Tuesday, October 2, 2012

{Domestic} Flying with Le Bebe: Travel Series Part I

Hi friends, we're back. For like 5 minutes. We'll be out of town more days this month than we'll be home, so the luggage isn't being put away quite yet.

Since B has now been on 10 flights, including a round-trip adventure across the Atlantic, I feel like I should be sharing some of my tips. Because I think domestic is considerably different than flying internationally, I'll create this post in two installments and maybe add a post about road trips, too.

First things first. Much of this applies to all travel, even without a little nugget in tow. We are pretty efficient packers because we've done this a time or two and know that there's nothing more frustrating than schlepping a bunch of stuff you didn't use back with you. I have a list of things I always pack for domestic travel and then things that are essential for the airport and airplane. My personal items aren't as important... but I found that creating a list of every. single. thing we need to pack makes things much easier. It's a checklist that goes right down to my tweezers. Cuts packing time in half not having to go from room to room and up and down the stairs dozens of times because I forgot to pack hair ties or something. We also live by the mentality that wherever you go, there will be stores as well. So if I forget razors? Don't sweat the small stuff. This rule, however, does not always apply internationally. That's for another day and post.

Airplane must haves:
  • Snacks - puffs or squeeze packs are what we use (Happy Baby, Ella's Kitchen, Gerber Organics, Plum Organics) + bib
  • Nursing cover & Aden & Anais blanket (used also as padding for a sleeping baby and cover to darken things up a bit on bright airplanes
  • About 3 toys. Though honestly, B really likes wrappers from snacks (texture!) that come free on many flights. We bring Sassy A-Z letter links, iPhone with kid apps, Wubbanub (that is now only used as play because B discovered his thumb is way more convenient), and Sophie. However, Sophie decided she wanted to take a permanent vacation to Boston and be buried with some of our founding fathers. She hasn't been seen since halfway through that trip. I can only assume B decided to dropkick her out of the stroller.
  • 3 Clorox wipes to wipe down all things babies like to touch. {read: everything} I put these in a Ziploc.
  • Ergo carrier: Hit or miss on this one. Sometimes he'll be worn sitting down but now that he's more mobile, that happens less and less.
  • 3 Diapers, wipes, change of onesie, Ziploc bag (I stuff all of this in here and LOVE this thing. I don't even use a diaper bag anymore because of this amazing thing. It slips into my purse and goes everywhere with me.)
Airport must haves:
  • Lightweight stroller with carseat adaptor to snap in so you don't have to carry it! {gate check item}
  • Stroller bag - we have one because the workers aren't exactly careful with our expensive strollers. {gate check item} Just saw this coming home from Germany and the couple with a very expensive European stroller arrived at ORD with a broken piece off their stroller. 
  • Carseat {gate check item} 
  • Ergo carrier because sometimes the baby doesn't dig the stroller
  • Carry-on backpack: All those airplane must-haves from above are stuffed in our carry-on backpack that always houses our laptop, iPad, chargers, JJ Cole diaper pod, toys, nursing cover, blanket, snacks, clorox wipes, wallet, etc.
The great thing about those gate check items is that they can all be consolidated for airport walking. We throw everything in the stroller and are usually only left with baby in the Ergo and wearing a backpack. It's actually easier walking around airports with all that stuff than it is without it because the wheels make it super convenient!

We're also the type to plan out exact numbers of outfits and skip out on checking bags unless absolutely necessary. For domestic flights, we almost never check a bag. I understand that it's more difficult with all that baby luggage and a baby to avoid this, but we prefer to skip out because it's a time saver, to prevent any disasters from happening to our bag, and because it's kind of nice having all of your stuff with you at all times. If two of you are traveling, one person can handle the carry-on luggage while the other pushing the stroller and holds baby in the Ergo. For multiple children, I am of no assistance at this time. Hah.

