The flying part of traveling makes many parents hesitate and often times prevents families from traveling all together. Don't let your fear stop you from adventure and fun! There's ways to cope and tips and tricks to keep it from sucking too much (I mean, let's face it, some parts are gonna suck—but that's OK!)
The most important thing to remember is that babies are incredibly adaptable. Traveling and being on a flight is not a stress for them. But babies do pick up what you're puttin' down, so if you are a basket case, chances your child will be one too are pretty high.
STAYING HEALTHY ON A FLIGHT
Babies are also much stronger and more resilient than we give them credit for. Once you're baby hits the 2 month mark, that baby has built up some disease-fighting immunities, most likely has their first round of vaccinations, and can take on some germs.
SO WHAT ABOUT THAT NASTY RECYCLED AIRPLANE AIR?
I call myth on this one (well, not just me, but scientist and engineers which is a much more reputable source).
Airplane air is no worse (and in many times cleaner) than any other enclosed public space. The air you breath in on a plane is a 50/50 mix of circulated air and fresh, crisp, clean air. So, unless you are anxiety-ridden every time you walk into any sort of building or store with your baby (which in that case you may want to pop a few Xanex), you shouldn't have increased anxiety traveling on a plane.
WHAT SHOULD I WORRY ABOUT THEN?
What can get your baby sick is the homeboy sitting next to you, sneezing and coughing uncontrollably. If you happen to be seated next to someone that is visibly and/or audibly sick, use your parenting powers to get moved to a different seat. If it's a packed plane and that's not an option, use the air vent above you. Aim it just in front of your babies face, so that air is the air they breath in. HEPA filters are installed in most commercial aircrafts and filter about 99.9% of germs. So that air blowing over you, the air that you once thought was disease-ridden stank air, is actually the air that could keep you healthy. Paradigm shift.
SHOULD I BRING A FIRST AID KIT?
Fo' sho'. We bring the entire med kit (with exception to bug spray and sunscreen because of liquid limitations). See the med kit we pack here.
STAYING ENTERTAINED ON A FLIGHT
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your days of watching back to back crappy (but oh so good) airplane movies are over. But there's even more fun to be had!
OK, here's a thought. I've said this to parents before, and it usually makes them want to punch me in my face, but hear me out. When in your normal day-to-day lives do you get to have uninterrupted snuggle and play time with your baby? Never. We're constantly distracted by cell phones, errands, chores, television, phone calls, and everything else that pulls us away from chillin' with our babies. You won't have those distractions on planes. Let this be an opportunity to get all those missed snuggles in, read Hop on Pop 4,000 times, and give endless raspberries on their tummies. After our 16 hour flight from New York to Hong Kong with Z at 8 months, I felt like we had an incredible family bonding time. Sometimes it's all about perspective.
Ok, stop yelling at me through your screen and read below where I give you actual advice.
SHOULD WE BRING ALL THE TOYS?
In a word, no. On any length flight, I bring 3 toys of different varieties: a rattle (that's not too loud and obnoxious), a teething toy, and some sort of ball. And, real talk, the thing my son ends up playing with is an empty water bottle—so the toys don't even matter. I also bring 3 to 5 books—ones that I enjoy reading because I know I'll be reading the same stories throughout the flight and for the duration of the trip. (I've got "There's a Wocket in my Pocket" down pat).
For chew-resistant, durable, and small books that don't take up much space at all, I like the Highlights Magazines. They have magazines for all ages to keep up with your growing tot.
Your baby is going to want to move around, and depending on your baby's age and gross motor skill development, it's going to require you to get a good work out in. We've taken long flights in the bouncing phase where me and Jamie were human Jumperoos for hours on end. Upside? We were jacked afterward. With a walking baby, I've spent many a flights walking back and forth in the aisles saying "hi" to any passenger that engages with Z. Upside? I'm no longer completely antisocial on flights.
We always make sure that before flights (or any long trip for that matter) we allow Z Baby to move around and uses as much energy as possible. Sometimes that involves crawling around on a dirty airport floor, but that's nothing that a little Purel and an outfit change can't fix. That way, once we're actually on board, it's chill time and we let the hum of the engine put him right to sleep.
OK, BUT NOW MY BABY IS TIRED AND WON'T SLEEP
Bring a carrier on the flight. This is one of the most important items. Z went through a phase where he was distracted by anything that caught his eye and would not fall asleep. Popping him face-in in a carrier always does the trick, though.
STAYING CLEAN ON A FLIGHT
Staying clean and dry is a good way to keep your baby happy and healthy on a long trip.
HOW MANY DIAPERS SHOULD I BRING?
One day your child will be potty trained, but until then, diapers and wipes will take up some precious room in your luggage and carry-on. I always bring a way-more-than necessary amount of diapers for a flight. I take into account travel time to and from the airport, and for a missed plane or delayed flight. They sell diapers in airports, but the prices are so jacked up, so you want to come prepared.
WHAT SHOULD I BRING FOR CLOTHES?
Sometimes planes have the temperature level set on arctic, and sometimes it's set for sauna. Like a box of chocolates, you don't know what you're gonna get. So, be prepared for all temps. This is where layering is key. I also bring an extra set of base-layer clothing in case the unspeakable happens (aka a blowout).
To ease pressure in your baby's ears upon take off and landing, breastfeed, give them a bottle, or use the pacifier. The sucking will pop their ears and prevent pain.
All airlines are different. To prevent any unfortunate surprises, call the airline you're flying before your flight to see how they accommodate children and babies and any excess baby luggage you might be carrying around.
You have a baby! You're finally able to board the plane first! But think before you do that. What that actually means is that you just committed to sitting on the plane for an extra half hour. Time that could be used for your baby to run around the airport and burn up some energy. We like boarding last.
Hydrate your baby (and yourself). It's dry up there in the air, and you don't want to start off your trip with dehydration.
Before you start thinking that the flight will be smooth sailing, the best thing to do is keep your expectations real low, then, once the flight is over, you'll be wowed by average.