By: Kristin Bugden
Kristin Bugden is a New Jersey-based mom and communications consultant. She loves to write, take barre classes and believes in a good reality television binge-watching session. Here, she shares her personal tips for flying with a baby.
When I was in college, I studied abroad in Australia, where I met the man who would eventually become my husband. Great timing, right? Fast forward to present day: We live in the U.S. and share a spunky 1-year-old daughter named Isabelle. This past summer, we made the decision to take Isabelle on her first trip abroad to Australia. It may sound intimidating to first-time parents – your worries are valid; it is intimidating! – but flying with a baby and living to tell the tale is possible. You’ll be calmer, cooler and more collected the next time you step foot in an airport with baby. Just keep these five tips in mind.
For the domestic leg of the journey from New York to California, my husband had accumulated a significant number of miles from work travel, so we were able to purchase a third seat for Isabelle. We found this quite helpful because we were able to strap her into her car seat which gave us a bit of a break from passing her back and forth and singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” for the fifteenth time. However, if you’d prefer not to shell out the cash for an extra seat, infants under 2 can fly free if they sit on an adult’s lap. If you choose to take this route, check out the seat map of your flight and try to select the areas with any extra room.
Most long-haul flights will have a couple bassinets attached to the bulkhead seats available for those traveling with infants, so definitely look into booking one. We found this essential during the 14+ hour flight from California to Australia not only because Isabelle could comfortably sleep, but also because we ended up turning it into a mini playpen of sorts for her.
I was so apprehensive leading up to the journey because I had no idea what to expect. An actual thought going through my head during that particular stressful time: "What if I’m one of those moms who goes viral because her kid screams the entire flight?!"
Reading about what other parents did to prepare for flying with a baby became therapeutic. One of the products I hadn’t thought of before, but found very useful, was a pair of baby noise-cancelling headphones like these. Airports and airplanes are loud and can be overstimulating for babies, and the headphones helped her to fall asleep more quickly.
I also read on a bunch of blogs to buy a new toy or book that the baby hasn’t seen before. It will keep them occupied. And that it did. Just throw a few trinkets in your carry-on or diaper bag. You and your baby will be glad you did.
Before I had a baby, I was one of those people who’d throw last-minute things into a bag as they’re literally running out the door to catch an Uber to the airport. After having a baby, I’ve learned to think ahead to avoid frantic level 100. So, what did I do? I started working on a packing list a month in advance. I made sure to get anything else we needed ahead of time to avoid a mad scramble to Buy Buy Baby the day before go-time.
When it comes to luggage, pack a few items in Ziploc bags so they’re readily available. For example, I had a bunch of diapers/wipes, cream, and a portable diaper changing mat in a Ziploc bag that I could just grab if I needed to change her during the middle of the flight.
Through this experience, I learned that fellow passengers who see you with a baby are actually a lot kinder than expected. Many people on the flight have been in your shoes and understand it's not easy. If you do get one or two cranky passengers, don't fret too much. It'll be over before you know it. Just remember you're doing the best you can. Also, babies cry. It happens.
Congrats! You've made it to your final destination. I felt like an actual warrior strolling out of the Brisbane airport. Now take the time to enjoy yourself and try not to think about the return journey. For now, at least.