So in all honesty, we have only flown twice with Arabella now – one way to California and one way back haha. So I feel like these tips might change as she gets older and flies more, but I thought regardless, I would round up what I learned so I can share my limited knowledge with ya’ll.
First, I feel like it is important to clarify that this advice is mainly for domestic flights. For international there are a few differences I would recommend, but since I haven’t personally experienced it, I probably won’t touch on it too much.
I am going to break this down into sections to make it easier and keep in mind so many of these can be expanded even further, which I will most likely do with future posts.
Prior to Flight (days leading up to)
+ If possible gather your necessary documents for you and your child. This would include your driver’s license, baby’s vaccination record, and (if possible) baby’s birth certificate. For our domestic flight we did not need any documentation for Arabella (double check the status for your airline), however for an international flight you will need a passport for baby and/or birth certificate
+ Pack for baby: I did this in a roller bag that we took with us on the plane, that way, if we lost our luggage I would at least have everything I needed for her. I also included in here some extra formula, diapers, and wipes and then a change of shirt for myself in case she spit up on me or got poo on me (it happens).
+ Plan flight so it correlates with a nap. This will be helpful because it will most likely encourage your baby to sleep while on the plane. I know this can be impossible for some, but it’s worth a try. Earlier in the day is better too versus dealing with a baby during the witching hour.
+ Make a list of random things you might forget as you think of them. I just kept a running list on my phone so when I finished packing I could double check it and make sure I had all of those things. I will include a section on some random stuff you might not think to bring down below.
+ Make sure all of the gadgets you will need that are electronic, have been charged up or are plugged in. A few that come to mind are the sound machine and our bottle warmer (which actually did not get charged properly for our first flight, so double check everything).
+ Look up on a map where the nursing rooms are in comparison to your gate at the airports you will be at. They are actually pretty well marked (never noticed them before baby), but it is helpful to know the general vicinity, so it is one less thing for your to think about.
+ Ship or Amazon prime anything you can to your location. This doesn’t work for every type of trip, but it might be an option for some.
+ Know where the closest grocery store, Target, or drug store is in relation to where you will be staying. It’s helpful and reassuring to know where you can pick up anything you might have forgotten when you get there and takes an extra stress off of your plate.
+ Order any additional luggage or travel pieces you may need in advance. For example, our stroller has an additional travel bag you can purchase. You would want this in advance, obviously. Or perhaps you don’t have a pack n play…that would be something you need to order.
Day of Flight
+ Wear loose, comfortable clothing that you can remove in layers. I wore leggings, short sleeved t shirt and a pullover jacket. I went with something without a zipper because I knew I would be wearing Arabella and didn’t want her face rubbing on the zipper all day. Soft materials are best because they will be in your arms and on your chest a lot of the day.
+ Give yourself at least two hours prior to take off, but this does have some gray area to it. First, if you are not TSA pre-checked you may need even more time to get through security, especially if it’s a busy holiday. We are TSA checked and got through very quickly (less than 20 min) during Christmas time. If you will need to pump at the airport prior to flying, you want to incorporate that time in, as well. Lastly, you don’t want to give yourself TOO MUCH TIME because then you run the risk of having to entertain your baby prior to boarding. Goal is to get through security with enough time to grab some food, change baby, pump if needed (I made mine a short session with the knowledge that I could pump longer later), and board.
+ Plan to check as much as you possibly can. If you need a pack n play and/or a stroller/carseat one of your options is to actually check them. You would definitely want to check your pack n play, but the stroller/carseat depends….here are your options: 1. Push baby through airport in carseat that hooks to your stroller and check at the gate (Our Uppa Baby Vista does this, then all we have to do is check our car seat base) 2. Check car seat and car seat base, push baby in stroller and check at gate 3. Check both carseat and stroller prior to security 4. Do not bring either and rent or borrow or use a carrier when you get to your destination (I say this because my parents had both carseat and stroller, so we didn’t need any but in truth we could have gone without a stroller and just done walks with our carrier, so that’s an option too). It all just depends on what and where you are traveling to.
+ Make sure you eat. It is stressful flying with a baby. No matter how it actually goes, you are stressed, so just make sure you are eating good snacks and staying hydrated.
