Traveling With An Infant: 6-10 Months – Flying

I’ve written a couple of posts about traveling with an infant. The first being a few quick lessons we learned when traveling with a then 5.5 week old baby, the second when Aubrey and I flew all the way home from Turkey (30 hours each way total travel time) when she was just 2 months old. While a few things stay the same, babies of course, have changing needs as they grow and develop, and thus flying and traveling with them also evolves.

Since the last post on this subject, Aubrey and I flew home again on military Space Available flights when she was 6 months old, and then flew again and traveled for nearly a month in Europe visiting both sides of our family. My mommy brain is now wishing I would have taken some better notes of things that worked and didn’t work along the way, but I’ll try to think back through our experience and share what worked for us when traveling with a 6-10 month old baby.

AIRPLANE TRAVEL WITH A PRE-TODDLER

The good news, you don’t need quite so many bulky items in your carryon. For these trips we got to eliminate the pacis, blankets, inflatable pillow, and a few of the extra diapers and clothes. The bad news, you now need toys and snacks to provide some entertainment for your little lump of sugar that is no longer happy to sleep, nurse and cuddle the day away, as well as food.

***I won’t go in depth about flying the military Space A planes (unless someone asks me to) since that is a more isolated scenario for most. I will say flying on a C-17 was infinitely easier than flying commercial! There is no way to put a value on being able to stretch out and move (and sleep!) when you have a baby with you, especially on a 9 hour flight.

For these trips we opted to bring our stroller (sans car seat – will explain below), and the Ergo 360 carrier. Sounds a bit counterintuitive, but I found it easier to carry and keep control of Aubrey by putting her in the Ergo (forward facing as she insists these days), then tossing my backpack and anything else that would fit into the stroller so I could easily push the stroller (which my Dad calls my truck) and wheel our suitcase behind. I also make it a point to pack Aubrey’s and my things into one small (carryon sized if possible) suitcase. We are often traveling without Will, or an extra set of hands, so I try to keep things as minimal as possible to make it easy on myself. We always keep the stroller and check it at the gate so we can continue to push Aubrey, the bags, or both around the airport easily.

One other thing we have stuck to doing, is to dress Aubrey in footie PJs. They have proven to be the easiest in terms of keeping her warm and comfortable. They also eliminate having to worry about lost socks or shoes, and keeping an outfit clean. We usually change her into an actual outfit once we arrive at our destination.

PACKING FOR THE PLANE

  • Snacks – usually puffs, string cheese, crackers, etc…
  • Toys – Just a few (like 3) of her favorite small toys (1 rubber, 1 rattle-type toy, and 1 plush). Generally the safety card, airline magazines, seat buckles, people sitting behind us, etc…provide most of the entertainment.
  • Extra clothes – An extra set of PJs for A, and an extra shirt for me (because spit up, snack covered hands, and a world of other things still happen).
  • Diapers and Wipes –  I calculate how many she would normally use in the time period we have to travel, then I nearly double it. You never know when you will be delayed, or when your baby will decided to have a very active day on the potty front.
  • Portable Changing Pad – ONE OF THE THINGS WE USE MOST!!! I am by no means a germaphobe, but changing tables are nasty, as are airport/public floors. Aubrey has made a habit of crawling on some of the most high traffic floors we’ve encountered, but at least when she is bare-bottomed, I like to know I have a clean surface to lay her on. It’s also a great way to store a few diapers and wipes in something that is easy to grab quickly.
  • Food – I always pack two days worth of squeeze food pouches. Turkish Airlines kindly provides a “baby meal” that includes a jar of fruit puree and a jar of veggie puree (and Aubrey likes to eat MY eggs/yogurt/cheese/bread, etc…), but I like to be prepared with foods I know she will eat, and to ensure that I have plenty on hand just in case. Aubrey also usually needs meat in some form to fill her up. Our favorite pouches are these, and these
  • Formula – Although we have exclusively breastfed until now, I always pack formula and a bottle in my carryon because honestly, sometimes it’s just easier than trying to nurse. Especially if you are running trying to make a flight, or in any situation where you cannot easily sit, or stand while staying moderately covered and wrangling your now very mobile and fidgety pre-toddler who may or may not be focused on trying to nurse 🙂
  • Toiletries – I carry all of my toiletries (including my essential oils) in a reusable bag like this one.
  • Makeup – I don’t trust it not to get broken in my checked bag, and it’s nice to put on a fresh face when you arrive.
  • Lipgloss/Chapstick
  • Kindle
  • Phone
  • Chargers for Kindle and Phone and 1 base to plug them into

ON THE PLANE

I still try to work the seating arrangements so we end up with an extra seat, however, when flying with Turkish Airlines you don’t receive your seating assignment until checkin, and they ALWAYS seat babies in a window seat. While that is nice for nursing and to corral your tiny tot, it is so inconvenient for being able to get out for a diaper change, or to take a short walk when little one is absolutely done with sitting. We have started waiting toward the back of the plane during boarding and scouting for open seats. I’m sure this is highly advised against by airlines the world over, but most of the flight attendants we have had, have been incredibly understanding and have even asked us to wait behind until boarding is complete so they can see if there are extra seats open. 
Above all else and any other tactics for getting through a flight with an active pre-toddler, my best advice is to try to maintain their schedule as much as possible, even if that only means feeding them at their normal times. I have found sleep and naps simply do not happen on a plane, outside of a few 10 minute (or less) cat naps here and there. We try to let Aubrey explore her seat, the floor (if there’s room), the people sitting around us (within reason – we try our best to keep her from being annoying). We take longer diaper change breaks for a change of scenery. We rely on puffs and other snacks to try to beat the boredom when she has seen and done everything there is to do, and when all else fails, we embrace the meltdown. 
Luckily she has only had one bad one so far, but I’ll be the first to admit that meltdowns in public suck, and meltdowns in the small confines of a plane, with people who have paid dearly for their seats only a couple of feet away from said screaming baby – is downright dreadful. For Aubrey, it is usually when she is beyond tired, but is having a hard time giving up and actually going to sleep. Generally I try to appease her with nursing, puffs, toys, and roaming around, before finally reverting to just letting her cry it out. Typically within 5 minutes she has gotten it out of her system and falls asleep. As a person who has always loathed a screaming baby on a plane, I get it how annoying it is, but as a mother I realize sometimes it is completely unavoidable.

We’re still learning to navigate air travel now that Aubrey is mobile. We would love to hear your suggestions and successes!

Stay tuned for the next post where we’re covering how we managed to travel for a month in Europe with an 8 month old!

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