Before the flight
– Fly early in the day! I can’t stress this enough. We have tried numerous flight patterns and times, and without a doubt, this has worked best. Let the baby sleep in the car on the way to the airport, keep him up a couple hours until on the plane, and then let him fall back to sleep for a few hours while in the air. You have to know your own baby to know what will work best for you, but I think in general, the earlier the better.
– Consider upgrading to economy plus for extra legroom. If you’re flying with an airline that offers this (like United’s Economy Plus), check into the price to see if it’s worth it to you. For short 1-2 hour flights, I probably wouldn’t swing for it, but if you’re traveling 3-4 hours? It definitely might be worth the extra $25.
– Make sure baby is on your itinerary as “infant in arms”. You’ll have to call the airline after booking your ticket to have them add this manually. We haven’t figured out a way to do this while booking online via Southwest, so if there’s some trick out there that we’re not aware of, please let me know!
– Check if your baby needs a separate ticket. Some airlines require a separate boarding document instead of simply listing an infant on mom or dad’s ticket. You should be able to print this at home along with your other tickets (or get a copy when you check-in).
– Consider investing in TSA Pre-Check. Especially if you or your spouse flies a lot for work. That way the whole family can go through the Pre-Check line together as long as you are booked on the same itinerary. Having this perk not only allows you to shorten your wait time at security significantly, but you’ll have some advantages like keeping small liquids and laptops in your bag and not having to take your shoes off.
– Not sure what exactly you should bring? This list should help:1 large suitcase with clothes, toiletries and a few toys, a stroller, a baby carrier, a car seat (and a travel bag to protect if from dings and scuffs), 1 backpack (partner’s carry on/for electronics, etc.), and 1 baby bag (mom’s carry on/for baby stuff). We only pack enough diapers and wipes to get us to our destination, and then buy more when we get there (have you ever tried to pack diapers in a suitcase? SO MUCH WASTED SPACE!)
– Check with your airline on which baby items can be checked for free. Most US airlines will let you check one stroller and one car seat at no extra charge. And while most don’t advertise it in their policies, we’ve gotten away with checking a pack and play for free on Delta and United as well (we might’ve just had really nice ticket counter agents though, so don’t bank on it!)
In the Airport
– Always check-in online (you do this anyway, right??), so all you have to do at the airport is check your luggage.
– Use the curbside baggage check if you can. You’ve checked in online already, so there’s no need to wait at the ticket counter if you don’t have to. But, for us, those first few minutes unloading are usually pretty awkward. Between getting Evelyn out of the car seat and into the ErgoBaby, and then packing up the car seat to be checked, along with wrangling all of our other stuff, I’m never quite prepared to hop right out of the car and hand all of our stuff away. Someday maybe we’ll get there. But if you can manage, it’ll save you time and your back from having to lug all your stuff all inside.
You’ve made it this far and you’re almost through the worst of it. Stay strong!
– Wear shoes you can easily slip on and off. Because it’s not exactly easy to bend over and tie your shoes when you’re wearing a baby on your chest. If you’re using TSA Pre-Check, then even better, the shoes can stay on!
– Take your bottle/breast milk out of your carry-on for testing. I touched on this already, but to speed up the screening process, go ahead and take these out right away and put them in a separate bin, so security doesn’t have to go rummaging through your bag looking for them (whoops, guilty!).
In the Terminal
You’ve made it to the gate…now time to hurry up and wait!
– If you need to warm breast milk, bring an insulated mug that your bottle can fit inside. Ask the nearest coffee place to fill it halfway with hot water – instant bottle warmer! Most baristas will be glad to help once they understand what it’s for.
– The worst part of plane travel with babies (or kids in general) really is all the waiting. Once you’re at the gate, it’s time to go into full distraction mode. Make sure you have enough different toys, snacks, and (if appropriate) videos stashed on your phone to keep baby happy and engaged.
– Do one last diaper change before boarding. And don’t wait in line for the bathroom. Most airports now have a designated “mother’s room”, but it might be hidden inside the women’s bathroom, so you may have to do some snooping.
ON THE PLANE
– If you have assigned seating, wait until the very last moment to board the plane. Although it’s no fun waiting in an airport, it’s 10x worse to be waiting on a plane. Sure you could use the family boarding, but what’s the point? Once your baby is starting to get mobile, the cramped airplane seat will drive them nuts. You don’t want to be on the plane any longer than you need to be. Now, this is not to say you should go off and get a coffee until you hear the final call. Be ready to go, right at the gate, where the attendant can see you.
– Be friendly. While waiting in the gate area and as you walk down the aisle to find your seat, smile and show everyone how CUTE your baby is.
– Take a window seat for the most space and privacy. I by far prefer a window to an aisle with a baby. You have a little bit of a buffer if they get wiggly and you can pull up the window shade for an easy “peek out of the window” distraction. Baby can also easily sleep in your arms without having to worry about their hanging their feet into the aisle or getting bumped by the drink cart. Some will say that an aisle seat is better, because you can easily escape in case you need to walk the aisle or change a diaper in the restroom. Maybe that’s true on longer haul flights, but personally, I don’t feel those advantages outweigh giving up the extra space.
-Try to snag a whole row. Although this is becoming less and less of an option (with flights nearly always being oversold these days), it’s worth a shot. Start by asking the flight attendant if you’re on a full flight. If there are several open seats, head for the back of the plane with you and baby on the window and your spouse on the aisle. Chances are, your middle will be left open (seriously, who wants a middle seat in the back of the plane next to a baby) and you’ll have more room to spread out. If someone does come foil your plan, your spouse can just slide over to the middle. The flight attendants will even nonchalantly try help you with your cause, so don’t worry about being “sneaky”. They see it all the time and would prefer to give you that empty seat if they have a choice.
