Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Flying With A Little Guy? No Problem.

So it's officially June, which means for many families the time of year to travel for vacation, family visits etc is quickly approaching or already here. As many of you know, we are stationed 3,000 miles from home and family and so traveling via flying has become somewhat routine. And for C Man, it's really nothing new. Little dude took his first flight at 6 weeks old, and will fly again for what seems like his millionth trip in a few weeks. So I like to consider myself to be somewhat experienced when it comes to traveling with a little one. I won't tell you I'm a full on expert and that my tips and tricks will work for everyone and every child. But I will share with you my tips, tricks and best advice for flying with kiddos. If you have any of your own to share, please leave em in the comments!

So first thing's first: leave your expectations of flying with a little one at the door. Don't envision yourself having a perfect angel on the plane...but don't picture your kiddo being devil's spawn either! If you don't have expectations it allows you to roll with the punches a little easier. And when traveling, you need to be able to roll with the punches. Trust me.

Now, let's prep you, baby and the diaper bag for travel.

My general rule of thumb for dressing myself and Conner for flying is simply layers. You never know how hot or cold you'll be on a flight, so I generally travel wearing 

  • comfy jeans or black yoga pants
  • a nice t-shirt 
  • a zip up hoodie 
  • flats or flip flops (makes security easier!!)
  • Sometimes I'll switch it up and do a long sleeve t-shirt and cute scarf which is always a good move because scarves are multi-functional. Get peed on? Cover it up with the scarf. Get a chill? Take your scarf off and use it like a little blanket. Need a nursing cover? Scarf.

Now for Conner I usually do 

  • cotton pants (no jeans. Cotton is far more comfortable for him and me having to hold him on a 5 hour flight) 
  • a short sleeved onesie 
  • a long sleeved tee on top.  I steer clear of sweatshirts because they are bulkier to shove in the diaper bag and I always have a blanket for him anyway. So the long sleeved tee is perfect.

When it comes to packing the diaper bag, I am a bit neurotic. Perhaps overkill for some, but for me it puts my mind at ease which makes for less-stress traveling. Here are my essentials:

  • 2 spare outfits (2 pairs of socks, 2 short sleeved onesies, 2 pairs of pants, 2 long sleeved tees)
  • 12 diapers (yes, 12) and 3 overnight diapers (so 15 diapers total)
  • A fresh travel pack of wipes
  • Poopy diaper disposal bags (I like the Arm n Hammer ones you can get at Target)
  • A wipeable changing table pad or 2 receiving blankets
  • Diaper rash cream
  • An empty sippy cup and/or bottle
  • 3 servings of formula (if baby is bottle fed. I love the Munchkin formula dispenser from Target which holds 3 separate servings of formula up to an 8oz bottle)
  • SNACKS! Goldfish, yogurt bites, cereal, fruit squeezies (I like the Happy Baby organic ones again, from Target), fruit and cereal bars
  • Tylenol, a syringe and a list of age and weight appropriate doses
  • A lightweight blanket
  • A new-to-Conner toy
  • A copy of Conner's birth certificate and shot records
  • A few "me" items: Chapstick, gum, iPhone charger, Kindle and charging cord, sunglasses and Aunt Flo necessities (just in case...even if not for me! I am always happy to help out a fellow lady in a jam)
For our upcoming trip we are also going to be purchasing an iPad...really it's just the excuse we're using because we want one...but the trip gives us such a good one! We plan to download some programming, like Sesame Street (Conner is currently obsessed with "Melmo" and "Butt and Ewnie" :) ) to keep him occupied a bit on the flight.

Let me explain a few things before you judge my crazy and probably over-packed diaper bag:
I'm sure you're thinking right off the bat, "15 diapers??!!??". Yes, 15. Why? Because you never want to get stuck without enough diapers (trust me...let's recall I was stuck in Denver for 3 days...without enough diapers!!) and you always want to have a spare or three on hand for a momma who does get stuck without enough diapers. Why 2 receiving blankets (if you don't have a wipeable changing table pad)? Because if one can toss it in a poopy diaper bag and use a fresh one for the next change. Why the dosage list for Tylenol? Because again, you may encounter a momma in a jam and it's always nice to be able to help. Birth certificate and shot record? For one, the airline may ask you to prove your baby's age if they are ticketed as a lap-infant. For two, in case of emergencies.

Something else I can't do the airport without? A mei tai carrier. They fold easy, go on easy, and babywearing comes in majorly handy when navigating the airport and the aisle to your seat.

Now let's get to the airport.

