Airplane travel was my form of self-care. It was uninterrupted ME time. If I could get through my inbox, finish a book (and even start a new one), and binge watch rom-coms, then I was happy. But a six hour trip to Los Angeles with a six month old? That definitely changed the picture.
In thinking about my first flight with my son, let me just preface the story by saying that I was traveling with my parents and husband. Shout-out to the moms who did their first trip (or frankly any trip) by themselves with their newborn or an infant. I applaud you and also want to know, how did you pee? That being said, as much as it’s “the more hands the better,” as the mom you’re often the one packing, managing the schedule, and calming down your baby when they’re crying at 10,000 feet.
Ryder was six months old when we flew from New York to Los Angeles. We’re very lucky to have a car in the city, so we left the car at the airport versus figuring out how to get a car seat in a taxi (thank you, Covid-19). And honestly, the cost was pretty comparable to an Uber there and back. Since we were on our own schedule, we were able to leave for the airport on our own time and even finish feeding him in the parking lot before we entered the airport. I made sure to pack as smartly as I possibly could – we did check a bag with mine and Evan’s stuff. I was hesitant at first (I wanted to just do carry-on but my husband shot it down real quick) but checking made the most sense. We shared a checked bag and we had a carry-on for Ryder.
I have to mention that this was my first time traveling since March 2020 so it was nerve-racking in general, let alone traveling for the first time with your newborn baby during Covid-19. The airport was baby-friendly but everything takes more time, like waiting for elevators and security check (where obviously the baby’s food gets questioned and inspected). My advice? Give yourself too much time. I remember texting our family in L.A. that we were at the airport and receiving texts that we were crazy to be there over two hours before a domestic flight. But I’m always of the mindset that I’d rather be early than rushed. It makes for a better time especially when dealing with a baby and an anxious-traveler husband. (Sorry, Evan.)
We debated getting Ryder a seat (and bringing our car seat) but decided against it. My thought was that he is super small so he can just hang with me the whole time (aka take over my whole seat so I am sitting on the edge for the entire flight). We brought our Doona – an infant car seat and stroller in one (genius!), which we gate checked (tip: ask the agent when you are checking in for one of the plastic bags they have for luggage and use that for protection. No need to bring a stroller storage bag). I also brought my hand-me-down Artipoppe carrier on the plane with me that was a lifesaver.
My advice? Give yourself too much time.
I have to say, before Covid I traveled like a mom. I would make snacks for everyone and bring Lysol wipes to wipe down the seat and tray table, so that stuff was pretty standard. For food, I purchased a really compact cooler bag where I put everything feeding related (yes, even my snacks). This made it really easy to access and keep everything in one place. Oh! And we also purchased these pouches which we filled instead of bringing our glass jars. They’re really useful and reusable and dishwater safe! I also found this Snap on Storage bag that hooks on to the Doona that I purchased before the flight to keep as his toys. I wish I had found it sooner!
Our flight took off at 9am, which wasn’t ideal as that was right at his nap time. A lot of moms say to feed them at takeoff and landing because it helps relieve the air pressure in their ears. Well, Ryder passed out before we even took off. But it didn’t last and when he got up, it was game over until we landed. I honestly can’t even remember the play-by-play. It was such a blur. But it was basically six hours of walking up and down the aisles shushing him to sleep in between feeds. Lots of crying and fussiness. Seriously, I clocked 7,000 steps. On. An. Airplane. Six hours never felt so long.
Just remember, babies are not robots. You can plan and ask opinions and do all the research, but something might (and probably will) happen because they are humans. Remembering that makes it easier. And remember to give yourself a break. It might suck for a minute, but then you forget about it. And it’s ALWAYS worth it. Oh! And make sure to get bottled water. Never use the plane water because it’s essentially toilet water. And enjoy the ride! Before you know it, you’ll be on the ground and running to book your next solo plane ride.