Browsing the archives for the Travel tag

Thoughts on Flying with a Baby

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Children, Travel

I have to admit that I was extremely nervous about flying with a baby on my lap.  The worst case scenario played through my mind repeatedly:  us sitting in a middle seat, the person in front of me reclining their seat so far back that Katherine would have no space to move, her crying at the top of her lungs for 4 hours, and people glaring at us.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the trip went.  On one long leg of the trip, I was in the middle seat, and the person in front of me had their seat fully reclined.  However, even that scenario was not as bad as I had expected.  We still had space to move around a bit.  Granted, I was lucky that the stranger in the window seat was kind and gracious despite Katherine’s repeated attempts to grab his arm.

I had solicited advice before the trip, and it was quite helpful.  Here is a list of the best pieces of advice I received about flying with a baby.

If you are not buying a seat for the baby, still check with the airlines to see if they have open seats.

Many people told me, and one of the Southwest agents confirmed (at least for Southwest), that if there are any open seats on a flight, they may give you one of those seats for your baby.  Of course, you’d have to have your car seat with you, but that would likely be more comfortable than flying with an infant on your lap.

The day before our trip to California, I called Southwest to find out if there were empty seats on the two legs of our trip.  There were, but the agent recommended that we check again before arriving at the airport.  The next morning, hours before our flight, I called again and learned that the leg from St. Louis to LA was completely full, so we left the car seat in our car.  It was nice, however, to know that we had the option to get a free seat for Katherine if space had allowed.

Find out in advance whether you need to bring the baby’s birth certificate.

Some airlines require at least a copy of the birth certificate for the traveling child.  Southwest accepted a copy, and the agent also advised me that an immunization record would have sufficed.  This could be useful for a parent who is traveling with a very young child, in which case the birth certificate may not yet be available.

Bring more diapers and baby food than you think you will need.

In case of travel delays, it is better to be prepared.  Airport gift shops carry a number of items, but other moms advised that it is very difficult if not impossible to find diapers there.  Pack about twice as many diapers as you think you will need.

Have new toys with you on the plane to entertain the baby.

One of the best pieces of advice I received was from a friend who recently moved from Seattle and who has flown quite often with her baby.  She recommended having a few new toys for the baby.  The baby should be more enthralled and spend more time exploring and playing with the new item.  If getting a handful of new toys is not feasible, the alternative is to put some toys aside a few weeks before the trip.  That way, the toys are essentially “new” to the baby during the flight.

We did the latter, and it worked on the trip out.  In fact, I did not have to whip out the heavy artillery (the Baby Einstein iPhone app) during our trip to California.  On the trip back, I borrowed a couple of toys from my mom, including one large Duplo block (far too big to be a choking hazard), which was a big hit.

Have the baby nurse, drink from a bottle, or use a pacifier during the ascent and descent.

As most everyone knows, this helps the baby with any ear discomfort while flying.  Katherine fell asleep during the descents on both legs of our return flight, and I chose not to wake her up to try to make her drink.  This turned out fine, as she did not signal any discomfort with her ears after she woke up.  For those occasions where she refused to nurse, the pacifier seemed to be a good alternative.

If anyone has any additional pieces of advice, please share in the comments.

California Vacation

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Recently, Ryan, Katherine and I traveled to Huntington Beach, California, to visit family.  Here is a quick recap of the highs and lows of our trip.

The airplane flight was better than I expected.

I was nervous about flying for the first time with Katherine, who was 8 months old.  We flew on Southwest, which was a great experience overall.  The workers for the most part were all friendly, and I liked the open seating.  It certainly worked to our advantage on the long last leg of our flight from Phoenix to Columbus.  The flight was “completely full,” but apparently there was one open seat, and it was next to us.  Go figure – no one wanted to sit next to a baby.  But she was good and only cried a little bit when she was tired.  We kept her entertained with a couple of toys, her sippy cup, and the Baby Einstein iPhone app.

Katherine loved being around her cousins.

Katherine had met her cousins Luke (10) and Linnea (12) back in April when we went to my cousin Eric’s wedding, but this time she got to spend a couple of days with them.  It was funny to watch her chase after Luke in her walker.

Ryan and I kayaked almost every day.

I am so grateful to my mom, who watched Katherine quite a lot during our vacation and enabled us to paddle around Huntington Harbor on a regular basis.

Katherine was able to experience the Pacific Ocean.

We took Katherine to Sunset Beach (north of Huntington Beach) and put her feet in the ocean.  She seemed to enjoy the experience.

Katherine and Rebecca at Sunset Beach, August 2010

We also went to a little beach on Trinidad Island in Huntington Harbor, where we set Katherine up in her walker at the edge of the water just to let her put her feet in the sand.  A few young children came over to meet her and ended up entertaining her for quite a while.

The new friend entertained Katherine as I hovered nearby

Katherine said her first word.

“Mama.”   Need I say more?

The one low of our trip – the smash and grab.

After we returned to Columbus, we learned that someone had broken into the front passenger side window of our minivan.  It did not appear that anything was stolen, and the parking lot replaced the window before we returned and offered to pay for the interior cleaning.  Regardless, it was a hassle, and it’s quite disconcerting to get into your car and see smashed glass all over the place.

Overall, it was a great trip, and we look forward to getting back out there for our Christmas vacation.