Trent, Scout and I just finished a blur of sell weekends strung together. I still don’t know if the term is “cel weekend” as in, “Let’s celebrate your internship offer!” or “sell weekend” as in, “We’re going to sell you on our firm.” Either way, the just is the same. The consulting firms that offered Trent internships flew us out to check out the cities, meet people from the offices, and get spoiled rotten. At first I was kind of put off by the whole concept of being wined and dined. “I can’t be bought,” I puffed to Trent on the first flight to Dallas. But on the massage table at the Ritz Carlton, I was singing a different tune.
Trent has been trying to get me to write a post with tips for making the most of a cel/sell weekend, but I’m not sure I have anything insightful to say on the subject. (Talk to folks before you go. Don’t lose sight of the factors you care about most. Let the dust settle back home before you make any big decisions. And so on.) But all of this recent flying has made me want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned about flying with a baby. So here we are.
Scout Murphey has been on almost 30 flights in her short 10 months of life, and while I’m sure there are babes out there who travel more frequently and parents out there who travel more gracefully, I do have a few ideas worth mentioning. They’ve mostly been learned by trial, error, and utter disaster. Take note.
- Remember the birth certificate. For whatever reason, it’s actually impossible to remember to bring the birth certificate of your “infant-in-arms” to the airport. And that’s a fact. So do yourself a favor and leave a spare copy permanently in your suitcase. I keep one in the car seat bag as well. And if you don’t have a car seat bag, it’s worth the investment. It keeps everything clean and prevents straps from getting torn in transit.
- Buy an umbrella stroller. I own a really nice jogging stroller that I’ve jogged with exactly once. I only ran about 30 seconds. I was trying to catch a bus. So you’ll understand if I have trouble relating to parents who can’t travel without their jogger. The truth is, it’s much easier not to. Some airlines won’t allow you to gate check bulky strollers, which means you can’t access them during layovers or to and from your gates. Plus even the airlines that do gate check big strollers don’t cover damages they make to them. Solution: Get yourself a cheap umbrella stroller. They’re small. They’re compact enough to go on the conveyers through security. And if they get damaged, just toss them. One of ours came off the plane with a bent wheel. I’ve done plenty of homework on umbrella strollers and my favorite is the Kolcraft stroller Walmart sells. It’s pretty durable for the price. And don’t forget to get a gate check tag from the gate agent before you board your flight.
- Get through security. It’s a hassle without a baby, so it’s definitely going to be a hassle with a baby. My advice is meditate in line. Breathe. Get zen. Be zen. Also, every airport has different regulations, but a few things are pretty consistent. They’re going to swipe your hands to test them for something right after you walk through the metal detector. Don’t be alarmed. It’s normal. They’re also going to go through your diaper bag if you have just about anything in there—baby food, milk, frozen milk, etc. They’ll let you take it through if it’s for the babe, but they’re going to sniff it out first. Just plan on it.
- Carabiner your everything. Toys, pacifiers, snack bags, etc. If you can lose it, you can carabiner it to your bag or your belt loops. That’s actually a sub-tip—wear pants with belt loops. You’ll thank me when you see someone else’s baby crap tumbling down the aisle. If you don’t have carabiners, these are a good, cheap substitute.
- Stock your seat. Board the flight as early as possible and give yourself plenty of time to stock your seat. Take everything you could conceivably need to entertain and care for your baby on the flight and shove it in the seat pocket in front of you. If that means removing the magazines and safety information cards to make room, so be it. Sneak them into someone else’s pocket. This is war, OK? Also, double and triple check that you have a hearty handful of clean tissues in that seat back pocket. You don’t want to slime anyone while you’re scrambling to wipe your baby’s nose. It’s kind of the cardinal sin of flying with a baby. I, a lowly sinner, know all about it.
- Think like Jason Bourne. Jason Bourne is always scanning the area and planning for every possible scenario. Once your seat is stocked, look around. Can you tell which bathroom has the changing table in it? The one at the front or the one at the back? It’s almost never in both. If you can’t figure it out based on signage, do yourself a favor and ask a flight attendant at the first opportunity. Don’t wait for a blow-out. I repeat. DON’T WAIT FOR A BLOW-OUT. If you do, you’ll be wandering up and down the plane covered in poop with a half-naked baby, maximizing the number of strangers who judge you.
- Suck the landing. Landings (and take-offs) are hard on babies ears. That darn changing air pressure! My advice is just let them suck on a pacifier, on a bottle, on you, whatever. Just baby that baby and let her do whatever she wants to get through it. Nursing a baby in close quarters with strangers made me extremely self-conscious at first, but I’ve overcome the insecurity. I’ve stopped using a nursing apron cover thingy—I feel like they draw more attention than anything. And now that Scout is old enough to care, I’ve stopped covering all together. I’ve learned how to be discrete enough to make me feel comfortable, but more importantly, I’ve realized that American attitudes about public breastfeeding are extremely immature. But that’s a rant for another day. For nursing moms on planes, I’d recommend wearing a very comfortable nursing bra that makes you very accessible. Catch my drift? This one is my favorite.
Did I miss anything major? What tips do YOU have? Happy flying, parents!