flying solo with an infant…literally

While Maelle’s first flight back in October was relatively smooth (thank you, Jesus), it was still a ‘trial by fire’ of sorts and completely unplanned.  Perhaps its spontaneity was the key to keeping my anxiety at bay; I simply didn’t have the chance to worry about it!  We have more air travel planned for January, so hopefully we’ll feel more prepared this time around.

Because I flew alone with the baby, I knew I’d have even fewer hands to carry luggage and her, so she didn’t get her own bag.  Thankfully, babies are small and their clothes are, too.  I tossed all her clothes, sleepers, bibs, and some extra diapers in my rolling suitcase.  Don’t forget things like a swaddle or diaper cream if you use them.  I re-packed the diaper bag to include my personal items as well so I didn’t need to bring a purse.  Food, including baby food, can be brought in an ADDITIONAL carry-on bag, it just simply may only contain food.  Maelle was only nursing at that point, so I didn’t need a food bag, but it’s nice to know I can have one once we do.

Important things to have in your carry-on: extra pacifiers in easy-to-reach spots, extra clothes (because blow-outs only happen when it’s terribly inconvenient), disposable changing pads, your wallet, diapers and wipes, a muslin blanket and couple toys/books/teethers.

I was given a Skip Hop Stroll & Go Baby Sleep Soother as a gift, and it’s become one of those things I didn’t know I needed.  White noise for the win!  This little gem has saved my bacon on more than one occasion when Maelle has gotten fussy in public. We use a Hatch Baby Rest sound machine at home, but I don’t always bring it when I travel.  I keep our little owl sound machine in the stroller, but I made sure to grab it for the trip.  I used it on the plane, at bedtime and for naps.

A baby carrier is a must-have for anything other than car travel.  I’m currently using the Moby Ring Sling, and I have a Lillebaby carrier for when she’s bigger.  On three of the four flights, I was able to get another open seat next to me in which I could put the car seat.  Thankfully, the flight I had to hold her was short, and the ladies on either side of me were more than willing to lend a hand…or hold the baby.

Also, IF you are holding a baby on your lap during a flight, you WILL NOT be able to reach down into the carry-on at your feet.  Grab anything you think you or the baby will need during the flight and stuff it all into the seat pocket in front of you, or your pockets.  Otherwise, you’re handing that baby to one of your seat mates.

When I landed in Denver, I realized I had no where for Maelle to sleep!  I opted not to bring her travel crib since I wouldn’t be able to carry it AND the diaper bag AND my suitcase AND the baby.  Bestie to the rescue!  I texted Emily and not only did she tell me what to get–the Baby Delight Snuggle Nest–she figured out which Wal-Mart was closest to my destination AND called to make sure they had one in stock.  SHE. IS. AMAZING.

I picked one up before getting to our AirBnB that night and was so glad I did.  Combined with the portable sound machine, the co-sleeper created an environment similar to her bassinet at home AND I could bring it with me to my aunt’s house for her naps (pictured below).

Lastly, some quick pointers to ensure a smooth travel experience at the airport:

-Wear slip-on shoes and a light jacket with pockets, but keep other items (jewelry, scarves, hats, etc…) to a minimum.  The more you have to fiddle with at security, the harder it is.

-Keep anything you reach for often (pacifier, wallet, glasses) at the top of the diaper bag or in a separate pocket.

-Whenever possible, change the baby in the airport bathroom BEFORE boarding the plane.  Plane bathrooms are equipped with changing tables, but it’s not ideal.

-Consider buying a ticket for the baby so you can strap the carseat into a seat.  It’s so much more comfortable to be able to put the baby down, and they are safest when strapped into the seat anyway.

-If your stroller is airplane-friendly, by all means, bring it.  Being able to load it up with the baby and bags frees up your hands for the countless things you’ll need them for, from fishing your wallet out of the diaper bag to eating a quick bite before boarding.

One final note: people will come out of the woodwork to help you if they see you traveling alone with an infant.  (At least that was my experience.)  While my nature is often to reject assistance, motherhood has taught me to accept, and even ask for, help.  While I managed shockingly well, I was still very grateful for the offers of to hoist my suitcase into the overhead bin or hold a bag while I paid for my airport coffee.  Accept as much as possible!

Bon voyage!

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