My son was five months old for his first airplane trip. I took him – by myself – to visit my parents in Florida. The confident, enthusiastic young mom who departed schlepping a baby and five times her weight in gear, was not the same dazed, tired, and bedraggled mom who arrived in Tallahassee several hours later.
There are strategies to planning your first, and subsequent, flights with your baby. Some things to keep in mind:
1. Don’t bring more than you really need.
What you should have: at least five diapers, a packet of wipes, burp cloths, comfort items like a pacifier and stuffed animal, a few small toys, and whatever sustenance your baby likes. In case your baby spits up; an extra outfit, and a plastic bag to store the soiled clothes.
2. Another definite – the stroller.
Yes, it’s a pain to get through security, but it’s the easiest way to transport baby all the way to the gate, and it’s the best place to put them when you need to use the restroom!
3. You may or may not get to board the plane ahead of everyone else.
Back in the civilized days of air travel, parents with small children were always given the opportunity to board before most of the other passengers. Nowadays, there’s no set protocol, and it may come down to the mood of the gate agents. If you feel you need extra time to get settled, there’s no harm in asking the agents if you can board early.
4. There may or may not be a changing table on board
, depending on the age and size of the plane. There’s no easy answer to the question of where to lay them for a diaper change.
I know a mom who took her baby back to the galley and laid him on a changing table cover on the floor. The flight attendants were not amused, but she stood her ground. On a trip to California, my daughter had two blow-out diapers. We crammed into the tiny restroom and used the changing table. That trip goes down in family history.
5. You may get nasty looks from people sitting near you,
especially if your baby cries. Sometimes just making other passengers aware of how sorry you are for the disturbance can go a long way. One clever story I heard was about a couple with newborn twins who, pre-takeoff, passed out notes and earplugs to everyone onboard apologizing for the noise in advance. There are other savvy ways to avoid irking your fellow passengers, but a simple “sorry!” usually works just fine. Don’t worry, these folks most likely understand.
Traci L. Suppa thinks time travel is the only explanation for her son turning 13 this year. Her six-year old daughter brings the glam to their crazy household. In addition to her own family travel blog, Go BIG or Go Home, Traci is a contributing blogger for FamilyVacationCritic.com and has written for WomansDay.com and NewParent.com.