On My First Flight With Baby, Basically Nothing Went as Planned

baby on airplane

I’ve been that person. That person who gets visibly upset when she spots a baby in the airport terminal waiting area. Please don’t let that baby be on my flight, I’ve thought. I’ve even turned around in my seat to give the evil eye to the parents who clearly aren’t trying hard enough to keep their child from whining, kicking the seat, or crying incessantly. Well, now the tables have turned, and as they say, payback’s a bitch.


I’m a new mom to a baby girl and an anxious flyer, and at 7 months old, my little Isabella Skye was about to fly the friendly skies for the very first time from New York to Florida to visit family and friends. Oh, joy. Would I have to prepare for a barrage of nasty glares and huffy sighs from judgy people, ahem, like me? Not if I could help it!

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For this upcoming flight, I was determined to have things totally under control. My mom, my fiancé, and I would arrive early to the airport, boarding passes saved in our phones, and breeze through security with plenty of time before early boarding -- one nice perk to traveling with an infant.

Then I could make sure Isabella had a full tummy and dry diaper, so she could nap peacefully on the plane. My diaper bag would be conveniently stowed under my seat, filled with toys to distract her, a blanket to protect her against an over-air-conditioned cabin, a full bottle of formula, and a pacifier to ease any ear-pressure discomfort. I have this, I told myself.

Then that day came. Since it’s only a half-hour drive to LaGuardia from my Brooklyn apartment, and we’d be traveling on a supposedly non-peak day, I figured leaving three hours prior to departure would be fine. Not so much.

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The Uber driver took way longer than the estimated seven minutes. Then we hit a crazy amount of traffic. All of our nerves were on edge the entire, painfully slow ride to the airport. Okay, so we should have left earlier. Then a long security line. On a Thursday morning?!

There, we were stopped by a TSA agent who said my mom’s carry-on was too large to take on the plane. We had to check the bag (pay the annoying $25 fee) and then go through security all over again.

My first time at an airport with a baby meant I didn’t realize we’d have to unpack everything from the stroller and then take it apart from the car seat. Ugh, I didn’t account for that in my mental time line.

At that point, we were scrambling to get through security and make our way to the gate. Forget early boarding. Our new mission was just to get on the plane before it took off!

All the while, Isabella was a trooper -- perfectly content and oblivious to everyone stressing out around her. Thanks to almost nothing going as planned, we were among the last to board. And when we finally made it to our seats, we were so relieved we high-fived one another.

Not even a minute later, I got a whiff of a dirty diaper. And panic struck as I shouted, “Where’s the diaper bag?” We’d left it behind ... somewhere.

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So our choice was either to stay on the plane without the bag (there was no time to go back) or deplane, try to find it, and see if we could get on the next flight.

It was only a two-hour flight, but I couldn’t leave without that bag. Aside from the obvious essentials, it contained Isabella’s favorite elephant blanket and clothes that had sentimental value because they’d been gifts. I couldn’t risk it being lost for good.

So off the plane we went. Luckily my fiancé recovered the bag at security, and it was a relief.

After initially being told the next flight to Tampa was full (cue subsequent panic attack), we were able to fly out within a couple of hours. During the wait, we had a decent meal of omelets and breakfast potatoes at an airport restaurant, and Isabella even took her morning nap in her stroller.

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Turns out, Isabella wasn’t the cranky kid I feared she’d be on the flight. We were even seated next to an older lady who was thrilled to be sitting next to a baby. Who knew? The only time Isabella got agitated was during our descent, but drinking from the bottle of formula I’d packed helped her ears pop.

Next time I’ll be prepared -- but I don't mean prepared with baby gear and toys. I'll be prepared to go with the flow. Even though my daughter was awesome on her first flight, her third or fourth one might be a doozy, no matter what I've packed in her bag. And I’ll just have to do my best to keep her calm and stay calm myself, despite any eye-rolling from other passengers.

I also vow to no longer give other parents traveling with small children such a hard time. Good parenting doesn’t mean you have total control over a situation. What matters is doing what you can when unexpected things inevitably happen -- and displaying grace under pressure.


Valerie Berrios is a Brooklyn-based first-time mom to a baby girl. She's never been one to squeal with joy at the sight of little ones, but after giving birth, she realized she was more maternal than she thought. When she's not chasing after her increasingly mobile child, you'll find her writing and editing, squeezing in Pilates, checking out foodie and cultural events in NYC, and rooting for the NY Rangers.

Photo via iStock.com/Dangubic

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