Over Mardi Gras break, we took D on her first airplane trip. That girl has been runnin' the roads since she was a month old or so, but we had never ventured so far as to require air travel. I spend 95% of my life running around like a hot freaking mess, but I was dead set on not being a complete disaster for once. I researched, made lists, shopped and packed with intensity.
And it paid off. I was about 97% completely prepared for this and here is how I did it:
Car Seat/Stroller: How it never occurred to me that you would need to bring a carseat WITH you when flying, I will never know. But it's true- you must. There is no car seat rental option at the airport (as far as I know). We checked our infant carrier (by a stroke of luck, D still fits in it), and we brought our regular stroller with us through the airport and gate-checked it before boarding. I had tried to borrow a friend's snap n' go, but it didn't work out. It was better that way anyway as you can't use those without the infant seat, and that would mean TWO gate-checked items. I'm sure that would be ok, but you never know when an airline will pull one over on you and change the rules (I've done enough flying without a baby to know that happens often!). I don't know what we'll do when she can only use a convertible carseat. Those things are a beast to install.
Child Wearing: We have a carrier, but we didn't even bother with it because you are not allowed to use them on the plane. I can't remember if you can board "wearing" your baby or not, but it was just more luggage in the end so we left ours at home.
We just picked up little bottles of milk wherever we were and then used these for the other times. It worked out fine. I also bought a gazillion baby food pouches and meals for the times when D couldn't wait for us to eat. She mostly eats what we eat, but sometimes we eat late and she can't wait that long. The pouches were handy in those situations. I don't mess with squeezing them into spoons or using that spoon attachment, so that makes it even more convenient.
The Art of Distraction: My goal at this stage of motherhood is to
become a master of distraction in order to control outbursts. I'm not
there yet, but I get really anxious about D "bothering" other people.
I'm also a teacher, so misbehavior is not something I tolerate. But I
try to remind myself that babies have a limited means of communicating,
and screaming just happens to be the most effective tool they have right
now. So distraction is really my best bet. My favorite trick in my
little bag is my iPhone. Sometimes I use the reverse camera, sometimes I
put on Journey music, but I'm not going to lie- YouTube Baby Einstein
videos almost always hit the spot. UNFORTUNATELY, they are a no go on an
airplane, so I downloaded a few other baby educational videos and a few
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse videos to the iPad, and we rolled with that for a
while. (Spare me if you don't dare allow your kid a second of screen time until they are 17.) I also had not one but TWO diaper bags full of attention keepers
including but not limited to these favs..
When I pulled out the painter's tape for the first time, my husband was a little concerned about my intentions, but it did serve as a good distraction for a few minutes. And by the way, I do consider Puffs to be more of a toy than food.
Germophobia: Let go of it. Just let go of it. You'll make yourself crazy. Sometimes your kid just has to crawl on the terminal waiting area carpet, and you might even have to change your baby's diaper in the airplane lavatory (yes, gross). But you just can't disinfect the world! Wash your hands when you can and give a nice, long bath when you get where you're going.
Poor flight planning- I didn't really think about it beforehand, but I would really recommend strategically planning your flights. Sometimes you can't help it, but we might have been able to make ourselves a little less stressed had we carefully chosen flights. For example, try to avoid the flights that take you all over the country and past your destination twice before finally getting you where you need to go (it happens..I promise). And DEFINITELY avoid flights like those that don't even give you an off-plane layover. We literally spent about 10 hours on the SAME plane. And if you can afford it, I would probably go ahead and spring for getting your infant his/her own seat. You might get lucky like we did on our first day of travel and get on a flight that isn't completely full. People don't go out of their way to sit by a baby, so chances are, you'll get the spare seat if there is one. On the other hand, you might get stuck on a COMPLETELY full small aircraft for ten hours with a third row-mate who isn't exactly petite and doesn't know that Emily Post says the armrests go to the poor soul in the middle. Not cool. (I'm not actually positive that's true...B told me that when he got stuck in the middle with no armrest room, so he could have been making that up for extra pity.)
We try to fly Southwest, which is wonderful for traveling with a baby thanks to family pre-boarding, free bags and choosing your own seats. I also hear that they have affordable infant seat fares, so it's worth looking into.
My final warning is to be sure you pack enough diapers for the plane. I won't go into it, but just know that this tip comes from a place of experience. Although most moms are probably thinking, "DUH" right now.
So that's all I have to share about the logistics of traveling with an infant. All things considered, we had a great flying experience and really appreciate Southwest for accommodating families so nicely.