My baby’s first time flying, and our first time traveling as a family of four was an overall success. It helps that we have flown both domestic and international with our older son when he was a baby. And for that reason, we were able to prepare fairly well for this trip. I say experience is everything. Of course, there were hiccups, but what fun would it be if there weren’t. Okay, a lot more fun. But at least we’ll have something to laugh about later.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts from our first family vacation:
#1 Don’t Panic. I have learned over the last 15 years with my man that there is “Husband” and then there is “Travel Husband”. The stress of packing, loading up the car, keeping the kids composed, going through security, waiting for the plane, and finally taking off into the air turns him into someone I don’t even know. When I took the baby for a diaper change, “Travel Husband” decided to line up at the gate before any announcements were made to “beat the rush”. Those people reading their newspapers and sipping their coffee were only trying to fool us and were plotting how to get to the door first. And I mean, if that were to happen, just because we have tickets doesn’t mean they have to let us on the plane, right? There was too much at stake. Clearly, we mustn’t relax, not for one second. Well, in that whirlwind, “Travel Husband” with all his precision left my breast pump behind. It would have been too convenient to notice before we made it all the way to our seats on the plane. So I then had to deplane, run down the jet way back to the gate, and then hustle back to my seat avoiding eye contact with the annoyed passengers. The lesson here is: Leave “Travel Husband” at home. No, no. The lesson is hustle, but don’t stress. Try not to get overwhelmed on travel day. Law of attraction held true for us…think positive.
#2 Don’t Over-pack. We got this right. We traveled fairly light. Only items that we needed along the way were kept. Some of the important items included: baby bottle ready to go, extra milk, breast pump, all diaper bag essentials, receiving blankets, snacks, a few small toys, and sanitizing wipes to clean off airplane seats. Lollipops and hard candy helped little man’s ears during take-off and landing. I keep a small first-aid kit that includes thermometer, children’s/infant Tylenol, and band aids. Lastly, extra clothes for the kids are stashed into the hand luggage. Accidents and spit-up can happen anytime, anyplace.
#3 Do Take the Car Seat Onboard If Possible. We took the car seat and caddy up to the gate with plans to ask if our flight had vacant seats. Check your airline policy beforehand. If the flight isn’t full, some airlines will give you an extra seat for your lap baby free of charge. This made our little munchkin’s plane ride more comfortable and safe. It also kept my hands free for attending to both of my kiddos. Keep a car seat cover folded up in one of your bags in case you’re asked to check it in at the jet way after all.
#4 Do Keep Snacks and Games. Now is the time to bust out the new coloring books, travel sized games (Tic-Tac-Toe and UNO are favorites) or dare I say the computer tablet. My big boy has a tablet that we mostly reserve for traveling and he gets it after we’ve exhausted all the other activities first. Now being 3.5, he was very inquisitive about how the plane operates, how the clouds look and so the questions were endless. I took full advantage of having 2 hours of zero distractions to spend quality time just talking to my son and we didn’t need to do anything else. It was perfect. I also kept some of his favorite snacks for the flight. As for my baby, the humming motion of the plane was enough to keep him satisfied. He does well in car rides and apparently plane rides are no different. I had milk ready for take-off and landing to help his ears. He giggled, looked out the window, took a nap and had a bottle. I did a diaper change in my lap and nursed him once too. His first flight was shockingly easy but I was prepared with small baby toys and my natural singing voice (ha!) in case I needed to go into full entertaining mode.
#5 Do Take on Breast Milk, Formula and Water for the Kids. You can absolutely take these items with you through security and you’re not limited to the 3.4oz rule for other forms of liquid. I personally don’t like the idea of these items going through the x-ray conveyor, so I happily hand them over to TSA to run a separate test, which they do without opening the bottles. By opting out of the x-ray, I do have to go through a pat-down. If you decide to pass on the x-ray, just be sure to leave enough time to go through these extra procedures that might be a little lengthy, but safer in my opinion.
#6 Do Dress Appropriately. With the security lines being long and no matter how little hand luggage you carry, there’s still enough to make security a bit painful. We wear shoes that are easy to slip on and slip off. We all keep an extra sweater tucked away in one of the carry-ons instead of holding them. Kids wear socks. It can get chilly on the plane and even in the airport, so I dress the kids in long-sleeves and pants, even in the dead of summer. If you’re potty training, now is not the time to test out the Spiderman underwear. Diaper up those kids.
Keep things straightforward and do whatever makes the journey easier. If you have to bend some of your rules on travel day to make it easier, go right on ahead. No judgment!
For more information on traveling with children, visit the TSA website at: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures/traveling-children