My son just turned one. It’s impossible, yet somehow, it happened.
In his short life he has been on ten flights and we are staring down the face of a cross-country flight in less than two weeks. Traveling with a baby can be overwhelming. I have friends who simply won’t fly with their baby. The anticipation of a bad flight is enough to ground some parents for the first 2, 3, 4, 5… 18 years of their kids’ lives. My husband and I love to travel and my family lives thousands of miles from me so staying grounded was never an option.
The very first thing you need to do once you book a trip with your kid is drop your expectations. Travel is stressful, your little one will be in a small space with you surrounded by strangers, they might yell, they might cry the entire time, but they also might surprise you and sleep the entire time, or diligently study each page of their busy book. Either way, drop your expectations and cut yourself and your child a little slack.
Don’t over pack, but also don’t under pack your carry-on bag. What does that even mean? It means be very mindful about what you stuff in your carry-on. Here is my non-negotiable packing list:
Diapers – pack more than you need, 1 per hour of travel is a good rule of thumb. I’ve had BAD diaper blowouts and sometimes they inexplicably take multiple diapers to get under control. More is more here.
Two Blankets – sometimes these bad diaper blowouts are cleaned up on the floor at the front of the small plane that doesn’t have a diaper change station – like the commuter plane from Nashville to Toronto. The first blanket saves the day as a slightly cleaner place to clean up than the floor of an airplane. The second blanket serves as a blanket to cover you and your babe because planes are cold. I love the linen swaddle blankets – they’re soft and comfy, but not too bulky, a huge bonus.
Plastic diaper disposal bags – For dirty diapers and soiled clothing. Pro tip – use dog poo bags, they’re way cheaper and literally the exact same thing. I buy mine in bulk at discountdogpoobags.com If you have a dog and a baby, you’re welcome!
Change of clothing – bring a full outfit change for your kiddo, but also for you! It can be bulky in the carry-on, but if you have poop or vomit on you, I promise you will be thanking yourself for designating the extra space in your bag.
Books – James is only one so we are into soft books and lift a flap books. I bring 2-3 for us to look at together.
Favorite toy – Just one, seriously, the rest is just taking up space.
Comfort tool/stuffed animal – Bunny is the sign for sleep in our house. When we give James “Bun” he pops his thumb in his mouth and intertwines his fingers into the blanket attached to “Bun” and he’s ready to consider the idea of sleep.
Ergo carrier – It’s much much much much easier to maneuver with baby on the plane hands free, trust me you’ll have your hands full. I get situated with the carrier before they call for families traveling with children…
All necessary food and accessories – I don’t want to depend on the airline to provide me anything for James so I bring all snack, meals and drinks that he might need. I separate the liquids at security. Sometimes it speeds up the process, at minimum it saves on the judgmental glances from the security screener, followed by, “…you can’t have liq…. Oh, you have a baby, ok.”
Wireless Headphones – my husband bought me amazing wireless headphones for Christmukkah and they were game changing on the flight. Two specific instances: First, when you are walking the aisle hoping your little one will fall asleep. An audio-book can keep you company as the eyeballs of every passengers watch as you pass, most smiling at your baby, not helping the attempts at falling asleep. Once your baby falls asleep, you don’t want to move a muscle. A sleeping baby is a quiet baby and that means a slightly less stressed out parent. So having wireless headphone decreases the odds of wires tickling them awake and fumbling on your part.
If you have held in with me this far you are in for my biggest tip. If you are traveling with a child under the age of two you can request a bassinet. The truth is your child will be too big for the bassinet over the age of 7 months, but it will get you moved to the bulkhead seat and that is gold on a long flight. James slept for six of the eight hours on a flight to Rome last year. He then slept six of the nine hours on the way home. The bassinet was game changer. It wouldn’t be so easy now, another reason to take a big trip when they’re still tiny – the bassinet!
Most countries are great and extremely accommodating of families traveling with babies. The least accommodating place would have to be the United States, but it’s not known for being very accommodating. I can say that, I’m American.
Last, but not least, sit on the aisle with a baby. You will be up and down. Especially as they become more mobile, the small space next to the window won’t cut it. I have taken four flights with James on my own, two by the window. Lesson learned.
Enjoy your trip! Remember traveling is stressful without a baby, it’s going to produce a silly story or two, but when you look back you will remember the fantastic destination your had the courage to take your baby to!