Nothing could prepare me for my baby’s first flight. It was scary, memorable, and joyful all at once. Half of me was all proud mama, eager to take our first trip of many and amazed at how much my son had grown in his first 2 months of life. On the other hand, I’m an anxious flyer to begin with and didn’t know what to expect from my little one. Would we be the seemingly awful parents with the uncontrollable kid?
Fortunately, our baby’s first flight to Austin was mostly uneventful. I won’t lie – it’s easier to travel solo or as a couple. Would I do it again? Absolutely.
Read on to see my tips for surviving your baby’s first flight. Want a copy of my free, minimalist packing list for baby? Scroll to the end of this post to get yours!
Start with a short trip.
Our flight to Austin was actually split into two separate flights, no longer than three hours per stretch. We were relieved to have layovers where we could stretch out, grab food and water, and change Izzy in a normal-sized restroom. We would have all been feeling more antsy if we were cooped up in our seats for any longer!
Part of this is because a domestic flight will be shorter (see point one). An international flight also requires additional documentation – yes, even babies need a passport! You’ll have to go through customs and, depending on the country, an international trip may also require you to obtain visas. A domestic flight will remove all these factors from the equation, minimizing the risk of forgetting something important in your sleep-deprived state.
Consider a membership to a lounge.
Having access to airport lounges can make your family’s trip exponentially more comfortable. Who wouldn’t want refreshments, comfy seating, TV, and charger outlets while you wait for a flight? Military families can take advantage of the USO, while premier lounge access is included with membership in the Global Entry program. In fact, Global Entry membership is one of my top gift ideas for a travel-loving mom.
Be wary of plane germs.
Planes are covered with germs and there’s no 100% guaranteed way to protect your little one from catching something. We kept Izzy in a carrier unless he needed a diaper change, used our own pad on top of the changing surface, and he still caught a stomach bug. In case this happens to you, make sure your pediatrician’s number is saved and you know of a clinic at your destination where you can go in case things get serious.
Use a baby carrier.
It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of baby carriers. On a flight, they can be lifesavers in several ways. If you didn’t buy baby his own seat, a carrier keeps him on your lap while freeing up your hands. There’s no need to carry around a bulky stroller and worry that your expensive piece of baby gear will get damaged in cargo. It keeps your baby close to you, which will provide comfort. I also used my wrap as a nursing cover to discreetly feed Izzy during the flight.
Plan ahead for diapering, feeding, and napping.
The three main things a young baby does is poop, eat, and sleep. If you consistently meet these three needs during your trip, she will be happy (maybe).
Know in advance how you’ll feed your baby and whether you’ll need to bring milk, formula, or baby food on the plane. You’re allowed to bring as much as you want and need, by the way, so if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, be firm!
Ask your flight attendants where the changing tables on the plane are as soon as possible. Will you hold baby while she naps or will you need to request a bassinet from the flight crew? Knowing these things ahead of time will allow you to keep your cool if your little one starts fussing.
Maintain parts of your home routine.
Every piece of parenting literature will tell you that babies thrive on routine. Travel will naturally disrupt that routine, but think about what parts of it you can carry over during your trip.
If your baby listens to white noise during bedtime, consider playing some quietly from your phone when it’s time to sleep. If he has a favorite book, bring it with you to read together on the flight. You can try some of my travel-inspired favorites if you need ideas.
Accept that you can’t control your baby.
Before we had kids, it was easy to judge parents whose kids wouldn’t stop screaming. It’s one thing to have an older child behave inappropriately, but babies need to cry and fuss to communicate their needs.
Izzy had just one screaming fit during our trip. It lasted maybe five minutes but felt like an eternity. I, the inexperienced new mom, went into panic mode because nothing calmed him and I worried about disturbing other passengers. In that moment, no one on that plane wanted him to stop crying more than I did – I’m sure of it.
I came away from this experience with a great deal more sympathy towards parents traveling with screaming babies. Be patient with yourself – and other new parents.
Pack only the essentials.
Since having a baby we’ve accumulated so much more stuff. I loaded my registry with all the “essentials” and we didn’t even buy/receive a good chunk of it. Guess what? We didn’t really need any of it anyway.
The market for baby products is huge, but you’re likely to not need most of those things. Remember those three basic needs I mentioned earlier? Think about what you must have to fulfill those needs and leave the rest at home. To make things easier, I have a minimalist packing list for baby’s first flight, based on what we packed. Click below to download it and get access to Den & Sky’s entire resource library!
Subscribers – This freebie will be waiting for you in the Resource Library! No need to sign up again.
Have you ever flown with a baby?
What advice would you add? Let me know in the comments!