Preparing for baby’s first flight

Southwest wingWe recently took our eight and a half month old daughter Maggie on her first, second, third, fourth and fifth flights on what was supposed to be about 14 hours of total flight time over four planes and ended up being 14 hours for just the first leg of the journey. Here are some things you might want to know for baby’s first flight.

Baby’s first flight: What to bring

You’ll need a certified birth certificate if you’re transporting baby on your lap. You’ll need to prove they’re under two years old. Yes, you’ll need this. I don’t know what you’ll need for a kid over two or if they’re traveling in their own purchased seat.

Strollers are generally allowed, not considered a personal item, luggage, or carry-on item, and are gate checked. This means you’ll stroll on back to the gate and contact a gate agent there to check your stroller. They’ll type it up, and give you a thing that goes on your stroller. Do this well in advance of boarding, they’re not taking your stroller away at this point.

At the point you board you’ll leave your stroller folded and ready for shipping at the bottom of the entry ramp.

You can also check a car seat, however that’s at the luggage section of the check in and may vary by flight. Call your carrier for details.

I’d advise additionally bringing a pacifier or three on a tether, Baby Mum Mums as chewing can help, formula, diaper change enough for a day, wet wipes, a towel, spare outfit for baby and for you, pain killers (baby numb gum, ibuprofen for baby, painkillers for adults can be purchased for about $5 and mix well with Coke).

Prepare for the unexpected

Vegas, how the hell did we end up in Vegas?
Vegas, how the hell did we end up in Vegas?

Our flights took us to states we didn’t plan for due to missed connections, lies, and bad re-routing. We checked our stroller all the way through to our destination so when we ended up stranded in Denver our stroller was nowhere to be found and we had to carry a baby for several hours.

If you’ve got a long enough layover, don’t check the stroller all the way through. It doesn’t take much time and will be worth it when you get stuck.

Might as well plan for the trip to go completely south. Worst case is you bring an extra couple of pounds of baby stuff with you. For us, that saved us a starving baby.

Also prepare to be vomited on like you’ve never been before. I’ll go into details of this later, but evidently it’s common. Baby completely covered herself in vomit, along with ITMama, and about a third of me. It was amazing. We had a four hour layover and no change of clothing, vomit soaked baby in a cold airport.

Plan your attack

Many airlines don’t mention online they have family boarding. Southwest is one of those, they do. It’s after the A group goes. Even if you think you’re hot stuff and can board at the end of B group as a family, forget it. Go for the family boarding. Find out from your airline what the deal is.

Sitting in the back will be bumpier but easier to get out later when everyone’s stampeding, sitting in the middle should be the smoothest but is farther away from changing tables if your plane has them.

Keep what you need in arm’s reach

You’re going to end up stuck in the window seat with a baby on your lap. Putting the milk and calming items in the overhead bin will cause you much suffering. It’ll also somehow mysteriously leak out, and drip in the seat behind you.

Don’t expect to do anything

You’re going to be handling an infant that may be good, may be bad, but is definitely going to be sitting there on your lap monopolizing your space and playing grab-magazine with the neighbor.

Your arms are like lead

Something about airline seat arms is terrible. You can quite cuddle a sleeping infant without holding your arms off of the arm rests. If you’ve got a jacket and can, shove it under one arm. It’ll help.

At the end of baby’s first flight

Don’t be afraid to be the last to leave the plane. Take time to make sure you have everything and can get out without conking baby on the head. If you’ve had a barf incident, inform the stewards of the plane. It’s much nicer to do this than to let the next person sick in sick kid vomit.

The TSA security screening portion

Put any pre-made formula in a bag. You can take on what you want, but they sort of get weird if it’s not in its own bag. You can’t bring on much water, however you can bring on pre-made formula.

Depending on the place, they’ll screen moms and dads together to make it easier for everyone to get through the check in. It was actually a littler easier than I expected it to be with a baby.

At one airport our stroller had to be folded and go through the belt scanner, at another they pulled it aside and looked at it. I’m not sure what’s up with that. Be prepared to put away the stroller for a minute though.

Random things

The Skymall catalog is free, makes for excellent baby ripping fodder. Most people will make faces and entertain your infant. Sitting near other babies causes a baby union cry to go up, so unless you want a wall of tears you might want to consider being a few aisles away from the next infant, a tray table can double as a seat.

Perhaps don’t feed the baby to completely full while on the plane. If you can get by with snack-level you lower the risk of explosive vomit. However, if your baby’s dead set to eat, go ahead, will probably knock them out.

Gate checked items meet you at the next gate or the gate they’re checked to. If you miss a flight, your gate checked items are probably going to end up at the lost and found rather than wherever your luggage ends up.

I’d love to hear from you

I don’t know it all, just my experience, if you’ve got any hints for parents, let us know.