Marlow has been on 24 flights in her short ten months of life, and with all that flying, we have figured out what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to flying with a baby. I flew solo on most of those flights, so don’t be afraid! You can do it. Here are ten things I have learned along the way…
Before You Go
1. Book a flight during nap time or bedtime. After takeoff, I put Marlow in a carrier, turn on our trusty white noise app on my phone, and let her drift (or scream, if we’re being real) off to sleep. I feel like superwoman when I am flying alone and my baby sleeps the whole flight! I’ve found this is easiest when it’s at bedtime, but nap times could work if you have good nappers (which we do not have…)
2. If you have the time, get TSA pre-approved. Forever and ever, TSA pre-approval will be my life-line. It feels like I struck gold when I get to zoom past the lines and fly right through security. The lines are much shorter, you don’t have to take off your shoes or remove anything from your bag, and they don’t have to check your hands afterward (normally, if you carry a baby through security, they test your hands for chemicals). Everyone is less stressed and rushed than normal security, too, which I will happily take any day.
3. If you are flying on an airline that let you reserve seats, always pick the aisle seat. You can get up and walk around without inconveniencing your seat mates, and it generally feels less cramped.
4. Decide if you are going to buy your baby a seat or keep them in your lap. Lap infants fly for free until they are two, but it may be worth getting them a seat if they are wiggly. A large benefit to booking a seat is being able to bring on their carseat. We don’t buy an extra ticket for Marlow, but there have been a few flights where I would have given our life savings for one.
5. Order diapers to your destination. It seems easy to pack diapers with you—don’t be tempted! They take up a ton of room in your suitcase and are out of reach anyway. Unless you are only going for a weekend, order diapers and wipes. Amazon Prime is great, as is diapers.com. We do this when we go to visit my family, and it saves a lot of hassle. I only have to pack diapers for the plane and don’t have to worry about the rest.
6. Pack lots of snacks, but skip the big meal. So many salads became wilting messes before I realized that eating a meal on a plane was out of reach. Basically, anything that requires two hands is asking too much. I like to bring almonds, a cheese stick, apple slices, and some crackers. If Carter is flying with us, we may bring a meal and take turns eating (still, keep it simple, like a sandwich or wrap). Keep. It. Simple.
On Travel Day
7. Check your bag. Before we had kids, we were die-hard carry-on travelers, but now we combine everything into one checked bag. At first, I was hesitant to check a bag because I didn’t want to wait in line to check the bag or hang around afterward to pick it up. Now, we have to go to the counter anyway to check in a lap infant, and we are usually the last ones off the plane, so there isn’t a lot of waiting around anyway. It makes a world of difference to maneuver through the airport and down the aisle of the plane without carry-on luggage. I pack a bag with the essentials and keep everything else in the checked bag.
8. If you are traveling alone, prep everything you can before you board. Right before boarding begins, I rearrange my bag with the essentials on top, put my ID back in my wallet, and get a toy ready for Marlow. It helps the transition to the plane go easier. If you are traveling with your partner, board separately. During family boarding, Carter goes ahead and breaks down the carseat and stroller, picks out our seats, and gets everything set up. I stay back with Marlow until the last person has boarded, and then we get on. The less time on the plane, the better (for everyone).
9. Ask if there are empty seats on the plane. If you choose not to buy a seat for your baby, it never hurts to ask if there are empty seats available. More often than not, there is at least one, and they will rearrange your seat assignment to be near it. If you fly on Southwest, you can easily reserve a seat next to you (since it is open seating). I always ask when I enter the plane.
10. Pack a surprise toy. Snacks work well too, but Marlow isn’t at that age yet. I try to pack a new toy or something Marlow hasn’t played with in a while. If all else fails, ask for a plastic cup. Babies love them! No toy in the world will keep her attention longer than a plastic cup and a sealed peanut bag.
Most importantly, remember that it’s worth it. Traveling is always, always worth it, even with small children. Set your expectations low for travel day, knowing it probably won’t be a breeze. You will be happy you went! I promise.