This post is dedicated to first time moms traveling for the first time because I’ll bet any mom that has traveled with an infant more than once will have additional tips and tricks of the trade. Feel free to share by using the comment link below. Here we go…
-When you purchase your flight, you’ll need to let the airlines know you are traveling with an infant. If you buy your ticket online, some sites will have a box you check but others won’t. Sometimes you have to pick up the good ol’ telephone and give em’ a little jingle to inform them of the parasite traveling on you. They don’t need to know if you have crabs or lice, however, just a baby. You’ll also need to make a copy of your baby’s birth certificate or birth record or immunization record (anything that has his birthday on it). Bring this with you, as you’ll need it to check in. I usually leave a copy in the diaper bag because it’s easy to forget. If you do forget it, they can call your pediatrician’s office and have them fax something over… but that only works if the office is open and even then there is the obvious delay. It pays to have your shit together, trust me.
-Pack the night before. Leave a little note for the time fairy begging and pleading for this to be made possible. Leave a list on top of your suitcase for things you’ll need to add in the morning. For me, this list included things like the white noise maker (which we use every night), the swaddle sac (also used every night), pumping supplies (used every morning).
-Come up with a breastfeeding game plan. I like to feed just before we leave the house and then during take off and landing. Make sure you pack your hooter hider or blanket in your carry on. Or let it all hang out. Seriously, the seats are so close together that the weird guy next to you would probably have to lean forward and kink his neck in your direction to sneak a peek of your ta-tas anyway. And if you do spy a creeper, just tell em’ your milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. And then squirt em’ in the face.
-Have your travel companion (if you’re so lucky) drop you off curbside with all the stuff… because lets face it, if you’re traveling with a little munchkin, you’ll have the dreaded “stuff” I speak of: luggage, stroller, car seat, car seat base, sanity, good attitude, patience… it call gets dropped off curbside. As a side note, it’s easier to travel with a snap-n-go. I leave Van in the car seat/snap-n-go until boarding and then check the whole contraption in at the gate. You can pick up the proper tags at the gate. I check the base of the car seat in (which is always free of charge), along with the big luggage (not always free of charge. Screw you, Delta.), before going through security. As a side note, if you’re not knowledgeable about hooking the car seat into the car, you should review this before you leave to make the transition into the car at your destination smooth. I always review it with Willy before I leave if I’m traveling by myself. There’s nothing worse than getting to where you’re going only to be held up by trying to figure out the car seat. This situation is made worse if you have a crying baby to top it off. Save yourself the frustration.
-When you check in, inquire if the flight is full. Try to hold your infant in your arms when you ask (to rake in the sympathy points). And if your baby is cute (ha! I joke, they’re all cute), turn him toward the lady (fingers crossed it’s a lady… or an older man… or just a sympathetic person) and lift up baby’s arm to give em’ a little wave. If the flight is not full, ask if they could kindly leave the seat next to you open. This has happened to me several times and each of these times I felt like a lottery winner. Seriously, it’s the best.
Some airlines don’t assign seats and allow you pick your seat as you get on to the plane. If this is the case, don’t clean the spit up off your baby’s onesie and fart so there’s a nice aroma in the air as they pass you (because they will pass you. No one wants to sit by a baby, let alone a smelly baby. Despite their reluctance to be your neighbor, these will be the same people that tell you how cute your baby is and praise you for how good your baby was. These lovely compliments only come after the plane has landed and only if your baby was seen and not heard. No one says anything nice beforehand, carefully reserving the right to hate you and your child should your child ruin their flight).
If your baby does cry, try all your tricks (duh, right?). If nothing works, get over it. It’s not your fault. You don’t have any more control than the drunken fool two rows behind you. Hate the game, not the player = Hate the high altitude ear poppin’ pain, not the baby. If you get a dirty look, give em’ the good ol’ tongue. You thought I was going to say finger, huh? Nope, the old-school stickin’ your tongue out like a sassy second grader is the card I play in this situation. Really though, as you walk off the plane leave it all behind and enjoy your trip.
-How did we already get on the plane without mentioning the dreaded security? Back to before you get the whole shebang on the plane… Going through security can be a pain the ass with or without a baby. As fate would have it, it seems as though every time we wheel up to security, the baby is asleep. When the sleeping baby was Hooper and I was a first time mom, I couldn’t believe they’d make me wake a sleeping baby. I thought for sure I’d be an exception to whatever rule. Turns out the TSA agents are not the ones gloating over a sleeping child. Nor are they the ones responsible for getting that child back to sleep. Thus, they don’t give a shit about you and your sleeping baby. Just like the shoes and the belt and the wallet and every last straggling dime in your pocket, the car seat goes onto the belt. As a result, you must wake your little one up and carry him through with you. This never fails to piss me off and I always have to remind myself that I ought to hate the terrorists, not the TSA agent. But, without fail I leave security wanting to slap someone. In any case, this is why you pack your patience and good attitude.
-If you’re traveling with breast milk, review both the law (you can bring milk on a plane, even if it exceeds the 4oz. limit) and storage instructions. While I was in Utah, I kept to my pumping schedule (I pump 2 to 3 times a day in addition to breastfeeding) and thus had milk to bring back with me. Because milk cannot be frozen, then thawed, then frozen again, I stored my milk in the fridge while in Utah, then packed it with a bag of ice for the flight, and then froze it when I got home. If you’re going on a long flight with milk, it’s best to bring a zip lock bag and refill the ice as you travel to keep the milk cold. You can get ice from a restaurant near your gate as well as from the flight attendants. If you’re worried about the TSA agents giving you trouble, you may want to print out a copy of what the law says to keep with you. I did this once for piece of mind, but honestly have never had a problem.
Hope these tips are helpful. Feel free to share your tips and tricks too! Best of luck and hope I’m not the unlucky lady (did I really just refer to myself as a lady? I prefer girl… adult girl) who gets stuck sitting next to you and your crying smelly child. I’ll totally give you the stink eye. Just kidding.
As a side note… If you are a man reading this… or even a nice non-child totting woman… help the lady and her baby out. Hold the door, help squish her carry-on into that much too tiny overhead compartment, offer to hold her baby (only if you really want to hold him, of course) while she buckles her seat belt… I cannot tell you how many people have walked right past me while I’ve struggled to get a stroller up stairs. I silently say very mean things to them and if, by chance, they trip… I laugh and roll past them.