It’s been a whirlwind last few weeks. Since the end of July, our family has flown from Phoenix to Washington D.C. to spend a few days with friends and do some sightseeing. Then we drove up to the Jersey Shore to spend four days of beach time with more family. After that, we headed up to Newark for what we thought would be our flight home. Instead we ended up in New York City for a few unplanned nights after Southwest canceled our flight. Immediately upon arriving back in Phoenix, we got in the car and headed up to Sedona for a family wedding. All of this while flying with a 10 week old baby for the first time. I’ll save the craziness of our flight cancellation for another post. Instead, I’d like to share my experience flying with a small baby. Specifically, what worked and what didn’t.
Both our flight to and from the East Coast were scheduled for a 6:30am take off. In hindsight, I think this was a good thing. Our baby is typically in a much better mood in the morning than the evening. Plus, a daytime flight means sleeping might not be quite as important to the people around us in the event she started crying. I can’t stand domestic red eye flights, and I definitely wouldn’t entertain the idea with a baby.
At The Airport
Upon arrival at Sky Harbor, we decided to check our Maxi-Cosi Adorra Travel System at the counter in lieu of wheeling it to the gate. We then placed the baby in a carrier wrap and checked everything else except our diaper bag. That allowed both of us to have all four hands available if/when needed. We flew United out of Terminal 2 in Phoenix. Since it’s my home airport, I knew this is a very small terminal and the gate would only be a short distance past security. All in all, I felt that checking our travel system at the counter was the right move in Phoenix. My wife and I also have TSA Pre-check. It goes without saying that this is a huge advantage when traveling with a child.
On our way back, we again decided to check the travel system at the ticket counter. Unfortunately, we wish we didn’t. The walk from the ticket counter to the gate was much further, and of course Newark is a busy airport. Moving forward, I think we’ll decided what to do on a case by case basis. At small terminals with quick access to the gates, we’ll check the travel system right away. Larger airports, we’ll likely gate check. It’s worth noting that gate checking would also be a breeze with United since they allow families to board first. Southwest, for example allows families to board after the entire “A Group”. That might lead to a hectic situation trying to pack away a travel system, while worrying about whether you’ll get seats together.
On The Plane
Now it was time to board. I think the most important thing for us was that we purchased an extra seat for the baby. That meant the whole row belonged to us. Furthermore, we upgraded to United’s Economy Plus product for both flights. This gave us plenty of room to work with the baby during flight, and not worry about interrupting anyone else. Additionally, we could rapidly change diapers together without anyone knowing. Just make sure you bring a changing mat and little bags to seal the diapers if you’re going to do that.
A lot of research indicates that feeding a baby during take off and landing helps ensure their ears aren’t agitated from the pressure change. We did this and it seemed to work out well. During flight we took turns entertaining the baby, occasionally walking her around the aisle if she showed signs of getting fussy. We also managed to get her to sleep for a few hours each way by creating a small bed using a fluffy blanket on the middle seat between us. To my surprise (and relief), we had no crying episodes either way. In fact, we were approached by several passengers after each flight who commented on how well she did.
Going into the flight we had no idea what to expect. As frequent travelers, we were horrified at the possibility of our child screaming throughout the flight. In the end, our fears were unfounded and flying with a 10 week old baby was actually one of the more pleasant portions of our otherwise hectic trip.
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