Flying alone with a baby, even if you have someone to help you, can seem like a giant task and a huge headache–thoughts of dragging your luggage, using the restroom, and carrying the baby gear.
Besides attending to baby’s needs, there are also long lines to contend with, cramped seating, and long flights.
But surprisingly, people in airports have been super-helpful and very courteous when they see a mom traveling alone with a child. It’s made me happy to see how many good people exist in this world when you hear about so much sadness in the news. I was assisted by so many airport staff and other travelers; it’s been heartwarming.
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Flying Alone With A Baby [Why I Did It]
I had just moved to Texas with a 3-month old baby and my sister’s wedding was just 3 weeks away in Delaware. She had been there for so many special moments before my wedding a few years prior, and as her matron of honor, I didn’t want to fly in only a day before the wedding. She and I grew up as very close sisters, we went to college together, and we worked the same job in high school together—you get the picture.
So I promised her that I would be there the whole week before her wedding to help with last-minute wedding details, help calm nerves, get mani and pedis, and just be there to celebrate and support her. Then I realized how difficult this promise might be since I now had a three- month old baby….ummmm…ooops! My husband does have a job, and I can’t just take off on trips like I used to…so that meant……I’d be bringing the baby with me….flying ALONE with the baby…the thought of it seemed like an uphill climb.
My First Flight Alone With A Baby
So the day came to fly alone with the baby. As we were dropped at the door to the airport, a wave of anxiety passed over me and I questioned my ability to fly alone. But then just as quickly, I felt like I snapped into superhero-mom mode. I remembered how I had recently been researching our family tree. I’d learned that my great grandmother, Josephine, had traveled from Ireland to America by boat…at age 21….alone….with an 11 month-old baby (my great uncle).
How about that for a reality check?
I said to myself….”OK, if Josephine could cross the Atlantic Ocean with a baby all by herself, then surely you can hop on this plane for a few hours with the baby by yourself.”
As I got off the plane after the flight, walking with my baby strapped in my carrier, diaper bag slung over one shoulder and car seat over the other as I walked toward baggage claim, I felt accomplished, powerful. I had channeled my inner Josephine and had been brave. I had a baby to protect and a job to do and I wasn’t going to be wimpy. That flight was a success (it had a few challenges but nothing catastrophic) and I continued flying alone with my son during his first year on several successive flights.
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Flying Alone With A Baby: Tips for Parents Taking Flight
Here are my tips from personal experience flying alone with a baby that I wish I would’ve known as a first-time mom:
PICK YOUR SEAT WISELY
- BOOKING THE FLIGHT: select an aisle seat, if possible, and one closer to one of the bathrooms.
- WHAT YOU WEAR:
- Shoes that are comfy and can slip on and off easily
- Pants: nothing that has an uncomfortable waistband or too tight
- Shirt: I’ve found one that I wear on flights that is nursing-friendly. It’s also warm enough that I don’t need to wear a sweater over it but not so warm that I overheat. If you bring a cardigan, keep it in your purse or diaper bag. There’s nothing more cumbersome than having a baby strapped to you only to realize you need to take off your sweater, cardigan, etc.
- Baby carrier: I wear baby in this baby carrier through security. I also take baby in and out of the carrier while waiting to board and while flying.
- WHAT BABY WEARS
- Layers: I have baby wear a onesie, then I layer with pants and usually a zip-up hoodie that they either wear or I place in the diaper bag. Planes can be warm when you board and then chilly when the air is on, and this gives you flexibility. For infants a few months old I often dress them in a one-piece sleeper.
THOROUGHLY PACK THE DIAPER BAG
- SPARE OUTFIT FOR BABY: in case baby has an accident and needs to be changed, I want to have a change of clothes but not take up tons of room in my diaper bag; so I pack a spare onesie and pair of socks.
- FORMULA (if bottle feeding): I spring for the bottles of liquid rather than the less expensive powder that I usually purchase. I’ve done both liquid and powder on planes. With powder you just have to buy a bottle of water at an airport gift shop before boarding (if you forget or don’t have time, they can give you water in flight). But I’ve found it’s messier when you are in close quarters and the powder spills or gets bumped. The pre-mixed liquid formula bottles are allowed through security. I take them out and alert them when they ask if any liquids are in the bag. They take the bottles and run them through a scanning machine and then give them back. I usually buy these bottles specifically for flights because you just pour them right into the baby’s bottle and they are ready to go.
- SWADDLE BLANKET to cover baby if chilly; this doubles as a nursing cover if nursing. These are my favorite.
- SNACKS OR FOOD FOR YOURSELF: I pack snack-size ziploc bag of almonds, apples and KIND bars in the diaper bag. If the flight is a lengthy one, I sometimes pack a PB&J flatbread.
- SNACKS FOR BABY: When our son was young we would bring Puffs or other snacks he enjoyed. This buys you some time before he needs a meal.
- BURP CLOTH OR BIB if baby is eating or spits up
- HEADREST PILLOW attached to diaper bag so you can use it to rest your arm if holding baby for a while. Those metal airline armrests get uncomfortable especially when your arm is in that position for quite a while. I use a headrest pillow like this because it has a loop, allowing me to fasten to the diaper bag, instead of having to stuff it into the bag or carry it.
- PACK OF DISINFECTING WIPES: this is personal preference, but it makes me feel better. I like to wipe the seat handles and tray table when I sit down. I even use them in airport bathrooms and restaurant tables before the kids eat. You can always find a pack of these in my diaper bag.
- Minimize luggage: The airlines on which I flew would allow me bring a personal item in addition to a diaper bag. But for me this is just one more thing to carry. I pack my clutch or purse in my checked luggage. Then I combine items I use from my purse into my diaper bag to save space. The items I usually include are my glasses, contacts, jewelry, wallet and phone/charger. My diaper bag isn’t too large and has plenty of zippered pouches, magnetic compartments and separate sections. It’s been able to fit enough items now for two children when we travel.
- Diaper Bag Packing Plan: place items I most likely won’t need at the bottom of the diaper bag, such as a spare outfit for the baby and my personal items. Next, I pack items I might need like the swaddle blanket and burp cloths. Items that I will need and want easily accessible go on the very top. I aim to pack so that I can open the bag and reach for something one-handed. Lastly, I place a teether or rattle in one of the front pockets. Hand sanitizer, snacks, and bottle go into the side pockets of the bag.
I’ve learned that the unexpected will occur no matter how much you plan. But I’ve also found that people will help you the best they can, and your flight will eventually land. It might feel like it never will, but it will.
Again, these are just my recommendations; please always check with your airline before flying for rules and regulations. Doing this ahead of time prevents surprises at the airport or excess fee for items.
If you haven’t flown alone with a child yet, I hope these tips will make your experience easier. Maybe you’ll get the confidence to channel your inner Josephine! Please let me know any questions you have or what you’d like to hear more about! Happy and safe travels to you and yours!!!
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