|Flight from MSP to PHX at 9:55 p.m.|
We survived our first flight with Jackson from Minneapolis to Phoenix - a 3 hour trip. Phew! We planned to leave late at night so he could sleep most of the time. On the way home we also tried to stick to a later flight time. I *tried* (hard) not to be a nervous wreck and told myself to go with it, but at times that can be hard. After all, I'm a first time mom.
The thing with me is I've traveled to Greece and Ireland with just a backpack and wore the same sweater 10 days in a row while in Italy. I've stayed in random hostels and made friends with bed bugs. I lived in a coat closet while missioning in Peru. Our plane went on strike for 10 hours in Italy. We got on the wrong train in Rome. We battled snow storms on our 26-hour flight to South Africa. I thought I was pretty well versed in travel.
The bottom line is no matter what kind of traveler you are, traveling with a baby takes on a whole new meaning. But I'm here to say stressing and worrying does zero good. For everyone.
Just breathe, go with it and hang on for the possibility of a bumpy ride. My motto was to continue to list off things I was grateful for in my head the entire time so I'd remain positive.
Below are a few tips I learned:
1. Give yourself plenty of time to pack.
I started packing the Sunday before we left. Karl looked surprised when he saw me wheel out the suitcase. "You're already packing? It's only Sunday."
I threw a few of my clothes in the suitcase and kind of thought, yeah, he's right. Why am I already packing? (Side note: Because I am smart, that's why!)
We weren't leaving until Thursday after work... I'd have plenty of time...
Our flight didn't leave until 9:55 p.m. on Thursday but we had to leave the house by 6:30 and both of us were working a full day. The plan was to drive to the airport, park nearby and take the Park N Fly (thanks to my older brother who let us use his weekly parking pass) and we'd check bags. (FYI- No, you don't need to strap baby in with the shuttle bus's seat belts while riding the Park N Fly in Minnesota. I kept Jackson in his car seat and set him on my lap.) We also had a stroller and a car seat to get through security. And this was the first time we were traveling with a baby. We weren't sure how long everything would take and wanted to allow plenty of time. I realized once Thursday hit, I never again had looked at the suitcase because I worked my eight hour days and played with Jackson once I got home until bedtime. Karl was working well past seven every night that week, so that left me to do it all (all you single moms out there...GOD BLESS YOU. How on earth do you do it???). By the time 9:00 hit, I was in bed and packing was the furthest thing from my mind. I was exhausted.
But when the clock struck 6:00 p.m. on Thursday and I had just finished nursing Jackson, I realized I still hadn't officially packed and I had thirty minutes to get dinner on the table and get everything together. I was like a tornado zipping through the house. The worse part: I couldn't find Jackson's birth certificate - the one thing I needed to make sure I had. Complete madness. So my advice. PACK EARLY.
2. Contact your airlines ahead of time
I had all these questions. Could I bring my b-milk through security without getting questioned for it? Could it be more than 3 ounces per bottle? What about his medicine? Would that be okay? Could I bring my b-feeding pillow? What were the chances someone would ask to see Jackson's birth certificate? We flew Delta and thankfully they have this AWESOME twitter account - @DeltaAssist. Tweet a question and in less than five minutes you have a response. Super cool. And yes, you can bring b-milk with you through security.
3. Push your baby with your stroller through the airport, don't carry
We brought our beloved BOB stroller and the car seat adapter and clicked on our Chicco Keyfit 30 car seat. It seemed huge, but the whole set up is easy to take apart and piece together. Basically the system goes like this: you get to security and have to take your baby out of the car seat and you need to break the car seat away from the stroller. There can't be ANY toys hanging from the stroller's handlebar or the car seat's. They will make you remove everything from both the stroller and car seat. Then you flip the car seat upside down on the conveyor belt. They will have you walk the stroller through and will pat it down. Then, you can easily gather up all your things getting spit out of the X-Ray machine (beware of the grumpy workers who might give you attitude, but for the most part employees are pretty friendly). Soon you're putting it all together again and wheeling your baby through the airport. And your arms never get tired.
4. Gate check your stroller and car seat and luggage if you can
We checked our luggage on the way to Arizona because we were flying with my brother who is Platinum status (he's so awesome to travel with). He can check anything for free. On the way home, we had to pay for one checked bag and tote around another one. Luckily when we got to the gate, they let us check our other suitcase with our stroller and car seat. They gave us hot pink tags for our stroller and car seat so when we walked off the plane, there it was (and all put together too!)
We did not take our car seat base with us. Karl brought the car seat manual with and refreshed his memory on how to strap in a car seat with only the seat belt. Glad we took that car seat safety class before Jackson was born. Worked like a charm.
