By Katrina Andrews
When my daughter was only 6 weeks old, she took her first of many airplane rides. In fact, she had flown on 14 airplanes before she turned 2. So if there is one thing I know, it's how to travel with a baby.
I have found that the sooner an infant gets used to traveling, the easier it will be for everyone. Here are some great tips to get you and your little bundles ready to fly.
Preparing for a trip can be daunting, even without kids to pack for, so getting organized is your best bet. When making your reservations, check with your airline and find out what carry-on items are restricted.
Also, ask the airline if your airplane will have a changing table (many do). If it won't, pack a blanket to take to the back of the plane and use on the floor.
Put your address tag on everything, including your stroller and car seat. Try to bring just one carry-on with everything you and your baby might need. We don't like to think about lost luggage, but we all know it happens. Remember to pack extra tops for yourself for spit-ups and accidental spills. Bring a book and download your favorite music along with some of your infant's favorite tunes. If the flight gets delayed, you can rock and roll or lullaby the time away. Keep your cell phone, ID, and loose cash to tip a redcap in an easy-to-access pocket. (And don't be shy about asking for help. It's golden in a busy airport.)
Pack extra diapers in case of a flight delay and include two extra outfits in case of a diaper leak. Always keep a few Zip-Lock bags handy. They are great for storing soiled diapers or clothes. Pack an extra sweater for each of you in case the cabin, or your destination city, is cooler than expected.
If your child is only a few months old and is not interested in lots of toys, take two of his favorites (in case one gets lost) on the plane with you and pack the rest. As your child gets older, be sure to pack a variety of fun things to keep him busy. You'll notice that kids who are restless on planes usually don't have enough entertaining toys. Once my kids could pull a kid-sized roll-on suitcase, they helped me pack it - chockfull - of their beloved books, games and toys. And slipping in a brand-new toy is always a big hit (just not one with little parts).
Tabatha Dotson, reservations supervisor for American Airlines and a mom, advises bringing your car seat if you are flying with an infant or toddler. "It's just safer," she says, adding, "And don't forget to bring your own snacks for the little ones, even for a short flight."
For mom and dad, be sure to wear a comfortable, wrinkle-free outfit. You want to be able to sit in almost any position and not look like too much of a mess when you reach your destination. Remember, when you look good, you feel better. And, if your travel time is flexible, consider a late-night, or red-eye, flight. Those flights are usually not as full, and you'll miss all the airport congestion. And chances are, your baby will sleep through the flight.
At the airport, you can take your stroller all the way to the gate. It is not considered a carry-on or part of your checked luggage limit (but always double-check with the airline). When you get to the gate, attendants will give you a special tag for the stroller. You can take the stroller up to the airplane door and then fold it up and leave it just outside the doorway. When you land, you'll find it waiting for you.
To help your baby cope with changes in cabin pressure, nurse, bottle feed or give your baby her pacifier as the plane is working its way down the runway. If she shows no interest in eating or sucking, tease her by popping it in and out of her mouth. She'll think it's a game and inevitably she will start sucking.
Most important to remember: If you stay calm, so will your baby. She can feel your stress, worry or panic, so take a deep breath and just relax. One way or another, you'll get there. If your plane is delayed or cancelled, go with the flow, and remain composed. Find a corner, spread out a blanket and read to your baby. Stay calm, be prepared and before you know it, you'll be there!