How to Fly With a Baby

  1. Book flight
  2. Start waking up at random times of the night convinced this is a horrible idea – have panic attack
  3. Call airline to change seats – maybe that row will be better?
  4. Pray
  5. Take Valium
  6. Pray harder – maybe light some votives at St Pat’s?
  7. Over pack diaper bag in hopes shiny new toys will make flight bearable
  8. Debate merits of stroller or carrier or both for the airport with partner for hours
  9. Take more Valium
  10. Board plane, buy round of drinks for surrounding rows
  11. Give up control – you have no idea how this is gonna play out

…at least that’s how I do it.

Honestly I could write a pretty serious post on this subject for you, but many other people have done it before for much longer trips- Google if you’re looking for something serious.

While Jack has now flown on four round trip flights none of them have been longer than an hour and 15 minutes one way and honestly, that’s about as long as he can go for. That’s about as long as WE can go for. The primary rule of flying with a baby has to be: KNOW YOUR BABY. Jack has been a squirmy baby since he was born. And a shitty sleeper. Those people who can head out on night flights and have the kid sleep? I envy you. I shoot darts with my hate filled eyes in your direction. Jack would never stand for that shit. No sir. If conditions are perfect he will nap on my lap during the flight, if conditions do not meet his exacting standards he will act insane for the entire flight.

What do I mean by insane? Well, he will kick for one. Us, the seat, the window, the flight attendant…  He will throw all toys and or books offered as diversion. Phone apps will distract for a few minutes and then he decides he’d rather have the bottle of water possessed by the passenger the row over. We COULD just strap him in a car seat and let him scream, but I really doubt that would go over well. With anyone. Least of all me.

On a great flight – the flights I feel like I’ve nailed it – he will nap after nursing and we three will arrive at our destination well rested and smiling as the flight attendants and passengers exclaim, “What an amazing child you have!” Why yes, yes we do and I will take a bow. Those flights I’ve managed to time perfectly for nap time. As we board the plane, he’s rubbing his little eyes and cuddling up to me and I start praying that the captain will keep his announcements to a minimum and take off on time. We DO depart on time and Jack nurses through take off falling asleep in my arms and we do our best to keep our little row quiet for the next hour. Jack will wake up as soon as the plane lands and I collect compliments from the crowd. I am an AWESOME traveling mom.

On a shitty flight – the flights after which I vow to never leave home again – he acts possessed. The perfectly timed flight is delayed and he naps in the terminal waking up full of energy just in time for us to finally board! Or for reasons known only to him he’s decided that naps are for suckers that day and he’d rather beat us up for the next hour. It’s delightful. When the plane lands we stagger off horrified at what we’ve just experienced and vow to never travel again until he learns to love cartoons and we can bribe him with videos. I am a SHITTY traveling mom.

The honest truth is that you’ll never know which kid will show up that day. You can only plan so much and we know that an unhappy Jack is a miserable Jack. That Jack does not fly well. THAT Jack would get us kicked off a flight before it even left the gate. So we’ve kept our flights short. One was to a family reunion where several of my dearest family members are aging rapidly and in failing health. Forgive me, passengers of that shitty flight, but I wanted my son to meet his great-grandfather while he still could.

As he grows and becomes more capable of sitting still for longer periods of time (or let’s be honest – capable of being bribed with cartoons) we’ll take longer flights and go farther afield. We do love to travel and we want Jack to enjoy it too after all we have family all over the country, but for now we’ll stick to hour long flights only, thank you very much.

And for those hour long flights, here’s what I’ve found useful:

  1. Check as much baggage as possible – you need free hands. Your days of packing a carry on only are gone anyway have you seen how much shit babies need? Suck it up and pay the fee.
  2. Bring a stroller only if you need it at your final destination. We found it a pain in the airport-you have to take the baby in and out for security and fold the damn thing to send it through x-ray. We use our Ergo carrier to keep Jack contained and our hands free. Don’t even have to take the kid out of the carrier, just walk through the machine and have your hands swabbed for explosives. I have no idea why a baby carrier = hands swabbed for explosives but it does. Sad world we live in.
  3. Diaper bag: 1 diaper for every hour of travel, lots of wipes, hand sanitizer, diaper ointment, extra outfit, extra shirt for me, blanket, little toys and a book for distraction.
  4. Have snacks that you know your kid likes. When he was very small we only needed my boobs as he was exclusively breastfed and that was AWESOME for travel. Snacks are necessary now and I pack his favorites – even (especially?) the sugary crack-laden yogurt melts.

And THAT is how you fly with a baby. At least a baby like Jack. A difficult, headstrong, ain’t gonna sleep for shit baby like Jack. God love him.

The stars aligned and he slept on this flight - after nursing three times and threatening a nap strike.



How to Fly With a Baby — 3 Comments

  1. This really made me laugh! We drag our 3 kids everywhere, but they were born travelers. The first time my youngest flew from Sydney to Los Angeles (at 6 months old) he slept for 13 hours straight. I think it actually might have been the very first time he ever slept though the night!

    • You have my dream children 😉 Jack’s first flight was at 6 months, he slept the first leg and I had visions of us traveling the world, the flight home was a disaster…delayed, nap in terminal, tried to climb off my lap the entire flight – screaming. Oy. I’m so jealous!!!

  2. You just never know with kids on a plane. Which is why we RARELY fly with our kids. I’d rather drive for 2.5 days than get on an airplane! And my kids are great travelers. 😀

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