Flying With Babies and Toddlers: 10 Tips to Make Your Life Easier
1. Book Nonstop Flights
When possible, of course. The less total time in the air, the better. But you knew that one.
Remember that for infants, some airlines charge more than others for lap-child award flights. Be prepared to shell out more than you may have expected.
2. Plan Around Naps
This one depends on your kid — does she sleep beautifully in the car? Then there’s a decent chance she will on the plane, too. Book flights during nap time. Is there a snowball’s chance in hell she’ll sleep on the plane? Then wait until after her usual nap time to travel. Sleep-deprived kid + confinement of cabin = no bueno.
3. Use the Stroller as a Luggage Cart
BabyBjorn the kid, or let him get his sillies out running through the airport. Meanwhile, you can use the stroller to lug all the snacks, diaper bags, car seat or booster, toys, lovies and jackets.
4. Do You Really Want to Preboard?
Yes, you’ve got a lot of crap to settle in with, and you should definitely get all your gate-check items properly tagged in advance. But do you want to be immobile for an extra 20 to 30 minutes while everyone else loads in, or is it really better to be the last possible people boarding the plane? Think it through.
5. Invest in New Toys
Pack a few well-loved standbys that you know will distract for a bit, but also pick up a couple new, never-before-played-with items to surprise and delight. Concentrate on small things you can unveil every 20 to 30 minutes — a new Shopkins character (choking hazards removed), a new Thomas engine, a small stuffie, etc.
6. Feed the Baby During Takeoff and Landing
This is the time when ear discomfort is most likely to occur, which makes it a great time to nurse or feed.
7. Bring Your Own Cleaning Gear
You’ll feel more confident with inevitable spills if you don’t have to flag down a flight attendant to beg for another 1,000 cocktail napkins. Bring your own paper towels and make like that projectile spit-up never happened.
8. Plan for Nothing to Work
This will be the leg where the in-flight Wi-Fi drops out and that you have the broken in-seat screen. Make sure you bring your own electronics and download four times as much content as you think you’ll need. Make sure everything is at 100% juice. Triple-check. This is no time to worry about screen time limits! When my daughter was 15 months and extremely jet-lagged grumpy, we settled into our flight back home from Barcelona (BCN) only to discover we had zero battery left on our DVD player. No plugs. Such a rookie mistake. That was the longest flight of my life.
9. Buy Goodwill
Once you get to your seat, introduce yourself and the baby to the people in front and behind you. Sweetly explain that you have an entire week of daycare packed into your bag, but there’s bound to be snafus, and that, to make traveling near you a little more pleasant, you’re buying them a drink! They will be touched at your thoughtfulness and smile, and remember when they had young babies, and probably regale you with their own flying-with-kids story. You will have instantly created a baby-friendly flying environment.
10. Don’t Panic!
Hey, kids cry! And kick the seat by accident and generally abide by no known rules of plane etiquette. You will do everything in your power to minimize it, but you are also not an octopus. It’s going to be OK. Flights end. Remember that you are a good person and that you will never see these people again.
Feature photo by Juanmonino/Getty Images