Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Traveling Baby Stories & Tips

*Super Long Post Warning*

I just got back from 2 1/2 weeks with my family in Eastern Oregon. Baby K and I flew by ourselves, which I was slightly nervous about, but everything went well. This was her 4th trip, bringing her total of takeoffs/landings to 14 due to stops and layovers. Each trip was a different experience and I thought I could share some insights and tips to flying with an infant. I do want to note, that these are just things I learned from my experiences and may not work for everyone.  (There may be some TMI but you never know unless people share.)

Trip #1: 
Age: 6 months
Bottle fed pumped breastmilk (she never nursed)
2 Adults, 1 lap infant, Coach 
Flight: Anchorage to Seattle (3 1/2 hr with 1 1/2 hr layover) Seattle to Boise (1 1/2 hour)

I had a baby carrier to wear, but you can't "wear" your baby during take offs and landings. By the time I could put her in the carrier, she was passed out and it difficult to move around to position her. I ended up just holding her. I never fed her during the take offs and landings like I had read. She usually fell asleep prior or was looking out the window. We did not take a stroller or carseat with us. We were traveling to my family that had my nephew's old car seat we could use. This made it easier for us with using carry on luggage. I didn't carry a diaper bag. I put what I needed into outside pockets of the carry on. I also had my breast pump as a carry on. We fed her on the way to the airport and then I pumped during our layover in Seattle. Bigger airports should have a Mother's room/lounge. Seattle's is near the play land area. We also waited to board until almost the end instead of the early boarding. This gave her more time to move freely before being confined to our laps. Having 2 adults and her being small made us able to do so without causing havoc when we did board later.

TIPS from TRIP #1: 
-Research the airport(s) you will be visiting. Find out what amenities they have for mothers and children.
-Choose a window seat if you don't think you'll need to get up to change a diaper. That way you have an arm rest and the side of the plane to help prop your arm/baby.
-Have all breast milk out and easy to access for the TSA. It doesn't have to follow the 3oz rule but they do have to wave a little paper over it.
-If you are using a pacifier, get a clip/keeper. You don't want to be digging for it on the floor of a plane. It's crowed and just yucky.
-TMI ALERT: If you are able to, keep your most recent pumping of milk out so you don't have to worry about warming milk on the plane. It keeps for a few hours at room temperature before going bad. 
Check here for milk storage guidelines.

Trip #2: 
Age: 7 months
Bottle fed pumped breastmilk (she never nursed)
2 Adults, 1 lap infant, 1st class one way, Coach one way 
Flight: Anchorage to Salt Lake City (4 1/2 hrs)

First Class? I'll take it! This was a last minute trip due to family stuff and when looking at the price/miles of 1st class versus coach, 1st class was actually a little cheaper for one way! It was pretty nice. We had bigger seats and dinner served to us! Dinner was kind of interesting because of Baby K. She wanted to grab all the food. Overall, it was a pleasant flight. I think some of the other passengers weren't too excited to see a baby up there, but no one said anything. This was a daytime flight, while all other had been nighttime. It was nice to have the bigger seats and only 2 wide. It gave Kasila a little more room to wiggle around without me having to worry about bumping the person with the aisle seat. THis trip we had to bring her infant carseat with us. We gate checked it. Since we didn't have a layover, it wasn't a hassle to carry it around in the airport. We would have just checked it all together, except we didn't put a cover over it and I had read stories about getting back broken car seats. I was nervous about our flight home. It was a long, nonstop flight home and we were in coach in the very back where the seats don't recline. While at the airport, we went up the counter by the gate and was going to gate check our carseat again. The ticket agent was extremely nice and looked at our seats. The flight wasn't full and so he said we would be able to have the middle seat open. We ended up bringing our carseat on board with us. It was probably the most pleasant flight we've had with her! Kasila sat in her carseat and both my husband and I were able to be as comfortable as you can be on a plane. We gave her some snacks and she fell asleep. Neither of us had to hold her and we were also able to sleep. Yippee! 

TIPS from TRIP #2: 
-If you can afford it, an extra seat does wonders. I know that kids under 2 fly free as a lap infant, but sometimes that extra cost is totally worth it. I would say especially if you have a wiggly kid. The carseat is familiar and *most* kids seem to fall asleep while in the car in their carseat, why not a plane? 
-If you can't afford an extra seat and need to bring the carseat with you, ask the counter agent if it's a full flight. The worst that can happen is that is full so you have to hold your little one like you were already planning on doing. 

Trip #3: 
Age: 9 months
Bottle fed pumped breastmilk (she never nursed)
2 Adults, 1 lap infant, Coach
Flight: Anchorage to Seattle, Seattle to Great Falls, MT with a stop in Helena

Off to a friend's wedding! This was another trip we brought the car seat and had a layover. We checked 1 bag and did as much as we could with our carry ons. I still had my breast pump in addition to our small carryon size luggage and Baby K's infant car seat, which we gate checked again. Not much changed on this flight. We didn't do much different than previously. I didn't bother with the baby carrier. We also had baby food in a pouch for Baby K to eat. Baby food from a jar/container & spoon = no fun, a big mess, and more you have to pack. By this point, Kasila had just started walking and wasn't too excited to just sit there for a few hours. We luckily had a window seat and she loved to watch what was going on outside. 

