How To Survive Flying SOLO With A Baby
After my daughter was born, the family couldn’t wait to meet her! Naturally. The hard thing about this is that all of our family lived several hours away. My husband’s family was about 6 hours away, so that was fairly easy to drive. Of course, with a new baby and multiple stops for feedings, that probably took about 8 1/2. On the other hand, getting to my family took a good 14 hours. Not happening with a newborn! So, we planned a trip (flying, of course) for just before Christmas, when she would be 2 months old. The kicker? My husband wouldn’t be able to get off work to join us. I’ve flown a million times, but taking the baby along by myself is a game changer. (Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through my link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you).
I’m a planner, so I made lists upon lists, and scoured the internet for tips and tricks on how to manage this trip with a baby. There were some good ones that I found, but I learned so much more just by trial and error. (I have since taken my daughter on about 10 multi-flight trips, most of which were just the 2 of us. She is quite the traveler). What have I learned? If you are prepared and remain easygoing about things, it all works out and isn’t bad at all! I actually really enjoy flying with my little munchkin, although it is much more difficult to contain her now that she is toddler who can’t sit still.
I wish someone had given me directions from beginning to end of what to expect from the flying experience and how to handle it. That didn’t happen, but I want to make sure that you are as prepared as possible, so here is how the travel experience goes for us, from check-in to rental car pickup.
When I first get to the airport, I gather all my stuff…suitcase, backpack, baby. I always put my Moby Wrap Baby Carrier on and put baby in that so it frees my hands. I check a big suitcase, and wear a backpack with essentials in it. (Don’t forget a change of clothes for baby, and YOU)! I put the car seat with base into my padded car seat travel bag. A friend recommended it to me and it has been great! It’s big enough to fit the car seat and base, and I can also stick a pack of diapers and a couple of blankets in there too. Yes, it is bulky, but you just have to get it to the counter and it checks for free.
The first couple of trips, my husband would park and go inside with me to help carry things, but since then, I have begun taking my stroller and just use it as like a luggage cart and pile everything on top of that. Even with the stroller, I still strap baby onto my chest. Now that she has gotten bigger, we use the Ergobaby 360. Once I get to the check-in desk, I offload the suitcase and car seat bag onto the conveyor belt, and am ready to go!
Next stop…security! I know this is probably everyone’s least favorite part, and for good reason. Long lines are the worst, but if you are lucky, baby will sleep right through it snuggled on your chest. If they don’t, then they will have a great time looking around at all the strange faces. Make sure that you know the proper TSA regulations for traveling with children, and have your documents out and ready. This, of course, includes your ID and Boarding Pass, but also don’t forget that you need baby’s birth certificate. They fly for free under 2, but you do need something to prove it.
Now, some airports have different protocol, but for almost all of my trips, I’ve been able to go through with baby still in the Moby. They will just have to take you aside after you go through the scanner to do the hand swab test. Only takes a minute. Also, since I’ve been taking the stroller, they will just wheel it through the little gate, wipe it down and perform the same test, and then hand it over. My stroller is a beast, but if yours is smaller, it can probably be folded up and go through the scanner with the other luggage.
**One important thing I have learned is that airports do work differently (especially internationally), and if they don’t let you do what you normally do, just go with the flow and follow their instructions. When we went to Jamaica, it was all backwards from what I’m used to, and I got a little frazzled.
Once I get past security, I usually find my gate first. I’ll grab a snack or drink at the nearby Hudson News, and then a bathroom break, of course. Side note, it is entirely possible to use the bathroom with a baby on your chest.
Now, when it is time to board, you will have the option to board first when they call for parents with small children. Some moms prefer to wait and get on at the last-minute so you’re not sitting as long, but I like to board as early as possible. I’m able to get on the plane before it gets crowded, which gives me extra time and room to get completely settled. If you do take your stroller, you will gate check it at the end of the jet bridge.
Once I get in my seat, I put on my Silicone Teething Necklace, grab a couple extra pacifiers (I totally recommend paci clips, to keep them from falling on the nasty airplane floor), a light muslin blanket, and a couple of toys or stuffed animals to hold in my lap. I also always get a window seat so I have something to lean against. Now I’ve been on several flights where it was perfectly ok to keep baby in the Moby during takeoff and landing, but there have been a couple where the flight attendant instructed me to take her out during those times.
I’m sure you’ve heard that you should nurse during takeoff and landing to keep baby’s ears from popping. This definitely helps, but I’ve also learned that sucking on a paci works too. Now that you are airborne, try to lean back and relax a little. When babies are small, they will usually sleep most of the flight. When they are older, they’ll need to be entertained, but that is another post entirely!
You will have to decide whether you want to break up your trip with a layover, or just hunker down for one long flight. That choice was made for me, since getting to Arkansas almost always requires a layover somewhere. We always have a stop in Atlanta, so that gives us one hour long flight, and the other is about an hour and a half. I know some moms who prefer to not do the layover, but I actually prefer it. It gives you time to stretch yours and baby’s legs, take a potty break in a room larger than a closet, and find a more comfortable spot for a feeding. I have nursed my daughter on an airplane, but it’s just so awkward for me. You’re so cramped in that seat, and there just isn’t much room to work with. However, you do what you gotta do!
Once I deplane, I find my next gate, and then find a corner or somewhere quiet close-by to nurse and just chill for a bit. I have even been known to find an open area at a gate, lay out a couple of blankets, and set up shop right there on the floor. When your boarding is called, you do it all again for the second leg of the trip.
Once the plane lands, I don’t get in too big of a hurry because I hate pushing through all the people and it makes me a little claustrophobic when they all jump up at once. If you gate checked your stroller, you will have to wait for it anyways. Once you finally get out into the terminal, head on towards baggage claim. You’ll grab your suitcase and car seat bag, and if someone is picking you up, head right over to the door to meet your car.
If you are picking up a rental car, which I have done a couple of times, head towards the rental area after baggage claim. This is where it helped sooooo much to have the stroller to pile everything on. (Can you picture me with a baby on my chest, pushing a fully loaded stroller with one hand, and pulling a suitcase with the other? I got a few strange looks, but I also felt like a rock star Momma, handling all this at once). You’ll probably have to wait a bit at the desk, since everyone seems to get there at the exact same time. Once you get your paperwork and keys, head on out and find your car.
Final note: It’s always good to practice installing and uninstalling the car seat base before your trip. Ugh. I can usually get it installed properly, but there was that one return trip that almost made me pull my hair out. My husband had flown out with us, but we flew back separately so I had to uninstall the seat when I returned the rental car. Let’s just say, he gets it a lot tighter than I ever could, and I think it took me a good 30 minutes to get that sucker unlatched!
Although flying with your baby all by yourself could be anxiety-inducing, it’s really not that bad if you are prepared and know what to expect.
What tricks do you have for making the flying experience easier? What have you struggled with?
If you know a Momma getting ready for that first big trip, be sure to share this with her!