The first time I experienced FWB (Flying With Baby), my daughter was two months old and I was taking a three hour flight to visit my family. My husband was unable to go with me, but I figured I should probably bring my new baby because, you know, people might want to meet her. I also got stuck taking my dog too (long story). My flight was at 6:00 am, and since that was usually the time when my nocturnal baby finally decided it was bedtime, I had not gotten a wink of sleep. So here I am, at the airport, in a sleep-deprived daze, standing in line with my massive overweight suitcase, two carry-on bags, the stroller, the car seat, the car seat base, my 70 pound Labrador retriever, his kennel, and the baby. By the time I got to my destination, my patience was tried, my arm muscles were exhausted, and my hair looked like a rotting vomit-filled bird’s nest. As I pushed the luggage cart in front of me while dragging the stroller behind me, I came to the conclusion that although I love my daughter, I hate FWB. I hate it so much, that each time I do it, I need to purposely forget how bad it was, so that I’ll actually manage to get back on the plane to fly home.
Should you decide to take your little one on a plane, I really hope that you don’t have to do it by yourself. I’ve actually only ever flown with the baby when I was by myself (unless you count the dog who is most unhelpful), and I can tell you that it is do-able. Here are some tips to bring the flight experience from horrible to slightly sub-horrible.
First of all, be prepared- for anything and everything. My husband accuses me of having “contingency plans for my contingency plans”. Okay, so maybe it’s a little excessive to bring a two day supply of formula on a three hour flight, but hey you never know when you’re going to get stuck in a random airport somewhere in the middle of the night. Also, don’t forget to bring food for yourself. I have always traveled with a full box of emergency crackers, a practice for which my husband teases me mercilessly. Well, let me tell you, FWB can really work up an appetite, and I have been very grateful to have my emergency crackers on numerous occasions.
Aside from food, which is the cornerstone of any good flying plan (or any good plan in general, as far as I’m concerned), you will also need supplies to prevent you from becoming a poo/vomit-covered hot mess, or at least to minimize the damage. Obviously, you should bring a
lifetime supply decent amount of diapers, wipes, and tissues, and you should make them readily accessible at the top of your diaper bag. Remember, your diaper bag is on the floor, you are holding a baby on your lap, and you have to unzip and rummage through your diaper bag with one hand. Pack accordingly. Also, to store soiled clothes, you will need a few plastic bags or Ziploc bags, or for those who are kinder to the environment than I am, cloth reusable bags. In the same vein, you’ll need changes of clothes for the baby, and if you have room in your carryon, pack some for yourself as well. Although, I have no idea how you’d change into them with a baby in your arms.
Speaking of arms, you will need more than you have. To maximize their potential, I suggest wearing your baby in a front carrier (eg. Bjorn, Ergo etc). This comes in very handy when trying to get baggage in the overhead bins, going to the bathroom etc. The flight attendants will make you take the baby out of the carrier for take-off and landing, so make sure the one you have is easy to get your baby in and out of.
Here’s another practical tip: If coffee makes you pee like a pregnant racehorse, then you’re really better off saying no to the joe. Navigating the miniscule airplane bathrooms with a baby in your arms (or even in a carrier) is a real pain in the arse- a pain that is made worse when you accidentally slip, slamming your butt onto the toilet seat, because trying to do the hover while carrying a baby may be too much weight for your legs to bear and then- smash! Your ass lands on that disgusting piss covered toilet seat that you were so diligently trying to avoid. Not that this has ever happened to me or anything.
For the times when your baby cries and disrupts everyone on the plane, practice your I’m-So-Sorry-I-Really-Didn’t-Expect-This-To-Happen-Please-Have-Pity-On-Me-Frazzled-Mom face so that you don’t get verbally attacked by the Not-A-Hair-Out-Of-Place-Angry-Lipped-Judgemental-Childless woman next to you who thinks that surely you must be doing something wrong for your baby to be behaving like that. Maybe I am doing something wrong. After all, it seems that all the other babies on the plane are always peacefully asleep on their parents’ laps, while my precious bundle of joy is practicing seagull screeches at the top of her lungs.
That brings me to my next point- entertainment. Bring as many toys as you can fit in your diaper bag. Are you starting to feel like you’re going to need a Mary Poppins bag? You probably shouldn’t bring any expensive toys, though, because by the end of the flight, they’ll all be strewn across the floor, and you’re extremely likely to lose at least one of them. That being said, what are you doing with expensive baby toys in the first place? Unless you have money to burn, in which case, you should be buying your kid his own seat, and laughing at the rest of us who are getting pooed on.
On a more serious note, it’s also important to read up on laws and policies with regard to FWB. Depending on where you live, where you’re going, and which airline you are flying with, there may be different rules for things like your luggage allotment, stroller size, travel documentation etc. Reading your airline’s website is a good place to start. I only have experience with FWB in Canada, but I can tell you that I’ve never had to show I.D. for my baby on a domestic flight, although I always bring her birth certificate with me. I also pack a photocopy of her birth certificate in case the original gets lost and keep an extra copy at home (yes, I’m anal. Get over it). In Canada, babies do require a passport to travel out of the country, and if you’re taking them out of the country alone, it’s recommended that you get a consent letter from the other parent.
If you think this is going to be a civilized trip you can forget about it, but you will survive. Make a thorough packing list, put your vanity aside, have a sense of humour, and keep things in perspective. No matter how aggravating it can be, FWB is only a few hours of your life. Bon voyage, and next time, maybe try a staycation.