+ Pull out icepacks for milk/formula as the last thing you do before you leave the house. The icepacks can’t be thawed at all when you get to the airport, so make sure they are the last thing you pull out
+ Know exactly where everything is in your carryons. If your baby needs diaper cream, know which compartment your diaper cream is. When you are going to make a bottle, know exactly where all the pieces are, the milk/formula, your heating mechanism, etc. This will help you from rummaging around in your bag and getting frustrated when you put that random piece you need to make your bottle warmer work in a separate bag that you put nothing else in
+ Have your milk/formula in a separate bag. When you go through TSA, you can bring on as much milk as you would like. However, it will all need to be tested by the TSA agent, so it makes it so much easier if you put all of the supplies you need to feed baby in a separate bag. I used a lunch pail and just handed the lunch pail over to the TSA agent. They then knew where all of my milk was and were able to test it all at the same time.
+ Keep all of your stuff in a separate purse. I used a small cross body bag that held my cards, phone, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, and kindle. You could also do a fanny pack if that works better for you, but the crossbody was perfect for me.
+ Plan to either push baby in a stroller or wear them. I wore Arabella in our baby Bjorn, but you could also push the in their stroller too. See above on what to do with the stroller. Just take note that if you wear them, they will need to come out of their carrier for take off and landing
+ Wake up a little earlier and take a few moments in the morning to drink your coffee and take a breath. Enjoy this time and set your mind right. This will help to bring clarity on the day, trigger anything you might be forgetting, and just give you a moment before the long day ahead.
+ Take a deep breath. You are going to get through this and your trip is going to be SO worth it.
+ EXTRA: If there will be two of you flying together, when booking your flight, book an aisle seat and a window seat. Less people like to book middle seats, so best case scenario is that no one will take that middle seat and you will get an entire row to yourself. Worse case scenario, you offer the person in the middle seat to switch to the window. It’s truly a win-win with either outcome.
+ Baby needs to be sucking during take off and landing. This is something to think of leading up to the flight as well, because you don’t want to feed baby right before take off because then they won’t be hungry. This sort of takes some thought and you really don’t want to stick the bottle in their mouth until immediately at take off (so right as the wheels are coming off the ground). You can also have them suck on a paci, but not all babies take a paci, so make sure you factor this in. The thought process is because the pressure in their ears can be painful with the increase in elevation.
+ You get to board with group 1, so board early, take your time and get settled.
+ You get more carryons than you realize – a milk bag and your pumping bag are not considered carryons. So if you bring these on board (which if you pump at all, I highly recommend making sure you have your pump with you at all times), you still get two additional carryons. I took my diaper bag and my purse as my carryons and then John had his backpack and our roller bag with all of Arabella’s stuff in it. If you are alone, I would check the roller bag and just pack an extra outfit or two in your diaper bag.
+ The baby will sleep more than you know. I don’t know if it’s the air they pump or what, but typically the baby will sleep quite a bit. The older they get, the harder this will be, but Arabella had not difficulties sleeping on the plane and slept a large majority of it. She was 5 months for age reference.
+ Change baby right before you board and before landing (as needed in between). The last thing you want to worry about is a poopy diaper, but sometimes they are inevitable, but also the less time you can change them on the plane, the better. The bathroom is very tiny and hard to move around in.
+ Have flying toys. We kept a few of Arabella’s toys packed away for a week or so leading up to the flight so that when we pulled them out she was super excited to see them and was very interested in them. Some people even buy new toys for the adventure, which is a fun option too.
+ Remember that you will never see these people again and that the crying typically upsets you way more than it upsets others. Personally, this is why I wanted to fly during the day also, because less people would be trying to sleep. Some say to fly at night that way they sleep the entire time, but I also think flying during the day causes less angry passengers because they are already awake.
+ Wipe down everything in your seat. Baby will most likely touch everything, so I wiped down all the stuff around us with Sani wipes. I just pack 10-15 in a ziplock baggie and use those throughout our travel day. Keep in mind you may want more than that for the flight home if you won’t be able to stock more at where you are going.