5. Check the status of the plane online before you get to the airport, then talk to the people at the gate for favors
Before leaving for Arizona, my brother checked the passenger status and saw that the flight wasn't full. Karl and I were seated in a row of three seats. I had a window seat and he had the aisle seat, and we hoped that nobody would take the seat in between us. However, when we got to the gate, we found out someone had filled the seat. My brother sweetly asked if there would be any way they could move that person to another seat. They did. And just like that, we had an open seat between us! As we were walking onto the plane and folding up the BOB, I asked one of the flight attendants if I could bring on the car seat and put it in between us. They said that if nobody was in between us, sure. YAY!!! Most people have to pay for this. We got lucky.
With that said, we traveled both ways. On the way to Arizona, we had the car seat in the empty seat between us. On the way back to Minnesota, we had to hold Jackson. If I could, I'd travel with the car seat every time. He fell asleep in that. On the way home, we passed back and forth a fussy baby.
6. Bring the Baby Bjorn just in case
We tucked the Baby Bjorn in Karl's backpack and brought it out at the airport on the way back home. Karl walked around with Jackson in it and he was happy as a clam. It was nice to be hands free and have those extra hands to pull the car seat from the stroller and fold it up.
7. Nurse (or feed) baby at take off and landing
I was nervous for this part just because I wasn't sure what would happen with nursing. Jackson has been getting so distracted when he eats lately (he pulls off every couple minutes), that I was worried he'd have issues with his ears and eating. No problems here though. As the plane pulled away, I waited as long as I could before feeding him (dealt with him fussing for a little bit) - you never know when something on the plane might break down or there is a lot of traffic on the runway. As the pilot announced "Flight attendants get ready for take off," I started to get Jackson ready. I waited for the plane to take its final turn onto the main runway and started to nurse.
That brings me to my next point. Wear a sports bra. I have special nursing bras but I have to reach up to unclasp them and my shirt will fall down and I fumble like crazy. All I had to do with the sports bra is lift my shirt and bra up and boom. Jackson was latched. No prob.
So then my next big question was...do I bring a Boppy or my Brestfriend aboard? I use these ALL THE TIME at home. I didn't have anything with me on the way to Arizona and feeding was a little uncomfortable, especially when we waited in the airport - way too many people around with nothing to stare at but me struggling. While on the airplane, my brother did hand back a blanket from First Class that I could roll up and put under Jackson's head. That helped. But I knew I wouldn't get that kind of treatment on the way back. So on the way home, I brought my Brestfriend on the plane and that made things a whole lot easier on me. I basically sat down and clipped it on me and put on my hooter hider. Yes, the pillow is a bit bulky, but comfort and convenience outweighed all that. Of course I had to wash it right when we got home because it rubbed up against so many germy things and hit the floor a hundred times.
As soon as I felt the plane descend and the pilot made his announcement that we were 25 minutes from landing, I fed Jackson again. Doesn't feel right to wake a sleeping baby, but anything I can do to prevent sore ears! Also on the flight home, I fed him a few times just so he'd stop crying. This is where breastfeeding comes in handy.
8. Have plenty of toys, diapers, change of clothes available
Jackson had his big blowout before we got to the airport on the way to Arizona, so we were good there and I didn't have any worries. I've been told that baby's tend to release more when they are on an airplane due to pressure or something. On the flight home, I made sure I had everything bundled into a simple changing pad just in case (wipes, diaper, hand sanitizer, diaper rash cream, and an extra pair of clothes and an extra shirt for me!). Jackson waited until we were inches from the ground to let 'er go. Thankfully it wasn't up the back or down the leg this time.
I followed the advice of another blogger and brought some new toys, but truthfully Jackson was more interested in the people and lights and mom and dad making faces and noises at him. So we spent the 3 hours entertaining as much as I could. I can't believe I thought I'd get through a couple magazines during the flight. Ha. Jackson would stop maybe for 10 minutes to look at a book or stick a toy in his mouth. We have learned our baby just doesn't ever sit still. Ever.
9. Bring disinfectant wipes
Planes = germ city. Even before I sat down, I already had my disinfectant wipes out and was wiping down everything - windows, arm rests, tray tables, seat belts, seat backs, etc. Yes, Karl thought I was a nut but I knew Jackson would be touching everything and anything he touched would be going directly into his mouth and eyes.
10. Be ready for different climates
On the way to Arizona the plane was an ice box. The flight home - the air conditioner broke. You get where I'm going here? Pack for warm and cold.
What have you learned traveling with a baby?