Flying with a new baby is extremely intimidating at first. They have so many needs, and they are so vocal when those needs aren’t met, which means you need to be on the top of your game at all times. There are so many more details to think about and so much more effort that goes into keeping an infant happy than older kids.
Even so, babies need to get where they are going, just like you. Here are some tips to help make flying with an infant go smoother for everyone involved.
This probably sounds counter-intuitive. After all, nobody enjoys red-eye flights, but with a baby a red-eye might be your best chance for a quiet, sleep-filled flight. Infants are absolutely creatures of routine, and if your baby is normally asleep between the hours of midnight and five AM, they might just sleep through your entire cross-country flight. There is no guarantee of course, but many babies find the white noise, low light, and motion of planes to be quite soothing. Just don't expect to get any sleep yourself while holding your sleeping baby.
Flying with a baby does give you certain privileges that you should absolutely take advantage of. For example, most airlines board families with small children first, which gives you extra time to get comfortable on the plane. When traveling with an infant you are also allowed to gate check your stroller and car seat for free.
This is great. It means that you can wheel your baby all the way from the curb to the plane (you will have to carry them through security though). It makes things much more convenient on both ends of your journey.
Traveling with a baby on your lap is pretty cramped, so if it's in the budget, it's definitely worth it to upgrade to Economy Plus for a little more leg room. This will give you and your baby slightly more room to stretch out. If you manage to score a bulkhead seat then your (slightly older) baby can sit on the floor when the seatbelt sign is off.
The key to a stress-free flight is a well packed diaper bag ready for any eventuality. Make sure you pack enough (i.e., more than you think you're going to need) diapers, pacifiers, burp clothes and spare clothes. You will probably want a toy or two for the baby (consider bringing a new, never-before-seen toy to hold their attention). Depending on your baby's diet you can also bring snacks, formula or pumped milk (which is exempt from TSA liquid regulations).
Let's face it: babies are not the most popular seat mates, thanks to their reputation for screeching uncontrollably in small spaces. Nobody really wants to get stuck sitting next to a baby on a flight, which is why it generally helps if the baby is really, really adorable. Dress your kid up cute, be polite and everyone's trip will go a little bit smoother.
If all else fails and your baby is being terrible, at least offer to buy your seat mate a drink.
Traveling with babies can be tricky, but travel insurance may be able to provide some reassurance.
Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
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