seven tips for your first flight with your baby.

how to prep for baby's first flight

Before {jv} arrived, you could find me in an airport at least once a month. While it doesn't make me a black belt traveler, it does mean I have a few frequent flier miles behind my name. I haven't flown since I was 32 weeks pregnant, so I must say I was excited to take to the skies again. {jv} took his first flight at 6.5 months. While it didn't go perfectly, his first two flights were much better than I expected. I owe it all to the village helping us raise {jv}. In preparation for our trip, I crowd-sourced a few tips from my most trustworthy (and well-traveled) mom friends. Some of these tips come from those conversations; others come from our first-hand experience. Here are a few of my takeaways...

1) Invest in gate check bags for your stroller and car seat. Germs are prevalent on airplanes, so this extra layer of protection can't hurt. It also means you lower your risk (ever so slightly) of banged-up baby gear. (One thing to note: some baby gear requires the "branded" bag if you want to cover any damage. We have the UPPAbaby G-LUXE; if carried in this bag (and registered with UPPAbaby), all issues will be remedied in the first two years.) Gate checking bags is free -- and your items are way more likely to reach your final destination if you walk them down the jetway yourself.

2) Speaking baby gear, do your stroller and car seat research. I had too much faith in Uber Family and blindly thought they would have infant car seats available. Unfortunately, they only have forward-facing car seats (which do not work for our current situation). I didn't discover this until the week we were to leave. I had to scramble big time to figure out a solution. (We ended up bringing our Maxi Cosi Mico AP Car Seat, which we buckled directly into any cabs or ubers. As for the stroller, we found a floor model of the Maxi Cosi Kaia Stroller. It had a removable car seat connection, which made it easy to snap in quickly. It also made {jv} more comfortable on longer walks when we could leave the car seat at home. The Maxi Taxi was another compatible solution -- essentially a Snap N Go made especially for our brand of car seat.

3) Carry on back-up outfits for your little one and for you. It should come as no surprise that you might need an extra outfit for mishaps with your babe, but don't forget about yourself. A lap-held infant could easily transmit their outfit malfunction to you, if you catch my drift ;) It's better to be safe than sorry, even if it takes up a little room in your carry-on. Speaking of said "mishaps", bring a diaper bag dispenser. It takes up virtually zero space in your bag, but what it lacks in girth, it makes up for in smell prevention. One other expert tip from a sweet friend: ask for an airline-provided blanket to be sacrificed for the dirty job and act as a changing pad liner. Most flight attendants would be happy to help -- and point out the changing "table" in the lavatory. (These disposable changing pads are also great in a pinch.)

4) Pack a sense of humor. Traveling with a baby isn't a walk in the park, but it isn't impossible. {cv} and I shared a few laughs throughout the process -- thanks to some of {jv}'s loud bodily noises and awkwardly timed bathroom visits. We took it all with a grain of salt: he won't always be this small and portable. (One day, he will cry and actually be able to vocalize his frustration.) We decided to accept the little embarrassments and move on... because we will likely never see our flight mates ever again. Once they walk off the plane, our baby will be a distant memory.

5) If at all possible, take the necessary steps to get TSA Pre. At roughly 38 weeks pregnant, I waddled into our local enrollment center for my interview. It was an incredibly simple process. I hadn't reaped the benefits of that afternoon until this past weekend. We were able to skip the lines and bypass much of the hassle of going through security. I'd call this a serious win when you have a baby in tow.

6) Whether you're breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, be ready for time away from much of your gear. Feeding (however you do it!) on the ascent and descent can help prevent some ear irritation. Pack a lightweight nursing scarf or a few extra bottles (with ample formula) to ensure you're covered for extra time on the tarmac or in the air. When {jv} turned six months, I transitioned from exclusively breastfeeding to formula feeding (which requires a whole post in itself). I wanted to make sure I wasn't without necessary fuel for our little man, so I used a formula dispenser and filled for three feedings beyond what I anticipated. I'm sure it was overkill, but I've been stuck in an airport enough times to bring an insurance policy or two. (This will help keep your nerves at bay, which relates closely to my last tip!)

7) Leave your nerves at home. Babies play off of the environment around them. I notice it on crazy work days, but when I'm stressed, {jv} is too. The morning of his first flight, I was pretty exhausted after some last-minute packing, so I was too sleepy to be anxious. On {jv}'s first flight, he fell asleep ten minutes before we boarded our flight while I was wearing him in our Ergo. He stayed asleep for half of the flight, only waking up because of the beverage service cart noise right by his head. He required a bit of entertainment from the two of us for the duration of the flight, but we made it without any crying episodes. We had a more stressful boarding process on our flight home -- and {jv}'s behavior reflected it. Our flight was slightly delayed and he was overtired. The first twenty minutes of the flight involved some serious fussiness, but he finally gave in to his heavy eyelids. (We tried a combination of a bottle and a pacifier to satisfy him.) I can't help but think that he fed off my anxious energy on the way home. I'm going to try even harder to keep my nerves in check on future flights.

As an aside, these are a few posts from fellow bloggers which helped me maintain my sanity: Beth (from Ocean State Styled) is fresh off of a transcontinental vacation to Greece and has plenty of fantastic tips for the plane and beyond. Jane (from In The Pink and Green) had her son the same day I had {jv}; she has already traveled extensively with her little guy, so I was all over her travel post. Last but certainly not least, Lauren (from Aspiring Kennedy) has been my traveling-with-kids role model for 2+ years. I positively love this post she shared about adapting to travel with kids in tow.

Whether you have a brand new baby or might in the future, you can pin this post for future reference -- or to pass along to new mom friends. Please feel free to add your own anecdotal advice in the comments below as well! I know some of these tips may change depending on when what age you first travel with your baby, but these tips are a good start in preparing you for baby's first flight! xoxo {av}

P.S. Make sure you ask your flight attendant for a memento from the flight for your little one's baby book!