1) Pack wisely. Figure out what your baby will need and be able to reach it at a moments notice. Things that made our must have list: teethers, a few favorite toys, two light blankets, burp clothes/wash clothes, diapers, wipes, plastic bags for disposing of diapers, a changing pad, and extra sets of clothes in case of spills or diaper malfunctions. If you're not nursing, make sure to have bottles, formula, and a water bottle ready to go.
4) Wear a teething necklace. This one may not be a necessity, but it really was nice. The teething necklace that I have kept baby's hands busy while nursing and was always within easy reach, even after I stowed her clipped on toys and teethers away.
5) Pick a seat at the bulkhead. If you pick a seat at the bulkhead, some airlines offer "sky-cots" for babies under 20 pounds. This is a great solution that helps baby be comfy and gives you a break from holding baby for the entire flight. First class is another great option if you can swing it.
6) Bring a play mat. I brought a small, light weight mat and extra blanket to put down on the floor for baby to play during layovers. The goal is for baby to sleep on the plane and use up extra energy on layovers.
7) Find out if any lavatories on the plane have a changing table, and use it just before the flight takes off. Not all bathrooms on planes have changing tables. As soon as you board, ask your flight attendants if there are any lavatories that have a changing table. I recommend changing the baby's diaper right before take off to start with the freshest diaper possible. You can leave the door open to give yourself more space and if you are traveling with someone else, they can stand just outside the door to hand you what you need or take the baby when you are done. In a pinch, use your changing pad to change baby at your seat, but try to do this for only wet diapers not dirty ones. Use a wet bag or plastic bag to quickly stash the used diaper and dispose of it when you are able. During layovers, be aware that most airports have family restrooms that have more space and better amenities for changing a baby.
8) Don't be afraid to ask for help. The flight attendants are happy to help (especially because a quiet baby means fellow passengers that are happier.) If you need formula or breast milk warmed, extra napkins, pillows, or blankets, just ask. Try to let the attendants know ahead of time what you might need during the course of the flight so they can be prepared to help you.
9) Focus on the people that understand. In more cases than not, we found several people that gave us an encouraging smile, shared a story of traveling with their own child, or let us know that they thought Elise did great on the flight. Focus on these people and try to worry about those that may not be as understanding. We did not encounter a single person that was unpleasant about sharing airspace with a baby. Yes, you will feel flustered if someone shoots you a look or voices unhappiness about your baby, but remember...babies cry. Offer a simple apology and continue tending to your baby without giving it a second thought. The more frazzled you become, the harder it is to calm your baby. I firmly believe babies pick up on our moods as mothers, so just take a breath and try to stay calm. You'll get there eventually.
Even if your baby cries the whole flight, you will likely never see these people again. Also, to help put things in perspective, the man in front of us snored louder through the entire flight than Elise ever cried. Traveling can be uncomfortable at times, regardless of the presence of a baby on the flight. Each person on board chooses to make the best or worst of their own situation, and you have no control over others reactions.
Traveling with an infant can be intimidating, but it is definitely manageable. Bon Voyage to all travelers out there. The baby and I wish you a safe and comfortable flight!
Have you ever flown with children? What are your best tips to get through a long flight, with or without children in tow?