This blog post summarizes some of my thoughts and experiences from these travels.
Trudy's First Flight
|Miami to Charlotte; Oct. 2013|
I found that traveling with such a tiny baby was easy; I just breastfed her anytime she was upset and she slept for most of the remaining time. There were tons of distractions when she was awake and people eager too "ooh" and "ahh" at her.
This trip was really straightforward and proved to be an excellent first-time flight for us. One plane, Miami to Charlotte, each way. Bryn was there with us for support and to take shifts when necessary. Trudy was so little that she easily fit on our laps. She ate and slept pretty much all the way, both ways.
Plane Trip Number Two
Miami to Toronto; Dec. 2013
Our second trip on a plane with Trudy was to Canada in December 2013. Trudy was four months old. She was bigger and more engaged in the world but she was still really fun to fly with. We flew Miami to Toronto on the way there and spent a bit of time in Ontario. Our first flight was awesome; we had an entire row (six seats!) to ourselves, so I was able to take Trudy's car seat on the plane. She slept in it for a bit and I got some reading done: so awesome. (Side note: look how bald I am in that picture! Pregnancy really took its toll on my poor hairline. I forgot how bad it was. Thankfully, it's all starting to grow back.)
After Christmas in Ontario, we then flew Toronto to Victoria (that was a long haul!), and our flight on the way home was from Victoria to Calgary and then to Miami (an even longer haul.)
You can see my travel nursing pillow in the picture to the right; I was so glad to have it yet again for this trip! My strategy for this trip was much the same as the first. Nurse, nurse, nurse, nurse. I found that Trudy was not so bothered going up or going down, but I still tried to nurse her during these times just to keep her quiet and comfortable.
Going It Alone
Going It Alone
My first solo trip with Trudy was in May 2014 when she was right around 9 months old. I found that novel food, novel toys (with a broad definition of "toys" as anything that she can play with that won't kill her), breastfeeding (I took my full-size pillow and it was well-worth it), looking out the window, and watching videos of herself/looking at pictures of herself on my phone was a good mix of activities. (Horribly vain creatures, aren't they? These babies?) I opted for the window seat each time so that I could nurse with *some* privacy and got up once to walk around/change Trudy each trip. I saved these stretch-and-change trips for the half-way point of each flight to give us a break.)
This trip helped me develop an "on-board entertainment" strategy. I had a carousel of in-seat activities through which I cycled through on a non-stop basis. This included toys, food, looking out the window, singing songs, changing Trudy's position (facing forward, facing backwards), letting Trudy see over the seats at the other people on the plane, etc. I kept populating the list of things and, when I ran out of new ideas, returned to the beginning and just kept going. When nothing worked, I nursed her. If that didn't work, we got up and walked around a bit.
At this point in Trudy's life, she was crawling. I let her go for it in the airport since she'd be cooped up for quite some time. The trip to Seattle included two flights each way (through Dallas/Ft. Worth), so I did this every chance I got.
I brought tons of disinfecting wipes with me this trip to clean her up after her airport exercise and to wipe down the tray tables, arm rests, and windows when on the plane.
|To and from Seattle, a few shots; May 2014|
After the epic Seattle adventure, we did a trip to Oklahoma City (via Atlanta) and home to Miami (via Charlotte) followed shortly by a trip to Canada for a few weeks (which involved flights to Toronto, Winnipeg, back to Toronto, and then home to Miami with an unexpected stop in Ft. Myers!)
|About to fly to Winnipeg from Toronto; July 2014|
|ATL-OKC, June 2014|
I completed my second big solo trip with Trudy just a few weeks ago when we flew to Detroit and then drove up to London for a week.
|DTW-MIA; August 2014|
Now, looking back on things, I have a pretty set list of things to pack and bring when I fly with the Trudinator--a list that has expanded and grown (and changed!) as Trudy's needs and abilities evolve. In very basic terms, here's what I usually take:
- Stroller: We found taking a base (this one) and our car seat worked best. Put 'em together and you have a stroller, and then you've got a car seat with you when you need one. The car seat can be belted into a car without the base (which we never brought along on flights). We could fold-up the base easily (with one hand) and could take everything right up to the gate before boarding the plane. I did do one trip with the Ergo carrier, but I didn't like it. Sure it was great to be "hands-free," but when you're spending so much together time on the plane, it's nice to be able to put the baby down in a separate space to get your body back while you're in transit.
