Two weeks ago, I set off on a airplane extravaganza with my 8 1/2 month old daughter. We were invited to go to the wedding of my best friend's sister, and seeing as it was in France, I was slightly nervous to make the voyage alone. After several days of deliberation, I nervously forked over the cash and bought our ticket. Now I say "our ticket" because lap infants do not in fact fly free on international flights. I will preface this that after many google searches, I did not find a carrier out there that didn't charge, but you may know of one that I don't, so please reply to this post with the name of the carrier if they exist.
Okay, back to the trip. We arrived at the airport with one overly stuffed bag to check, two carry on bags filled with any and everything I could think of for the flight, my Ergo carrier, and the jogging stroller. In hindsight, I wouldn't have brought two bags on the plane. But we'll get to that later.
After paying a fee for the bag being overweight, I was armed with pumpkin butt, stroller, carrier, and the two carry on shoulder bags. Now, if you haven't yet flown with an infant who isn't walking yet, be prepared to hand your baby off to a security agent while you walk through. You cannot wear them through the security checkpoint, you can't keep them in the car seat, or in the stroller. If you have a large car seat and stroller, you can just tell them they won't fit through the scanner and they usually will just do a hand check. For those of you whose babies still drink milk, you are allowed to have water for the formula and/or breast milk. They do a quick check and you're out.
I had already previously flown with Lucy once, so I knew what outfit would work best for wearing her through the airport and getting through security in as pain free a way as possible. Slip-on shoes, big comfy sweater to wrap around her while she was in the carrier, and a black tee that would hid any stains I would accrue throughout our trip. For those of you who are debating whether you should take a stroller or not, they check them for FREE at the gate. If you have the room, I say take one. I didn't use mine much, but when I did I was really really glad I had it.
Okay, enough storytelling, let's get down to the important parts.
1. Bring toys that will engage your child for hours. You're going to need to keep them preoccupied while sitting in your lap or in the infant bassinet, so you'll need enough for however long the trip is. I figured I would need at least 5 hours of entertaining time, so I bought a couple of new toys and then the ones I knew that were her favorites. My daughter is obsessed with necklaces, so I brought my two teething ones so that she would have a toy in the carrier and on my lap.
2. Bring all the medicines, teething remedies, and comforting tools you can for your cranky baby. He/she will become cranky for some reason thought the flight or on your trip and you'll be wishing you had packed those teething biscuits or thermometer.
3. Try to stick to your nighttime routine as best you can on the plane. If you read your little one a story before bed, read them a story. If you swaddle the baby, swaddle them. If you rock them to sleep, well, you're in the perfect place as you've got nothing else to do. This time you won't feel as guilty wishing your little one would hurry up and fall asleep so you could get back to Pinterest!
4. Most airlines have infant bassinets. These things are AMAZING! I was travelling alone, so I couldn't just hand off my baby to daddy while I went to the bathroom, or while I dug through the bag for that one toy my little one was crying for. But with the bassinet, I was able to put her in and give her a place to play while I sat back and ate my dinner. (Btw, I am not saying you should leave your baby in the bassinet while you go to the bathroom. Please do not leave your baby unattended, ever.)
So what are these bassinets anyway? Here is a pic from www.anjouaero.com.
After takeoff, your assigned steward or stewardess will come by and install this in front of your seat. You will have to request a seat in the bulkhead with the bassinet. I would suggest making the call right after you purchase your ticket. These seats are hard to get and you can't just ask for one when you get to the gate. Check with your airline to see if they offer them. I believe British Airways has the best kind, Britax I think. I really can't praise Air France enough for how helpful the staff was. Our journey was so much easier with the bassinet.
That brings me to my next point. During takeoff and landing, you'll need to use the seat belt extension they give you. It's basically a loop with a smaller loop attached to it that you loop around your belt buckle and then around the child. Little one actually fell asleep in this position during our hop from Pau to Paris. On our way from Paris to Pau, I still had her in the Ergo carrier and I was allowed to loop the seat belt around her and the carrier, which was nice since she was still sleeping. (Sorry I didn't take pictures. I didn't even think that I would be blogging about this in retrospect.)
5. Food. Bring lots of snacks and lovely things that can distract your child and keep them happy. This is the time to spoil them and make them excited about flying! If your child is older, some airlines even have children's meals that you can request.
6. Don't be afraid to ask people in the security lines, or in the airport where your gate is. I had several great experiences in Charles de Gaulle. I skipped two ridiculously long lines through security both coming and going, just by asking. People see you, then the baby and they naturally want to help.
7. Bring a carrier. Air France checked my stroller all the way to Pau, meaning I was left in Paris with a baby who can't walk and two bags. Thank goodness I brought the carrier with me, as it made the impossible, possible. I have several carriers, but I choose to bring the Ergo because it was easy to put on in a confined space. Here is a pick of it from Amazon.
For those of you with newborns, you can use this insert. We had it as well and it was great! I'm also a big fan of ring slings and the Moby wrap, however I felt this carrier would be the most comfortable on the long journey. I ended up using it a ton while in France and hardly ever used the stroller. It made shopping and walking around the narrow aisles in stores a lot easier.
8. Make sure your baby is swallowing something or screaming during take off, but especially landing. You don't want to be the person with the upset baby for hours after the flight because the baby can't pop it's own ears. My parents made that mistake with me and they said I screamed for hours after the flight. If you breast feed, make sure the baby is at the breast. Just time it right because sometimes taxing before takeoff can take a while. We had a 20 minute delay on our way back and I had to keep Lucy from eating because I knew she was going to suck the bottle down and then crash before we reached our cruising altitude. It wasn't very pleasant for the passengers, but I had to think about her first.
9. Your baby is going to cry sometimes so just be prepared. Sometimes babies need a good cry and all you can do is console them. There isn't an off button as you already know, and deep down, those douchy passengers who give you the stink eye because they want you to shut your baby up will one day get their just desserts. That might sound mean, but it kept me going when the guy behind me on the flight from Houston to D.C. was complaining about babies on flights, etc...
10. Relax and realize that the flight will end and you will get some sleep, one day. I know it might seem improbable when you are in the moment, but it will happen. Life will go on, and even if your flight is horrific, there will always be tomorrow.
11. If you use formula, there are these great travel packs that are amazing because they take up little to no room at all. I filled four bottles with water and then kept these bad boys in my diaper bag, which really kept down on the bulk.
12. Don't be afraid to use disposable diapers. I know, I know, this is a cloth diapering blog and I'm telling you to use disposables. I have travelled with both, and I did not feel comfortable using my friends parents washer while 6 other people were in the house, just so that I could keep up cloth diapering. It wasn't my favorite thing, but I bought the degradable kind and she survived just fine.
Flying with an infant has it's challenges, but it isn't impossible. If you're considering going on a trip, just be flexible and things will work out. I learned a lot about my daughter and myself throughout this process. For example, I can survive on little to no sleep with coffee. My daughter likes older boys and eclairs. She had several little friends that gave her quite the laughing fit in the airport in Paris and on the flight to Paris from D.C.
For those of you who are planning trips, feel free to post what worked for you! Happy flying everyone!