Even the savviest jetsetters among us can admit that air travel rarely goes according to plan. From hastily navigating security to dealing with equally irritated passengers, it’s the unavoidable unpredictability of journeying by air that has the potential to send us into full panic mode days before departure—especially if you’re taking off with an infant or toddler in tow.
If you’re a new parent getting on a plane with your little one for the first time, you’re probably more concerned about how to change a diaper at 30,000 feet than whether or not you’ll have enough time to binge watch the first season of Friends. And while flying with your baby will never be as glamorous or as simple as you’d wish, it is possible to get to your destination in one piece. Ahead, we asked seasoned travelers-turned-mamas to share how they plan and pack for a hassle-free flight. Here are there secrets to avoiding total chaos up in the air.
1. Opt for a Flight-Friendly Stroller
Tired of checking your gear at the gate? Then the YOYO+ Stroller by Babyzen is calling your name. This ultra-compact buggy is the brainchild of CEO and co-founder, Julien Chaudeurge, who, after watching Parisian parents struggle with bulky strollers in the city’s narrow streets, wanted to design a stroller that could fold and unfold in mere seconds and fit in an overhead bin.
“He imagined a stroller one could quickly pop in and out of a cab with or bring into a restaurant or store without causing a commotion, all while also having the ability to fly across the world,” explains Glen Gold, North American Distributor for the company.
“We often hear from parents who share their personal experiences with the YOYO+, noting how it has changed their lives, making it easier than before to travel by plane or just around their neighborhood with a stroller that is so sleek, streamlined and lightweight at just 13 pounds.”
Although the YOYO errs on the pricier side (they typically start at $450), this stroller has become a cult-favorite amongst city-dwellers and parents who are constantly on the go. “Hands free is key and the YOYO is serious game changer,” shares Domino Style Director Kate Berry. “You can roll it down the center isle of the plane and fold it with one hand.”
2. Travel on the Early Side
If you want to minimize the possibility of a melt down—or your chances of getting caught in an unbearably long security line—consider booking your flight for the AM.
“My go to is an early morning flight. I would much rather get everyone up and out while they are still sleepy than fly in the middle of the day. Plus, airports are less packed at that hour (I like to fly early) so we often run into less hassle and delays,” says Domino Editor in Chief, Jessica Romm Perez. “For overnight flights you just have to do it and hope for the best. Kids are adaptable and traveling outside of their routine and comfort zone is important! Just do it!”
3. If You Can, Buy Your Child a Seat
While it might feel tempting to want to save money on another ticket, a squirming child in your lap can quickly take a toll on your sanity (and that of everyone around you). “If you can afford it, absolutely, positively, yes,” says Domino CRO, Beth Brenner, of committing to the extra expense.
If you’re on the fence about whether or not to purchase a seat, ask yourself the important questions—how many hours is the flight? how mobile is my child? is the flight likely to be full? do I need room to nurse?—beforehand. Pro tip: Always call the airline ahead of time so they can book the best seat for your needs and to check if they allow car seats on the aircraft, as you’ll want your baby to be as comfortable and safe as possible.
4. Don’t Overload Your Bag
FYI: You only have two hands—and you’ll want to keep both of them as free as possible when you’re trekking through the terminal. “I basically try to have everything within easy grabbing distance—both when walking through the airport as well as once inside the plane or train,” notes Aisling McDonagh, Head of Digital Sales & Strategy at Domino. “I use a cross-body hand bag so I don’t have to deal with a shoulder bag.”
The key to survival? Keep your carry-on light and your stuff separate from your kiddo’s.
5. But Do Come Prepared
“I always bring a change of clothes for everyone, including a clean shirt for me in case of any accidents,” says Romm Perez. Messes (and delays!) aren’t a possibility—they’re a guarantee. And on the fateful day that the airline loses your entire family’s luggage, you’ll thank the packing gods that you brought along a spare outfit for everyone in your carry-on.
6. Pack Snacks Wisely
In-flight snacking is all about balance. In addition to nutritious treats, Romm Perez suggests packing other sweets for dire circumstances. “I keep healthy and unhealthy snacks in case I need to bribe them to be quiet: dried fruit, cut veggies, and a bag of gummies from Sockerbit, the best Swedish candy store in West Village.”
Here are a few more must-haves on their packing list:
- Non-toxic Water Wipes
- Fully charged iPads, preferably with pre-downloaded movies
- Drawing and activity pads + markers
- An old magazine and/or blank paper for shredding and doodling
- Aesop natural hand sanitizer
- Clary Oil (“to deal with bad plane smells,” says Romm Perez)
- Aquaphor or Dr. Bronner’s Organic Magic Balm (for chapped lips, diaper rash, cuts, scrapes, etc.)
- Their favorite small stuffed animal or toy(s)
- 4-6 diapers + disposable diaper bags
- Spill-proof snack bowl
- Plum Organics food pouches
- Travel bottle (for them) and coffee mug (for you): “Airport Starbucks paper cups won’t last long around a child,” says McDonagh
- Spare sickness bags if your child is sensitive to motion