Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Summer Vacation: Plane Travel with a Baby

Every summer, my husband's very large extended family gathers in Cape Cod. Each of his aunts and uncles, and now the cousins with their own families, rent a house and everyone shuffles around to visit. In our pre-baby years, we rose early and jumped in the car to make the 15 hour drive in one, yes ONE, day. It was exhausting but we maximized our vacation time at the Cape.

The problem though, is you have to reserve the house pretty soon after the vacation week for the following year (~11 months), and last year we did that. Only, we didn't know we would have a two month old to pack up that coming summer!

As first time parents, I chalk it up to naïveté, but we will pretend like we just couldn't bare to miss a summer trip to Cape Cod. One thing I knew for sure though, we were flying instead of driving. I was so nervous since Mr. G was a colicky baby, but with some careful planning, everything worked out just fine!

Here are my tips for flying with a tiny baby (under 6 months):
  • Check as much as you can, even though you have to pay it is worth it to not be hauling luggage, and you can pack a little more freely with things like baby lotion and wash. 
  • Two words (if your child takes a pacifier): BINKY CLIP
  • It might sound awkward, but I carried on my Boppy as a personal item (no one objected!) and that was a life saver. In addition to nursing, it gave baby a clean, cozy place to sleep in my lap.
  • We were a little nuts about worrying whether Mr. G would scream incessantly and packed a bag of ear plugs to pass out to neighbors if needed. We didn't use them! Even if he had cried, all my attention would have been focused on doing whatever necessary to get him quiet and I think people would have appreciated that effort more. Also most people are really nice as long as you are being an attentive and respectful parent!
  • I was still breastfeeding every 2-3 hours for this trip, but for a few reasons decided it might be easier to pump expressed milk and use a disposable bottle/nipple for the airport. I had no trouble carrying on 24 oz of milk in a cooler with an ice pack. At security they just waved a piece of test paper over the containers since I asked for it to not be X-rayed. I also packed my pump and accessories in my carryon backpack (see below). 
  • Have your baby suck a bottle or binky, or breastfeed for takeoff to help with pressure. I'm not sure if this made a difference, but it was at least a good distraction!
  • Wear pants or a hoodie with pockets!
  • If your baby likes it (but practice beforehand!), wear him or her in a baby carrier. You will have to take little one out a few times but it makes navigating the busy airport terminals easier. 
  • Look for family restrooms. As soon as I got to a new terminal, off the plane, or waiting for luggage, I asked the first official person where the closest one was located. Not only can you spread out because they have more room, I found them to be cleaner and everyone fits!
  • I had a stroller/car seat travel system, but opted to get a lightweight car seat carrier stroller for plan travel. It was much easier to manage and I wasn't as concerned about damage from gate checking. 
    • You can gate check a car seat and stroller. For the car seat, I used a large cloth laundry bag to at least cover it from smudges and dirt. NOTE: It's now widely recommended that babies ride in car seats on the plane both for their safety and to prevent damage to the seat. See my upcoming posts for tips on this and plane travel with a toddler. 
  • Instead of your adorable color coordinated diaper bag, use a large backpack as your carry on so your hands are free. It's also way easier to have something on your back (and baby in front) for boarding. In it:
    • feeding essentials
    • diapering essentials
    • change of clothes for baby
    • extra binkies
    • extra shirt for mom
    • a few small toys/books
    • iPhone/iPad or whatever you use with a white noise app
    • extra muslin swaddle or receiving blanket
    • hand sanitizer, wipes
    • an extra pair of baby socks (put these on little one's hands if you have to use the airplane lavatory for a diaper change to prevent grabbing of gross germy items!)
    • Nursing cover if needed
    • Pump/accessories if needed
Please excuse the tired no makeup or hairbrush mommy face and focus on the sleeping baby! Oy!

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