How To Survive The Airport With A Baby

Over the years I’ve read what feels like dozens of blog posts dedicated to traveling with “littles.” I can’t remember what any of them said except that apparently parents are supposed to bring baked goods and/or candy to generate goodwill from fellow airplane passengers? Maybe with a note about how the pressure hurts your child’s poor little baby ears?

A simple cost-benefit analysis tells you this is a terrible idea. On the cost side, prepping for travel is difficult and time-consuming on its own, especially if you have kids. I don’t have time to clean out the fridge or pack a snack for the plane, let alone bake cookies or run to the store for treats when I’m trying to get to the airport on time.

On the benefit side, the only people who are going to look kindly on this bribe are people who already won’t really mind your kid acting like a kid. This is most people. Really. I mean, nobody loves hearing a screaming baby, but most people get that it’s worse for the kid and the parent and there’s not much you can do, so they deal with it.

The few people who are grumpy about normal amounts of baby/kid noises on planes won’t be easily swayed with sugar. I know this because I was one of those people. These people want to pretend you and your kids are not on the plane. Please don’t make it harder by forcing them to pretend to be happy about getting baked goods from a stranger. In fact, they will be even more irritated by the fact that they feel obligated to forfeit the quiet joy that is shooting dirty looks at noisy, messy families. Besides, even without the treats, dirty looks is probably the worst you were going to get from them anyway? Is that so bad? Do you really need everybody to love your kid?

Finally, it should be noted that if your kid is really acting out, beyond normal baby/kid noises and/or you don’t take visible (even if ultimately ineffective) steps to do something about it, the small bit of goodwill those cookies earned you is going to fly right out the window.

Maybe that’s not fair, but it’s true. It’s just so easy and satisfying to judge parents. Which, I realize, is precisely what I’m doing now, so let me see if I can turn this around and give some actual advice.

Everything I read on the subject if traveling with a baby focused on the actual time in flight, but I found navigating the airport to be the trickiest aspect. Here are my tips for getting through security and on the plane without anything going horribly, terribly wrong:

1. Do arrive early. Super early. I used to push it because I hate waiting around the airport, and I’ve missed several flights because of it. Getting through security with a stroller, car seat, and child who can’t walk takes a considerable amount of time, though, so you’re going to want to give yourself enough of it. Also, you are going to want time to change your baby’s diaper and clothes and to scrub the car seat and stroller when your baby poops all over everything.

2. Do consider dressing your child in layers the poop doesn’t get all over everything.

3. Do not forget ID for your child, even if the concept of a child having ID strikes you as bizarre and Orwellian. Remember that this is how they stop people from kidnapping children and taking them on airplane rides.

4. Do bring a stroller to carry all your crap through the airport and check it at the gate. It’s a pain putting it through to x-ray machine and breaking it down/setting it up by yourself before and after the flight, but sometimes TSA or an airline employee will help. Sometimes.

5. Don’t buy yourself a hot beverage to help yourself relax. You won’t have time to enjoy it at the airport and you don’t have enough hands to carry it on the plane without burning someone.

6. Do take advantage of family boarding. Otherwise the other passengers in your row may mistakenly think they are in for a restful flight and feel extra cheated when you sit down next to them. Let them see what they are in for before they have a chance to dream of anything else.

Here is a picture of my baby at baggage claim. She was actually a lovely, if not extraordinarily helpful, travel companion and the airline employees (shoutout to Southwest! and other passengers (shoutout to grandparents everywhere!) were all incredibly kind and helpful. I look forward to trying this thing again.

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