Here’s what I know about flying with a baby:
TSA sports an informative kids page here. The videos were semi-helpful. I really needed more detail, like “you may carry your infant through the security gate.” instead of just a quick flash. I also would have liked an explicit video about sending formula and medicine through. On the plus side, I love that they even HAVE videos and that they’re short and that they look friendly. My personal experience with TSA before this trip was less than favorable, so I’m still a little skeptical of their “Just ask a supervisor for help!” shtick.
The formula issue was fine on the way out – because we had brought store-sealed pre-mixed bottles, they didn’t ask us to open them. On the return trip we had to open one to be tested. They just held the test strip over the bottle for fumes and didn’t touch the liquid inside, still, I was irritated that I could put my sandwich through without tests but that they had to come near my baby’s food with a chemical test strip. I protested gently to no avail. This may not be a universal thing because we only had the problem one way but it’s worth knowing about. The TSA has another page on that here. Most importantly, you don’t have to taste it (i.e. stick your fingers in it).
We flew United and they specifically request that you call ahead of time to have the lap child notation tacked on to your ticket. We did but wouldn’t have known that if we hadn’t been frantically hunting for info buried deep on their site. I’m not sure what would have happened if we hadn’t called.
We needed a separate boarding pass for the baby and the only person who could check her in was the person to whom she was ticketed. In our case, D was the ticketed person responsible for her but on one flight we were told that D had to be the one handing over her pass. I imagine this would only be relevant if I tried to board without her but the point is that she wasn’t listed on both of our tickets.
Going international? Ask for the bassinet. Commenter H mentioned this on my oh-god-now-what flying post and I only wish it hadn’t been a domestic flight (for so, so many reasons). United has bassinets for free and you can reserve it in advance.
The pacifier seemed to do the trick and she was silent on the flight out. Unfortunately, by the time we flew back, she had had it with the pacifier and kept spitting it out (violently). Then the pressure bothered her and she was inconsolable. Fun times for all.
Apologizing. We didn’t until the last leg. I figured that we have every right to be traveling, even with a babe, and that they have every right to put on headphones. I now know how those mothers of crying babies felt and I will never ever think uncharitable thoughts again. Had I gotten even one sympathetic glance (like on the last flight) I’d have apologized but no one was feeling particularly kind.
Sympathy. I don’t know whether it’s United or all airlines, but there was absolutely no recognition from the crew that we had an infant. No special instructions, no words of advice, no pre-boarding, no help. We could have used the extra time to get situated (although we’re bold enough to make folks wait) but I found it surprising that they didn’t care if we stowed her under the seat or shoved her in the overhead bin. It was like she wasn’t even there. Are there baby rules? I have no idea.
Rules. Apparently there are some rules and you’re naughty for not knowing them. One flight was a small plane with two seats on each side. Apparently though, only the right side has three oxygen masks. There is no documentation about this when picking seats but the gate agent was miffed that he had to move us and shuffle other folks and scolded me about it. Note folks, the Jackson Hole airport is not exactly friendly.
We LOVED having the stroller. I think it’s the only way we made one of our connecting flights. We were able to pile our carry ons in it and run full out. I carried the baby – I would have been nervous about running with her in the stroller since she’s so small. We made that flight – as they were closing the door. After six flights, the stroller did take a beating but wasn’t broken.
There’s a reason mothers wait till everyone is off the plane – it usually takes that long for them to put the stroller out.
Spare outfit is a must (and don’t forget socks). The stress of traveling (I think) sent RR into a tailspin from which she could not recover and midway through she ejected liquid poo onto D’s pants, her stroller, her clothes, her hands, our water bottle, the floor, etc. Also, ladies who want to tell you how beautiful your baby is while she’s being changed will not care if she’s covered in excrement (to your dismay).
Finally, we got seats in United’s Economy Plus section. This was nice because we had a smidge of extra leg room to maneuver the diaper bag during the flight. Also, we picked a mid-plane bulkhead (we thought) for one flight and there were no seats (or bulkhead) in front of us for a whole row. It was amazing. It was worth the extra price.
One last note: I don’t know if there’s a trick with older babies on laps but I can’t imagine doing this with RR when she’s bigger/longer/more active. Even with her peanut size, she was a tangle to maneuver on 3-seat across flights. We’re buying a seat next time, if only to have space to put her when she’s stolen and replaced by maniacal goblins.