Overall, I enjoy flying with Maggie. She’s generally a great source of battery-free amusement in the terminal. And God knows it’s nice to have someone there who enjoys eating the accursed honeydew melon polluting my fruit cup. But physically, it’s an exhausting experience. All told, I have logged in the neighborhood of 25,000 flight miles with the divine Miss M over eleven flights, each one of them with her as a lap baby. Every time I feel like I’ve been hit in the face by Goliath’s stanky foot and then sat on. Add another 20 pounds of wiggling resistance to your luggage and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
About flying with a lap baby…Yeah, yeah, it’s not safe, turbulence, too crowded and inconvenient for other passengers, but dudes: flying is expensive and we’re on a single income. I’m going to milk that “two and under fly free!” rule until the last second of April 9, 2012 before the clock changes over to Maggie’s birthday. I’m considering writing an article of tips for flying with a lap child but I don’t really feel like getting crucified over Teh Internets by the Parenting Safety Police, so it may have to wait.
But here’s one thing I have learned that I don’t mind sharing: People are incredibly kind.
Yes, you may draw a pissy seatmate, or get a flight attendant who has a Thing about noisy kids. It happens. But by and large, I have found that people are so nice to me. Flying alone is harder, obviously, because you really need that extra set of hands that your partner usually provides. Enter the French documentary crew filming nature shots for a project in Honolulu who were sitting in the row behind us. After about twenty minutes of Maggie popping over the seat to blink coyly and coo, they began kissing her hands and saying things like “Mees Mag-gie, you are abzolutely ado-rah-ble!” and THEN they insisted on carrying our bags to the next terminal during our layover in San Francisco. Kindly grandmothers missing their own babies offer jewelery to distract Maggie while I get out snacks and flight attendant after flight attendant has been there to offer chunks of that godforsaken green melon that delights Maggie so while I bounce her into oblivion in the galley.
Other tips…What makes it possible for me to fly alone with her are the Beco Butterfly Carrier and the Moby Wrap. We used the Moby when she was tiny because it adds an element of swaddling that soothed her. She’s slept soundly through a number of red-eyes in it. The Beco is nice because it takes little time for me to take it on and off, which I appreciate because I’m normally doing that in an airplane bathroom. I prefer it over the less expensive Ergo because the shoulder straps are sleeker and the designs prettier, although the Ergo is nice because it has lots of cargo pockets. One thing the Beco doesn’t have that makes it superior to a Baby Bjorn is metal–I have only been asked once for a closer look by security and I’ve never been asked to remove her from the carrier. We were asked that in Honolulu when we had her in the Moby because of the extra fabric and of course, it was the only time she was asleep when we hit security. C’est la vie. Only other necessary item on top of what we usually carry is a nursing cover. Mine was homemade by a friend’s mom; it’s essentially a quilt with a strap sewn onto one side. I wear it like an apron and then nobody sees my boobies. Win-win.
Cloth diapering on vacation…you know, some people do it, and I applaud them, but shit. Even the most dedicated environmentalist might want to take a week off laundry on vaycay. Plus, cloth diapers will add precious pounds to your luggage. I use Seventh Generation disposables and call it a day. I have one diaper bag that’s larger than my normal SkipHop and I use that to fly because I can carry an extra shirt for me and my nursing cover, which I don’t normally use around town (I nurse in the car, or dressing rooms, or time it so I don’t have to nurse in public at all. Wonderful thing, older nursers. Not so needy!). I don’t take a stroller if I can help it.
The most I’ve traveled with is a hiking backpack (laptop, camera gear, extra clothes), diaper bag, stroller, car seat, but that was in preparation for this visit I’m currently in, which was to be from March-July. I checked the stroller and car seat and took the bags with me, baby in the carrier. I stacked the luggage on the stroller at the baggage claim. Easy enough, especially with my mom helping. Alone, I try for one bag, one suitcase, and the car seat. I check the suitcase (it’s damn near impossible to fly light with a kid, the suitcase is often necessary if only to pack all the liquids required for Maggie’s comfort) and the car seat. I don’t have a separate bag for the car seat because airlines usually have a nice plastic one and that’s free (for NOW) though I’m looking into buying one. When I go to Seattle in June, I’m going to try to just take a hiking backpack and diaper bag.
I do NOT recommend flying with a laptop and a baby on your own if you can help it. Find any way possible to disconnect; get a smartphone or a friend in the area who doesn’t mind you jacking their connection, because it is worth the time you’ll save at security.
So…I guess this did become a lesson on flying alone with a lap baby. Whee! Enjoy. More later. Maggie’s sleep schedule is, for lack of a classier expression, fucked seven ways from Sunday and I should be sleeping now. Or doing one of the 8 million other things that a single parent has to do while their husband is enjoying Velveeta Mac and bachelorhood (love you Tom!).