Babies travel, too. If you plan to be up in the air with a new member of the clan, here are five tips to consider:
The right flight
Depending on the distance you'll be traveling, consider choosing a flight that falls over naptime. That way you know your little one will be more likely to snooze. If a nonstop itinerary is not possible, avoid short layovers. Who wants to sprint to the next gate with baby and gear in tow? Give yourself plenty of time between connections. Also know that morning flights are less likely to be delayed. Plus, you'll have more time on the other end to settle into your new destination.
Plan and pack precisely
Create a packing list in advance so you're sure to have what you need in the airport and in flight. Plan for delays and the unexpected while keeping your load as light as possible for ease of movement. Dress all family members in layers. Flights can be chilly or steamy. Bring healthful snacks and drinks and dole out goodies to older children in advance to lessen the likelihood that everyone will need something at exactly the same moment once on board. You'll be able to valet check your stroller at the gate and later pick it up in the jetway for easy maneuvering to connecting flights or for the long trek to baggage claim.
Experts suggest that the safest way to travel with a baby weighing less than 40 pounds is strapped into a car seat in his or her own airplane seat. However, if an extra seat is not in the budget, consider booking a window and aisle if two adults are traveling. If traveling solo, an aisle will give you greater access to assistance from a flight attendant as well as the option for a stroll to calm the baby. The bulkhead is also a great option. If not available at the time of ticketing, check again at the gate for the best last-minute option available for your family. Most airlines will allow families to board early, enabling your clan to get settled with less pressure.
Give yourself plenty of time at the airport, keeping stress levels to a minimum. TSA officials will allow you to bring enough formula or breast milk for the trip but know they may open the containers and scan them for security purposes. If you travel with powdered formula, remember to buy bottled water at the gate rather than relying on in-flight H2O. You'll have to put strollers, backpacks, toys, breast pumps and car seats through the scanners so don't be shy about asking for help. You can carry your baby through security, but slings or other carriers will be inspected or sent through the scanner. Children under 12 do not have to remove shoes or light jackets.
Managing the ups and downs
Changes in pressure can wreak havoc on travelers of any age. Often the pressurization begins earlier than you might expect so ask the flight attendant for a heads up so you'll be prepared. Spare your baby the discomfort by nursing or offering a bottle during takeoff and landing. A pacifier or your own pinkie are good backups. Baby-sized earplugs can block the potentially scary sounds of jet engines and other unusual noises.
Know that most planes have a changing table in the bathroom. Few flying companions or flight attendants will appreciate a quick diaper change on a spare seat or your tray table.
Be respectful of fellow passengers and crew and you are likely to receive their kindness, compassion and cooperation in return. Many have been in your shoes.