As the holidays approach, many new parents travel great distances for the first time with their baby to visit family or friends. I distinctly remember my first plane ride with my son. He was only 6 months old and I was travelling solo to visit my parents in sunny Florida for a much needed mental health break.
I was scared and combed the internet for tips on how to best travel with a baby. Based on my experience, here are my top tips:
- The best tip I received was bring your baby carrier! It was a blessing! It allowed me to have free hands to fold up the stroller, carry my bags and walk safely onto the plane. I also found my son was more content in it due to how overwhelming the new experience was.
- Bring and use your stroller. Your baby will love the journey, you have somewhere to put all your stuff and best of all, gate checking your stroller is free! My recommendation is to buy a stroller bag, you can get cheap ones online that fit most strollers. They are a pain to put on but keeps your stroller protected from the elements (your stroller will be taken outside and could be left in the rain for a period of time before it’s either taken on or off the plane) and the bag keeps all the parts together in case your stroller suffers some abuse.
- Pre-plan your journey through the airport especially if you’re travelling alone as unless it packs into the stroller, don’t take it. You only have two hands! Consider what are you taking, how are you going to carry everything, will going through security be a hassle or a breeze, etc
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone inherently wants to lend a hand, even the most crusty of people will grumble all the while helping you.
- Ask one of the flight attendants to hold baby while you use the restroom. Gives you a few moments of reprieve and it’s safer in case of turbulence.
- Pack smartly for the plane. I am notorious for overpacking to a fault. It’s stressful, time consuming and means you’re constantly lugging around things that will never be used and trying to find a place for them.
- An extra change of clothes for everyone is a definite. For you, it’s easy to throw a t-shirt and a pair of leggings into the diaper bag just in case. Better to be clothed than sitting in a mess for hours! Pack those extra clothes in a giant ziploc, as it keeps them dry in case of spills and you have somewhere to put soiled clothes if needed.
- Diapers and wipes. One area you may want to pack a few extras of.
- Just a couple of activities, best if they are new. I tend to overdo it with activities which means I have so much to carry but my son is more than content and always has been with the new environment and the people.
- Use the washroom before you board the plane. This applies for everyone of all ages! It’s much easier and more spacious to use the airport restroom than the airplane toilet. With your baby, you have the room you need to change them and you’re not pressured by someone knocking on the door.
- Get an extra seat. If financially feasible, purchase a seat for baby even though they fly for free or before you board, ask the flight attendant if there is an empty row or somewhere with an extra seat to give you more room. I have found that the flight attendants are usually the ones offering it up and while my son was an infant, they were more than accommodating with rearranging people to give me a full row to myself and my son. The extra seat allows you to put down baby, especially while they are sleeping.
For older kids, some of the above still applies!
- When my son was newly potty trained, I would ask him to still wear a pull up right before we got onto the plane and took it off after we exited. As usually he would fall sleep on the plane or have to go when we couldn’t leave our seats.
- We are strict on screen time but planes are the one time where he gets free rein. Download a couple movies, shows or apps that is new to your little one. It gives them something to look forward to and keeps them occupied as it’s special and out of the norm.
- Activities. Bring some new but don’t overdo it as you need to carry them, keep track of them and they don’t tend to be used in my experience. I usually buy my son a new book and activity pad to do on the play but that’s it. I also highly recommend sticking to crayons or pencil crayons as markers end up everywhere and on everything!
- Snacks. Bento boxes, ice cube trays, etc are great to fill up with little munchies that keep them occupied and satisfied! Bonus, bring a bag of Cheerios and a string, have them lace the cheerios into a necklace and you have a two in one activity and snack!!!
- Blanket. A small fleece blanket is fantastic for a cool plane and doubles as a pillow if someone gets sleepy!
And the best tip of all is just roll with it! Travelling is stressful enough and if you’re stressed, your little one will be stressed too! As all moms do, we worry about what if our baby screams or your toddler is a nightmare the entire flight and if everyone seated around you will hate you. Your baby may scream and others may hate that but who cares, your priority is your child and adults can get up and go for a walk if they need to. We’ve all heard those amazing social media stories about that mom who gifts everyone a snack and earplugs in case her child cries but it’s unnecessary, adds added pressure and really you’re setting yourself up for failure. Hope for the best and things will work out!