Three weeks ago, Parker and I flew from Regina to Victoria via Calgary. That's three hours of air time and a 70 minute layover. I survived, thanks in large part to Michelle's plea for advice regarding travelling with a newborn and the resulting comments.
We all know I'm basically a genius when it comes to travelling, so I thought I would share some new, updated travel tips. You know, for when you're no longer able to fly solo and are in that new and glamorous stage of life that revolves around another person's bodily functions.
Be early. You'd think this would be a no-brainer, but I can't stress enough how important this is. I got to the airport just at the 45 minute cut-off and had to stand in line at security, wait for them to swab Parker's bottle to make sure it wasn't a bomb, and made it to the gate just as they were pre-boarding. Except I had to run to the bathroom and didn't have to time to fill up my water bottle so by the time that was said and done we just snuck on before everyone else.
I had really wanted to get there with enough time to do all those things, change Parker, and let him roll around on his blanket a bit to get the beans out. No dice.
Wear that baby. Your baby is your most important accessory when flying. Babies are wiggly worms, and while you can't have them in the carrier whenever the seatbelt sign is on, put that baby in a lightweight carrier and wear them. I think this is a bit of a no brainer, but the last thing you want to do is drop the baby when you're picking up your bag, fishing for your boarding pass, or maybe even holding a coffee?
I can go to the bathroom with Parker in the K'tan, but I didn't want to press my luck with him in the carrier in the airplane bathroom so I skipped the coffee. If it had been a longer flight, though, I probably would have just gone for it.
Pack light. Ish. Because I was flying solo with Parker I knew I would have to be prepared for whatever would happen. I flew with WestJet, and they are much more generous than Air Canada with what they'll check for free if you're flying with an infant. WestJet has also never booked my seat on the wing.
I packed my big duffle bag full of my stuff. I bought a $10 regulation sized carry-on off VarageSale and stuffed it to the max with Parker's things. I knew we'd be able to do laundry so I only brought him six sleepers, a couple of which fit him a little loosely. This was smart because he outgrew several things while we were there. I also brought him some little pants, shirts, socks, a cardigan, two rompers, and one hoodie. A swaddle sack, two swaddle blankets, a regular blanket, and my pump filled the rest of it up.
Because I could do laundry I probably didn't need to bring quite as much clothing for Parker and could have instead brought more burp cloths.
I opted to leave the stroller at home because we drove back and it takes up a lot of trunk space in my little car. I also didn't bring Parker's car seat because it would be a lot to carry and was just one more thing to break. When we fly at Christmas we'll be bringing the stroller for sure and possibly the car seat. Some friends loaned us everything we needed here (stroller, car seat, pack-n-play, play mat, even a swing if we want it).
I paid the $25 to check my bag, and was prepared to take my small suitcase and diaper bag with me on the plane. It was a lot, but I had a plan.
Ask nicely. When I checked my bag I asked if they wouldn't mind checking my little suitcase for free since I didn't have any of the other baby items with me, like a car seat, stroller, or pack-n-play that they would check for free (two of the three). Because WestJet loves me, they totally did it.
On our second flight I knew I would need to breastfeed, so I asked at the counter if it was possible to sit beside an empty seat. I ended up at the back of the plane next to the bathroom, which smelled terrible, but had a whole row to myself, with enough room to spread out.
Be prepared. This kind of flies in the face of packing light, but if you've ever spent fifteen minutes with an infant you'll understand. Because I'm regularly on the receiving end of any number of Parker's body fluids I took full advantage of my massive diaper bag. I packed myself an extra shirt, a cardigan, breast pads, a bottle in an insulated bottle bag, three soothers, wipes for the soothers when they hit the floor (which happened before we even left Regina), snacks, two burp cloths, diapers, wipes, a change pad, wet bag, extra pajamas for Parker, a swaddle blanket, nursing cover (no idea why, we never use the darn thing), plus my wallet, water bottle, hand lotion, and lip balm. My keys and sunglasses got put in with my checked luggage because that would just be excessive.
I never used any of the extra clothes or the swaddle blanket, but I was glad I had them. Because I had Parker in the K'tan I knew it was a very real possibility that I would get a milk bath, so I wore a shirt that does a good job of camouflaging the spit up. He never actually got me while in the carrier, but he did get me all the way down my back on our first flight. The lady next to me said you couldn't tell so I didn't bother changing and probably smelled like sour milk for the rest of the day.
I was glad I'd brought a bottle simply because there wasn't a lot of room on that first plane. Had I breastfed, Parker would have been kicking and possibly spraying milk on the poor woman next to me.
Be apologetic and make friends. Parker's a pretty good kid, but I wanted to nip any complaining in the bud, so I made sure to apologize in advance to everyone sitting around me if he cried. He didn't. He was so cute and charming, in fact, that my seatmate held him when I had to pick his soother up off the floor, and all the little old ladies getting off the plane asked if I needed a hand disembarking.
Babies sometimes get their own bathrooms. Find them. Love them. Calgary had a change room specifically for children and I nearly died with happiness when I saw it. It didn't have a toilet, which was a little disappointing, but I understand why. It was, however, the size of a regular bathroom, and I had enough room to spread everything out I needed and just breathe (but not too deeply), get my bearings, repack my diaper bag so that my snacks were back on top, and change the fullest diaper I have ever seen in my entire life.
Embrace the layover. I opted to choose flights with a layover just over an hour instead of a half hour. It was the perfect amount of time to hit the bathroom, change him, have a snack, and let him roll around for a bit.
Parker ended up flying like a champ. He loved looking around at all the new things, and he slept right through both takeoffs. The g-forces and noise lulled him right to sleep. He didn't sleep as long as I'd have liked, but when he woke up I fed him, changed him on our second flight (his favourite part for sure - hello, bathroom giggle fest!), and just looked around.
That night, though... Well. At least he didn't meltdown while we were travelling.
Next up: Road tripping with a baby: How to spend 17 hours in a car with your spouse in the backseat.