I've gotten a handful of e-mails and facebook messages asking me how we made it through a 13 hour flight with our son without going insane. I really feel like we just hit the happy-baby jackpot for the month, as Sal always seems to have a day or two a month that he is just the poster child for easy babies. The other 29 days, he is still a generally happy baby, but we definitely have our moments within a 24 hour period of pure meltdown madness.
Surely one of those meltdowns would occur as we took flight, right? As luck have it, he had his poster child day on the day we boarded that United flight with a few hundred passengers all crossing their fingers that their seat assignment wasn't next to that couple with the baby.
Still, it helped to be prepared.
I can't take credit for all of the tips I am about to share with you nor can I promise that our next flight home won't be a disaster, but being prepared with the following information and items before taking flight with our pre-mobile infant helped a ton.
We took three carry on bags between the three of us. One large diaper bag, Nick's briefcase and one small rolling suitcase filled to the brim with baby gear. I put just enough items in the diaper bag that they were easy to grab from the overhead bin, and the suitcase enough clothes and necessities to last Sal a week. No really, we packed it so even if our checked luggage went missing ( it's happened before..Remember Nick's last trip to China when our suitcase full of formula and clothes for Sal got picked up by the wrong person, and took 4 days to get returned?) Sal had enough clothes, diapers, formula to last a week.
My must have items:
- Enfamil formula pouches
- One piece sleepers
- Halo Sleep sack swaddler
- Boppy nursing pillow ( they make travel ones, but I used my regular)
- Pacifier on a leash
- Clorox Anti Bac wipes
- Bottle of water ( purchased in the terminal)
- nursing cover
- 2-3 small teether toys
In a gallon size ziploc:
- Arm and Hammer diaper disposal bags
- disposable changing pad
I both bottle and breastfeed Sal, therefore, I boarded the plane prepared with formula in case we had a difficult time nursing. He's been way more into playing than nursing lately, no matter how quiet or dark I make the room. I'm glad I did, because I made the rookie mistake of nursing him before the plane took off the tarmac, and I was worried about his ears popping, so we quickly made a bottle and let him drink it as we gained altitude. He was a well fed baby that flight.
The easiest way to dress him for the flight was a one piece footed sleeper. On our test run flight, I had him in a onesie, socks and pants. Try changing that in a lavatory. No thanks! Lesson learned. The one piece sleeper unsnaps and stays on, so there is no chance of losing an article of clothing on the bathroom floor.
We no longer swaddle him for naps or nighttime, but he has always slept extremely well when swaddled, so I brought along our sleepsack with the wings since he would inevitably be sleeping on our laps, and unable to roll over in our arms.
We did request a bassinet, but when it arrived, we said no thanks--for some of you, it may work, but I couldn't get over the thought of putting my baby in a duffel bag, which was essentially what the airline bassinets look like. This is where my boppy served dual function. Not only did it make nursing easier, but Sal was able to sleep on our laps on top of it.
Sal is not a pacifier kid, but it did help on the decent. Having it on a leash just made it easy to keep track of, and off of the dirty airplane seats and floor.
The Clorox wipes are my best friend (especially now here in China which is not the cleanest place). I used them to wipe down the dining tray and armrests and pretty much anything I touched, or would come in contact with Sal.
Having a few of his favorite toys helped. They entertained him for a few minutes each time I pulled them out.
To help with diaper changes, I put a disposable changing pad, 2 diapers, wipes, arm and hammer trash bags and a onesie in a gallon ziploc. This way, all we had to do was grab the ziploc and take it to the bathroom rather than lug a huge diaper bag into an already small space.
We did buy gate check bags, and bagged both the carseat carrier (left the base at home. Chicco carseats can be used with a car safety belt only), and the chicco caddy stroller while in the terminal. Nick gate checked them as he boarded, leaving me to board with Sal in my arms.
The best advice we were given, and that worked for us, was to have Nick pre-board , and Sal and I hung back until 99% of the passengers had boarded. Nick had a chance to get my seat set up with my boppy and nursing cover, and made a bottle of formula as backup. All Sal and I had to do was board, find our seat, buckle up and sit down. Boarding last allowed for less time sitting on the tarmac waiting for takeoff. I'd much rather he scream in the terminal than sitting on the tarmac waiting for others to board.
Seriously, boarding last was the best move, ever.
Remember, most people have children. Most have been in your shoes a time or two, and will most likely sympathize with you if your child goes nuts. If not, offer to buy them a drink or two in an attempt to make them pass out and stop with the stink eye looks they flash your way.