+ You can request a bassinet in some flights that baby can sleep in, but you will need to do this ahead of time and it is based off of availability (my understanding is that most international flights have these, but I am unclear as to how present they are for domestic flights).
+ If you are making a bottle versus breastfeeding, make sure to have your bottle ready to give to baby prior to take off. What I did was when I got seated, I immediately started getting it ready. Now, be aware, baby may see it and be hungry because you have been pushing off your feeding, so they might fuss until take off, but fussing then versus the entire flight is a much better scenario and will be worth it when they are happily guzzling their bottle and not screaming at take off. You can heat up your bottle a few ways – 1. getting hot water from the flight attendant (I don’t recommend this because one on of my flights I heard a mom ask for some and they didn’t have any to give her because they hadn’t heated it up. The cups are also tiny and the water spills everywhere) 2. Use a Tommee Tippee (you would just fill this with hot water from a food place in the airport, downside is that it is big and heavier) 3. Use a Baby’s Brew (this is what we used and honestly jury is still out) 4. Fill a hydro flask with hot water (similar to above), and bring a cup or something to pour it into and place the bottle in.
What to Pack:
+ In my diaper bag: In a gallon sized ziplock I put two extra outfits (more if you are checking baby’s stuff), extra bib, two burp cloths, socks, hat. I then packed enough diapers for a day and had more in her carryon, wipes, butt cream, teething gel, two extra pacis (I also had one in my crossbody), changing pad (my diaper bag has one), three toys, two extra bottles (for a total of six bottles for 5 month old), sanitizer wipes, hand sanitizer, a baby blanket (you can pack two if you feel like you need an additional), extra formula, bottle wipes in case I needed to clean any, extra ziplock bags in case of poopie clothes, and my bottle warmer method. If you are checking their clothes, I would also then pack an extra shirt for you in case.
+ Baby Food: I had enough bottles for the day already made up in case of flight delays and/or needing extra feeds (which is true, just like us their tummy gets all weird when flying so she ate more smaller meals) in my milk bag. Then I had enough formula for four additional bottles with two extra bottles in my diaper bag. If you use formula, they do have pre-made formula which is super handy. All you have to do is put a nipple on it (and a lot of times because they don’t need to be cold, they are room temperature which baby may take so then you don’t have to heat them), but this may not be an option for everyone and their baby.
+ Pump bag: In this bag I had my fully charged pump, a wash cloth (I always had one when I pumped), sterilizing bags, extra milk bags, my extra pump parts, etc. Essentially all that I would need to pump with if we got delayed somewhere. Just make sure you have a method and/or space for storing whatever your pump for the day. For example, you will need space in your lunch pail for your pumped milk, so maybe you pack less milk and just anticipate using whatever your pump.
+ Randomness you might forget: blackout curtain for destination, sound machine (charged and ready to go), sleep sack, books, baby Tylenol, teething gel, nasal suction, boogie wipes, aquaphor, all your pump pieces, way to warm up bottle….
Extra Things to Remember:
+ Dress baby in a warm, easy to access diaper, outfit. I put Arabella in the magnetic pjs, that way when I needed to change her, I could do it fast and not have to worry about buttons.
+ Use a paci clip that way you don’t have to worry about the paci dropping on the ground
+ You will get through this and it will be okay. The first time is the hardest and then it gets easier from there
+ People are always nice to other people with a cute baby. It’s true. It was like the Red Sea parting for us. Everyone was so kind, let me go ahead of them, asked if I needed anything etc.
+ You could pump prior to take off and give that bottle to baby during take off so you don’t have to worry about heating something. You could use this method throughout if that works for you (pump, then feed), but then you will have to pump on the plane if it is a longer flight.
+ If you breast feed, you can absolutely just breastfeed for all feeds and not worry about bringing food, etc.
+ You will NEVER SEE THESE PEOPLE AGAIN. Baby cries whole flight = worst case scenario. YOU WILL NEVER SEE THESE PEOPLE AGAIN.
Now, I am sure I am forgetting a few things, but I think I got the large majority down. It is definitely a learning process and I am sure I will have more to add after our next flight which will be this Saturday! As always, feel free to let me know your thoughts or questions via the comments sections below, message me on IG, or via email! Happy Wednesday my friends!