Flying With An Infant: Packing Your Carry OnDecember 14, 2014
With the holidays rapidly approaching, I know many of you will tackle flying with your babes for the very first time. It can be overwhelming, daunting and confusing to even get the process started so I thought I would write a series of posts detailing how I fly with an infant and somewhat maintain my sanity. Gray is 5 months old flew his 15th and 16th legs last weekend. I began flying with him when he was 10 weeks old and haven't looked back since. Of course, keep in mind that you should do what is right for your baby and follow your doctor's advice on immunizations, flying and travel but we were cleared to fly after our 8 week shots and well child check up. For reference, G has never once had to go in for a sick visit and hasn't caught any sort of rogue disease from flying (although my mom was positive he was going to catch Ebola on our flight from Maine to Virginia a few months ago).
Today's post will be about packing the carry on bags so that you have everything you need right at your finger tips but don't waste precious carry on space on something stupid (a giant bottled water to fill bottles? yeah, use the water fountain and save yourself the back ache). Tomorrow I'll walk you through a typical solo airport travel day step by step and Wednesday I'll share my best tips and tricks (tip 1: be nice to the flight attendants!). Keep in mind that I'm writing from the perspective of an infant mom flying alone but will note what I do differently if my husband is flying with us.
As a side note, the most popular question or comment that I get on Insta these days usually goes a little something like this:
"gawd, how do you do it?! I could never fly with my baby alone!"
Oh yes you can!
It may not always be fun but you can do it and you can survive it. I can't imagine my life without travel and I want Gray to see the world. With that being said, he has flown most of his flights to see family, visit ailing great grandparents or accompany his daddy on a business trip to our new hometown. You may find yourself in a situation where you need to travel with your infant and I hope that this will provide you with a step by step game plan so that you feel confident to pack up and head out!
Step 1: getting your crap together
(and Lord, do babies need a ton of crap)
When I fly alone (which is typically how I fly), I always wear the baby in our Baby Bjorn. I put him into the Bjorn in the parking lot or when we're dropped off so that I have my hands free to handle suitcases/bags/gear/. Now that he's older, he faces out while we get through checking our bags, security and to our gate. He loves to people watch and it honestly helps for other passengers to see his cute double dimples before we all board the same plane. It holds them off from hating you or looking upon you with the "oh God, please don't let that baby be on my plane" disgusted look. Right before we board, I face him in so that I can bottle feed him and he can nap. If he gets fussy on the flight, I take him out and let him sit up and look around but my ultimate goal is that he naps the entire time we're in the air.
I also prefer not to deal with our car seat or stroller when I'm alone. Depending on where we're headed, that may or may not work out. If I do have the stroller and car seat, I still wear the baby from the moment that we get out of the car because the stroller and car seat must be broken down to go through security. If I do have my stroller and car seat, the only time I'll take the baby out of the Bjorn and use the stroller is if we have a layover longer than an hour or so. Check back tomorrow for my step by step post on how I handle our travel day for more detailed info handling all of the gear.
Ok, let's break down the carry on bags:
1 diaper bag with a cross body strap
(go ahead and check your style ego at the door, flying with an infant is about survival, not glamor. single tear.)
Keep in mind that your diaper bag will go under your seat and the backpack will go in the overhead. I use the back pack for extra storage and to rotate used items out of my diaper bag during the day.
Packing the diaper bag:
I highly, highly recommend purchasing a diaper bag with a cross body option.
My Kate Spade bag has many features that I like but I cannot stand the straps. They never stay on my shoulders and when my hands are full that bag is my nemesis. Luckily, Cait gave me a great idea and I haven't looked back since. Again, I know adding a cross body strap to a designer bag isn't glam (the 24 year old single and childless me would die at the thought) but you can remove it after your travel day if it bothers you. I leave mine attached all of the time now. Side Note: if I knew then what I know now, I would have never purchased my diaper bag. I would own this girl instead.
Let's talk formula:
We formula feed and, of course, my kid is on a diva formula for delicate tummies that can only be purchased online. For this reason, I over pack formula in my carry on bags. My husband and I have been grounded for 24 hours in Philadelphia and had to take a taxi to Jersey to find a hotel room at 2 in the morning (and leave our checked luggage somewhere on the tarmacs of Philly). Thank goodness I was only one million weeks pregnant and the baby wasn't born yet because that would have been a disaster of epic proportions. I do always think of that trip when I think I may be over packing formula and then toss more in.
