I love to travel, and we didn’t stop just because we had a baby. In fact, I just got back from my second trip with my toddler on a plane in a one-month period.
That’s 4 flights within a two-week period with an 18-month old baby. Two of those were across the country and about 7 hours of travel. You may look at me like I’m insane (and I probably am) because I’m already planning our next trip in two weeks time. But I have to say teaching my child how to travel well before she could talk was a huge plus for our family. With the summer holidays behind us, flights are cheaper than ever. And if you have always loved to travel, the fall is an excellent time to go for it.
When I met my husband I wasn’t a pro traveler. I had grown up in a small town outside of Philadelphia and the furthest I had ever been was to Walt Disney World, Florida. But marrying into a family that bonds through their trips around the globe put me on the fast track to learning how to travel well and often.
It opened my eyes to literally a whole new world.
I knew when we had our baby we wouldn’t be giving that up. Learning to travel wasn’t easy but I can confidently say we have it down to a science/art/we are no longer winging it. We are even complimented every time we fly with our daughter.
The first time we flew with our daughter Juniper she was only just barely 3 months old.
Yes I traveled with a newborn. Yes, I was indeed quite naive and really had no idea what I was doing. I mean she was my first! No one really knows what they are doing at that stage. If they say they did they either forgot or are lying.
So on a plane to Hawaii I got with my newborn. Turns out most (not all) newborns are super easy to fly with, I’m not even exaggerating. Once we were there was a different story. I don’t actually suggest traveling with a newborn. You are far too tired to enjoy it. But think about it, all they do is eat, sleep and poop and they can do almost all of that while strapped to your chest. I learned right then the first most important thing you need to do when flying with a baby.
Tip #1 Feed them on the way up and down to pop their ears.
Yes their tiny ears need to pop just like yours, but can you tell them to hold their breath and blow or to chew some gum? Nope. The best solution is a boob or a bottle to get them to suck and swallow. I did two more trips – one of which I did travel solo, as in with no other adult along for the journey.
She was 6 months old and I had learned the key things I needed to get through the airport. A backpack of supplies, a carrier, and a small lightweight stroller to throw everything inside. As they get older, the bottle/boob becomes a lollipop (hey they even make them sugar free now) that is a special treat only for when we are on planes.
Also, snacks are a life saver in general for keeping them content and distracted. Goldfish can be counted and played with in little cups as a game and is a good bribe. But as they get older they also get a lot harder to keep entertained. It’s once they hit the crawling around stage being on a plane they become more difficult. This is when my second tip comes into play.
Tip # 2 SCREENS.
Ah yes, I said it! SCREEN TIME. I know, I know, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to 1 hour a day and even less or none at all for children under age 2. And that is important advice to follow in your regular daily life. However, is that doctor in the tin can in the sky with you and a hundreds of other people? Nope, he is not. So therefore anything that can keep your little one from screaming is a plus and the easiest way to do that is some baby games.
At the crawling stage most little ones don’t really understand watching a movie. But they like to poke your screen just like they’ve seen you do a thousand times. It’s time to break all the rules where they don’t get to play with mama’s phone. Once they are over a year it’s movie time. I highly suggest downloading about three movies from Netflix. Our favorites are SING, SMURFS, and TROLLS, but if you want a break from cartoons here is a few that are favorites at our house. Movies that are downloaded mean there is no internet required. The best way to keep your child from climbing all over that airplane is to get them…
Tip #3 Their Very Own Seat.
I know, babies fly for free until they are two as a lap infant. And yes it will save you a pretty penny. But if you can afford it (and no judgement if you cannot, do what you gotta do to get where you are going) I highly suggest getting them their own seat and bringing a car seat.
Your toddler/baby is then contained and strapped in for take off and landing. Give them their bottle and a movie and let them chill out. The other plus with this is that they are not trying to climb on you. You are not struggling to get to the bag full of snacks underneath the seat in front of you while also holding a squirming child.
At some point you may even be able to drink a cup of life-saving coffee or an alcoholic beverage because they have passed out! MOMMY WIN. You are also saving the person next to you from having to sit with a baby which they will very much appreciate. Free range babies on planes are hard on everyone.
To Travel is TO LIVE.
– Hans Christian Anderson
Now there are a dozen other things that you could bring in addition to this list. Always bring a lovie, but you know what your kid needs for a day out anyway. Play-doh or a new toy to distract them when they inevitably get tired of screens and snacks.
But it’s once you are through this flight that you’ll see why it’s all worth it. For one thing, conditioning is half of parenting. Your baby isn’t scared of planes. A kid who has never been on a plane until they understand gravity and flight will probably be kinda freaked out. But if you start them early, planes are no big deal. And beyond that you’ll see that the things that seem average or even boring to you are amazing to your child. So here comes my last tip.
Tip #4 See the world with BRAND NEW EYES.
Airports are giant playgrounds. Your parents’ backyard filled with fireflies (which they’ve probably never seen before because we just don’t have them in California) are now mystical fairies. It may not be the way you would travel before children. There will be less poolside drinks and scuba diving. But there will be more small moments where you are stopped watching their wonder.
And wonder spreads. It fills you up and it expands and travels on to the person who is there with you. Whether you are going to travel with them to the beach in Hawaii or to a small town in Pennsylvania they will see it all with brand new eyes. And so will you.