- We messed with storage bags for our stroller and car seat on our first trip, but found them to be a HUGE hassle. Putting the stuff into the bags before boarding and taking it out after getting off the plane was not worth all of the effort nor the cost of the stupid bags.
- Travel nursing pillow (when Trudes was really small) or a full-size nursing pillow (which I started taking when Trudes was around 9 months.)
- Blanket: I always use a blanket to prop-up Trudy's head when breastfeeding. I traveled with one that was light and easily packed but big; it came in handy in many different situations.
- A few cloths: I found it really helpful to have a few smaller blankets or cloths to use to cover Trudy's eyes and ears when she did finally fall asleep. Planes provide awesome white noise once they are in motion but you have to be careful about timing sleeping (if you can) to avoid all the noisy and intrusive overhead announcements.
- Diaper bag or Backpack with all the fun stuff - diapers, wipes, CHANGE OF CLOTHES, plastic bag, toys, food, medicine, water, etc. etc. etc. (All the stuff you Moms already know to bring.) I started taking a backpack when I traveled alone with Trudy because I wanted something that would allow me to have both hands free at all times and something in which I could easily transport my laptop.
- Food and water for me, especially when traveling alone. I never had time to stop and get food when traveling by myself with Trudy. On my most recent trip, I packed a whole bunch of mini chicken burritos and snacked on them all day. They saved my life. You can also bring water and whatnot. As long as it's "for the baby" you'll get through security, no problem.
Generally speaking, here are some thoughts on other aspects of taking to the skies with a tiny human:
- Flight Timing: I have no advice here. I've tried flying at all different times of day with the Trudes, up to a point. I have yet to fly at night or overnight. For us, a travel day screwed up naps no matter what. Trudy would grab a bit of shut-eye when she could and I just ran with it. My preference is definitely for early morning flights, especially with baby still needing two naps during the day. That way, if Trudy just has a short nap in the morning, she can usually get a good one in the afternoon once we are off the plane and settled at our destination.
- Multiple Flights in a row: We've done two flights back-to-back several times. It makes for a long day, but it's doable. I prefer one flight with a break, and then another flight the next day. We did this in the summer on our way to Winnipeg and it was great. We flew to Toronto, stopped for a night, and then continued on the next afternoon.
- What baby wears: I found the planes to be cold so I always dressed Trudes in long-sleeved and long-panted outfits (which was outside the norm for us here in Miami!) And ALWAYS bring a change of clothes! We've had some epic body fluid failures on the plane.
- What you wear: I always dressed in layers and wore a top where my boobs were really accessible.
At the airport:
- Skip self-check-in: I didn't pay hundreds of dollars to check myself in. Especially when traveling alone, I would always go directly to an agent for help checking-in.
- Security: Some airports have awesome "family" lanes where things are a bit easier. I found the security agents to be really helpful when I was traveling alone with baby. They would assist me with getting everything through the scanner (especially breaking down the car seat and stroller.) You take baby out the seat and carry her through the x-ray machine in your arms.
- Pre-boarding: Board early if you can. WestJet and Air Canada are all about this, as is Delta in the US. Both American and US Airways didn't allow pre-boarding for people traveling with kids under the age of 2. Even if the airline is not allowing you to pre-board, ignore your assigned group or zone and get on the plane with Group/Zone 1.
