can’t keep your baby in the carrier during take off and landing, I like having it on in case we need to make a quick escape to the bathroom for a diaper change, or as an option for a cozy nap.
4. Take Off = Nap Time
We try to time Nori’s naps around takeoff if possible and actively soothe her to sleep, which for us means one of us aggressively rocks her while the other turns into a human white noise machine (that “shhhh shhhh shhh shhhh” coming from the row behind you, that’s us). But of course, any kind of delay and this strategy backfires. As she’s gotten older, she really doesn’t like to fall asleep when being held and fights it (e.g. yells like she’s being tortured). But we’ve found the whirring and rocking during takeoff helps put her to sleep.
5. Bring Headphones—For Baby
If your baby doesn’t mind wearing these noise reducing earmuffs, try slipping them on after they fall asleep. There’s nothing like spending 45 minutes huddled against the window shushing a fussy baby to sleep, only for a loud mid-flight PA announcement to make her to shriek back to life.
6. In-Flight Babytainment
“Something old, something new.” We always try to bring one or two of her most favorite, most compact, yet least annoying toys, which right now is the tried and true Crinkly Packet O’ Travel Wipes. And then something new or that she hasn’t seen in a while.
7. Airplane Food
When we’re at home, Jean enjoys cooking gourmet meals (for Nori, not for us). But when we’re on the road, pouches are life. Stick to their favorites—the plane isn’t the place to be trying out new, possibly extra runny, extra fling-able flavors. Also, teething rice husk crackers do double duty as food AND entertainment. As for fresh items, we try to bring produce that transports easily, like bananas and avocados.
8. Tray Tables Are Not Changing Tables
It may be tempting to change your baby at your seat, but prepare to be shamed by both flight attendants and fellow passengers. At least one of the bathrooms on a plane usually has a changing table, and they’re usually decent. Wear your baby in using a carrier, bring the foldable diaper clutch, and have a disposable puppy pee pad handy in case the table is too gross.
On that savory note, we’ll pause here for now. Next time, in the the final installment…
PART 3: HOTELS & ACCOMMODATIONS
Parents, what are some ways you’ve been able to make flying with your little ones a little easier? Any tips for even longer international flights? Share in the comments below!