Stepping out of the house just a few weeks after the birth of your first child is this monumental achievement. Even if it’s just a trip across the street, it’s a daunting task to try to find time and energy to pack up everything your neurotic ass needs to make sure the baby is well-protected inside of the first-time parenthood bubble.
There’s the planning and the second-guessing and the over thinking that all kick in to guarantee that you have taken any and all precautions just in case your firstborn sneezes while you are more than 100 feet from your household.
But, once you get that first trip out of the way, you become a veteran that is ready to take on bigger and better adventures to slay dragons and trek across star systems with your newborn. Before you can earn Jedi Master level of travel, though, you must face the most difficult challenge of your newly-minted parenting odyssey.
Traveling by plane to faraway lands with your little ball of wonderment is the ultimate expedition for new parents.
Sure, the cool part of the matter is that babies travel free if they are small enough to be held throughout the flight. Make use of this little loophole while you can, because fuck the airline industry.
However, understand this, my fellow journey-seekers: traveling by air with a small one is no easy feat. It requires skill. It requires planning. It requires some luck. It truly is a real Hero’s Journey:
- You’ll need the courage to acknowledge that an adventure is at hand to faraway lands;
- In the face of fear of the unknown, you’ll be tasked with overcoming the odds to ensure victory;
- Allies and mentors along the way may assist in this voyage, but in the end, you and you alone must stand up to conquer the task and deliver the treasure (uh, I mean, your baby) to safety.
The odds are very much against you, my friends. As we all know, air travel sucks. Period. The seats are way too small. The tickets are ridiculously expensive. Fellow travels are self-absorbed and apathetic to parents with small kids – let alone those with potentially crying babies that will interrupt their own adult mid-flight nap-time. Flight delays can ruin your entire itinerary.
And now that you have a mini-me, you can take all of these terrible factors and exponentially increase the suck level to epic proportions.
As with any Paladin who has been summoned to complete a journey to find oneself and accomplish a great feat, you will do the same as you take on this adventure by plane to fly with a baby. And in order to successfully complete this odyssey, you’ll need to follow these important steps, broken up into three phases.
Phase 1 – Pre-flight: The Hero’s Call to Adventure
Strategize like you are going into battle against a dragon. Think ahead about all of the things you may need while flying the not-so-baby-friendly skies. Diapers. Burp clothes. Changes of clothes – for both the baby and even you if shit hits the fan. Bottles. Toys. Pacifiers. Whatever you’d need in a regular setting for whatever given amount of time, you’ll need that here, too. Make a list.
Hopefully, you’ve figured out a fairly regular schedule for your kid by the time you fly. The first few months are tricky when trying to establish and keep that routine, though, so you may just have to hope and pray that this shit works out for you. If the baby is on a decent schedule, you’d ideally want to plan the flight around that time.
Understand what you can bring and what you can leave behind before you hit that security line. Do you need to bring a stroller for this trip? Or can you afford to leave it behind? Perhaps you can get by with a baby carrier like the Bjorn.
If you are carrying breastmilk or ready-made formula, that’s totally cool. However the folks at TSA are gonna wanna know; and they may even have to remove the bottles to test. Don’t worry, they leave the bottles sealed, but they may test each bottle individually – so plan ahead for this extra five minutes of hassle.
Know the ins and outs of where the bathrooms are in the airport terminal and which ones actually have a changing table. Fortunately there’s been enough outrage from dads out there and most terminals now accommodate these changing tables in the men’s restrooms. On a similar token, many airports are lagging behind in the amount of areas for new mothers to pump breastmilk. Some terminals have zero accommodations for this, so try to plan ahead and make arrangements if this is something that will need to happen during the travel day.
And just like people who need to hit the restroom before air travel, babies should be allowed to freshen up, too. Utilize that changing station right before the boarding process opens up for your flight. You never know when you’ll have another chance to make a change, especially if a random delay or extra long taxiing situation occurs before takeoff.
Sure, you can try to change the baby during the flight (they even have some cute little changing tables in the bathrooms), but it’s hard enough for a grown ass person to get in and drop a load off without having to worry about squeezing in there with a baby and changing a load of shit (sorry, poop). Who the fuck wants to do all that? So get that shit done before you board and hope you don’t have a blowout emergency that would require mid-flight maintenance.
Phase 2 – The Flight: Crossing the Threshold and the Ordeal
If you get to board the plane first, awesome sauce. Take advantage of this bonus and get on the plane to let the newborn acclimate himself to the new surroundings. It’ll also give you a chance to get situated with whatever rations and materials you’ll need during this adventure.
However, because airlines hate people, many carriers now don’t give a flying fuck about parents, so sometimes you’re left board the plane with the other mouth breathers. If this is the case, it may be wise to let one parent board first with as much carry-on stuff as possible, and one parent hang back until the end with the baby to avoid the ridiculousness of other people trying to elbow their way to more overhead space.
Once you get settled and the plane is ready for taking off, this is where the hero meets the real challenge. Timing is of the utmost importance now. The key is how to get the takeoff and/or landings synced up to when the baby would either be eating or sleeping – both will reduce the chance of her ears popping and causing beast mode level freak out sessions on the plane. Even if the baby will take a pacifier at this time, that’ll work, too.
Mid-flight is pretty easy if you’ve nailed the take-off without a fussy infant. Hopefully, the rumble of the plane’s engine and a smooth flight will rock the baby into a sleep that will last the majority of the adventure. If so, you win the day. But don’t get cocky, for you will likely be tested at some point during the trek.
Things like announcements from the captain or flight attendants coming back with the cart or just the random shit that happens during a flight can break up the peace and lead to a baby that is cranky. This is why you prepared ahead of time with bottles and distractions to prevent the Kracken from being released mid-flight.
Phase 3 – Landing & Deplaning: The Completion of the Journey
Congratulations. You’ve weathered the biggest and most challenging of the obstacles of the entire journey. From here, there is really only one more hurdle: and that’s returning your seat-backs and tables to their upright and locked positions while the captain gets ready for decent.
Get the pacifier ready. Or a bottle. Or hope the kid is (still) taking a nap. Same rules basically apply here as the takeoff procedures. Some babies actually have a tougher time on the landing with the deceleration and decrease in altitude, so keep that in mind. If you can weather the potential ear-popping storm here, you will have cleared the final threshold.
Have a general plan for deplaning. You may want to scramble and get the fuck off of the plane and rejoice in the fact that you just did that shit. Or, you may want to hang back a minute and let the crazy assholes fight to see which one can get off of the plane first.
Either way, once you have reached the resolution and have successfully made it off of the plane, no one would blame you for finding the nearest airport bar and enjoying a stiff drink of bourbon to wash away the anxiety and stress of that crazy ass day.
Upon completion of this epic quest, there will be much rejoicing across all the land. The Hero will be celebrated for delivering the elixir … err treasure … err newborn (my bad) to this new land of excitement and opportunity.
But, do not get too excited young Padawan, for this is just the beginning of your journey – as you’ll be forced to recommit to these tips and strategies once again on the return flight back to your home to truly complete your Hero’s Quest.
Now it’s your turn: What tips do you have for our fellow first-time parents hoping to take their own Hero’s Journey to faraway lands and fly with a baby? Leave your comments and suggestions below.