We recently did a bit more plane travel, and now that Charlotte is ten months old, I knew our experience would be quite different than the last time.
So I prepared. I pinned a few blog posts on traveling with kids and toddlers. I bought a box of Cheerios. I packed both of our carriers (the ring sling and Ergo). I tried my hardest to pack lightly. Anyway, things went pretty smoothy and I want to share a few things we did that helped make the experience a success.
1. Pray to the Lord that your babe is her usual friendly, sweet, curious self for the duration of your plane travel. Really, this had nothing to do with my preparations or planning, it's just fortunate for us that Charlotte is a great baby.
2. Do not pre-board. I repeat: do not pre-board!! I got this tip from a blogger I love and it is seriously invaluable. This was actually much easier this time because Joel was with us. He took both of our backpacks and boarded when our zone was called. He got stuff all set up and secured a place for our carry-on suitcase. I waited until the absolute last second and stayed at the gate to let Charlotte crawl around, explore, visit with people, etc. Once we got on the plane, she was very interested in looking around the plane and we didn't have to entertain her while seated as long. Before our second flight, I knew Charlotte was exhausted and wouldn't fall asleep if I was just sitting down holding her on the plane, so I put her in the Ergo and covered her with the hood. I stood on the gangplank and bounced her to sleep while everyone boarded. Then I stood in the aisle next to our seat while the flight attendants did all their last minute preparations and just sat down once we were ready to take off.
3. Bring "new" books and toys. Make sure they are small and lightweight. This made a big difference. I bought Charlotte a second hand book that had flaps, which she loves. I kept the book packed until our trip so it was new and interesting to her once we boarded. I also had a big ziploc of things that I could pull out one.at.a.time. I brought a small bunch of duplo blocks my mom gave us, a toilet paper tube, two small shaker toys, Cheerios, and her pacifier with owl clip (she loves to chew on the paci, even though she doesn't use it for comfort at all).
4. Nurse or bottle feed during takeoff and landing. This really helps with the pressure changes, which apparently are especially hard for babies to handle. Fortunately for us, Charlotte was sleepy enough that she fell asleep while nursing on the descent of our last flight and stayed asleep even while the plane was emptying. This definitely made the whole waiting for our luggage and checking out a rental car process much smoother, since we had a well-rested girl on our hands. On our return flight, I nursed Charlotte during taxi/takeoff and kept her snuggled in the Ergo afterward; she ended up napping for over an hour, which was crucial in making the 4+ hour flight seem less, well, long.
5. Get up and move around when the seatbelt sign is off, as much as possible. On our return flight I stood in the back galley, waiting to use the bathroom with a diaper changing spot. One of the kind flight attendants offered to hold Charlotte and talked to her and let her play with her necklace the whole time. Charlotte was thrilled to be engaged by someone other than Mom and Dad. Plus, it was a nice break for me, even though I was right there talking to the flight attendant myself.