TIPS from TRIP #3: 
- Pouch food if you baby will eat it! We really like the Plum brand. There was a huge variety of veggies that doesn't come in the containers or that I would likely buy to prepare. If you make your own baby food, there are reusable pouches you can get. We got ours at Wal-Mart.

Trip #4: 
Age: 19 months
1 Adult, 1 lap infant, Coach
Flight: Anchorage to Seattle with a 5 hour layover on the way down, 1 hour on way back, Seattle to Boise

Man was I nervous for this trip! It was just Baby K and me. I checked 2 bags (free thanks to Club 49), bought an umbrella stroller to take, and carried one backpack as a carry on. I had help getting checked in and to security but from there to the end, I was on my own. This was a last minute flight so I had an aisle seat. Yay. *sarcasm* I boarded near the end, ignoring the call for those with kids. I knew I didn't have anything to put in the overhead bins  since I was gate checking the stroller, so I'd just sidle into my seat. Kasila was not asleep even though it was past her bedtime. She is extremely friendly and luckily, so were the people sitting around us. Even so, it was a night time flight and people wanted to sleep. I did pull out a DVD player and her favorite movie, Frozen. She watched about half of it and then I shut it off and turned her around to put her head down. Luckily, she went to sleep for the remainder of the flight. The backpack was kind of bulky because I tried bring anything I could think of to help entertain her if need be. Getting it put together to unload while trying to keep her asleep was kind of difficult. I was so grateful for the lady next to me. She helped me zip it closed, which is really difficult one handed on a big bag. 

Then began our five, yes FIVE hour layover. Ugh! I figured she'd just sleep in the stroller and I could nap since we were in the Seattle airport from 2:00am until 7:30am. No such luck. She woke up while we were getting off the plane and then was absorbed with everything going on around her. It was new and exciting. I thought if we walked around a little bit, she'd crash in the stroller. Nope. After about an hour, I was not the happiest of people. I finally decided to go check out the children's play area. Someone was trying to sleep (weird place to sleep if you ask me) and I wanted to sleep too. Then a bright idea hit me! The mother's lounge! It was dimly light and a small enclosed area that Kasila could run around in but not get too far away from me. Perfect! It wasn't most comfortable place as it just had old wood rocking chairs but it was quiet. I put Curious George in the DVD player and ended up taking a nap while Baby K watched. One of the times I woke up, I shut it off and made her put her head down. Finally, she crashed! I laid a blanket down on the super hard floor (sorry baby) and laid her down. Then I was able to sleep a little bit more. When we were ready to go, I slipped her into the stroller with her blanket and headed to our gate. I really became thankful for that stroller. I didn't have to hold her when she was sleeping and when they made a mistake on the main board as to which gate I had to be at, I was able to move quickly to the correct one. 

This next flight was great. It was a small plane, only 2 seats wide and the seat next to me was empty. I laid the little miss out and we both had some nice naps.

The trip home was pretty uneventful. I did haven an extra bag as a carry on though thanks to all the great shopping and spoiling of Kasila. :) I put everything I didn't need to get to in the backpack and then had a smaller bag with my wallet and the things to help entertain Baby K. I ala carted the backpack and stroller for the first flight so I only had the small bag with me on the plane. It did wonders for leg room! We had a window seat this time, so I loaded early like they asked. I watched as passengers loaded. I was hoping no one would sit next to us. A nice lady sat down and I was slightly disappointed but that happens. I happened to ask the flight attendant if there were any double seats open. After everyone board, there was! The nice lady next to me offered to move so I didn't have to move Kasila and our bag since she only had a book. It was fabulous! Kasila also made friends with the people sitting behind us. She liked to show them what she drew on her Magni-Sketch. Eventually, I pulled out the DVD player again with Curious George and she watched it until she decided to push it aside and lay down and go to sleep. She ended up sleeping clear the unloading, layover , the whole next flight, the drive home and after until 6am. (It was another nighttime flight). I decided to ask for my last flight if they were doing courtesy checks. The agent initially said probably not but after I mentioned that I would like to get rid of the backpack since I had a toddler she told me that they could do that for me. I was relieved! I didn't want to worry about the overhead bin while she was sleeping. 

I had a lot of people offer to help me. Whether it was getting things out of my bag, closing/opening her stroller, carrying Baby K in her stroller up/down stairs, or even helping cover her with her blanket when the wind blew it off while boarding. It was pretty refreshing actually. :)

TIPS from TRIP #4: 
-Check as much as you can and only take the essentials as carry on.
-An umbrella stroller is a great help! It saved my back and gave me some freedom to move around and use my hands. 
-Don't be afraid to ask if certain things are available, all they can do is say no. If you don't expect it to start with, you can only gain from your questions.
-Be friendly! *Most* people like kids, or at least will be congenially. Acknowledge them, at least with a smile.
-Don't expect any help, but be willing to take it if it's offered. People who offer are willing to help, if they don't offer then they don't want to. Kind of obvious really. Don't let your pride get in the way.

You still with me? So, this is a really long post! Sorry! Overall, I've learned that every trip is different but if you are prepared to just do what you can then you will be ok. People were mostly pleasant and even if she cried, which she did do a little bit, no one said anything. I am so glad that I didn't let the stress of traveling overwhlem me and that I've been able to take my little girl different places. Our days of flying with her as a lap infant are over but I definitely think that at 2, they need their own seat! I'm looking forward to the other adventures we can go on with our little family!

If you have any questions about my experiences, please ask. I am willing to share. Good luck to you on your adventures!


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