When we found out I was pregnant, I swore up and down that we wouldn’t become that couple that gives up on travel once kids are in the picture. We live for travel and spend many long hours dreaming about where to go, planning trips abroad, and relishing every moment of our vacations.
Even with a squirmy baby in my arms, I remained determined to travel as a family. We have a couple trips under the belt and more trips on the calendar, and I can safely say that we have survived air travel with our party of three. It takes a little extra planning (ahem… no more packing 2 hours before our flight) and a whole lot more patience, but it isn’t as daunting as I once expected.
While we’re hardly pros, here are our tips on how to survive air travel avec bebe.
1. Pack snacks
This is critical, as snacks can double as sustenance and entertainment on a long flight. The answer to parents’ prayers is the “snack catcher,” which will allow your kid to feed himself small snacks one by one without turning your aisle into a disaster zone. D laughed in shock and awe when he saw the size of the Cheerios bag I packed for our most recent flight, but said Cheerios provided at least 30 minutes of entertainment. I’ll take what I can get.
2. Bring new toys
I learned this trick from my mom, who is a seasoned veteran of traveling with kids. She would always buy us each a new toy for the plane ride, and I still have fond memories of the joy of unwrapping the little gift as our plane taxied. Baby K is entering a new stage of loving everything that is plastic, colorful, and loud – and we have begrudgingly discovered the Fisher Price aisle at Target.
For our last trip, I picked up this caterpillar, which turned out to be perfect: colorful, lots of “flaps” to lift and buttons to press, and devoid of the Old MacDonald loop that would drive our fellow passengers to insanity.
3. Breastfeed during take-off and landing.
This is a surefire way to soothe and distract her while protecting her ears. Sucking on a bottle or pacifier can also help.
4. Pack a lovey and a blanket.
Planes are as frigid as Siberia, and are a great place to take a nap – said no one, ever. Help mitigate some of the discomfort with a soft blanket and lovey. We also dress Baby K in warm pajamas before we leave the house, so he’s as comfy as possible.
5. Prepare for blowouts
This is a sad truth about babies and planes: the chances of a diaper blowout greatly increase when you’re 39,000 feet in the air. The best we parents can do is pack a lot of diapers and wipes, a change of clothes for anyone within close proximity of the infant, and save the stories for future girlfriends and wedding toasts.
6. Purchase a seat for the baby
We generally travel on a tight budget, but we recently flew on a flight that was far from full, and having a whole row to ourselves was an incredible relief. If you can afford it, buy a seat for your kid, and enjoy the extra space!
7. Check the car seat, wear the baby
If buying a seat for the baby isn’t within your budget, I suggest checking the car seat (the JL Childress gate check bag does the trick) and wearing the baby onto the plane. Going through security with the baby nestled in a carrier is a breeze, and you’ll be glad to have your hands free to navigate the airport and rummage through the diaper bag.
Lillebaby Carrier – a.k.a. travel lifesaver!
8. Bring a book or magazine for yourself
Listen… Unless you are one of those magical unicorns who actually sleep on planes, you will find yourself wide awake and trapped underneath your hopefully sleeping child. Perusing the absurd gadgets hawked in SkyMall will only entertain your sleep-deprived self for all of 5 minutes before you’ll find yourself restless and craving a margarita. Do yourself a favor and pack some sort of entertainment.