Flying with a baby for the first time is intimidating. At least it was for me! This summer we went to Wisconsin, Colorado, and Hawaii all within a few weeks of each other. A dozen flights, three time zones, and over a month away from home taught me A LOT about traveling with a little one and by the end I felt pretty great about our system! We’ve also driven back and forth to my parents’ lake house (2.5 hours away) frequently in the past year so we have learned a lot about car travel with a baby, too. Below I’m going to outline all the tips for flying with baby that I’ve learned about making plans, flight logistics, and setting expectations to make it as smooth as possible. Also be sure to check out Part II here covering everything I’ve learned about packing and the baby travel gear I love!
Planning + Logistics:
Fly during the day. Of course, it’s not always possible, especially with airlines changing flights around a ton lately, but I found it way better to travel during the day, get settled at our destination, and put John-John down for bed at night than try to get him to sleep on the plane regardless of timing. Airports and planes are so exciting for them! So many new people and sounds. Sleep isn’t too appealing. And when he did sleep on the plane, he was still exhausted when we arrived at our destination from all the excitement.
Fly direct. Always worth it if possible.
If you’re driving, leave when they sleep. We’ve found it’s the opposite of flying. Your best bet for a peaceful drive is to leave when they usually fall asleep for a nap or the night. Pop in the pacifier, put a blanket over them, turn on the heat, use a mobile white noise machine.. use whatever you have to help them fall and stay asleep.
Stay somewhere baby gets their own room, if possible. An extra bedroom is great, but it doesn’t have to be that! A walk-in closet, an extra bathroom, or anywhere you can close a door is a game-changer. Then, you don’t have to tip toe around when you go to bed or during naps. If a separate space isn’t an option, then no worries, I have a great recommendation for sharing a room in my packing and gear post.
Tips for Setting Expectations:
For Flying: Take em down a notch. And then another 10 notches. This is not the relaxing flights of yesteryear where you watched two movies, dozed, and caught up on podcasts. This is basically a confined rodeo where there will definitely be sweat and most likely tears (but hopefully not blood). You may get lucky and they’ll sleep through the whole thing, but do NOT plan on that.
For Getting There and Back: The best thing you can do is adjust your mindset to embrace that the time spent getting to your destination (flying or driving) and then home are a completely separate part of the trip than the time you actually spend at your destination. The hours will probably be stressful, exhausting, and overall unenjoyable, but if you plan on that, it will help you not let those parts overshadow the fun you have when you get where you’re going.
For While You’re There: Plan to do less. Once you arrive, it’s hard to know how quickly your baby will adapt to their new surroundings and time zone. We found that having JJ take his first nap of the day (his longest) where we are staying means a smoother rest of the day. Granted, that often meant not heading out until at least 10 am or later, but he is overall happier the rest of the day so it is usually worth it for us. If we skip his morning nap, we know we’ll need to make sure he gets it the next day. We also plan to do one “bigger” thing/activity each day, and then have a few additional things we’d like to do if time and his mood permits. Then we just play it by ear.
I know I’m new to this parenting thing, but at this stage I think it’s worth it to travel with a child if it’s something you’d like to do. Yes, it’s more complicated, stressful, and tiring, but watching my baby meet his great grandfather before he passed away and play in the waves in Hawaii are memories I’ll never forget. I hope these travel tips give you the courage to do it, too! Babies are adaptable and so are you! But that said, we are going to take a break from flying for a little while now 😉 Check out this post for all of my favorite baby travel gear and packing tips, too!
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