If you’re reading this with a live-in nanny taking care of your babe and a full-time chef preparing your breakfast, you can probably just skip it. This is probably not the article for you. In fact, this whole blog probably isn’t for you. But if you’re like me and most Americans who fly (gasp!) commercial from time to time, I hope you enjoy these 20 tips from my most recent experiences flying by myself with a 9-month-old.
We are fairly experienced flyers with family in different states, but this was only my second time flying with just me and the little one. At 9 months, Cora is crawling and barely walking, so it created a few more challenges when it came to traveling. Here’s what I would tell you if you’re getting ready to take the plunge yourself.
1. Ditch the stroller.
I debated about this for a few days prior to our trip, but I’m so glad I went with my gut and the advice of my mommy friends to just use our Boba baby carrier instead of a stroller. Cora prefers it, and it was much easier for me to navigate through the airport. Not too mention she slept for three hours in it at one point. Just be aware though, tons of people will crack cheesy jokes about how they wish there was an adult-sized one for them to travel in. Ha.
2. Use a backpack diaper bag.
When you’re using the Boba, it is much easier to travel with a backback diaper bag than the heave-over-your-shoulder variety. This way, I’ve got a little balance with the baby on my back and the bag strapped to my front, or vice versa. We have a Petunia Pickle Bottom bag that I’m obsessed with.
3. Practice your back carry.
Although Cora is still small enough that I prefer the front carry, for maneuvering through airports I liked having her on my back better. It took me maybe two tries to figure out how to get her on my back by myself, and then I had my hands completely free to eat, go through security, the whole bit. And yes, you can use the restroom as well.
4. Pack small toys.
At 9 months, Cora’s attention span is about 10 minutes, so it was important for me to pack small, quickly interchangeable toys to keep her occupied. I like rattles, small board books, and I also let her play with the non-toy items (keys, pack of Kleenex, etc.) that she is so fascinated by.
5. Let them throw soft toys.
On our second flight of the day, Cora was in a throwing mood, so I gave her an extra pair of socks. She then proceeded to throw them on the ground, watch me pick them up, and repeat for about thirty minutes. Which is fine by me because 1) she’s occupied and 2) they don’t make a noise to bother other passengers.
6. Wear nursing-friendly tops.
I have my go-to outfit for flying, but the most important aspect is the tank top that is low-cut and provides easy access for breastfeeding. Once we’re no longer nursing I fully intend to go back to wearing my mock turtlenecks and wool sweaters. 😉
7. Choose easy-to-remove shoes and/or belt.
Security is high up there on my “Stressful Parts About Flying” List, but it’s much easier if you choose sandals or flats that are easy to get on and off. If you can avoid a belt altogether so be it, but if not choose one that doesn’t make you want to pull your hair out when its time to strip down for TSA.
8. Beware of the pressurized water bottle.
It literally took me about 10 times of spilling water everywhere on the plane for me to figure this one out. If you bring a water bottle with attached straw for your little one, be sure to unscrew the lid and release the pressure before opening the straw. This way you don’t have the ‘Ol Faithful geyser on your hands. Heaven forbid it be something other than water too and get stains/stickiness everywhere. Seriously, just open the lid first.
9. Get over being too good to ask for help.
I really struggle with this one. People say, “Oh, just ask the flight attendants to help!” Or, “Oh, there’s always nice people willing to hold her while you run to the restroom.” And I usually sit there and think, “Oh no, not me. I don’t need to bother anyone else. I can do it all by myself.” But if someone actually comes up to you and offers to help, take it if you need it. Or if a well-meaning elderly lady wants to hold your baby, just let her. It will be the furthest away from you your baby will be for the next 12 hours, so just give yourself a little break. Bonus: You’ll make the little lady’s day.
10. Pack an extra outfit.
Maybe two. Every parent knows this rule for diaper bags, but it is ESSENTIAL when it comes to traveling. Because if an accident happens and you don’t have an extra outfit, your child gets to roam around the airport looking homeless. Which, maybe doesn’t bother you, but some airports are cold. Just saying.
They are time-consuming, they are fun for them to eat, and they’re easy to pick up if baby drops a few. Or a hundred, whatever.
12. Fruit pouches.
Whoever invented these nifty things is a genius. Your little one doesn’t have to starve, there’s little to no mess, and TSA will let you take them on the plane.
13. Nurse during takeoff and landing.
I don’t know if a bottle would work the same, but nursing during takeoff and landing helps Cora’s ears to pop so she’s comfortable for the flight. In addition, if the timing is right she will nurse to sleep and be out for the first hour or so of the flight. Win-win.
14. Play the numbers game.
Before I start a journey, I always start telling myself, “OK, in just 12 hours you will be home, you can go to sleep, etc.” As the trip progresses I tell myself things like, “Ok there’s only 30 minutes left in this flight. Even if she wakes up and screams her head off for the next 30 minutes, that’s not so bad. I’m gonna make it!” I have no idea if this makes any sense at all, but it helps me cope with the sometimes overwhelming feeling that this trip is never going to end, you’re never going to see the end of it, etc. Kind of like Christopher Columbus must have felt looking at the wide open ocean before setting sail.
15. Research your airport beforehand.
Cora ended up sleeping through our layover in Houston, but prior to our trip I searched their website to discover they have a Nursing Room in Terminals B and D. That way if she needed some time to decompress or just crawl around without worrying about getting trampled, I had a plan. Google your airport and kid friendly options. The San Antonio airport also has kid stations with toy tables and mini chairs for them to play around with.
16. Sit as close to the front as you can.
I know this isn’t always possible, and oftentimes airlines are sticklers about having infants in rows with their size masks, but if you can, sit towards the front. That way you’re one of the first to unload when you reach your destination. Because nothing is worse than being stuck at the back of a plane with a screaming baby, knowing there is a door to freedom just beyond your reach.
17. Disposable vs. cloth diapers.
While we cloth diaper at home, we choose to use disposables while flying. It might be feasible to have a wet bag with you and still cloth diaper, but for us it’s just not worth the extra hassle. Maybe if you’re on a direct flight where you’ll only need to change your little one once or twice, but otherwise I vote going the disposable route just this once. If you’re really eco-conscious, there are organic and biodegradable diaper options. But you probably already knew that.
18. If you have a girl, pick out a dress for her to wear.
I can’t speak on behalf of boy moms, but changing a baby girl in a dress is way easier than pants. And if you’re raising your boy in a gender-neutral environment, feel free to put him in a dress as well, I suppose. You’re not going to hear anything from me.
19. Ditch shoes for your little one.
Cora is just barely walking, but for the sake of simplicity I just had her wear socks for the trip. It’s harder enough getting your own shoes off, much less a little one’s as well, so why go through the hassle if you don’t have to yet?
Bet you were wondering when this tip was going to show up, right? I know it’s hard, really I do, but the more laid-back and worry-free you can be, the better for your baby. Tension and stress will only result in the same for him/her, and it’s a vicious cycle from there. Take comfort in knowing that most people understand you’re not trying to be an annoyance to them, and some have even been there. And if all else fails, you could always pull the emergency hatch and skydive your way home.