- Gatechecking: When you get to the gate, you can check whatever you brought with you (stroller and car seat, for us.) Each airline is different about what you're allowed to take. I always go up to the counter to see if I can get the gatecheck tags in advance of boarding. I find it speeds things up for everyone. On our OKC/Texas trip, we gatechecked our items but they never made it on the plane! It was crazy. We eventually got them back (they went to Newark while we headed to Charlotte.) I still don't know how this happened. As a result of this, we now have labels with all of our contact information on both the car seat and stroller.
- Ask and ye might receive: If a plane is not full and there is an open seat for the baby, you can take the car seat on. Ask about how full the plane is at the counter before getting on the plane. I always do this, just in case. On our most recent flight home to Miami from Detroit, the plane was basically empty. We got moved to an open row, I took on the car seat, and, voila, super easy trip!
On the plane:
- Aisle vs. window: I've tried both. With nursing as much as I tend to do on planes, I found the window to be the best, especially if traveling alone with the baby. I like the privacy and the ability to rest my head on the window to catch a few winks when Trudy falls asleep. Aisle was dangerous because if someone had to get out and the baby was asleep, it meant waking her up to move in order to let the other passenger out of the row.
- A bit of screen time: I'm not big on screens for the baby in our everyday lives but used my phone as a distraction whenever I needed to. Trudy had a lot of fun taking pictures and videos, and looking at pictures and videos of herself.
- Breastfeeding on the plane: If you are packed on a plane, in the window, and traveling by yourself, breastfeeding on the plane can cause you to become a bit more cozy with your neighbor than either of you may like. When traveling alone, I always told the person next to me that I would be breastfeeding. They never seemed to have a problem. I do my best to be discreet while still making sure that both baby and I are comfortable. I found that turning my body a full 90 degrees to face the window was sometimes helpful, especially when Trudy was so long that her legs would kick the poor person next to me if I did not. When I had multiple flights in a row, I would try to sit on different sides of the plane because I found that, for privacy and comfort, I always ended up nursing more on the side closest to the window. Switching sides allowed me to keep things balanced!
- Changing diapers on the plane: I found change tables on some planes, but not all. Delta never had them. If I had the room/space, I would just change Trudy on the seat. You *can* change a baby in a change-table-less airplane bathroom, but it's no fun for anyone. You can use the airsickness bag to deposit diapers. Some flight attendants will ask for you to bring the diapers to them; others say just to stash it in the bathroom garbage.
- "Making nice" with other passengers: Trudy is a great flyer and I (thankfully) never felt that she was a real annoyance. I do, however, always offer to buy the person next to me a drink or snack as thanks for "putting up with us." No one has ever taken me up on this. Every time I've sat next to a stranger, so far, they've been wonderful. Most of the time it's an older person with grown kids and seeing Trudy brings back all kinds of lovely memories that they share! I've found that people on planes loooooooooooove babies. Well, I guess I should say, more accurately, that people on planes love HAPPY babies...
- Asking for/accepting help: Yep, do it. Whenever it's offered, especially when traveling alone. Appear helpless if you need help and people will rush to your aid. I think that *most* people are good and kind and decent, and seeing a baby and mom "in need" gives folks an opportunity to show that they are good and kind and decent. My best example of this was at the car rental place when returning the car in Detroit prior to flying out. We were staying at a hotel a block from the rental place. I had SO much luggage and it wasn't packed for the plane since we still had an overnight hotel stay before we flew home. I didn't want to take the car rental shuttle back to the airport and then another shuttle back to the hotel, so I just casually said, "Oh, well, I guess we'll just walk to the hotel." One of the car rental guys immediately jumped in and said "he can't let us do that." He loaded us up into a car and chauffeured us to the hotel! Woo.
I remember being really scared about flying. Now, I look forward to it. I'm sure things will increase in difficulty once Trudy is walking, though we keep pushing her over to delay that as long as humanly possible. We have a bit of a break now until our next flight, which is in late October!
(One other note, re: an item I've flown with pretty much everywhere. I love taking along this portable high chair. It packs in our duffel bag and I've found it to be amazing. Highly recommended.)
|Trudy livin' large in Seattle; May 2014|