– Once settled in, take your baby out of the carrier. You aren’t allowed to “wear” them during take-off or landing, but you can during the flight (no idea where that logic comes from).
– Ask the flight attendant for a small bottle of water if needed. And right away when you board, no need to wait for the drink cart.
– But, hold onto your bottle as long as you can. I never realized just how much time was spent boarding and taxiing until I flew with a baby. It is true, what they say, that giving a bottle during take-off can help baby’s ears adjust to the pressure changes. So if they are content for the moment, wait to give them a bottle until you a cleared for take-off. That said, never hold off your baby so long that it upsets him. A hungry baby is far worse than a baby with hurting ears.
In the Air
– Tether small toys to your wrist so they can’t be dropped and be prepared to alternate between them frequently. Now’s not the time for teaching patience. Break all the rules! Eat lots of snacks. Watch TV. Rip the pages out of the in-flight magazines. Bash together a couple bags of peanuts for an hour. Whatever keeps baby occupied and happy.
– Have your phone stocked with baby videos or games. This obviously doesn’t apply to little bitty babies.
– Scope out the bathrooms. Some planes have changing tables in every bathroom. Some only have them in the front or the back. And some really small planes don’t have them at all. Ask a flight attendant beforehand so you can prepare your game plan. In a pinch, changing a diaper in your seat really isn’t so bad (and can actually be easier for small babies).
– And finally, don’t use the water! Don’t use it for rinsing a bottle or paci and definitely don’t use it for drinking. I never realized how bacteria-infested airplane bathroom water was until one flight attendant nearly went into a panic when she thought Matt was going to rinse Evelyn’s bottle in the lavatory. Flight attendants will be more than happy to give you lots and lots of bottled water for rinsing, or you can use these Dr. Brown’s wipes to clean bottles or anything else that hits the floor.
That’s everything! Gear up and have a safe, well prepared for flight!
10 Awesome Travel Accessories Every Traveler Must Have
Best Places to Travel in December
Travel in December is a good idea for you if you want a vacation that is during the slow season. Here are the best places to travel in December, when everyone else is home celebrating the holidays.
Here are more places to travel in December. Enjoy!
Read next: surfing the world’s longest wave in Brazil
The Ultimate American Road Trip: Route 66
If you’re looking for the omega American road trip then you’ve got to hit the Mother Road, otherwise known as Route 66. From Chicago to LA, it’s a journey that’ll provide the experience of a lifetime, showing you the heart of a great nation.
Start in Chicago & Chase the Sun
In reality, the best always head west. Would you rather end the trip in the Windy City, or just in time to catch a gorgeous L.A. sunset on the beach? There’s just something deeply spiritual for folks when we head west. It becomes an adventure. It becomes a vehicular voyage to the sea. Here are some of the highlights you can expect in order:
• Illinois: It’s a pretty straight shot through the state from Chicago through Springfield (which has some stretches of restored Route 66) and southwest to St. Louis. There’s a bit of the bright lights of big cities, but also a good calm stretch of rural to cruise through as well; vast fields of corn and farmland for close to 300 miles.
• Missouri: Once you hit East St. Louis you’ll again be greeted by sky scrapers, industrial areas and the mark of modernity but then it’s another SE straight shot through the entire belly of the state.
• Kansas: You’re only going to spend a little time in the good’ol Kansas heartland. And by little we mean a whopping 14 miles far down in the bottom south east corner. You’ll go through two towns: Galena and Baxter Springs but rest assured there’s great classic restaurants and places that’ve been open as long as Route 66 has been around. In fact, it’s because of road tripper like you just passin’on through that keep’em goin.
• Oklahoma: You’re going to go through two huge metropolises that have “country” written all over’em: Tulsa first and then into Oklahoma City before heading directly west towards the Pan Handle. Of all 8 states, it’s here that they take Route 66 the most seriously. It’s got the most preserved still-drivable miles and you’ll be able to see the remnants of Kiowa, Apache and Comanche Native American land. And, you’ll get to take the same route as families long ago in the Dust Bowl took to escape.
• Texas: You’re going to go through the upper tip of the Texas Pan Handle that takes you through Amarillo. It looks short on a map but the 200-mile stretch of plains is a sight to behold like none other. If you can time it so you cut through here in the afternoon on a sunny day your spirit will be recharged. Just try not to pay any attention to all the truckers!
• New Mexico: Welcome to the Land of Enchantment where you’ll pass through Sun Belt city and Albuquerque. These days, it can be a bit challenging to stay strictly on the old road but with all the sandstone mesas and pine forests it’s definitely worth it.
• Arizona: In Arizona you’ll stay in the northern plains rather than heading down into the really hot areas around Phoenix. Instead, you’ll pass directly through Flagstaff which is a mountain town and where Northern Arizona University is located. The sights here are like a completely different world from everything you’ve seen so far, especially once you begin to head south right before passing into California. Oh, and because of the high speeds on the I-40, this will feel like one of those awesome car track days.
• California: Once you reach this point get ready to cruise through rolling hills, vineyards, orchards, stunning landscapes and then at Barstow you should begin smelling the sea. From San Bernardino and Pasadena to Santa Monica it’s simply breathtaking.
This is only a taste of the experience really. You’ve just got to get out and do it. There’s plenty of great resources online to keep you on track and if you have the time you don’t have to miss a thing. Enjoy!