My daughter got on her first flight at the tender age of 5 months. To be honest, beyond the endless hours I spent researching flying with babies and panicking about all the things that could go wrong, it was a pretty uneventful trip. A one hour flight, I nursed her at takeoff, she passed out soon after and woke up after we landed. Same thing on the way back. 3 months later, I got to take my first solo international trip with her. Now this was a very memorable trip; especially memorable for all the things I did wrong, and almost 2 years later I look back and ask myself what I was thinking. Which brings me to the subject of this post: Flying with an infant/toddler: tips and tricks.
Like any new mom, and if I’m being honest I have not changed, I obsessed over my baby’s clothing. I have been known to leave home looking a little raggedy but my baby stays decked out in the finest threads. So you know I had this girl dressed in the finest denim I could find. I probably packed about 3 change of clothes for reasons I cannot remember, and I believe we never changed clothes. Not even once! By the time we got to our destination in the heart of the tropics, my mom was quick to give the girl a break and the heavy denim was gone while we waited our turn at customs. On the return home I had learned my lesson and we traveled in PJs!!! The ultimate comfort clothing when flying with kids. Especially for overnight long haul flights, they say PJs are best for travel and mimicking bedtime routines goes a long way to ensure the little one snoozes off in a heartbeat. Still valid to this day; we tend to either catch the first flight of the day or last one out and we always go in PJs. Don’t ask me why. It still works
Need I say more? The saying less is more has never meant more to me than when traveling with a toddler. I mean as long as you have enough food, diapers, wipes, change of clothes and some entertainment, you’re good to go. I traveled solo with a 10-month-old, plus an iPad, at least 5 board books, activity books, and headphones!!! Like seriously. Of course, she never used the headphones at that age, neither was she interested in the books but the iPad did come in handy. These days our travel staples are down to iPad, headphones, and a stuffed animal. And I, am ultra thankful
My travel stroller is probably the single greatest purchase on this motherhood journey! When traveling with a kid/baby/toddler, a good stroller is a must. One that you can collapse with one hand while holding on to a baby or toddler trying to escape, and that can survive stints in the cargo holding area of an aircraft? Lifesaver!!! During the first leg of our international trip, my stroller was taken from me in Houston with the reassurance it would be handed back to me in Paris. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Got to Paris, asked for my stroller before deplaning and was told that it had been checked through to my final destination. Y’all, there are no words to describe the emotions that went through me that morning. For starters, this was December, so it was cold. Then, it was raining in Paris, and Air France had this genius idea of having us deplane on the tarmac, catch a bus, get off said bus and switch to another bus which finally took us to our departure terminal; but not before I had walked through endless hallways. Oh, don’t forget I was carrying a 22lb baby and my trusted osprey backpack. Needless to say, I was exhausted beyond measure and have no idea how I survived that morning. On the return leg, I was quick to scream at the flight attendant who asked for my stroller. I wasn’t interested in whatever they had to say until they suggested they could hold it for me in the coat closet although it wasn’t standard policy. Only then did I hand over my “other” baby and I was all smiles when I got it back in Paris. I should mention that CDG – Charles de Gaulle Airport, does offer strollers in the terminals, but God alone knows what all the other million babies who have been in them have touched. I don’t even want to imagine it.
Pack ALL of them. The end. No really though, pack as much variety as you can but try to keep them light. I used to waste precious time at TSA checkpoints having my milk scanned for “je ne said quoi.” These days, we pack solid food only and milk is purchased from the nearest Starbucks. Every second counts when you have a knack for getting to the airport in the knick of time.
Like I mentioned above, entertainment is key when traveling with kids. I cannot stress this enough. And funny thing is, the older they get, the more crucial it becomes. So make sure you have favorite books, games, iPad, toys, stuffed animal, whatever keeps your kid entertained. Sometimes you will end up being the source of entertainment, and that’s okay too because as parents we have to take one for the team. Especially when we are trapped in a huge box at 40,000ft!
I hope this helps as you prepare to take your LO (Little One) on their first trip. I would like to say it gets better with time, but it doesn’t. I mean these days my daughter asks if I packed her stroller when we are headed to the airport, but as she’s super vocal, I’m scared she’s going to have her first tantrum while were stuck in the skies. It hasn’t happened yet and I hope it remains so!
Punctuality!!! Being on time is always a good idea when traveling because you never know what surprises TSA has in store for you on any given day. When traveling with a kid/kids, chances are you’re going to have milk+juices and other liquids on your person which calls for extra screening. You and your little one will be much better off giving yourself enough time to make it through security without getting overwhelmed. My suggestion, get to the airport at least an hour earlier than the recommended time. This should give you enough time to check in, validate your baby’s age if they are under 2 (some airlines require this), go through security and find your gate without getting overwhelmed. There’s a higher chance of forgetting stuff on the security carousel when we’re in a hurry and we don’t want that to happen do we?
So, let’s recap how to fly with kids:
Clothing: Skip the fashion and dress for comfort. PJ’s are the best.
Packing: Less is more. You never need as much as you think you do.
Mobility: A good travel stroller is key.
Food: Variety and light.
Entertainment: Favourites. Favourites. Favourites.
Bonus: Be on time!