Recommendations for before and in-flight:
  • Babies require their own boarding passes. This is very important and needs to be printed out at the airport ticket desk. No more iPhone scanning of your boarding pass or printing at home. At least for the freebie first two years. You can still print yours, but they'll be re-printing them at the airport anyway... so why bother? You can check-in online early still, however. It makes no difference though, really, even while flying Southwest because you still get to board early no matter what group you're in.
  • Babies also require identification. B has a passport, but a birth certificate is required to verify age otherwise.
  • Before boarding, consult the flight desk for potential seat change if the flight isn't full. You might get lucky and be moved to a row without someone next to you! That extra seat can be invaluable. While you're there, ask about tags for your gate check items {stroller, stroller adaptor, stroller bag, carseat} that are required before boarding.
  • Allow for lots of movement before the flight. 
  • Change diaper before flight. Airplanes are small and accommodations are minimal.
  • Boarding: either board during family boarding time, or wait until the very end. You want to minimize the amount of time you spend on the airplane, especially when it's not moving yet! If Southwest or with a carry-on that doesn't fit under your seat, board during family time. If your bags are checked and you have assigned seats, there's really no need to board immediately as you don't need overhead compartment space and there's considerably more room for a squirmy baby outside of an airplane. Your seatmates will appreciate the gesture as well.
  • Have all your items accessible from your chair. That's why we bring a backpack as our all-in-one for B items and our in-flight snacks, etc.
  • Wipe down your area immediately with anti-bacterial wipes. Babies aren't patient.
  • Once doors to cabin are closed, scan the area for empty seats. If you have a seat partner, they probably don't want to sit with you because babies = invasion of space and noisy. Either try to relocate their seat for them or try to move yourself. It helps if you're extremely nice to the flight attendants.
  • Try to hold out feeding until the flight takes off. I try to breastfeed during takeoff and landing, but honestly, it almost never happens. B has never reacted poorly during this time, thankfully. I mostly recommend holding off because it's a perfect activity to occupy the little one during flight time.
  • Make sure baby has on socks, pants, and at least a hoodie or long sleeved shirt. Temperature control is so impossible on planes!
We love traveling and would hyperventilate at the thought of leaving him want to instill that spirit of adventure in B. And knock on wood... but B has never been sick and his first flight was at 6 weeks of age! He's flu shot ready and what can I say? When adventure calls... we go!

Did I miss anything, my fellow jet-setters? I am still writing this while jet-lagged, after all.


Solange, Nik, Caitlin and Oliver said... [Reply to comment]

This is awesome! Caity has never been on a plane-mostly because I've bee way too chicken to deal with it. Super helpful list though,thanks :)

Caroline said... [Reply to comment]

I'm flying soon and dreading it! I flew by myself with Finn when he was 3.5 months and it was no problem. Then Miles and I flew with him several times when he was 9-10 month and THANK GOD there were two of us because he was so much squirmier. This time, I will be tackling it solo with a 15 month old who just wants to RUN. Oh dear. Wish me luck! If I wasn't such a cheap ass I'd just buy him another seat and strap him into his carseat. But, I think I'd rather suffer for a few hours then suck down another $500!

LookItsJessica said... [Reply to comment]

Cute baby boy! We have taken Avery on a bunch of flights as well and we always check the stroller and carseat at the ticket counter and just carry Avery in the Beco to the gate. Always works for us! Also-- we never had to show ID for Avery, thank God because we never brought it with us!

We are formula feeding and buying a bottle of water at the terminal is a MUST for making formula on the place (always bring the powder too!). It seems my girl is FAMISHED on any and all flights...

Brigitte said... [Reply to comment]

We love to travel too and I totally agree with this post! With a little planning you can definitely have a less stressful, more enjoyable time :)

ASP said... [Reply to comment]

I'm super impressed with how much you travel with your little guy (who is a doll, btw!)! We've never flown with O but when we do, I'm definitely coming back here and consulting your list! Thank you!

Also, my friends parents own Glorioso's in Milwaukee and I showed her the post where you wrote about them. It made her smile and she said she was going to pass it on to her parents. ;) Small world, huh?

Safe travels and have fun!

Kristi said... [Reply to comment]

I find it helpful to check the specific airlines' websites because they seem to vary on what they allow to be checked for free. Since most of my flying with a child has been as the only adult, I tend to check as much of the non plane essential luggage. I work to have my hands as free as possible to be successful with security and walking to the gate. I also like to make friends with my seatmates and warn them of my friendly children, before the cabin doors are closed. :-)