I am not an expert on traveling with an infant, but I was shocked by how little information I found when I was trying to prepare for the flight to Oklahoma and then Colorado with Pigtail.
I was a nervous wreck, just sure that we would be that annoying family, frazzled and with a screaming child. But all four flights went fine, and I'm glad to have them under my belt. With as much as we travel, I want systems in place and I want Pigtail to be comfortable.
The number 1 rule for traveling with an infant, or any kids really, is this:One Bag Only
I learned this rule from my brother and his wife, who travel multiple times a year with two toddlers. The one bag refers to the carry-on, not your checked baggage. For heaven's sake, check whatever you need (or can afford, since most airlines are charging upwards of $20/bag).
But too often you see parents juggling their own carry-on luggage, a backpack, a purse, a diaper bag, and who knows what else dangling from flimsy stroller arms. I am convinced that this is what makes everyone crazy.
I was initially concerned about this One Bag Rule, since I fill up a carry-on on my own. I never travel without my laptop, multiple books, a sweater, emergency makeup, etc. Not to mention all I thought I needed for Pigtail. WRONG. You can pare down. Wear the sweater, check all but one book in your suitcase, toss in only powder & lipgloss. It's doable for the adult.
For an infant, you'll have to decide what you need for the duration of the flight plus time spent in the airport. My baby simply doesn't need much. I don't even use a diaper bag for running errands anymore, because my goal is to simplify, simplify, simplify. All Pigtail needs is a portable diaper station (I use the melobaby) and food.
Pigtail is now exclusively formula fed, so I used the pre-mixed formula bottles that just need a nipple (they were allowed through security when separated out like other liquids), and had extra powder packets stashed in case we really needed it. In that case, I could just buy a bottle of water to mix. If you're breastfeeding, it's even easier!
A backpack was my bag of choice, because that let me be hands-free. Also in my backpack was an extra baby outfit and a Moby wrap to carry her in on the flight, two burp cloths, my headphones and all the simple contents of a my purse: wallet, cell phone, and moleskine. I packed my actual purse in my checked baggage.
On three of the four flights, we also had our car seat/stroller combo. This is a pain going through security, but nice once we were in the airport. Since I had to hold her in my lap on the actual flight, having the stroller gave me a break both before and after.
My car seat and stroller are two separate pieces that had to be broken down and checked at the gate. I was given gate check tags for both pieces without any problem.
Make sure you have "infant" marked on your ticket so you can take advantage of the pre-boarding process. You'll be so glad. Before boarding, I put Pigtail securely in the wrap on my chest. She tends to fall asleep when she's pressed in close to me like that. On only one of the four flights did they make me take her out of the wrap for take-off. (This rule is absurd to me. Isn't it safer to have her in the wrap during turbulence? Isn't it better if she is unable to fly from my arms in the event of an emergency? I do not understand this rule.)
The tip everyone gave me was to feed her on both takeoff and landing to protect her little ears. Good advice, but she slept through every single takeoff and landing without a peep. So I'm assuming her ears fared well.
Another tip I heard was to book an aisle seat, which I did for all but one flight. This is so you can get up and walk the aisle if she fusses. We never actually had to do that, but I was glad we had the option.
I packed everything in the bag so that it was immediately reachable, even while she was strapped to my chest: bottles, burp cloth, and my book were just one zipper away.
Now I will say that I had help on every flight. The Gorilla was with me for three of them, and my mom was there for one. This was very helpful going through security, because I could pass the baby off when I broke down the stroller to send it through the X-ray machine. Traveling solo, the logistics of this are more complicated.
I'll soon find out, though. Pigtail and I will be taking our next trip in just a few weeks, and on the flight it will just be us girls.
Any travel tips of your own? Success or horror stories?