The strategy that works best for bottles involves pre measuring formula into 4 bottles, complete with nipples. I place all 4 bottles in a gallon size ziploc bag and toss it into my diaper bag. I highly recommend this brand of bottles (also recommended by Moms On Call) because they are cheap and available at every grocery store, drug store and some fancy gas stations. If you end up dropping one in an airplane toilet you won't have a second of guilt tossing it into the trash.
and here is my secret bottle weapon: pre-meaure a Mixie and stash it into the outside pocket of your diaper bag.
Once the bottles are handled, I pour two cans of formula into a gallon size ziploc bag, stash it into another ziploc bag to prevent a formula explosion, include a scoop and toss it into my back pack. I know that seems like a ton of formula but you cannot buy formula of any kind in any airport that I've ever seen. If you run out, your ass is screwed.
If you formula feed and use Enfamil, these little guys are amazing.
And I am jealous that you can use them.
Ok, now that the formula is handled, let's talk diapering.
I stash a handful of overnight diapers (overnight = able to absorb massive amounts of liquid) into an interior pocket of my diaper bag. I would guess I usually have 6 diapers in my diaper bag. I do everything I can to avoid getting out of my airplane seat once we're buckled in, so diaper changes happen on layovers and just before we board a flight. If you have a blow out prone baby (ugh, poor mama) the stash more over night diapers into your backpack and pray that the travel gods are on your side.
I always pack a full pack of wipes in the interior pocket of my diaper bag as well.
My diaper bag comes with a changing pad but if yours does not, you'll need one. Airport changing areas are rogue. The nicest one I've ever seen in is Philly in the F terminal near gate 24.
Otherwise, they make me want to gag.
Since we're talking about pee, let's talk changes of clothes.
Go ahead and toss an extra shirt for you and onesie for baby in your back pack. I typically don't use space in my diaper bag for those items but have been sorry more than once that I didn't pack a back up for myself, so don't skip that step.
And now for the miscellaneous items that must be stashed in the diaper bag:
(my infant can be soothed with Little Einstein's videos - and not one comment on the screen time because I am doing the entire plane a favor by propping my kid in front of those know it all genius cartoon babies)
toys/chewy things to entertain the baby
I make sure that the items I might need in an "emergency" are in the outside pockets of my diaper bag. These items include:
the baby's passport
(I always fly with passports so that I don't have to dig out my wallet/ID over and over again. Babies who fly as lap children technically do not need any form of ID but they are issued a lap child ticket so I provide his passport anyway. Sometimes it cuts down on confusion in the security line.)
our boarding passes
a ziploc baggie with gas drops, gripe water, infant's advil, infant's tylenol, teething tabs, infant's tylenol, baby benadryl (not for drug induced sleeping because some children can actually react to Bendaryl with hyperactivity. The Benadryl would be for a true allergic reaction. Just to clarify.) and all of the various droppers, stoppers and syringes for dosing each med. It may sound like a ton of stuff but the infant meds come in teensy bottles so you can cram it all into one sandwich sized ziploc and then into your outside pocket.
Lip stick, Chapstick, bobby pins and a headband.
cell phone charger
and most importantly, an emergency Mixie locked and loaded.
Misc items that are stashed in my backpack:
an extra blanket
a few other chewy toys and pack's that I can bring out and use as "new" toys when G gets sick of the ones he's already slobbered all over
suggestion from a reader that is brilliant: a plastic table cloth from the Dollar Store than can serve as a play mat and then tossed so airport floor germs don't end up giving the entire family SARS.
any snacks or drinks for me
Dressing the part:
I always wear the same outfit on travel days -
these black leggings
this black tank
this dark grey sweat shirt
I pack this top in my back pack as a back up.
this outfit can be puked on or peed on and mostly take it like a champ.
You MUST wear slip on flats or flip flops. If you think you'll get through security with all of the baby gear, a kid strapped to your chest and boots to take off then you've lost your mama mind.
I also always wear my hair up.
With the baby teething and in his Bjorn, my hair is just asking to be slobbered on and barfed in. This headband keeps my hair out of my face but also keeps me from looking like a complete hobo.
I keep jewelry minimal and wear stud earrings and maybe my Chewbeads.
I find a vest to be the best type of outerwear because (God willing) the baby will fall asleep in the Bjorn the second you hit your seat and you will not want to do a single thing to jeopardize that. You can hang in a vest for a while before you die of heat. I also always keep my phone in my vest pocket so that I have it at my fingertips.
Ok, are ya'll overwhelmed yet?
Tomorrow I'll explain what I do with most of this stuff or how I manage it on my own with the baby as well as how we get through an airport travel day, step by step.
On Wednesday, I'll share my best tips that I've learned thanks to trial and error (such as packing a back up shirt because you will definitely get peed on).
Being a mom is so glam.
The Flying With An Infant Series: