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My husband Chris is a musician, and he makes his living largely on the road, touring. I took Cal on his first plane ride when he was 6-weeks-old; we were joining Chris at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. He did great, and has since been on about five more round-trip flights, sometimes as a family and sometimes just with me. I felt really conflicted for a while, wondering if I was subjecting him to too much craziness (and germs) too early, but he’s gotten through all of it like a pro. Since he has nothing to compare it to, this is his norm and he’s treating it as such. It is a total relief, since it’s going to be his reality as long as Chris and I keep working. I’ve gotten our travel situation pretty dialled in on account of that, so here is my air travel advice for keeping those skies as friendly as possible. (Speaking of friendly, try to avoid airlines that don’t allow early boarding of have any concessions for families travelling with infants – a huge inconvenience, especially if you’re travelling alone.) Oh, and I’ve got some ideas that can help with other parts of your travels, too. Here are the things I always manage to have (or set up), to help ensure that our travels go as smoothly as possible…

1. Baby’s own seat 

If you can swing it financially, buying a seat for the baby is the best thing you can do to ensure smooth sailing, especially when travelling with your baby alone. I pile everything into the stroller to help us get through the terminal and then check the frame at the gate and take the car seat with me on board. I strap it in to the seat next to me and — especially if I have a two seat row — breathe a huge sigh of relief.

2. Backpack

I think a backpack is crucial for every mum out there, but especially for the schlep of travel. Put all of the heaviest items — wipes, wheeled toys, water, and snacks — into the backpack for a much happier spine at the end of the day. The front pockets are also hugely helpful for access to IDs, boarding passes, and chew toys.

3. TSA Pre-Check

If you’re travelling in the USA, having TSA pre-check makes the horrible security experience slightly less miserable. Cal isn’t big on carriers, so I have to take him out of the stroller and put his stroller and car seat through the scanner, which is a lot easier if you don’t also have to take off your shoes and jacket. Most TSA agents I’ve encountered are very helpful if you’re travelling alone.

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4. Two full bottles of milk

The best thing you can do to prevent ear discomfort is to feed your baby on take-off and landing, but you’ve also got to get through security, baggage claim and a ride to and from the airport. Cal’s worst nightmare is the car, which is the only place I can’t breastfeed him, so I bring two spare emergency bottles full of milk or formula for when he gets fussy. I love Comotomo bottles because he can hold them himself. I use this bottle storage bag from Skip Hop. It has enough space to hold everything I need and it buckles onto the strap of another bag so it won’t count against your carry-on limit!

5. Extra clothes

In addition to extra onesies for the baby’s inevitable on-board blowdry, it’s nice to have a spare shirt or two for yourself. My baby’s reflux is still pretty intense and if you’ve got a long flight ahead of you, you might as well smell as little like vomit as possible.

6. Plastic bags

I keep a couple of these with me on the plane and pack a few in the suitcase to separate the poopy, pukey and milk-soaked from the not.

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7. Light blankets


I love the blankets from Aden + Anais and Swaddle Designs for their portability. They’re multi-functional (warmth! nursing cover! spit up rag!) and squish down to almost nothing.

8. One heavier blanket

If you find yourself stuck in a terminal with a flight delay, having a heavier blanket to pop down on the floor as a crawl/nap surface is everything. I’ve used a nappy changing mat in a pinch, but that only works until they start crawling…

9. Spare towels

If you’re staying in a hotel, call ahead and have them stock your room with extra towels. Folded up towels turn any surface into a changing table, and having extra on hand mean you don’t have to bother with carrying changing pads and covers with you.

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10. Window seat

I used to be an aisle-or-die traveller, but if the baby is travelling on your lap, and especially while breastfeeding, the window seat seems to make for smoother flights. For feeding, I’m more comfortable if I can tuck into the window, and Cal gets less distracted if he can’t watch everyone walk down the aisle. The window is also great entertainment for a baby, and fellow aisle mates tend to be more understanding if they feel like they have an easy escape into the aisle.

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Photo: Claire Coffee