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In just ten months, I have become a pro at traveling with a baby. Marlowe had a passport at two months old and has flown all over the country and even to Canada. The cherry on top? I’ve done ninety-five percent of those flights alone. “Baptism through fire” seems the most appropriate expression for what I have experienced traveling alone as a Mom with a young baby. Aside from navigating the nasty attitudes of cranky fellow passengers with either amnesia or no children (I wish upon you a fire-breathing dragon), I have also dealt with missed connections, twelve hour delays, inclement weather, lost baggage, forgotten essentials, vomit (Her), and dehydration (Me). There have been many tears shed (Also me). But what I have learned is that I am capable of handling even the worst travel day with my child, irregardless of how gracefully. As I have told many fellow Moms who stare at me with mouths agape when asking how I fly so often alone with Marlowe, “I just do it.” And you can do it too! (Not flying alone with your kids? Thank your lucky stars and see if there are any solo traveling Moms you can lend a hand to. You will probably make their year.) Here are a few things I have learned by traveling with my baby:
- What To Wear: I dress Marlowe in footie pajamas, which is so much easier than having to deal with various pieces of clothing. Put an extra set of footie pajamas in the diaper bag. I also pack a sweater for her in case the plane is freezing. I wear dark jeans and a dark T-shirt because I inevitably end up with the debris of the world on my clothes. I pack an extra T-shirt for myself in my purse, and tie a zip up hoodie around my waist. I use the hoodie as a blanket for Marlowe when she falls asleep. I also recommend wearing slip on shoes. I either wear ballet flats or Vans, and in the winter I wear slip on boots.
- Gear: Bring a stroller with you. There are so many logistical reasons to check it, but I bring it inside and use it as a baggage cart or just to throw her in it and run (literally) if I have to book it to another terminal ASAP. This technique has saved my ass often. When Marlowe was in an Infant Car Seat + Snap n’ Go (instead of a stroller) I would also travel with a car seat cover. These are essential because who knows what the car seat can come in contact with when gate-checking your gear. You don’t want an unidentifiable liquid all over your child’s car seat upholstery. Trust me.
- Baby Carrier: This item is clutch. I use the baby carrier to put Marlowe in before boarding, so I can be “hands free” to collapse the stroller, gate check items, and carry all the bags on to the plane. It also comes in handy if she gets fussy and I don’t want to carry her up and down the plane for thirty minutes. Just strap the baby to you and do The Dougie down that aisle! When Marlowe was little I used the Baby K’tan carrier for airplanes but as she’s gotten bigger and heavier I prefer the Baby Björn. For everyday life I like the Lillé Baby carrier. I know, I’m very promiscuous with my baby carriers.
- Bring a diaper bag AND a purse. I highly recommend a backpack style purse. There are so many cute options and having one less thing in your hands is a major plus. Some of my faves in different price points are HERE and HERE and HERE. Your baby “gear” (stroller, carseat, baby carrier etc) doesn’t count for the two carry-on rule.
- Food: BRING ENOUGH FOOD FOR YOUR CHILD FOR 24 HOURS. I can’t stress this enough. Yes, even if your flight is supposed to be three hours long. I was recently in a situation where inclement weather rerouted our plane through four airports and added fourteen hours to my travel day. Had I not packed enough formula, food (purée pouches), and snacks for one whole day I would have been completely screwed. Pack snacks for you, too!!! I can’t tell you how many times I am rushing from one plane to another only to find that all they have on the next puddle jumper is a tiny bag of pretzels. I don’t know about you, but I am 25,000 times more fragile when I haven’t eaten. Make sure you are fed, watered, and feeling good so you don’t get overwhelmed. Bring at least two bibs. I like the Aden and Anais burpy bibs because they cover a lot of surface area.
- To heat a bottle of formula on the plane: (My pediatrician gave me this advice) First of all, pack your formula in pre-measured containers– it makes your life much easier. I use the BPA-free containers by Simba. I pre-measure formula for an entire day of feedings, plus an extra two ounce container for an emergency meltdown. Next buy a small bottle of water at the airport just for your baby. When I’m ready to give Marlowe a bottle on the plane, I ask the Flight Attendant to put hot water in her bottle at the halfway mark of what I am going to feed her. So if I’m giving her six ounces, I ask the Flight Attendant for three ounces of hot water. They always warn me that it’s “Very, VERY hot!” I thank them for letting me know and tell them I’m just going to pour it on my baby’s head so don’t worry. Sometimes they laugh. Then, I fill the other half with the room temp water from the water bottle. I take a little sip to test the temp, and if it’s too hot I keep on adding room temp water and sipping out the excess. Then I pour in the pre-measured formula and shake it! NOTE: I travel with enough bottles for a day of feedings, but you can probably just rinse them out with hot water. It’s very, VERY hot!!! (hehehe)
- Pack your child’s “comfort item”. If it’s a pacifier, pack two. Marlowe uses a Lovey at night and at nap time. Since she’s so used to having it when she’s sleeping I can give it to her on the plane and she gets right in to sleepy, snuggly mode. Lifesaver.
- Toys: I pack three books (Marlowe loves ones with the flaps that flip up or things that move on the pages). I pack five toys, with at least one of them being a toy that makes noise. I also pack a teething toy and an iPad. I download a few shows on to the iPad, and at least one show or movie that she hasn’t seen before. Usually she doesn’t “watch” an entire show but it quiets her down immediately if she’s having a meltdown. I also pack a thin cotton swaddling blanket to spread out on the floor in the gate waiting area so she can crawl around and play a little before sitting on the plane for hours. Just fold this up with dirty side in afterwards so you can reuse it before your connecting flight.
- Organize everything. I use extra large (freezer style) Ziploc bags. I pack all the food items in one bag, her bottles and formula in its own bag, all her toys in another bag, and her Lovey and change of clothes in the last bag. Then I throw in two more Ziploc bags for any dirty clothes or messy toys.
- Diapers and Wipes: Pack at least two more diapers than you think you’ll need. I also put a small container of wipes in every bag I’m bringing on the plane, including my own purse! I bring sanitizing wipes to wipe the tray table and arm rests since Marlowe inevitably gnaws on every available surface. I prefer something without harsh chemicals. I either use the Honest Company Spray Sanitizer, or Herban Essentials lemon wipes.
- Ask for help: I’m not the best at this in general, but I’m getting better! You’d be surprised how happy most passengers are to hold your baby for you or help you get a bag in to the overhead bin. My mother-in-law used to be a flight attendant and has told me that they are expected to help you with the baby, especially if you need to use the restroom!
- Take it one step at a time: Don’t think about the whole trip at once. It’s too overwhelming. Try to stay in the moment and just get through it piece-by-piece and hour-by-hour. Remind yourself that the goal is to get from Point A to Point B– It doesn’t have to be cute, it just has to work!
(Photos by Nina Suh for Love And Lemonade Photography)