Someone once told us "the baby has to come into YOUR life, not you come into theirs" meaning you have to go on with your life as close to the way it was before having children as possible, which can sometimes seem a lot easier said than done when it comes to things like travel. Still, we put all our pending stress aside and booked flights from the UK to the US to visit my family. Packing alone can induce a lot of anxiety, constantly running through the things you use on a daily bases, what you'll need, what you MIGHT need, asking yourself if that thing you've never used before will fit in the suitcase...just incase. But let's say you've managed to get yours and baby's bags packed but there's one more (ok a million more) things looming over your heard...the time difference. This was probably the scariest part to me, well that and how my child would behave for 8.5 hours in a metal flying tube filled with strangers. My husband had read some forums with tips and tricks on travel as well as helping your little one adjust to a different time zone, so this is how we did things...and everyone survived.
When looking at flights, things can feel a little overwhelming. We found it helpful to look for flights that worked well with baby naps.
Check with your airline on what baggage is allowed for baby. Typically, you can check a stroller at the gate and bring a couple items for baby on board, but every airline is different so make sure you're extra clear on how much you can take. Speaking of airlines, if you're traveling over 3 hours and can swing the cost of purchasing an extra seat for your child, I strongly suggest you do so. This allows you to have a space to lay them down for naps as well as a space for them to play.
If you're planning on being given a child's meal, be sure to specify this with the airline before the day of your flight otherwise it's likely it will not be available.
Don't forget your passports, this includes baby! If you'll need anything like an Esta, be sure to apply with plenty of time for approval. Allow for extra time before your flights boarding time, as check-in and security check point will inevitably take longer than if you were traveling on your own.
How is it that tiny humans require SO MUCH STUFF?! If you can, start that packing process a couple days early, so things like PJ's, socks, onesies, diapers, wipes etc. The stuff you know you'll definitely need and can pull from the drawers ahead of time without throwing your next few days out of wack.
Keep in mind your final destination. Will you be able to purchase things like diapers, wipes, food/formula easily once you land? If so, pack just want you'll need during your travels and get the rest on the ground to save you space in your bags. If you're going some place more remote or you're at all unsure of the availability once you get there, then be sure to pack how much you'll need for the entire trip.
I would recommend packing a baby carrier that allows you to walk through the airport with baby ON you (that's also easy to take on and off solo) I brought ours even though I had our umbrella stroller and wasn't sure I'd even use it. But when the airline took through our stroller to the next flight during our layover rather than taking it off, the baby carrier was a life saver!
GETTING THROUGH THE AIRPORT
Deep Breath, you've made it to the airport. First things first, check as much baggage at the front desk as you can, as this saves you having to trek through the airport with it, you're going to need your arms for more precious cargo. You can either take your stroller through to the gate with you or check it at the desk, as well as your carseat. I recommend getting stroller and carseat covers (inexpensive and can be found on amazon, will link them below) as you'll want to protect them before they're thrown into the dirty belly of the plane.
As you're being checked in, they will tag your stroller so it can be tracked once taken off of you at the gate. Be sure to clarify with the attendant if your stroller is going through to your destination or will be taken off the plane at a layover (if laying over). This caused confusion on both legs of our journey so try your best to get some clarity before you stand around waiting for something that may not be coming. Your carseat will likely need to be taken to an "oversized luggage" drop-off point rather than going on the same belt as your suitcases, be sure to ask where that is located to save you wondering.
Once you get to the security checkpoint, try to be as prepared as possible by having all of yours and babies liquids separated, so be sure to check that diaper bag one more time before leaving the house, you don't want to find yourself being screened because of overlooked diaper cream! Some airports may require you to place baby food, formula and breast milk in special trays for screening. Be patient, this can take some time as they need to screen each item individually (in my experience).
You'll likely be offered the ability to board first. We chose to take this opportunity so that we could get ourselves settled, but we did read some people opted to board later as they felt less time on the plane for their child was best. We didn't have any issues with being on the plane for the additional time while the plane boarded and would do it this way again.
TIPS FOR ON THE PLANE
How your journey goes can vary greatly depending on your child's age. We traveled with my son from the UK to Italy (about 2.5 hours) when he was only 3 months and it was so easy! I simply brought my nursing pillow to make him more comfortable on my lap and he slept through most of it! When we traveled from the UK to the US (about 8.5 hours) my son was 7 months old and therefore able to sit up on his own, much more alert and curious about the things around him, AKA grabbing EVERYTHING. If you're in this stage, I suggest replacing the magazines and safety booklets in the back of the seat with some of their books in various sizes. I say this because it's likely baby is going to want to grab, pull, eat and play with anything in that pouch and this will give them the freedom to do so (the last thing you want is their mouth on those nasty safety books!) Plus it's entertaining for them to pull things out of the pouch.
If you're hoping to get baby to sleep on the plane at all, remember this when packing your items. Because most of our flight coincided with our son's bedtime, we decided that we would try to stick as closely to our bedtime routine as possible. This means we packed a washcloth, some baby soap, a towel, jammies and a sleep sack to have with us on the plane. We prepped his seat my using our JetKids suitcase which turns his seat into a flat bed, and then placed his doc-a-tot on that, in an effort to simulate his own bed as best that we could. I took my son to the bathroom, wiped him down as his "bath", dressed him in his jammies, fed him, and then laid him down to sleep. I brought with us a travel sound machine that I placed near his seat to help drown out the sound of other passengers. We also used a thin muslin blanket to create a "tent" over him by tucking it into the head rest and tray table. This meant that we could block out light and distractions. Did he sleep? Yes. Was it perfect? No. I did have to settle him a few times from being woken by other passengers but at the end of the day I still considered it to be a success.
Now that you're off the plane and everyone made it you can relax! One thing to note is that if you checked your carseat through, it's likely that it won't come off the carousel with the rest of your baggage and may be in another location with oversized luggage. For us, this mean't in a random pile on the floor to the side of the carousel which wasn't marked so just keep an eye out.
If you have any other tips for flying with a baby, be sure to share your knowledge in the comments and remember to pin to save for your next flight!