Traveling on a plane alone with a newborn is tough, but not impossible. Don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets about traveling with her. But I did learn some things of what worked well and what wasn’t such a great idea. Here are my experiences:
1- Babies require a TON of stuff. Spend the extra $25 to check your luggage because you only have 2 hands. On the way to FL, I had a carry-on suitcase, diaper bag, breast pump (it’s built into a small backpack), a snap-and-go stroller, a car seat and a baby. TOO MUCH STUFF! On the way home I cut down what I carried on the aircraft. I checked my luggage bag and put my breast pump inside the suitcase. That is 2 entire items I didn’t have to worry about. So all I had on that flight was: diaper bag, stroller, car seat and a baby. Much more manageable.
2- Wear your baby, if you can. I used my Moby Wrap, and that was the best decision ever. You are not allowed to wear babies during take off and landing (some sort of airline rules), but you just slip the baby in and out during those two times. On my first flight I didn’t have the Moby on, so I held her. That means you only ever have one hand. That’s ok for the most part except for when you NEED both of your hands.
3- Plan your feedings ahead of time. What worked for me was to breastfeed Winter right before boarding the flight. On my first flight I breastfed her several times in the air and used my nursing cover. I was sitting next to a lady, so I felt totally comfortable doing this. On my way home I was sitting next to 2 grown men and decided to forego breastfeeding and give her 2 bottles of pumped breast milk in the air. This was ok until my breasts were SO FULL that they leaked through my breast pads, bra, and 2 shirts!! What a mess…. As soon as I arrived in Denver, I had to get my breast pump out and pump in a family-style restroom to empty myself out. So I would have rather just breastfed her on the plane and not worried about the 2 guys sitting next to me.
4- Get help from others. I could not have made it without taking the help from strangers. A nice gentleman brought my carryon bag onto the plane for me on my first flight. On the way off my first flight, and older man took both my diaper bag and my carryon for me. Someone else helped me break down my snap-and-go stroller to drop it at the gate check. A flight attendant held Winter for a second when she noticed I didn’t have my seatbelt on and asked me to buckle it. I was very grateful that others were kind enough to help me. I really couldn’t have done it without the help.
5- Security goes smoothly if you WEAR your baby. I know I already talked about the Moby Wrap, but my experiences of not wearing her vs. wearing her in security were night and day. When I didn’t wear her (I just held her in my arms), I only had one hand to put all of the things on the belt go to through the xray scanner. Breaking down a stroller and putting a car seat up on the belt with one hand is TRICKY. They let me wear Winter in the Moby Wrap when I walked through the metal detector, no questions asked.
6- Plan for everything to take 3 times as long as it usually does. I gave myself a TON of extra time for my first flight and still was rushed. On my return trip home, I had plenty of time and felt much more relaxed because I wasn’t hurrying around.
7- Be assertive if you need to, don’t worry about being polite. When I arrived to the airport, I wasn’t checking any bags, so I simply planned to print off my boarding pass at the kiosk. The kiosk prompted me to get in line and see an attendant because “assistance is required”. GREAT. So I waited in the long line. I was called to a station, but my airline attendant was helping someone else. She kept saying, “sorry, it’ll be just a second” and other people were getting called to other attendants. People who were in line behind me were already helped and finished before I was. It was probably 5-10 minutes I waited on my attendant. Looking back, I would have been assertive and said, “ma’am, if you cannot help me, can I please be directed to a different person who can?” because I lost valuable time waiting on her. Do what you need to do. Don’t worry about politeness.
8- Get everything out that you need on the plane and put it in the seatback pocket. I had a bottle of breastmilk, pacifier, burp cloth, protein bar and a blanket right there at arms reach. On my first flight I wore my nursing cover for the duration of the flight, whether I was nursing or not. That was helpful too.
9- If you have a choice, choose to not travel solo if you don’t have to. Having a helper (whether your spouse or a friend) would have made the whole experience a million times easier. Someone who can help you is priceless.
10- You will probably have to change a diaper on the plane — good news, they do have a changing table above the toilet in those tiny bathrooms. Winter did great with her diaper changes. It was helpful to leave my diaper bag under the seat and just take a fresh diaper, wipes and changing pad in my hands to the bathroom. It’s such a tight squeeze anyway that my bag would’ve been too big for the space. Plus, wearing her in the Moby was good too so I could go to the bathroom myself.
Well, I am sure there is more to it, but that’s what I’ve got for you. When traveling alone, just make sure you have plenty of time and a way to feed your baby (whether it’s breast feeding or having enough bottles). GOOD LUCK to any of you who will air travel with a baby in the future….it’s tough but totally doable!