We just got home from a 5-day trip to visit my older sister Lisa and her awesome little family. We try to get together at least once a year, and this time, I took my baby daughter and hopped on a plane to go see them for Spring Break. We got home in one piece, and it was a surprisingly pleasant experience overall. If you plan to take a trip with an infant in the near future, I have a few life-saving tips for you!
Let me start by saying that I did stay with my sister in her home, so I had easy access to a washer and dryer if our clothes got dirty, and I was able to use whatever extra makeup and toiletries that she had. We also planned for a very low-key vacation, so I didn’t have to bring any fancy clothes, accessories, electronics, or extra shoes along. You might have to pack a little more than I did, but the goal here is to keep things manageable with your own two hands and to keep your sanity intact.
Tip # 1: Prep early. We bought our tickets three weeks in advance, so that is the amount of time I had to get everything in order. It was going to be me, my 6-month-old baby, and my (other) older sister Darlene, who came along to help me out. Having an extra pair of hands was an absolute life-saver, so if you can travel in pairs, then do it!
I made a list of the things that I would need to have within my reach on the plane ride and a list of the things that I would need with me during my visit. I also had to get ahead on work, make sure my assistant would be able to cover for me, and make sure my husband had lunches and clean clothes for the work week. I’m definitely a list person, so my advice is to make a list of what needs done before your trip and check things off every day.
I am exclusively breastfeeding my daughter right now, so I personally didn’t need to prepare bottles, formula, or baby food, but make sure you have these things on your list and in your bags if your baby needs them. Honestly, that is pretty much as prepared as you can get when traveling with an infant.
Tip # 2: Pack light. If you know me or follow my blog, you know that I like to keep things really simple. So when I say pack light, I mean pack REALLY light.
For our 5 day trip, I packed everything that we needed in one carry-on backpack. Now, I do have an amazing sister that purchased a car seat for my baby so that we wouldn’t have to check one at the airport. When we arrived at our destination, she was there with the car seat and base installed in her car and ready for us to strap my baby girl in and head to her house.
Here is a glimpse at what we had in our one carry-on bag: 2 outfits for baby, 2 baby toy/rattles, 1 baby blanket, 3 diapers, a small travel case of baby wipes, a nursing cover, a small makeup bag, 2 outfits for me (including socks and undies), eye contacts and solution, my phone and charger.
Yep, that is it. Like I said, we pack really light. We decided to buy diapers, wipes, and other basic toiletries when we arrived so that we didn’t have to pack any of that. All that we really needed on the flight was a few diapers, wipes, a toy, and an extra outfit in case of a diaper blowout (which didn’t happen, thankfully)!
Tip # 3: Do a “practice” run a few days early and make sure everything fits in your bags, make sure you have checked into your flight online and have printed your boarding passes (if possible), make sure you check the weather and the traffic etc. I actually had to simplify my bag a little bit so that everything fit, but we didn’t miss anything that got left behind. As long as you have clothes, diapers, and food for your baby, you’ll do just fine.
Tip # 4: Be flexible. Babies are unpredictable. Airports and flight schedules are unpredictable. If you’re going to make it through a flight and vacation with an infant, you’re going to have to face that things do not always go according to plan. No matter how much I thought I was prepared for this, everything went completely different than I expected. I packed 2 of my baby’s favorite toys on the plane thinking they would distract her for any number of seconds. Nope. I brought earplugs thinking they would remain in her ears during the noisy take off. Nope. I did deep breathing exercises thinking it would help me stay calm during turbulence. Nope. Truth be told, we just rolled with the punches and it turned out fine.
Tip # 5: Have fun! I say this because when we’re stressed, tired, and anxious about traveling with our littles, we tend to forget the purpose of the trip: to have fun!
I made a point to find humor in the quirky little things my baby girl did during the flight. She giggled every time the drink cart passed us, she held on to the seat in front of us and leaned back dramatically during takeoff and had everyone around us laughing. She loved meeting her cousins for the first time, and trying fruit for the first time. We enjoyed the zoo and the park and so many other “firsts” on this trip. No matter what struggles come along with baby’s first time traveling, try to make the most of it and find the joy in it. You definitely won’t regret it.
Things I Learned:
# 1: You get to board the plane first, which is kind of awesome. If you have a baby under 2, you get to board before everyone else, including first class travelers. It was nice to settle into our space without other people trying to push their way to their seats. Of course, it does mean that you’ll wait a little longer before the plane actually takes off, but we didn’t mind. My baby loved to watch other passengers scurrying around, so that kept her busy.
# 2: Baby carriers are awesome in airports. Baby is six months old, so she wants to reach, and bend, and put stuff in her mouth. The carrier acts as an excellent restraint to keep her safe and close while traveling through a bustling airport. It kept people from touching her, and it kept her calm while we walked through security, to our gate, and during boarding. Our airline did require me to remove her from the carrier during takeoff and landing, but luckily she handled it just fine. I use this carrier and I recommend it to everyone.
# 3: Babies don’t usually do what you want them to do. This was something that I already knew, but I got a different taste of it while traveling. Everyone told me to nurse her during takeoff and landing to help her ears pop, but she wasn’t having it. Your baby is going to handle this experience the way he or she chooses to, and you’ll just have to roll with it.
# 4: Most people will be tolerant and kind, but if they aren’t, try to ignore it graciously. Traveling isn’t always fun, and dealing with someone else’s screaming baby during a long plane ride isn’t fun either. So if you catch a dirty look or someone whispering under their breath, just try to ignore it. Everyone seated near us was very kind, but I did apologize to them for her fussiness anyway. If you can just focus on your baby and ignore everything else going on around you, you will have a much more pleasant trip.
# 5 Traveling with an infant is not for the weak. It is mentally and physically challenging for the parents and for the baby. Once you have gotten through the first trip, it gets easier. Surprises do come up, babies get tired and fussy and hungry, and you have to be prepared for anything.
Article by Cate Rosales
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