Traveling with a child can be very scary to process, especially with an infant.
My husband and I are used to traveling but we thought having a child would be difficult and put our travels to a halt. Luckily, that was not the case! Calihan’s first flight was when he just turned 4 months old, and I was SOLO.
My family does a trip to Florida almost every year in February to see my grandparents and when they asked us to meet them there, I jumped on it. I did not even think about the fact Lyall would be in school and would not be able to join us. I was so nervous to fly with Calihan by myself! We purchased the ticket anyways and I was researching everything and anything on flying with an infant! After booking his ticket, I called the airline to add his name to my ticket. This is VERY important considering it will save you a ton of time in the airport – and since infants are free on most airlines, they do not actually have a seat. If you would rather pay for a ticket and have the space and money, then 100% do it! As you can see on my ticket, we are living on a strict budget and economy was our best friend. Also, if you can choose your seat, I would highly suggest choosing an aisle. This is not the favorite but for a first timer and knowing you might have to bounce your child every so often, it is best. I enjoyed being able to get up when I needed to.
I also would make sure to pack lightly. When I say lightly, I mean only a bag for your baby as a carry on and that is it. If you are not traveling solo, and someone can help you get your suitcase down from the overhead bin, of course you can pack however you would like. I just had his diaper bag as a carry on, and checked the other bag making it easier to get on and off the plane.
Once your little one has their name added, the process at the airport can be super easy if you just follow the steps you would normally take and stay as calm as humanly possible. The moment I reached the airport, I kept Calihan in his carrier with only taking him out through security, for a changing, and getting on the plane. That is it. I would normally recommend wearing your infant if you know the flight is booked and you cannot sneak the carrier on the flight (more about sneaking the carrier on below). Always check with your airline but our stroller was checked for free at the airport when I arrived. This was one of my biggest mistakes that I am thankful I learned from! The next flight Calihan and I took on the way back from Florida, we used the stroller all the way to the gate and they checked it there instead. This was so much easier! Either way, just know that you can check both the carrier and the stroller at the gate with most airlines!
Security was the only added time realistically compared to when I would fly without a child. The first time going through security I really didn’t know what to expect and let’s add the fact that I do not breastfeed (he would not latch) while we are at it, so I had formula and a big bottle of room temperature water with me as well. I was nervous about this since of course liquids above a certain amount are not allowed on to a flight. The gentleman in security asked me to just take the bottles out (which had the formula in them to the exact ounce, so I just had to add the water) and put them in the bin. Then, the water bottle he took to test in a machine. This is so helpful for any mother who is not breastfeeding to bring their own water on instead of having to purchase water after security that you might not want mixed in your baby’s formula.
Here is the tough part. Since I had Calihan in the carrier, I had to get all of that out and take him out of the carrier to carry him through security. This was not easy as I was also a tad flustered not knowing what to expect! (If you plan on having your child attached to you, this all gets a thousand times easier) Tip: take everything out that you need to put in the bins, then take your infant out last. That way you are not struggling to hold them while taking everything out. This of course is why there is the added extra time if you are not quite a pro yet. Once you collect your belongings on the other side, make sure to put your child back into the carrier or stroller first then get everything together to make your life easier once again. This sounds so simple, but I watched a lady next to me doing the opposite and she looked a thousand times more stressed than I was! The testing of the water (again, if not breastfeeding) takes a little bit so you might have to wait on the other side. If you breastfeed, you will not have to do this, and you can easily feed your child on the plane! (little jealous here)
After security, I went straight to our gate to see where it was – then right before boarding, I made sure to change Calihan. This way, I would hopefully not have to deal with that on the flight. When boarding, they check your carrier at the gate OR you might get lucky and there will be a seat next to you empty that way you can sneak it on. I was incredibly lucky on the way back because I had the whole aisle empty, so I snuck the carrier on. This is also why I do not check the carrier before the gate. Just incase. Our first flight though, was very full so I checked the car seat at the gate and carried him on.
Tip: if you must make a bottle for take-off, make the bottle right before you get on the plane, so you do not have to fuss with it and have your child in your arms! This is in hopes that you do not have any issues and the plane takes off right away, but it was so convenient to just pull it out when take-off came. We use room temperature water for his bottles and it’s the only way he will take them, so I just feed him wherever, but if you need to warm up your bottle then the flight attendants are most likely able to do that! Or at least they were pre-covid. Feeding or having your child take a pacifier is KEY to take off and landing. Their poor ears will hurt due to the pressure change and so I just made sure to feed Calihan when we started moving and then again when landing (my favorite part since I am a chicken on planes). The second bottle I would have to pour the water in on the flight, or I would just give him his pacifier. Other than that, the actual flight feels like a car to them. Sleeping is normal and if they are not the type to enjoy car rides, bring lots of distractions. Calihan also liked just sitting there observing everyone since that is somehow his thing.
Be careful about letting anyone else hold your infant in order to “help” you out. I know this sounds silly, but it is the first thing the doctor told us about flying because of all the germs, etc. that babies have not been around yet. I would trust a flight attendant to help if absolutely needed.
Lastly, Enjoy the experience! This can all seem incredibly stressful as a first timer, but I had incredibly low expectations and it worked out well! The experience of flying together for the first time is something to take in and enjoy. Calihan has now been on 6 flights and we will continue to take him once everything relaxes a little.
You got this!