So we recently went on our first flight with a baby....15 months in. I had researched and researched about how to pack, how to fly, how to travel with a baby....nothing quite prepared me so I thought I would add my two cents on the topic in case any of my momma friends out there are contemplating taking the plunge into airtravel.
Tip #1......DON'T DO IT! haha, jk....only mildly kidding though in all seriousness, it really does pretty much suck, but here's some tips to make it easier.
#2....Book your flight tickets over the phone and tell the agent that you'll be traveling with a kiddo under 2. Kids under 2 fly free, and if the airline knows ahead of time, they will try to reserve a 3rd seat for you. (it's not a bad idea to bring a copy of kiddo's birth certificate with you to prove they're under 2....I was never asked to prove this, but I had it just in case as I had heard some airports require it)
#3....Key word there is "try." We learned the hard way that even though they tell you at check-in that you'll have an extra seat, always doublecheck with the people at your gate. We had the mishap of lugging the carseat all the way to the back of the plane to realize that some dude was sitting in our "free" seat. (this is when you just have to roll with it and swear underneath your breath)
#4....As far as carseats go, we found it much easier to bring it on board the plane and strap her in. Babies are used to their seats and will fall asleep halfway in with all likelihood. Otherwise, if you have one like Zoe, trying to entertain a toddler in your lap and then struggle with her squirming to find a position of legs in Daddy's lap and head in Mommy's lap will not go well. With that said, this is probably a different story with a under 1 year old. I only wish we had flown when Zoe was younger.....I would imagine this is much easier!
#5....Bring an umbrella stroller or whatever stroller you want to use for your trip. You can use it all the way up until you hop on the plane. Then they'll just take it at gatecheck and have it waiting for you when you deboard where you always see the wheelchairs and such. Same goes for your carseat...even if there's not an extra seat available to use it, just gatecheck it....don't risk it getting all messed up with the checked luggage.
#6....Food and drinks are all ok. We had a diaper bag stuffed with food and milk/water in sippy cups and it all made it through security. I've also travelled with breast milk in bottles before.
Security just does a quick test on it to much sure it's not some liquid bomb and you're on your way.
#7...Ziplocks are your friend. Bring multiple changes of clothes for your little one, and maybe a towel if you have room. We were the lucky ones who experienced a projectile vomit session in the car on the WAY to the airport before we even get there. Needless to say, outfit change #1 happened in the airport parking lot before leaving. Empty ziplocks are always good to lock in that beautiful sour milk smell. Outfit change #2 happened once we got off the plane and realized that her new outfit was now soaked from sitting in a soggy carseat all the way there. (awesomeness let me tell you). And just to prove that you really do need more clothes than you think, outfit change #3 happened in the car ride to our destination after the flight. (just pray that you don't have a carsick baby like we do, and if so, do NOT give them food or milk en route....it would have been so worth it to take the extra time to feed her after the flight before we got in the car)
#8.....DON'T TAKE A TODDLER TO THE BATHROOM. I know this may sound crazy and this will sometimes be unavoidable, but if you can keep them in their diaper the whole flight without getting up, I highly suggest it. The tiny plane bathrooms actually do have a changing table which was not bad, the problem is getting the kid to want to get back in their seat once they're all dry and clean. This was the time when we had our screaming meltdown and had the pleasure of what felt like a 1,000 eyes all staring at us and our screaming baby. Luckily, a little walking down the aisle and craddling her was enough to finally get her to pass out in my arms (thank God!). You just have to be brave and deal with the mean looks for awhile.
#9....Have a bag of her favorite books handy and get one new toy. For us, the little sewing cards that you can buy at the grocery store worked just fine and Zoe got introduced to Dora the Explorer in the process. Also, the Ipad can get you a good 20-30 minutes of entertainment time at least. We loaded it up with favorite cartoon episodes and toddler games.
#10...Have your spouse handy. Teamwork and "rolling with it" are key. I have absolutely no advice on how to travel with a baby by yourself. I can only pray that I never have to do it and I think any mom that has done it deserves some sort of super hero medal.
#11....Book early morning flights. We had an 8 am flight going out.....while getting up before dawn sucks, for us at least, the flight was less crowded and you don't have to hang around in the airport too long since the first flight of the day is unlikely to be delayed. For afternoon flights, just be prepared to chase her around the waiting area before you board, hopefully getting out some energy before you have to lock her down for 3 hours.
Ok, that's all I can think of for now. And please take all this with a grain of salt....this is just what worked for us but as every kid is completely different, I am sure there are other ideas out there and I'd love to hear any advice that others may have!