our disney vacation – part 1: how to fly with an infant

The four of us went to Orlando in June, the exact day after the oldest child graduated from high school. Twenty four hours after he received his diploma we were somewhere between Minneapolis and Orlando eating tiny pretzels and counting the minutes until the plane landed.

Amelia, the teenager and I had flown together before to Chicago a few years ago. And Amelia and I have flown a handful of times for quick extended weekend trips, so we do well together when we travel. The wild card in this whole situation was the latest addition to the family. At the time of our vacation, he had just turned seven months old, which means he doesn’t understand logic, can’t explain what he’s feeling and feels the need to grab and/or touch anything within his go-go-gadget arms’ length.

You know where there’s a lot of advice on babies in general? THE INTERNET. You know what I’m about to do? Add to the swath of unsolicited advice that you can find about babies on the internet. This is what worked for us. If it doesn’t work for you, #sorrynotsorry. Because, you know, every baby is like a magical snowflake.

First Flight!

Our baby: He’s pretty high maintenance. He requires a lot of stimulation to keep him entertained – wrestling, bouncing, tickling, etc. He was (and still is) solely breast fed. He gets snacks of all sorts, but they’re for fun and just learning about how not to gag himself with a handful of smashed banana. Since he was 12 hours old, he has been adamantly opposed to being held still. His poop smells really bad. He can occasionally lose his ever-loving mind if he doesn’t eat EXACTLY WHEN HE NEEDS TO EAT, DAMMIT. I love him dearly and wouldn’t trade him for a million other babies (or bucks), but he’s no cakewalk. He’s lucky he’s the most adorable thing on the face of this planet, as far as I’m concerned.

Our big gear: We brought along one of his car seats and a stroller. We flew Delta and checking that kind of stuff is free. To my understanding, a lot (if not all?) of other airlines are the same way. Now, there’s a great deal of concern that the airlines can damage your car seat when they’re drop kicking it into the airplane. Some people say if you check your car seat, it’s the same as having it in a car accident, which then makes it null and void and not safe anymore. The FAA recommends your baby ride in a car seat in the plane under the age of 2. The NTSB and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the same thing. But, we were apparently like – SCREW THAT. And we were comfortable with it.

Our child hates riding in the car. He would rather have his toenails clipped than sit in a car seat for any amount of time. He might fall asleep after we’ve been driving for at least an hour and that’s if we don’t make any sudden stops or turns. There was no way we wanted to be subject to that in the confines of an airplane. And we knew when we got to our rental car, we’d rather have him in something he was at least familiar with to ease his struggles and our ear drums. Judge us and our decision if you want, but keep in mind you’re the one reading this for advice. BOOM.

We bought bags to put the car seat and the stroller in to protect them as much as possible and it was really convenient not trying to drag both of those large items to the gate. We took the stroller completely apart and we were able to strap both of these items onto our rolling luggage. It wasn’t easy to carry it all from the parking garage to the check in area, but we managed.

What we kept with us: Without our Kinderpack, we may have lost our minds. Since Amelia was wearing the baby in the pack, she didn’t have to take him off. They got manually patted down, but it was a lot quicker than trying to untangle a kid from a stroller and then put him back in before you head to the gate. Plus, it gave Amelia both of her hands to do other things that needed to be done. Baby carriers are magical and they make traveling a million times easier. Kinderpacks are our favorite (I will gladly tell you all about them!), but there are obviously other options. Not as cute, but whatevs.

In our Diaper Dude, (it’s not just for dads, but I’ll save my gender in parenting speech for another time) we had a brand new Doc McStuffins toy he hadn’t seen yet, his favorite rattle ball and three more small quiet toys. We had zip lock bags full of freeze-dried yogurt drops and weird puff-type cereal for babies. We were also stocked up on baby Tylenol, teething oil that smells like clove cigarettes, homeopathic teething tablets and his trusty amber necklace. (We do our research. We’re good.) We also had half a dozen pacifiers. And best of all, we had the opportunity for him to nurse.

Our results: We got to Orlando without anyone punching our baby and that was our real goal! It was just over a three hour flight and it actually went pretty well. He nursed during take off and landing to prevent his ears from doing anything that would bug him. We popped a pacifier in his mouth whenever we could convince him to take one just to again avoid that ear stuff. We gave him snacks. We looked at toys. We looked at pictures of Mickey Mouse that I had on my iPad. It went in sort of a nurse, sleep, distract, distract, feed, distract, stand him up and let him look around the plane and repeat pattern. He even got his first set of wings from the flight attendant.

In summary: Your baby isn’t going to be perfect. Hell, your husband/aunt/uncle/full grown travel companion isn’t going to be perfect. People that are going to get pissed off at a baby are the same people that are just looking for a reason to be pissed off. Child-hating travelers are ridiculous and almost stupid if they think they’re never going to run into an upset child on a flight. I know it’s inconvenient to have to listen to someone yammer away for an entire flight, but if it’s not a little kid, it’s going to be that nutty lady that has to talk about every single person that’s on the family tree or every gastrointestinal issue her dog had three weeks ago.

And really, your baby is going to feed off your anxiety and stress, so figure out a way for you to handle yours. The baby will follow. Don’t plan on reading the entertainment magazine you bought in the airport. If you did buy a magazine, it now belongs to your baby. The strategy here is distracting that kid – food, boobs, toys, movies, pictures, more boobs, you name it.

Ultimately, you know your kid best. If he’s going to scream bloody murder and throw his feces across the cabin of the plane, maybe don’t go on vacation. Save your money, because both of you are going to need therapy one of these days.

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