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This will be the fourth weekend in a row that we’re out of town. And we spent four days in California last week, taking Tucker on his first plane ride (why start small?). Everything went absolutely as smoothly as possible, but it sure is different traveling with an infant!
First of all, I highly recommend a few training trips before you do a big one with flights and hotels. Since we’d already spent a few nights away from home, I’d gotten the basics down in terms of what we needed to bring and in what quantities. Of course, trips in the car are way easier than longer ones, since you can just keep chucking things in the trunk until it won’t close anymore, but you’ll still get a sense of what’s really crucial.
We ended up using the UPPAbaby bassinet (which he sleeps in at home, though he’s rapidly outgrowing it) for all the trips. We collapsed it and packed it into the biggest suitcase in the world to check through to California, and we packed all our clothes around it, with his stuff as well. We limited our carry-ons to the diaper bag and a backpack. I packed eight or 10 diapers for the cross-country flight (normally he uses seven or so in each 24-hour period), along with plenty of wipes, ziplock bags (for dirty clothes), extra outfits for him and shirts for us, etc. We didn’t end up needing the emergency outfits but if I hadn’t had them on the plane I know we would have had a catastrophe. Oh, and I think we changed him once on each flight. But again, best to be cautious.
We took the Beco carrier but didn’t end up using it in the airport; we used the stroller and car seat until we got to the gate, and then gate-checked the stroller base and took the car seat on the plane with us. We were lucky enough to get an extra seat on the flight out, so he basically nursed and slept the entire time. On the way home we had mileage tickets in first class and convinced the flight attendant to let us put the seat on the floor at our feet for him to sleep in. Of course as soon as he fell asleep the seatbelt sign went on and we had to take him out and hold him for the rest of the flight--four hours total. My saving grace was a pillow I’d brought on with me; with that on my lap he slept really soundly for three hours straight. If you know you won’t be able to bring the car seat on, consider bringing a good pillow so that the baby can just lie flat on your lap.
It was nice to have the bassinet with us to use on the stroller once we arrived as well as at night--Tucker enjoyed sleeping in style while we went out to breakfast and wandered around town. And the Chicco Keyfit was really easy to use in the rental car and cabs, since you can strap it in with the shoulder or lap belt and avoid carrying the base with you.
My five top tips:
-Be ridiculously organized. Clean out your diaper bag and re-pack it without any random stuff. Know which pocket the pacifiers are in. (And bring extras in case one falls on the floor of the plane. Ew.) Have your liquids all ready to pull out from the top of the bag.
-Be flexible. You won’t be able to travel as efficiently as you used to, so just accept that and go with it. We actually had a really relaxing time because we went back to bed after his early-morning meal and slept in each morning, and cuddled with him instead of hitting the ground running.
-Leave yourself extra time. It will take you longer to get out of the car or cab at the airport, to get sorted for security, even to make your way to Dunkin Donuts for a coffee before you board. (And then how are you planning to carry that cup of coffee along with a baby, car seat, carry-ons, etc?)
-Get to the gate early enough to talk to the gate agent about nabbing an extra seat so you can take the car seat on with you. It took serious doing for our outbound flight, but it ended up working out and it made life way easier.
-Befriend the people around you on the plane, if possible. Acknowledge that you’re the person terrifying them with an infant, and let them know that you’ll do everything in your power to make it a pleasant flight for anyone. Consider taking a bunch of packages of earplugs that you can hand out if you need to! Befriend the flight attendants, too.
What has worked best for you when you’ve traveled with an infant?
Kate Flaim is a freelance journalist and food blogger based in Cambridge, Mass. When she's not cooking or writing, she is gearing up for the arrival of her first child this summer.