Tis the season ... to start freaking out about bringing babies on a plane. Gentedimontagna contributor (and mom!) Laura House shares tips on traveling with extra bagage.
As with any of your child's "firsts," flying is one for the baby book. And, like other landmark events — solo night in the nursery, eating solid foods — it's totally panic-inducing for parents. Ready or not, many will take their first flight as a family over the holidays. Unfortunately, recent press highlighting the not-so-family-friendly attitude of fellow passengers might have tensions running high.
Don't panic. In becoming parents you've already dealt with more than you ever thought you'd be able to handle. You'll get through a flight. And here's a kind reminder to kid-averse travelers: We were all children once. I doubt your parents boarded a train from San Francisco to Sandusky to visit grandma for Christmas. Can't we all just get along, at least until we've landed safely? Herewith, a few guidelines for you and baby:
1. SEE THE AGENT
I always double-check seats at the desk to confirm that our son is noted on the ticket and that our family is seated together. If you ask nicely, you can sometimes score a bulkhead seat. Remember, they're there for families.
2. MOVE TO THE FRONT OF THE LINE
Take advantage of the family line at security. Bonus: According to new TSA rules, children under 12 are no longer required to remove their shoes.
3. DRESS APPROPRIATELY
Save time at security by wearing shoes and layers that slip on and off easily. Put your jewelry, belts, and keys in your carry-on before you get to the airport.
4. USE STROLLERS AND CARRIERS WISELY
Wheel your baby right up to the gate and check the stroller before boarding. A stroller is especially helpful if a delayed flight has you cruising the terminal. I always had good luck getting my son to sleep when I wore him snuggled in his carrier. Note: TSA requires that you break down strollers and remove children from carriers when going through security. Yes, it's a hassle, but people almost always offer to help when you're traveling solo.
5. ROLL WITH BACK-UP
Don't go overboard, but have extra essentials on hand, like pacifiers, diapers, wipes, burp cloths, and a change of clothes. I always pack Tylenol. Spit-up happens, so pack an extra shirt for yourself and a few plastic bags for dirty laundry. Early in the flight, ask a flight attendant which lavatory has the changing table, so you'll know when you need it.
6. ENSURE A SMOOTH LANDING AND TAKE-OFF
To ease ear pressure, you can nurse, give a bottle, or offer a pacifier. Try a sippy cup or juice box for toddlers. If they're asleep, let them keep snoozing.
7. PLAN THE IN-FLIGHT DINING
Measure out extra formula for babies and snack packs for toddlers. Lots of them. Bottles and jarred baby food are permitted through security. See TSA regulations for details. Once through security, purchase a big bottle of water. You will need it.
8. PLAN THE IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
Hopefully, the roar of the jet engine will lull your child to sleep. If not, make friends with the flight attendants, so you can bounce your babe up and down the aisles when necessary. You'll spin through all your tricks with toddlers, but here are some new ones: Wrap up small toys (crayons, cars, mini-books), download new apps, or create a captivating travel toy blanket from Merriment Design.
9. THIS WILL SEEM FUNNY ... LATER
If your child has a meltdown, do your best to remain calm. Apologize to those around you, and hopefully they'll be sympathetic. Or they'll be wearing noise-canceling headphones. Or they'll be easily bribed with a drink (on junior!) from the bar cart.
10. BE CLEAR FOR TAKE-OFF
If you have any hesitations about your child's health (ear infection, fever), check with your doctor before flying. Better safe than ...
See? You've got this. And when whining or tantrums occur, smile and be grateful that the offender is the man in 12C, and not your darling little lamb.
AND DON'T FORGET
How to Raise World-Curious Kids: They're made, not born.