This is the third is a series about Traveling with Kids and our hope is that you will find these tips helpful with the holidays just around the corner and many families traveling with their young children.
Henry and I have spent a large portion of his first year of life traveling to visit friends and family. By the time he reaches one, we’ll have made almost twenty different flights. I’m no expert but throughout my journeys I’ve learned a thing or two about traveling with babies. While I have a whole bag full of tips and tricks, I’ve tried to narrow it down and share a few of my favorites.
Pack Everything in Ziplocs
This is actually the thing I find most important when traveling with H. Not only do I pack all of his clothing, and accessories in Ziplocs in our suitcase but I also pack all of our carry-on items in them, as well. Whether I’m looking for a specific onesie or trying to find a diaper and wipes, having everything organized in these clear bags makes a breeze to find something quickly.
Skip the Diaper Bag and Carry a Backpack
While using a backpack may not look fancy, it’s invaluable to me to have my hands free when I’m traveling. I only bring one carry-on that doubles as a diaper bag. As I mentioned before, I pack all the diaper bag necessities into Ziplocs and place them inside of the backpack. This makes it super handy to find items.
Gate check your stroller and car seat
I’m a big fan of gate checking your stroller and car seat. I know some people find it easiest to just send your stroller through with your luggage but I’ve been in several situations where the stroller has saved the day, especially if the plane gets delayed and we need a distraction or I get tired of carrying my carry-on.
While children under 2 are free to fly on planes as a “lap child”, since this is a public forum and I’ve done my research, I feel like it’s important for me to advocate that the safest place for your child when flying is in a car seat. On about 50% of the flights I’ve taken, my son has been seated in his car seat. Before we board, I always check with the gate agent to see if the flight is full and if it’s not, I ask politely if it would be possible to bring on the car seat. I’ve been lucky that they’ve always been more than accommodating. I recommend getting a bag with padding if you end up gate checking your car seat, as it’s the easiest way to protect it.
Either Board First or Last
Very few airlines offer early family boarding anymore but there are a few who still do. When H was younger, and early boarding was available, I found this amenity very convenient. I could get to my seat, get organized (and car seat installed if we take it on board) and get comfortable. However, now that he’s older and WAY more mobile I actually skip early boarding even if it’s offered. We’re already on the plane long enough and giving him some extra time to move about before boarding is essential to making sure he gets his wiggles out before we take flight.
Early Morning Flights
While you might not always have control over when you’re flying, I’ve found that if I have a preference I always book an early morning flight. Even if the wake up is a bit painful, the early flight ensures my son is usually well rested which typically translates to a better mood. Additionally, leaving early has also helped us with time zone transition. We’ve only ever traveled West but I’ve found that for some reason the earlier we travel, the easier it is on his little body to adjust to the time change and get on schedule.
Window Seats and Back of the Plane
Pre-baby you wouldn’t find me seated anywhere but the front of the plane. However, in my experience over the last year, I’ve found that being seated toward the back of the plane has been much easier. Maybe it’s that I’m not as worried if H is loud or starts crying, or perhaps it’s that there’s usually fewer people seated in the back.
Additionally, window seats, in my opinion, are where it’s at. I like having the window seat for several reasons. One, it gives you the option of using the window as a distraction. Two, when baby falls asleep it something to lean against. Three, it gives you a bit of privacy if you’re nursing or baby is being fussy.
When in doubt, don’t make eye contact & Remember This TOO Shall Pass
While we travel frequently, I still feel like every time we get on a plane I’m never sure what I’m going to get. Sometimes H will be the perfect tiny angel baby and sleep the entire flight. Other times, he’ll decide that mid-flight would be the perfect time for testing out his vocal range. Being a mom is hard enough, but anytime I feel like people might be glaring or shooting their judging eyes my way, I take a deep breath, remind myself “This too shall pass” and I just don’t look back. Remember, no matter how painful, the flight WILL end.