When we decided that we would be going back to visit Houston with Sofia, I immediately panicked when I realized I would be doing the flight solo on the way back to Amsterdam. I’ve never traveled with a baby before, obviously, and now I was going to become one of those people. You know, the one that everyone would stare at with the crying baby who she couldn’t calm down. PANIC, PANIC, PANIC. I went right to the worst of the worst scenario there, huh? Haha. Well after successfully making it TO Houston after United screwed up our seating situation AND surviving the trip back alone, I thought I would share some of my tips & tricks with y’all!!
I’m going to break this down by my flight from Amsterdam to Houston and then back from Houston to Amsterdam, because both trips were very different from one another.
AMSTERDAM TO HOUSTON
Amir & I had booked our flights on United & one of the first things we did after booking was tell them that we were traveling with a baby & we needed to request a bassinet. They put that into our file and booked us both into the bulkhead seating. Unfortunately, the night before we were supposed to travel, we found out that they had messed up our seating situation and Amir ended up seated behind me (in the middle seat, of course, next to a 7 month pregnant lady!!). I, on the other hand, was sat in the bulkhead — next to a young couple, who very clearly were worried about me & Sofia sitting next to them.
But, I got lucky! The people sat next to me could clearly tell that I was super nervous flying with the baby and that I was very concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to get much help from Amir so they immediately became my helpers. The guy next to me helped me keep my seat clear, grab the diaper bag from the overhead bins, and even hold my food tray while I got Sofia to sleep before finally sitting down to eat!
A lot of y’all have asked if the bulkhead + bassinet are worth getting, so let’s talk about that for a moment.
- Getting extra leg room in the bulkhead seating! DUH.
- Having a place to lay Sofia down.
- Being able to easily get in & out of the seating area to walk around.
- Sofia didn’t really like the bassinet & would wake up almost every time I laid her down. Blah.
- Laying Sofia in the bassinet was confusing. If I laid her with her head nearest me, then I had a hard time picking her up properly. If I laid her with her head towards the other passengers, I could pick her up easily, but I wouldn’t be able to wear headphones at all because I wouldn’t have been able to hear her cry unless she was really letting loose.
- Using the tray table or wanting to watch TV meant having to pull them out from the side of the seat which ended up blocking a part of my seat. When the food came out, my tray was pulled out (and I was off changing Sofia’s diaper) and when I got back, my neighbor had to help me store the tray so I could get back into my seat with Sofia in my lap. Too much hassle, if you ask me.
- There is no under-seat room to store your stuff, so everything had to be put into the overhead bins. There’s only so much space in the seat pocket, so every time I wanted to get something out, I would have to ask my neighbor or Amir to get it down for me because I usually had Sofia in my arms.
Here’s some of the mistakes I made with this flight.
- I wore an Ergo on the plane. As much as I love my Ergo, it is bulky and has many straps and such which made it a complete pain to figure out on the plane. Taking it off & putting it on took so much time that I didn’t even bother to use it during the actual plane flight and at one point I even fell asleep just holding her in my arms.
- I have a Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf which I have used multiple times for breastfeeding. Unfortunately, on the plane it didn’t work as well. I was juggling a wiggly Sofia and trying to get my arm through the scarf and it was really just a big ole mess.
- Wearing a button down shirt. I know they are great to nurse with when you’re out & about, but on a plane, when baby gets annoyed all of a sudden, unbuttoning your shirt just takes way too much time!
After taking all of this into consideration, and doing some more research, I changed a bunch of things for my flight back to Amsterdam.
HOUSTON TO AMSTERDAM
A few days before the flight, I started checking on United.com to see how the seat situation looked. Based on what I could see, it looked like there were quite a few empty seats AND rows, so I kept that in mind. When I got to the airport and made it to my gate, I talked to the gate agent about how I was hoping she could help me get a row of seats (or even 2 seats) to myself. That way, I could bring Sofia’s car seat on since she sleeps well in it, instead of having to use the bassinet.
The agent was super sweet and completely hooked me up. She allowed me to check my carry-on bag at the gate so I wouldn’t have to lug it around, I brought the stroller up to gate check it right before getting on the plane, and I carried the diaper backpack, my small tote, Sofia in the baby carrier, and the car seat onto the plane. Once everyone was fully seated, I realized the gate agent gave me a full row to myself! I clicked Sofia’s car seat into the seat near the window so I could easily get in & out when needed without bothering her and we were all set.
I gotta say, I can’t think of any cons with this flight at all. Sofia was super relaxed in the car seat — and slept almost 8.5 hours after only waking up once for a quick diaper change and a feed. I was able to take off my Boba once we got seated, and I had all of my stuff under the seats with nothing in the overhead compartment. I put Sofia’s bottle, formula, and my nursing cover into the seat pockets and the best part — I was able to put on my headphones & watch a movie while Sofia napped without being worried that she would cry & I wouldn’t notice!
If you can’t already tell, I very much preferred the second flight and I plan to do it all the same way (pending there are empty seats & I can get into them) when we travel internationally again!
A FEW TIPS
- Keep all the things you’ll need for baby near you. It was really easy for me to do a diaper change since I had all of Sofia’s stuff close to me on the second flight.
- I read about feeding the baby when you are taking off and landing so that their ears don’t hurt. Although I was able to feed Sofia when we took off because she was awake, she fell asleep even before we had reached altitude so I didn’t force her to keep feeding. I also kept a pacifier nearby for just in case so that she could suck on that for a few minutes to help her ears if she really needed it.
- BRING SNACKS FOR YOURSELF! I literally forgot to do this for both flights and it was so frustrating. Nursing makes you hungry and I was starving during and after both flights.
- Use a baby-wearing wrap to carry baby through security and onto the plane. Honestly, it made my life so much easier and I easily got Sofia out of it and into her car seat once we got settled onto the plane.
- Get on the plane early. Get settled and get comfortable before everyone else gets on.
- Change the baby’s diaper right before getting on the plane. This helps minimize how many times you’ll have to do a diaper change during the flight.
- Wear baby through the security check! I cannot stress this one enough! You won’t have to take baby off and that makes the whole process easier. Additionally — don’t forget that your carseat and your stroller have to go through the x-ray machine separately. If you need help, ask a TSA agent to give you a hand.
**Just a note, I’ve done this solo trip again since I’ve written this post and all of these tips still hold true. If you’ve got any particular questions that I haven’t already answered, please feel free to get in touch and I’ll be happy to give you my thoughts!
Good luck, traveling friends! You can do it!