Unfortunately, teleportation isn’t yet possible. So if you need to travel this holiday season and have the means, going by air is your fastest option. And it sucks. It sucks if you’re old. It sucks if you’re young. It sucks if you do it every week, or if it is your first time. No matter the extent of your wisdom or experience, flying sucks for everyone. Here’s how to make it suck a little bit less if you are flying with a baby for the first time.
- Pack as light as you possibly can. If you think you “might” need it, DON’T bring it. If you’re headed to grandma’s for the holidays, you can always use the washer and dryer. If you’ll be staying in a hotel, you can pay them to do a load of your jeans. Most places have these things called “stores” where you can exchange money for goods. Do anything and everything you can to minimize the stuff you bring. You won’t miss that pair of boots you thought you might wear, but you will wish everything wasn’t so damn heavy when you’re lugging it out of a cab. Be sure to pack a change of clothes (for you and kid) in your carry-on, though, in case things get lost for a day or two. And I don’t have to remind you about diapers. If you use cloth, save them for when you land. Or consider just using disposable for the time you’ll be away from home. You’re irresponsibly burning jet fuel to get there anyway.
- If you think you really need something, find out if you can borrow it first. If you’re visiting family, instead of bringing your Pack and Play, have grandma pick one up or borrow one from a friend (or improvise a safe sleeping arrangement like having your kid sleep in the bed with you). If you’ll be riding around in cars, see if you can borrow a car seat while you’re visiting. Anything to lessen how much you try to haul on the plane. Send any gifts ahead of time via two-day shipping and you have even less to pack.
- Ditch the stroller. It won’t make it easier, I promise. It’s just another thing to push, fold, carry and fidget with. Bring a soft-sided carrier or a backpack instead. Two hands are a good thing. And if grandma’s house is over the river and through snow-covered woods, the only time you’ll be using your stroller is at the airport anyway.
- Check everything you can, but not at the gate because then you have to haul it there. Baby things like that stroller you’re NOT bringing and a carseat are free to check. Check everything you can and you have less to carry around at the gate, less to stow on the plane and less to worry about when you’re actually in the air. Yes, it costs money to check bags. But do you really want to carry it all the way to the other side of the airport? Didn’t think so. Pay the lady.
- Be ready when you get to the security line. Have your liquids bag out before you get to the front of the line. Keep your jewelry in your purse until after you’re on the other side. Wear slip-on shoes that are easy to step in and out of. Babies have to be carried outside a carrier or backpack, so put that on the conveyor belt, too (the carrier, not the baby).
- Practice. If you can’t wheel everything and carry your baby at the same time, see what you can ditch. Think of yourself as a turtle with your house on your back. If you don’t really, truly need it, don’t bring it. Again, there are these things called “stores.”
- Bring a few distractions. If your kid is older than six months, s/he will get bored. Bring distracting toys, but also be prepared to do a lot of wandering up and down the aisle. Oh, and your boobs count as distractions, too, and they’re always attached so you don’t have to remember them. Lucky you.
During the flight, befriend people sitting nearby. Bring a pack of earplugs and jokingly offer them to those near you (they won’t take them). Find out where the changing table is before the flight takes off. And look for friendly faces. Believe it or not, they do exist. And if your baby does start crying, just know that everyone on the plane is doing so on the inside.