So I am one of the world’s biggest homebodies.
I love getting to see new places, and when we travel I usually enjoy myself. (At least for a good portion of the trip.) But there’s so much that goes into travelling: making the preparations, packing, getting to the airport, flying, navigating through your destination… And for someone like me who struggles with anxiety? Sometimes even a trip that I’m anticipating can turn into a nightmare. I like being at home, in my familiar surroundings, with my cats and my bed. Do I sometimes wish I had the opportunity to see more of the world? Honestly, yes, but then I remember the feeling of having a panic attack in an airport and I wrap myself in my blanket and settle back onto my couch.
However, sometimes there are times when you have to travel. We, for instance, had to fly to Boston recently to go to a family funeral. My husband, who had already been struggling through a difficult time, didn’t want to go alone, so I took off work to go with him, and I just wasn’t ready to leave the baby overnight (much less several nights). So. We were going to be flying with an almost one year old. I was so worried everyone on the plan would hate us.
So you don’t have to worry like I did, though, here are a few easy tips to help make flying with baby a little easier!
1. You Don’t Have to Make Excuses
I made the experience way more stressful for myself than necessary simply because I was so worried about how R would behave. I always like to be considerate, and I could only imagine how awful I might make the flight for others if she had a meltdown! Yes, being considerate is a good impulse, but there was nothing I could do. We were taking her on the flight. It was happening. You don’t need to feel bad because you want to take a trip with your child, or because you have to take a trip with your child. Try to enjoy it as much as you can and handle any problems as they come.
2. Bring Things to Entertain
For my carry-on, I brought a diaper bag. I had a few of her favorite toys in the exterior pockets, a stuffed animal, and cookies. She ended up only wanting to take the iPad that I was using (no surprise there!), but I was glad I brought her little rice cookies because when she started getting fussy – and hungry – that settled her until I could feed her. It can be especially difficult when you have a baby like mine who doesn’t like sitting still or being held when it doesn’t suit her. R wanted to get down and explore! But redirecting her attention and focusing on her (instead of my book, which I’ll be honest I was looking forward to reading) helped keep her entertained.
3. Don’t Overpack
When you grab a few things to keep baby entertained, remember that you don’t need every toy! It can be tempting to prepare for every eventuality, but try to only take what you’ll absolutely need – your baby’s favorite toy or stuffed animal, for instance, or maybe a snuggly blanket you know can calm her down. If possible, don’t bring the things you can afford to buy while on your trip. We only brought a few diapers for airport changes, knowing we would be able to get diapers and wipes when we got there. Not having as much stuff to haul around can make things a lot easier!
And, extra tip: if you can, a rolling suitcase can be a lifesaver! I brought a duffel that I had to sling over my shoulder and carrying that while carrying a baby was really hard, especially in a crowded airport trying to get through security.
4. Board First or Last
If possible, start the flight off on the best foot possible. Usually, airlines will let families with small children board on the first group, and this really helped us get settled. We were able to get our seats, put our carry-ons up, and grab a toy before a lot of people were in the aisle waiting, which really helped keep things from getting too stressful! If you can’t board first, then boarding last is also a good option!
5. Don’t Forget a Carseat if You Need It
In retrospect, this seems so obvious, but we almost had a disaster on our hands! If you’re going to be travelling by car once you get to your destination, bring a car seat! You can check it just like a piece of luggage. I was a little worried it might get damaged, but ours was fine. I didn’t see this on any of the travel lists I browsed before leaving, so I wanted to make sure I passed this along!
Any other tips to share?
It can be very stressful flying with a baby, but it doesn’t have to be a bad experience! Try to be prepared and calm, and pay attention to your baby’s mood cues. Once we got in the air, I lowered the screen on the window and fed ours until she fell asleep. The flight wasn’t too long, but not having to fight with her to stay in her seat – which was what happened on the way home – made things a lot easier to handle! We had a good trip, and I hope that your first trip with your little one goes well, too! Feel free to share your experiences or any tips you have!