First, most airlines (and every airline I have ever flown with) will check your car seat, car seat base and stroller for free. Now, with that you've got options. You can generally opt to check them at the counter with the rest of your luggage, you or can chose to gate-check them. Here's my advice: put a cute little ribbon and a luggage tag on your car seat and base (if you need one) and check them along with your luggage. And then save your sanity and gate check your stroller. Why? For one, less bulk and hassle at security. For two, less fussing at the end of the jetway when your leaving items to be gate checked and trying to get on the plane. For three, you don't have eight hands and eight arms. Leaving the car seat along with luggage means you get to navigate the airport far easier, and with less crap. Which, let's face it, you've got enough extra crap now that your traveling with a kid. The less crap you have to carry, the happier you are. I will say this though: prior to flying double check your specific airline's policy just to be sure.

Also, are you a Military family traveling with your active-duty Solider? Ask at the checkout counter about Military baggage. If you and hubby can both show your Military I.D. cards, generally most airlines will check 2 bags per person for free. Some don't though, so again check your specific airline's policy prior to travel.

Now you'll have to navigate security.

  • Some airports have specials lines for families who are traveling together. I know the Philadelphia airport does and it's fantastic. Keep an eye out or ask an employee. If you're traveling with a child, you should be able to use it. Be prepared at security as best you can. 
  • You should be aware ahead of time that your stroller will need to be folded up and sent through the x-ray machine. If it doesn't fit, it will be taken by a TSA agent for a hand inspection. No big deal. 
  • You'll also want to be aware that sometimes security will not let you through while babywearing, so be prepared to send your carrier through the x-ray and carry baby through the metal detector.
  • Traveling with expressed breastmilk or prepared formula? Great! You'll have to have it hand inspected, but it's totally permitted by the TSA. You can visit their website for more info on that.
Once you are through security, I always prefer to find my gate right away and from there find the closest bathroom. Those are always my two most important "need-to-know spots" at the airport! Then I like to locate a spot to buy a bottle of water and apple juice for C Man's sippy cup. When Conner was on formula, I used to find a vendor who would fill a bottle with hot water for me. I learned on a flight once that the flight attendants aren't always very willing to give you a hand with needing to heat a bottle, so I started locating vendors (generally any place that sells hot coffee or tea) who were willing to fill the bottle with steaming hot water for me. The water was always way too hot to give Conner immediately, but by the time we were on the plane and he needed to eat it had cooled down to the perfect temp. And if it hadn't, I'd just add a little cold water from the bottle I bought myself earlier.

Boarding the plane is where I always found babywearing to be most helpful at this point in airline travel. I strap Conner on in the mei tai, grab the diaper bag and make sure nothing is left in the stroller. Then at the end of the jetway all I have to do is one-hand the stroller closed, park it at the door and make my way to my seat on the plane. Easy peasy. But be aware! As far as I know, there is no baby carrier that is approved to be worn during take-off and landing on any flight, so you will have to remove and stow your carrier before you settle in your seat.

Now here is my biggest tip ever when it comes to traveling with a kiddo. Let go of worrying about the other passengers on the plane and their thoughts about your kid on the flight. Seriously. Stop. I have learned over my travels that you will find many of your surrounding passengers have been there, done that, and can be very sympathetic...and very helpful. Even the flight attendants get it. If you've got an older woman who wants to make faces at your kid, and it's making him smile, enjoy it. Close your eyes for 5 minutes and relax. A flight attendant who likes to hold babies? Take advantage of it. More than once I've desperately needed to use the bathroom mid-flight while traveling alone and handed Conner over to a more-than-willing flight attendant who held him so I could pee alone. 

If your kiddo has a fit, don't freak out. You know as an adult that flying isn't always a comfortable experience. To a little one, it can be even less comfortable! Always offer something for them to suck on at take-off and landing to help their ears adjust. I've also often found that a familiar comfort item (for Conner it's his blankie) will often provoke them to just settle and put their heads down and eventually realx. Focus on your babe and soothing them rather than worrying about the young woman in the business suit on her expensive computer with her sound-proof headphones who is rolling her eyes. She may be in your shoes some day. Remember that.

For older babies, also remember that they probably don't understand why they have to sit for so long. And they're going to get antsy. As long as it's safe to do so, most flight attendants will OK you to let your little one walk about the aisle a bit to burn off some energy and keep them happy.

Finally, if it's a long flight and they doze off to sleep in your arms, smile, enjoy the moment and then try to fall asleep yourself....OR be like me and delve into that new book on your Kindle :)

Flying with kiddos is a lot. Trust me, I know. But hopefully my experiences can give traveling families some good ideas and helpful advice. Enjoy your trips and fly happy!

Much love,

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