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Traveling with a Baby: Airplane Edition and Beyond

I’m by no means a world traveler. I think the first time I was on an airplane was my junior year of high school. I remember sleeping for most of the flight. After that experience, I started traveling more. I would try to get to the airport at least two hours before my flight, but sometimes I lived dangerously and cut it close. I would get to my seat, grab some gum, and put my music in for the remainder of my flight.

Fast forward several years, and I got pregnant. My husband had to interview for residency programs, so I traveled with him to see the places where we could potentially live. I didn’t mind traveling pregnant: I could sit at the airport and read a book or play airport games on a germ-infested iPad. Essentially, not much had changed.

Then, I became a mom. I arrive at the airport with more than two hours to spare with a baby who wants to crawl everywhere. The simpler times of reading a book or sleeping during a flight are over. I quickly had to figure out how to juggle my exploding diaper bag, a stroller, and a car seat- all while carrying the most precious of cargo. I’m hoping that my experiences along with my errors while traveling alone with my baby will save you as you travel with yours.

1. Wear that baby.

Wearing your baby is easiest when traveling from the curb through security. Then for the sake of your back, put that baby in a stroller. You may be wearing your child for the entirety of the flight, so do your back a favor and give it a break. (Note: if you’re traveling with baby as a lap infant/child, you cannot wear him/her during taxiing, takeoff, and landing!)

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2. Check that stroller and car seat for free.

I’ve heard rumors about airlines that will give your baby a seat for free if they have an open seat, so if it’s not too much, bring your car seat to the gate. Otherwise, check it at check-in so it’s one fewer thing to carry. If you’re checking your stuff at the gate or otherwise, get bags to cover your belongings. We can all imagine the grime that’s festering under a plane.

3. Bring your breast milk.

You can bring as much as you want. I walked onto a plane in October with a cooler filled with ice packs and 40+ ounces of breast milk, and although I had nightmares of it being tainted by a test swab or dumped, everything was perfectly fine.

4. Bring some entertainment.

Books that flap and books that tap and things that crinkle, wrinkle, and twinkle! Bring things that you absolutely know will distract them from the fact that they are trapped with you for hours in an enclosed space. I try to get one new toy for my daughter to play with so that it’s something new and exciting.

5. Nurse up? Nurse down?

A lot of people gave me this advice before my first flight with my baby. If for some reason the timing doesn’t work to nurse or give baby a bottle, I typically give my daughter her pacifier, and she is happy as a clam! You just want them to swallow often so that they can clear their ears.

6. Bring headgear.

I bought some ear protection for my daughter that has helped during flights, Disney fireworks, and sporting events. They’re awesome!

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7. Disposable "wee-wee" pads.

1. Seems like a waste? I loathe changing tables in public places and you know who hates them more than I do? My daughter. She squirms basically right off the table, so to avoid her getting herself covered in whatever is lurking on the changing table, I will put a pad down first and then toss it right out.

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8. Bring food that isn't insanely messy.

As I type this, I’m putting about four pouches in my diaper bag. You know what your kids like, but if you can bring something delicious that won’t be too much of a hassle for you, do it! You DO NOT want a hangry kid on a plane (and neither do the other passengers).

What can you use once you get to your destination?

1. Sheet to cover the front of the stroller.

This helps if your baby likes to nap in dark lighting or if you want to keep that sun off of your kiddo’s legs. Pack-and-play sheets are pretty breathable. Bring clothespins to hook that sheet onto your stroller.

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2. Rechargable fan.

This has been super helpful for us when it’s hot out, and I’m afraid of my daughter overheating. It’s been a lifesaver on walks in hot weather and during trips to Texas and Florida.

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3. Rain or cold weather gear.

It’s also helpful to be prepared for all weather. Being in Florida means you must be prepared for rain. We got a nifty plastic (breathable) stroller cover. It also works in cold weather too, which you’ll need for most months in Michigan.

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5. Plastic Placemats.

I found these amazing placemats that stick right onto any table and can be used on the seat-back tables in planes. They have cute colors and animals on them.

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These are some of my tricks that I have used when I’m traveling that I hope will prove helpful to you! What are your best traveling tricks?