Traveling with a Little One

I know I only have one baby and I've only had him a year, but I think it's safe to say I've had my fair share of traveling with a lap child. Gunner has been on 19 planes in his short little life. That seems like a LOT for a 12 month old!! We need to get him his own sky miles account or something.  I wouldn't consider myself an expert, but I've certainly learned a lot in our travels together! So here are my 8 tips for flying with a little one!

Tip 1: Give yourself time
Traveling can be really stressful, especially if you're rushed for time. Just as with every other day of your life, if you're a frazzled mess, your baby will sense it, and then becomes its own tiny frazzled mess. Give yourself time so that you don't panic and get freaked out when TSA randomly selects you for a screening even though you can hear them calling final boarding for your flight and you find yourself full on sprinting through the airport, baby strapped to chest, pushing a stroller, dodging the elderly in a desperate attempt to make your flight. This scenario doesn't have to happen to you (and hopefully won't ever happen to me again!!) Just get to the airport early. 

Tip 2: Be Friendly
Be friendly to everyone you meet. First and foremost because it's the right thing to do and because people deserve your courtesy. But also, it will lower your anxiety level, and you never know who can help you. Be nice to the lady who is checking you in. She can turn a blind eye to your 6lbs over the weight limit suitcase. Smile at airport workers. They can help you get in the priority security lines. Be nice to the TSA agents and they'll be more likely to help you gather your stuff or hold the baby while you slip your shoes on. I always check in with the gate agent when I arrive at my gate. I ask if there are any empty rows or even two empty seats together. I've even had gate agents call up other passengers and ask them if they'll change seats so that I can have an extra seat. The flight attendants and passengers around you will be more understanding and even anxious to help if you are polite and light hearted. Flight attendants have a lot of power ya know. Extra cookies, extra milk, cute little wing pins. Also they have a pretty spacious area at the back of the plane that can come in handy with a fussy baby. 

Tip 3: Take a Stroller
Even if your little one is big enough to walk, take a stroller. You can hang things off of it, toss things in the basket, and especially keep your little one secure while running through the airport. The best part is, you check it at the gate (for free) and then it's right at the gate waiting for you when deplane! 

Tip 4: Space is money
When choosing your seats, choose the furthest available row. This may go against all your instincts like it did for me. But embrace it! The back of the plane is the least popular which means if there is an open seat on the plane it will be in the back! Space is money. Having an empty seat next to you will help you relax and give you extra space for your stuff, to stretch out or to strap the baby in if he's getting restless! When I check in before a flight I like to review my seat choices because then I get a better idea of how full the plane will be and where I can have maximum space. Also, the back of the plane means easy access to the bathrooms and extra flight attendant space. Plus, it just feels quieter and more private back there. 

Tip 5: Keep your Hands Free
Going through security can be the hardest part of your trip. Taking off shoes, emptying pockets, taking out laptops keeping track of your ID and boarding pass. That can be really stressful when you've got a line full of rushed travelers behind you and a squirmy baby in your arms. You have to collapse your stroller and put it through the x-Ray machine, so you'll need to put baby elsewhere for a moment. I like to wear Gunner in our baby bjorn. He loves to face forward and feels like he has more freedom, and then my hands are free to do what I need to. (When you carry baby through the scanner they have to swab your hands. Whether you wear baby or carry baby, that's just the rules) I also put him back in the carrier when I'm boarding the plane. I keep him in the stroller as I walk down the jetway, then slip him into the bjorn while I'm walking down the aisle to find my seat. It's much easier to get things situated and organized if you have both hands free!

Tip 6: Gate Check your Car Seat
If you're traveling with your car seat it may be tempting to check the car seat at check in. It can be bulky to carry through the airport. But if you're taking a long flight, you'll want that bad boy. If your little one is over two and they have their own seat anyways, the car seat is obvious. You won't even gate check it, just take it onto the plane with you. If you're little one is still a "lap child" this is where the "be friendly" and "space is money" comes in handy. If you are lucky enough to have an extra seat next to you (make sure you check with the gate agent), the car seat will be a life saver! It will help keep your little one secure. Gunner figured out that silly seat belt clasp before he could even walk. In a car seat, he cannot escape!! Your little one is probably more used to a car seat and comfortable in it. This helps keep them secure, and your hands free. Also, now that Gunner has grown out of sleeping in my arms, he's much more likely to sleep in his seat! (This feels obvious, but sleep will be your best friend during the flight. Plan nap time for flight time!!) If you don't end up with an extra seat next to you, it's easy enough to just check the car seat at the gate with your stroller! (Bonus tip: I hang the car seat off the handle of my stroller while walking through the airport, you can also try to balance it on the canopy, or if you're really fancy and have a travel system it will be even easier!)

Tip 7: Give them freedom when you can
Sometimes during layovers, when I'm in strange airports I feel like I want to hide in a corner and keep Gunner strapped in the stroller. But truthfully, traveling can be super frustrating for your little one if they're mobile! All that time in a stroller, carrier, car seat, or your arms. They just want to get on the ground and explore. If you get to the airport early, or you have a long layover, find a low traffic area and let your baby run, climb, crawl, stretch! They'll be more likely to be calm on the plane if they've gotten a little exercise beforehand. I also like to sit near other moms traveling with kids. The kids can entertain each other and you guys can bond over your fearless traveling triumphs. Plus, an extra set of eyes is always helpful. 

Tip 8: Stay Calm
Murphy's law states, "Anything that can go wrong--will go wrong." Plain and simple, things will go wrong (Hopefully not everything!) But that's just the nature of traveling with kids. You might have to run through the airport, you won't always get the extra seat, people may be rude, your baby may scream the whole time. But you'll survive!! You are a strong, brave mamma and you can handle it. Don't worry about what other people are thinking or if they're judging you. Just relax, stay calm, take deep breaths. All you need to worry about is your little one and making them as happy and comfortable as possible. They will feed off of your energy whether it's frantic or serene. Don't be afraid to walk up and down the aisles bouncing, or to let a stranger hold him while you pee. Just remain calm and remember it's only temporary! You'll be off that plane in no time! 

I hope you guys found these tips helpful! What else have you guys tried that has worked? And what hasn't worked? This family's traveling days are far from over and I'm always looking for new tips and tricks! Like, has anyone figured out how to score first class upgrades for free? Haha!