Flying With an Infant? Here’s How to Hack the Experience
Flying with an infant doesn’t have to be hard. We rounded up the experts to hack the experience.
A big part of my job over the last several years has been frequent travel to all corners of the world. I generally don’t far and wide for the first few month’s of my children’s lives, but by the time they’re three to four months old they’re generally tagging along with me for long haul flights, adventures, and escapes. Why? Partially because they’re tethered to me thanks to breastfeeding, but beyond that I truly love all the one on one time If it’s done right, flying with an infant can actually be a beautiful opportunity to unwind, disconnect from outside stresses like work and chores, and have close bonding time.
I know, I sound crazy, but it’s all about the technique and small hacks to make the experience a positive one. I gathered all the best intel out there from parenting experts and veteran travelers, plus added my own two cents and experiences from flying with an infant so many times.
Try booking your tickets around normal nap or sleep schedules for starters.
“Fly when they’ll be napping especially if they’re under 2,” shares Vanessa Alfano. “Even if it’s not the most convenient in other ways, it will save you a lot of stress.” If you’re on a three hour flight from New York to Miami, your little one sleeping through an entire hour of the flight will alleviate so much effort.
Don’t be bullied into uncomfortable feeding situations.
It seems like the rules for breastfeeding your infant on a plane vary from airline to airline and maybe even flight to flight, but generally speaking if you’re relatively covered and considerate of other passengers, you’re welcome to feed your baby. “”On our general approach to breast feeding, we welcome nursing mothers on board and we ask that crew members do their best to ensure their comfort and safety as they do with all customers,” shared one United Airlines spokesperson. When you’re flying with an infant you’re always welcome to bring bottles of breastmilk, formula, and food on board — just make sure you tell security what you’ve packed.
Speaking of feeding, make it fun
Flying can be arduous and uncomfortable for little ones, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Deena Blanchard MD, MPH, FAAP Partner at Premier Pediatrics, and pediatric expert at Ella’s Kitchen, suggests packing squeeze tubes of healthy baby food for flights. If you’re baby is old enough to enjoy a slushy, you can pre-freeze some of the slightly sweet flavors for a more exciting we’re-going-on-vacation approach. “One quick, easy and fun way to give your little one a healthy snack is to stock your travel bags with a variety of fun flavors and textures with organic pouches like Ella’s Kitchen pouch such as pears, pears pears or broccoli, pears and peas. You can even freeze some pouches and serve them as a slushy on the plane.”
If you’re flying with an infant closer to the 6 months mark and still needing to spoon-feed, there’s an easier way than bringing a ton of extra wipes, clothes, bibs, and cleaning gear (which will all be necessarily if you try to do this the old fashioned way). This genius baby spoon is cheap, easy to use, and lets you fill up the handle with the puree of your choice and squirt little bits of it into the little mouth-sized spoon head at your will.
Literally all you will need is a packet or two of food, the spoon, and a flight without turbulence. This is possibly the best $8 you will ever spend to guarantee you arrive at your final destination with clean clothes.
Bring the right stroller
If you look online, there’s a lot of discussion from every sponsored mommy blogger under the sun about their favorite umbrella, convertible, or other style of plane-ready stroller. What I’m going to tell you as a mom of four kids ages eight and under (the youngest is only five months), is that you absolutely need to go with practicality. Forget the mom blogger who says “but the denim trim is so chic.” Forget the mom blogger who travels with two nannies and insists on packing the world’s heaviest stroller because it “rolls so well over the hills of Tuscany.”
If you haven’t already heard of or seen the Doona, get acquainted, because it’ll change the way you fly with an infant, but also the way you travel in your day to day life as well. No, it’s not cheap, but it’s worth every penny and I’ll explain why. This easy to push stroller transforms from a carseat to a stroller without any extra attachments or gear, is comfy, and easily seats a baby from birth all the way through around 30 pounds or so, which for a lot of parents means a couple years of use. You can forget investing in a new carseat every six months, buying tons of gear, or schlepping heavy strollers.
Here’s where it gets really interesting (and worth every penny), though: you don’t need to bring the carseat base with you. You can easily use a seatbelt in a safety compliant way to install the Doona in your car or a plane seat without any additional gear. This is basically unheard of, magical, and the stuff parenting dreams are made of.
You need an adjustable seatbelt and about 30 seconds of your time to make it happen the right way. What a beautiful thing, because this means you’ll be able to safely and easily take taxis from the airport with your little one, too. The Doona stroller retails for $499 and comes in green, black, red, and pink.
It may be worth it to buy the extra seat
“Although kids under two fly free on your lap, consider investing in a seat for them,” shares Travelzoo‘s senior editor, Gabe Saglie. That way you can use your convertible carseat-stroller, right?
Bring more than you think you need
“If you think you need four bottles, diapers, snacks, etc. with you, pack eight,” explains baby gear expert Vanessa Antonelli. “You can never predict flight delays, so its always great to have extras!”
Yes, the iPad works wonders
“I always have videos on my cell phone for my baby that are ready to roll,” shares Audrey McClellan of Mom Generations and mother to 5 little (and big) ones.
“I’ll download movies, video clips and musical videos. It’s a wonderful way to keep your baby entertained while you’re traveling. I’ve been doing this for 12 years!”
Bring a plastic bag or two, will ya?
“Bring a plastic baggie to contain potential stinky diapers,” says Megan Zander, a writer at Scary Mommy. “The flight attendant will gladly take it from you and they’ll appreciate you keeping the restroom less stinky for everyone else.”
Bring a bottle and be friendly
While it may be hard to stay calm and smiley when faced with the pressure of flying with an infant, that’s exactly what you need to do. “For a baby under one year, give them a bottle to drink when the plane is taking off to minimize the pressure on their ears,” explains Elisheva Friedman. Her philosophy of friendship and tranquility helps ease the stress for the entire cabin, too.
“Make friends with the crew members early on, and instead of apologizing. Express your immense gratitude for their assistance and patience. The same goes for neighbors as well. A smile, and maybe earplugs to share with neighbors, goes a long way.”
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