I recently flew with my 4-month old daughter for the first time. Alone.
Admittedly, I wasn’t flying blind (pun intended) going into this trip. In addition to learning some things on my own, I received some great advice from an experienced mama friend prior to traveling. From mom-friend to mom-friend, I’m here to pay it forward and share some tips with you.
Tips for the Flight
- Time your feeds and naps carefully.
The night before we flew, I tried to time my daughter’s last feeding so that she would be interested in a bottle just before we needed to leave for the airport. Then, by the time we drove to the airport, got through security and boarded the plane, it would be time for another bottle. This was a great way to keep her occupied on the plane and helped with the ear-popping. Likewise, I strategically timed her nap schedule. After her in-flight bottle, she was ready for a snooze and that helped get us most of the way through our 2-hour flight.
- Wear slip-on shoes.
Especially if you are traveling solo, you may not have the free hand to pull on those boots or tie up those laces. I’m so glad my friend suggested this because it made getting through security so much easier. Of course, pack whatever shoes are appropriate for your destination, but going from car to airport in flip flops wasn’t bad. (Although if you know me, I’m in flip flops most of the year anyway, so maybe I’m not a great judge on that.)
- Bring pre-mixed formula.
If your baby drinks formula, spend the extra few dollars and get pre-mixed. When your baby is screaming and you are trying to avoid becoming public enemy number one, the faster you can get that bottle made, the better. I made the bottle while waiting to board so it was ready to go the second it was needed. An important reminder is that air pressure on planes is lower, so be careful if your baby doesn’t finish the bottle while in flight. Before you start the descent, if you use bottles with a vent tube, unscrew that bottle so the pressure doesn’t build and force all the formula out.
- If you pack your formula, plan for a pat-down.
Each airport is a little different and the procedures are always changing, but this was my experience. On my trip out, TSA needed to test a single bottle from each bag (I, foolishly, packed the formula half in one bag, half in another). The test entailed wiping the outside of the bottle and then it had to be opened and tested with a strip they hovered over the mouth of the bottle. For anyone who uses formula, you know that once that seal is broken, it has to be used within 4 hours – unless you brought a mini-fridge as your carry on, and I’m guessing you didn’t. So, unless your baby can drink 16 ounces in 4 hours (and mine can’t), opening multiple bottles means dumping a whole bunch of formula in the trash. On my return trip through a different airport, the TSA agent told me their procedure was to open all of the bottles, regardless of whether they were packed in the same bag or not. In both cases, if I didn’t want the bottles opened, I could instead opt for a full-body pat-down. I’m not really sure what the connection is between those two things, but those were the options presented.
- Make sure your ticket shows you have a lap child.
For some reason, the boarding pass that got emailed to me didn’t note my daughter as a lap child. Luckily, there was no line at security so I didn’t wait long to find out I had to go print my tickets at the kiosk. Save yourself the trouble and verify this at the kiosk before getting in the security line. In my case, the kiosk printed a boarding pass for me and a separate one for my daughter, even though we only had one seat.
- Wear your baby.
This, of course, is only advice for babies who enjoy being in a carrier. Being able to have her close helped her feel at ease (and allowed her to sleep!) while I had both hands free to do the variety of things that needed to be done.
- Get a car seat bag for your car seat, if you’re bringing one.
You might be lucky enough to catch a flight with an extra seat next to you, but more than likely, you will have to gate check your car seat and stroller. Who knows what kind of dirt and dust your car seat will be exposed to under the plane. For pretty cheap, you can buy a large bag to put your car seat, stroller or both in to keep them nice and clean.
- Change their diaper right before you board.
If you’ve ever used an airplane bathroom, you know they aren’t particularly spacious. Changing a diaper on a plane may be unavoidable, especially if the flight is long, but having a fresh one to start the flight will certainly help your chances. You might also consider sizing up for the flight, if you have any on hand.
All in all, the trip went really smoothly and although I was nervous beforehand, it gave me a huge sense of confidence that I can fly with her again. I’m even looking forward to our next trip!