I had always told myself that I would continue to travel once my child was born. It is with pride and bags under my eyes that I can say I have. It takes courage, humility, and endurance but it can be done.
I write this article as my 16 month old sleeps in the baby cot that British Airways provides. It took a few tears and annoyed glances from surrounding passengers, but he now silently sleeps as I write and my husband watches a movie. This is our sixth long haul flight with him and he has been on at least that many flights within the States and Europe as well. You can say that he is very well traveled for someone who is yet to turn two years. And although we are both experienced by now, I continue to ride the waves of nervousness before we take that step onto each and every plane.
As many have said before, being prepared is key. I always try to book a seat with a baby cot in the bulkhead area. When this can't be done, I pull up the map of the plane I will be flying on Seat Guru, which is a very helpful site. It can assist you with the pros and cons of your seat selection. I also try to choose a flight time that works well with his sleep when possible. Overnight flights are fantastic as he sleeps, even if I don't.
About a month ago I flew from London to the States with my son alone and so I purchased an extra seat on Delta for him. They were unable to provide me with the cot seat and so I found it worthwhile to pay the extra for his own. Airlines charge a discounted fare for children's seats or they can fly as a lap infant for a much smaller fee if under the age of two years. I had chosen two seats in economy that were by themselves as the airplane had the two, four. and two configuration of seats. I put my son in the seat by the window and belted him in with the CARES safety harness that I purchased on Amazon. It worked really well for us as he was happy to have his own space. Also, since he was belted in I believe he sat more contently having been perhaps successfully tricked into thinking he wasn't free to move about the plane.
I have always been one to try to pack as minimally as possible and this proves a challenge with a child and especially as a first time parent. I bring a compact travel stroller for my son to sit in while we move throughout the airport. It can be brought to the gate and then picked up after landing. I have a small carry on with my items and one for him, which is usually a backpack. In it I pack a travel changing station with more than enough diapers and wipes for the flight. I also carry some portable meals, a cup, and something like cheerios or raisins that can be given slowly to him and therefore extend the time it takes to eat. It is all about time management! A great piece of advice that I have received from another traveling Mom was to bring a change of clothes. I find it important for not only him, but me as well. You never know when a blowout could occur and believe me, accidents happen. I also bring a light swaddle blanket to lie on the floor or seat under him. I found this key for when he would sit on the floor especially. Travel size sanitizing wipes are handy to use to help clean not only him, but also the plane area that he is in. As for entertainment, this changes with the child's age. When my son was under nine months, it was hardly anything besides his sleeping comfort blanket and a few small toys. Now I bring a few books, his baby mobile phone toy, post it notes, a sticker book and an I-Pad. I know there are some strong opinions on this but I believe his happiness and calm when watching an episode or two (or many more) of Peppa Pig benefits the plane community at large. I used the post it notes for him to stick on the tray, back of the seat, and window. It provided more entertainment than I had thought possible. And when all else fails, there is always walking the aisles again, and again, and again. Your child will smile and laugh while you look longingly at the adults peacefully reading their books with a drink in hand. Keep calm and know that your time will come. You may not be able to enjoy that drink, meal, or movie on the plane, but you will soon enough wherever you are going.