Like many other families out there, we traveled to visit relatives this holiday season. We love seeing the other side of the family on the other side of the country, especially since we only get to visit with them about twice a year. Baby Girl has now been on four flights, which means that I am officially an experienced enough baby-airplane-traveler to give out advice. I had a revelation this time, which is the following: no bones about it, air travel with a baby just isn’t fun. Look, I don’t mean to scare anyone if you are reading this and thinking about your first trip with your little one. And I’m certainly not saying that you shouldn’t travel with baby. I just think it’s only fair to prepare you for for what’s ahead.
You are going to have to check bags. My husband and I used to belong to that cooler-than-you frequent travelers club where you can’t be a member unless you carry on all of your luggage. Compact traveling is a true art, and it makes the whole process faster, cheaper, and a lot less stressful. Sorry fellow club members, but your membership has expired. When you are traveling with a tiny one, you’ll need to check bags – if for no other reason than the fact that you don’t have enough hands to drag six pieces of luggage AND a baby AND a stroller AND a car seat through the airport. Trust me, you are better off this way, and baggage check lines aren’t actually that bad. Aaaand I’ve probably just jinxed myself.
The binkie will end up on the floor. You could hold your hand directly underneath your child’s chin for the entire flight. You could put one of those binkie leashes on it. It doesn’t matter. That thing is going on the floor. On one of our flights this time, not only did the binkie fall, it bounced off my foot and like a jillion rows in front of us, never to be seen again. Thank goodness we had a spare.
You will not need any kind of personal entertainment. Leave the magazines at home and pack your iPad in your suitcase. Flying to Florida is no longer sitting down and waiting to land for 2.5 hours, it is a 2.5 hour wrestling match. And hopefully there will be a nap somewhere in there – for the baby, not for you.
You will want to forego airplane snacks and drinks. Because it’s not going in your mouth – it’s either going on the floor, on you, or on your baby. Or on your neighbor. My favorite flying story is that on our first ever flight, we were seated next to this glamorous lady wearing all white – and when the drink cart came by, she ordered tomato juice! While sitting next to a sweaty lady (me!) holding an 8-month-old. I felt like I was being punked.
Your baby is not going to stay completely quiet and still for the entire duration of the trip. Someone’s chair is probably going to get kicked, and someone’s ears are probably going to be offended. And you know, that’s ok. I was totally mortified the first time my daughter squawked on a flight, but then I realized that there is no circumstance under which I would expect her to refrain from crying or whining at least a little in any 2.5 hour period when we are at home. Why would I expect it in this weird, unfamiliar, confined space?
You will survive! Look, air travel with baby is not my favorite thing, but I have done it four times now and have lived to tell the tale. It is all worth it to go on that family trip or to visit loved ones. I mean, when you think about it, would you keep baby from his/her family out of fear that some lame stranger might shoot you a dirty look on a domestic flight? My best piece of advice is to just have realistic expectations going in. Know that it isn’t going to be your favorite thing you’ve ever done, but you will get through it. And what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
Good luck, and happy travels!