Saturday, August 4, 2007

Up in an Airplane

I thought I'd have some crazy stories to share about our recent flying experience, but I have to admit it all went fairly smoothly (other than an hour and a half delay on the way home). Here's a few tid bits that may be helpful for others about to fly with their little ones for the first time.

Like the Boy Scouts say, be prepared. But keep in mind there's a difference between being prepared and packing your whole house. You only have so many arms.

Give yourself some extra time. There are a few extra steps when flying with a baby and everything takes more times than you're used to. Flying is a dicey business in the best of circumstances, so an extra chunk of time will give you a comfort zone to work with.

If you are travelling alone (as I was on the way to Canada), think about bringing a baby carrier as well as your infant car seat and a snap and go frame. I found it helpful to already have my daughter in the carrier as we made our way through the security line. When it came to action time, I just had to pop the car seat out of the base, fold up the base, and drop my carry on bag and purse onto the belt. People were pretty patient with me and I got quite a few smiles.

When you get to the gate, let them know you're travelling with an infant and they should be able to give you some special treatment. On both flights, the stewardess moved me to a row where I had 2 seats which made things a bit easier. You can check the car seat and base before you board which leaves you with (only) the baby and 2 bags to deal with on the flight.

Keeping in mind the length of your flight and any stop overs, you'll need food for the baby. My daughter is really not into public breastfeeding, so that meant we needed bottles. I started pumping days in advance to be sure I had enough milk for the unexpected. Because I was so worried about not having enough, I wasn't managing to pump very much either. By Sunday morning when we packed up the car for the trek to Dulles, I had 2 bottles with 4 ounces each. Turns out I only needed 1 as I fed her some apple sauce before boarding. Bring enough baby food to keep you going for a solid chunk of time as you never know when you may get stranded in an airport hotel with a hungry baby. I should also add that you're supposed to "declare" your bottles when you go through security (although I forgot on the way back and it didn't cause a problem).

Have some entertainment. I had a large Ziploc baggie of her favorite smaller toys to keep us going. Keep in mind you don't want anything too noisy as maintaining happy relations with your fellow air travellers is always a good thing.

The temperature in airports and on planes can vary, so have your baby dressed appropriately. Even though it is summer in DC (a swamp), I had my daughter in long pants and had packed a blankie for extra warmth. The planes can blast the air conditioning and I was glad I had the blanket to wrap her up in while she slept. It was tough holding her in a comfortable position for 60 minutes and I would have liked a small pillow, but forgot to ask if the stewardess had any. As nice as it would be, I don't think it's important enough to bring with me on our next trip (unless I was going cross country).

Always have extra diapers, wipes, pacifiers, burp cloths, a change of clothing for the baby and at least an extra shirt for yourself. You never know how long you will be away from your comfort zone, so be ready for the unexpected. As I write, my sister in law is on a mega haul with her daughter involving 3 flights to get from Point A to Point B. Her original flight was cancelled thus altering her trip from 2 planes to 3. To add insult to injury, she was charged a $12 "infant tax" as she was flying with her daughter on her lap. Yes, her lap was being taxed by a flight she wasn't even supposed to be on. None of this is what you want when you're alone with your 5 month old, but it can happen, so be ready.

Keep all important documents, your wallet and your cell phone in easy and secure reach. There are many excellent baby bag options on the market, so you should be able to find one that suits your needs (I'm a fan of Eddie Bauer diaper bags).

Get ready to hold your baby tight during take off and landing. They recommend the burping position over your shoulder. My daughter was moving around so much it was difficult to keep her in the "recommended" position. She spazzed out and caused a bit of a scene before take off on both flights. By the time we got in the air and leveled off she thankfully fell asleep for the entirety of both our trips. I made sure she had a pacifier in her mouth for take off and landing to keep her ears clear (the sucking motion helps avoid ear pain). I've heard of a lot of people who feed their baby from a bottle during take off and landing, but this doesn't jive with the airlines official recommendations.

All this may seem pretty obvious, but when trying to pack for a trip, all the details can get pretty overwhelming. Sometimes we can forget the most obvious things, which is why it's great to start with a check list. I'd recommend keeping the list for when it's time to pack up and come home. It's so easy to forget the most important things when you're quickly having to gather all the baby stuff which has exploded all over the place. For instance, I forgot the base of our monitor plugged into the wall of my mother in law's kitchen. Luckily my husband was one step ahead of me and had tucked it away without me knowing.

I'm lucky my first experience was only a one hour direct flight. It was great practice and although I'm not exactly looking forward to our next flying experience, I am more prepared and much less frightened. Good luck and happy flying.

1 comment:

Puja said...

Hey there! Sister in law here.
It's taken a while to recuperate from my nightmare flying experience. As you said, flights were cancelled, rescheduled; laps were taxed... what's up with that? Hasn't anyone working for Continental ever had and flown with kids?! Decisions probably made by a man...WHATEVER!
The worst part was our second flight was not only delayed, but busted, so we had to change planes. This meant we might not make it to our last flight. After crying a river with my (finally) sleeping 5 month old on my lap, I frantically called NWA to find out what they could do for me. Apparently, a whole lot of NOTHING. (I really dislike that airline, but I live in the middle of nowhere and NWA is one of my only options. I will be switching airlines.)
If we were to miss our plane, I'd have to spend 24 hours at my "middle" destination. Did I have enough formula, diapers...? Probably not. What could I do? So, I cried some more.
We deplaned, replaned, the babe woke and screamed for about an hour of the 2 hour flight.
We did end up making our flight, with about 7 minutes to make a pit stop. However, we had to take a motorized cart, 3 elevators and 4 conveyor belt thingys to get to the gate. My babe slept the whole time I was running. She woke up in the bathroom because everyone and their mother decided they needed to go. Constant flushing does not qualify as "white noise".
What did I learn from this? That people are really nice and willing to help a parent flying alone with an infant. That I love my kid more after having gone through this with her, AND that I don't plan on flying for a while now, alone at least.