I took my son Asher on his first airplane/out of state trip when he was 7 months old. Since then, he has been on 29 flights and to 19 states! We just visited the Outer Banks the first weekend in November and I always think back to that first trip when I was getting ready to pack and how nervous I was to embark on my first adventure with my infant in tow.
My husband, Casey and I got married at Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana. We wanted to celebrate our anniversary there but I wasn’t ready to leave my baby over night yet and I was still breastfeeding regularly. Wanting some alone time but not being ready for a baby-less vacation, we invited my mom to come along! I was SO nervous about being a new mom and traveling with an infant. What if his ears hurt? Would people be mad if he cried? What if I had to change a poopy diaper on the flight?!
The plane ride from Denver to New Orleans is almost three hours and I was totally consumed with what those three hours could hold for me. I read all of the blogs and Pinterest tips and was as prepared as I could be.
In the past three years I have traveled regularly with Asher, our longest flight being 7 hours nonstop and our longest travel day being 16 hours. We have had easy flights and we have had downright miserable travel days where we left at 2 am and didn’t get where we’re going for 13 hours. I feel like while it still requires a lot of planning I have definitely figured out some things since then that may be able to help moms who are feeling the same way I was on that first flight!
First off, planning ahead helps so much. When Asher was a newborn he mostly slept on flights which was great for both of us! But, that doesn’t always happen. Here is a list of things I would say are must haves for little ones:
1. Diapers and wipes.
2. Hand sanitizer.
3. A blanket to lay them down on the floor in the airport so they can play or get changed. (I try to always fold it so the side that is on the ground is always folded up inside and is always the same side on the ground, that way they aren’t playing on the dirty side.)
4. Another clean blanket for covering them up in the plane, stroller, car seat etc.
5. A couple changes of clothes. That first flight to New Orleans, Asher had a major blowout and there was no changing table on the plane. My husband and I cleaned him while one of us held him up midair and the other one washed and changed him. It wasn’t easy, but it was feasible. Extra clothes are a must for kids and sometimes adults.
6. Small toys and books.
7. A bottle or sippy cup for take off and landing for their ears, if they are not breastfeeding. (I recommend nursing or giving them something to drink when you take off and descend to help relieve ear pressure. This worked great for us every time and often helped put him to sleep).
9. Baby-wraps (Keep in mind if your baby is in your baby wearing wrap at security they will make you take him/her out. Same goes for the stroller but they are great to have for the rest of the airport).
10. Snacks for you!
Older babies and toddlers
I have added and changed some stuff on the list. Extra clothes and diapers are a must but we bring a lot more toys than we did when Asher was a baby. My absolute favorite airplane toys are slime and putty! They keep Asher busy for so long and they are less messy than playdough. Make sure they are under 3 oz because airport security considers them a “gel or liquid” and they will take them if they are more than 3 oz. I also love to bring coloring books, magnet play sets, reusable stickers, and small games like memory cards. Amazon has great reusable sticker activity books.
We bring Asher an iPad for long flights. We only let him watch the iPad on airplanes. We do this because we feel like it makes it special for him and gives him something to look forward to. Since he isn’t allowed to watch it at home, it is a lot more fun for him to have something that is just for airplanes. We also use it as a last resort. Once we have played all the games, read all the books, and eaten all the snacks – he can watch his iPad. Some parents let their kids watch their iPads the entire flight and I am all for that as well. If that works for you and gets you through a tough travel day, I call it a win.
We hit bad weather flying home from Georgia this spring and had to be rerouted to a nearby state and were stuck on the plane for 4 hours longer than planned. I can’t imagine the meltdowns we all would’ve had if Asher didn’t have a movie to watch. Asher wasn’t into videos until just recently so we haven’t used that as our main form of entertainment. It’s also nice to have backups in the event of a dead battery, or no WiFi, etc.
My other bit of advice when packing is to always bring a reusable water bottle and snacks, especially if your child has any dietary restrictions. Finding food at weird times and in a hurry in an airport can be challenging and stressful when you’re hungry so it never hurts to have a backup snack.
When we plan to rent a car at our destination, I always bring my own car seat. We have rented them a couple of times and I always prefer to have my own. You can check your own for free at ticketing and it will arrive in oversized baggage at your destination. I’ve had to use rented car seats that are filthy. They have been out of infant or toddler seats and we have had to wait while they go get one from another rental facility (which is the worst when you’ve been traveling all day already), and they are usually expensive to rent.
We always bring our stroller to the airport and check it at the gate. You just have to get a stroller tag at your gate and leave it right before you get on the plane.
We have always been really lucky with Asher on the plane. He enjoys it and is usually really good, but if your little one does have a meltdown or cries uncontrollably, just remember that a lot of the people on the plane have kids of their own and have been where you are. They know it’s hard and you’re trying your best. Flight attendants are often awesome with kids and will try and help you calm them or redirect their attention. If you know of something that may help, ask them. I can almost guarantee they will do it. If nothing helps and people are starting to give you snarky looks or making comments, remember that they are grown adults and they should’ve brought their noise cancelling head phones. No one wants their child to cry on an airplane- just try your best to stay calm and know it’s temporary.
Taking your kids on trips can seem overwhelming and be a lot work, but after that first flight, you will feel like a pro. Traveling with Asher has been my favorite thing. We have seen so many things together and at just three years old he has met so many wonderful people along the way. I know that all of those red eye flights and late nights packing and planning have been completely worth it. Take the trip! You will be so glad you did.