My daughter and I flew to Columbus, Ohio, out of O’Hare (and back) over the weekend. She’s generally a very relaxed baby, save when she’s hungry or sleepy, but travel adds a few challenges with any youngster.
We started our trip running late for a flight that had been moved up to avoid Winter Storm whatever. Far too often, I still time things out considering only myself and not this 24-pound bundle of smiles for whom I’m responsible. By some miracle we get to the gate from my front door in 50 minutes, strolling up just as our boarding group is being called. I said strolling and not strollering up because a) strollering isn’t a word, and b) I eschewed my opportunity to use my ultra-compact Pockit Lightweight Stroller in favor of just a baby carrier on my chest. Excellent decision. While the Pockit folds up to basically double the size of your favorite Five-Star Trapper Keeper from 1990something and rides very smoothly for something so light, it also requires a free hand to push it. Huge engineering flaw, indeed. So if you’re flying solo with a little one and debating stroller (and also have a suitcase to roll behind you), don’t do it!
The flight went relatively well, thanks to the grad student next to me offering to lend a hand. Economy seats on American’s CRJ700 aren’t the worst, but it certainly isn’t wide open spaces either- and are made tighter if you’re wearing a winter coat and the baby carrier. She held Reese while I fastened my seat belt, made a bottle, and finally took off the carrier and jacket following a diaper change in the bath….closet. It certainly wasn’t much of a room by any stretch of the imagination. People were very helpful and patient at each stop of the boarding/deplaning process, so don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
On the way back, I was lucky enough to grab a two-seat row for the two of us. When I checked in for my return flight I chose an empty row and confirmed at the gate in case someone else moved in the interim. This was basically first class on our snug little regional ERJ-145. Reese had plenty of room to stretch out, her father was able to access the diaper bag directly to his right instead of bent over, blindly reaching between his feet. If we travel in the next year without MommyTourist, I may just purchase a second seat for the two of us and hope we don’t get bumped. It would be a real shame if Reese has to catch a later flight on her own, a real shame.
As I write this on the way home (with my left hand, since my right is taken), my biggest pieces of advice:
- Check your jacket- it’s too tough to take off and/or haul around with so many other essentials. You really don’t need it until you leave the airport on the other side. I felt the breeze on the jetway and while walking to the car, but it was a great trade off from the sweaty mess I was changing her diaper in the lavatory.
- Do whatever it takes to have an open seat next to you. I needed the assistance less than I just need somewhere to put Reese while I went through her diaper bag or moved around myself. Check early, check often, and move your selected seat around until you’ve exhausted all options. Keep in mind that the exit row, as well as the rows directly adjacent, are off limits to those traveling with lap infants.
- Give yourself plenty of time, and have a good idea about your child’s schedules (not just feeding!) for that entire day. Giving your baby a bottle while ascending or descending can help the baby’s ears to pop, so try to work that in. I also wouldn’t wish changing a diaper in an airplane lavatory on my worst enemy, so be sure he or she is clean before you get in the plane.
- Don’t worry about bringing a stroller unless you can load enough in the undercarriage to make it worth your while. If you think you really need it, you’re bringing too much stuff.
All in all, its not as scary as I thought it would be, from someone who still has no idea what he’s doing.