The short version? I think I was about as prepared and organized as I could have been and wouldn't change a thing (that I could affect). Traveling went pretty well and we'd totally do it again.
The longer version, recommendations for traveling with a wee-one:
Do you airline research!
We looked at airline policies on their websites, called customer service with questions and talked to other people who've flown with babies for information to consider. We then weighted the pros and cons of our airline options and found that Southwest was going to work for us. Even though they didn't have a direct flight to where we were going (a definite con), you can check your baggage for free, they allow you to gate check BOTH the car seat and stroller, super friendly and good family boarding protocol (the pros).
And our check-in, boarding and flight was fine. Even the lay-overs (on the way to CA we didn't have to get off the plane, on the way home we did) both went fine/Liam did great.
Talk to your Pediatrician!
At Liam's 4-month check up (a week before our flight) we told him about our up coming travels and he had some advice for us. If you don't have an appointment - you could definately call your ped to ask for tips and advice for your baby!
What our Pediatrician told us!
- Take disinfectant wipes. The time to be those overly cautious parents that worry about germs is on a plane. The minute we sat down, we used the to-go Clorox Disinfecting Wipes we stocked our baby bag with to wipe down the backs of the seats, arms rests, window and trays with the wipes to try to control some of the germs around us.
- Get your baby sucking. If you can line up your feeding with take off and landing, great. If not - don't fret - get them sucking on a pacifier. This helps their ears to pop and release pressure. Since we had a lay over both ways, we had double the take offs/landings and had him eating and pacifier sucking for each. We had no problems. Sometimes he'd get lazy sucking on his pacifier (especially if he was sleeping), so I'd just wiggle it in his mouth to remind him.
Organize your diaper bag/baby suitcase for easy access to things!
We chose to check (with Southwest's free checked luggage) Liam's main suitcase (filled with a bajillion diapers, formula, lots of extra clothes, some toys & books, sleepwear options for all kinds of tempatures, etc) and carry on a well-stocked diaper bag.
In our diaper bag we packed:
Pre-measured formula (more than we'd think we need - you never know with possible delays) and bottles
Two extra outfits/clothing pieces
Diapers and wipes (again, more than you think you'll need)
Burp cloth, bib, blanket, extra pacifiers and toys/entertainment
Pacifier cleaning wipes & Boogie wipes (more germ-control and helping dry nose)
We kept the disinfectant wipes on the outside pocket for easy and immediate access after we boarded
*One thing I learned, we need a bigger diaper bag.
I used big Ziplock bags to organize everything inside the bag:
Put diapers in one (to keep them from getting smashed to the bottom
Put all the cloth items (bib, burp cloth, toys) in another
Wet items that could possibly leak in another: baby wipes, boogie wipes, pacifier cleaner wipes and butt cream
Everything else was in the front zipper sections on the front, books were in the back slot of the bag and the blanket was stuff in on top.
Then roll with it.
There isn't a ton you can do when/if the baby gets upset. You just have to have all your tools and resources in line as best as possible and roll with the ups and downs. When Liam did get a little upset on a flight home there wasn't much we could do, he was well-fed and diaper clean - he was just tired and wanted his crib and own space. Who can blame him? We just had to smile and apologize at our neighboring passengers and bounce him in the back of the place when the flight attendants allowed.
As with life, do the best you can and don't worry about the onlookers, mean looks nor naysayers and carry on. Let me know if you have any questions or if I missed something you're curious about! :)